How to Get Comfortable Again After a Bicycle Crash
The trauma from a bicycle crash can last well beyond the moment of impact.
Even after your body heals, it can be hard for your mind to imagine ever feeling safe riding your bike again. For many cyclists, getting back on their bike after a crash is harder than they thought it would be.
However, it is possible to feel safe — and even happy — riding your bike after a crash. Many people find that, with a little time and practice, they can get back to the cycling lifestyle that they previously enjoyed.
While everyone’s journey back to the bike is different, here are 5 steps to help you work towards safely and comfortably getting back on the seat after a bicycle crash.
Get a tune-up for your bike
Put your mind at ease by getting your bike in good working order before your first ride.
Even if you got a brand new bike after losing your old bike to the bicycle crash, it is still a good idea to make sure everything is working as well as it possibly could and is fit just right for your body before you take it out for a spin.
There are a few key things to check out:
- Make sure the brakes are working well and are well lubricated
- Fit the seat height and angle so you can pedal without hunching your back or overextending your legs
- Fit the height of your handlebars so you can reach the brakes easily
- Make sure the gears and chain are in good shape and well lubricated
After the tune-up, sit on the bike and take it for a quick short ride to make sure everything feels good and you don’t have any questions. Practice stopping suddenly, turning sharply, and going over a bump to make sure it all works (better to find out if there are any issues in a low pressure test than on a real ride!).
Check in with your doctor
If you’re nervous about getting back on your bike, getting a clean bill of health from your doctor can help. Ask about what you can do to prevent injuries from your bicycle crash from flaring up, and what level of exercise on your bike they think you’re ready for.
With knowledge that your physical self is ready to ride a bike, it will help your emotional self feel more prepared.
Practice riding without going anywhere
If you add in the pressure of needing to be somewhere to your first post-crash bike trip, it can amplify your already intense stress about getting back on the bike. Instead of riding to meet friends or to go to work, try just going up and down your driveway a few times. If that sounds crazy because it’s too easy, that’s exactly the point.
Your first few bike rides should feel easy and safe, to help you build back up your sense of comfort and stability on the bike. Once you start to associate positive emotions with being on your bike again, it will start to be easier to try riding around the block or to your favorite coffee shop, and eventually you can get back to your normal cycling routine.
After a bicycle crash… stretch!
After a crash, it might be weeks or months before you’re able to do any kind of exercise. You body can change significantly in that time, so it helps to be extra kind to your muscles before your first ride in a while. This will help you be more agile during your ride, and avoid post-ride discomfort from sore joints and muscles.
Dedicate at least 10 minutes pre-ride to stretching. Focus on working out your arms, legs, and back, since these are the areas most impacted by riding a bike.
Cut yourself some slack
At the end of the day, getting back on your bike is all about patience. After a traumatic experience, it is natural to feel apprehensive about returning to the activity where you injured yourself.
So be patient for your first few rides. Leave earlier than you need to, so that you don’t have to rush and can ride at the pace where you feel comfortable. Feeling stressed about being somewhere on time will amp up your stress about riding in general.
Give yourself breaks along the way. If there’s a part of the route that feels too tricky or close to traffic, get off and walk your bike through that part.
The worst thing you can do is to force yourself to go back to your “normal ride” too quickly, and potentially ending up with another injury or even more stress about riding your bike.