Falling off my road bike

When I was 16 my dance physio told me that on no account was I to cycle. It would make my damaged knee worse. I heeded that advice and assumed that I wasn’t able to ride a bike.

About three years ago, after chatting to a sports physiotherapist, it turned out that I probably shouldn’t have any trouble riding a bike – in terms of my knee issue anyway. I imagine the advice I was given at 16 was to protect my knee to keep me dancing rather than general advice for life. So I bought a mountain bike and tentatively cycled around a bit on that.

I don’t have any problem riding a bike. I do have a problem in that I’m very nervous – having never really cycled on the roads before. This means that my new purchase – a lovely road bike – is possibly insane. However I am really keen to do triathlon, so owning and getting to grips with a road bike is a necessary part of meeting that goal.

As soon as I bought the bike the weather took a turn for the worse so I’ve only been out on it twice. The first time I managed quite successfully to clip one foot in and out of the clipless pedals so was feeling reasonably confident. We then went out again today, and after being on the bike for about 3 minutes I tried to stop and promptly failed to unclip my foot and toppled over sideways. A process I repeated about 10 minutes later. The rest of the ride I spent terrified of stopping and getting tangled up again, so I’ve come home rather bruised and feeling a bit of a failure.

All this was made worse by the fact that my husband was using his clipless pedals and shoes for the first time and had no problems at all!

At the moment I am keeping off the roads as I’m aware that my inexperience on any kind of bike and the fact that I have taken to toppling over when I stop isn’t going to mix well with traffic. I really want to get to the point where I can just set off from home rather than having to drive, with the bike on the roof, to the relative safety of Windsor Great Park. I’d hoped that it would all go well this time and I’d be able to get out on the roads, but I think I’d better do some more practice first.

Advice most welcome on how I get past this shaky point. I’m determined that by the summer I’ll be confident and able to really enjoy the bike.



  • 06 Jan 2013 17:40:08

    Falling off whilst clipped in happens to almost everyone (but didn’t happen to me – I have had other falls though). It really is just a case of getting used to them. Before long you’ll have it sorted and feel at one with the bike.

    It probably doesn’t help if you’re generally nervous on the roads/bike. Learning to clip in and out in the park is a good idea but as soon as you can you should go out and experience the worst of what the roads have to offer. It’ll sharpen your skills and hopefully boost your confidence. That’s not to say you should spend all your time riding in traffic but it’s a very useful skill to have.

  • 07 Jan 2013 16:15:11

    Yeah, everyone falls off at somepoint.
    Wet roundabouts and a rear wheel slide when over doing it or idiots pulling out on you a personal favourite. The animal panic seems to bypass the part of brain linked to your feet.

    Most cleat sets allow you to set the spring tension, so you can lower it to the minimum and then turn it back up as you get more confidence.
    At the minimum tension, in an “Animal Panic” moment I found I could still pull my foot out.

    Also several people I know drilled it into muscle memory using a Turbo Trainer, clicking in/out then doing a 1km or so and repeat.

  • 24 Jan 2013 13:21:35

    I shouldn’t worry too much Rachel. It’s just practice. I’d been cycling for a good year before I tried clipless pedals and they took a bit of getting used to.

    I did the stop, and then fall over (like the overladen car on the intro of the Flintstones) several times before getting the hang of it. Once I fell into a puddle 2 feet deep which smelt of something really nasty, once into a flooded car park at 5:30 in the morning (don’t ask) and another time into my car causing a perfect dent of my side.

    You’ll get the hang of it….once your elbow is better!!!! Get well soon :-)

  • 20 May 2013 20:09:04

    Fell today. It was my first day out on the street with my clip in pedals and shoes. I was turning in a cul-de-sac and had one foot unclipped, but tried to put my clipped foot down…Fell onto my right elbow. The worse of it was being lectured by my husband…

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