Have you ever had a big fall from your bike? Most people who ride bikes fall at some point…it is just how it is. A rite of passage even! Usually it is nothing serious. Just a slight tumble where you get up again and dust yourself off. But sometimes it can be a bit more serious. So when there is a serious cycling accident, what should you do?
Not too long ago my friends and I went for a ride and one of my friends had a big fall (the dust cloud from the tumble looked like a nuclear mushroom cloud!). Luckily there were no broken bones or serious injuries (just a cut requiring a trip to the emergency room for some stitches that resulted in an awesome scar). But the incident made us realise that we were not prepared for such a situation. After that, we figured out what we would need to do and what we should carry with us to be able to handle a similar situation again.
Below I outline a list of do’s and don’ts that anyone involved in a cycling accident should keep in mind. Obviously your choice of cycling (road cycling, cycling to work, mountain biking, etc) will have its own unique set of circumstances. But hopefully the information below will help you when you don’t know what to do!
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1 - Check For Danger
The first thing in you should do in any situation like a big fall, is to make sure you/the person who fell are not in any further danger of being run-over by someone else who has not seen you. Check for possible traffic and move out of the way if possible (i.e. no serious injuries to anyone).
2 - Do NOT Panic
When confronted with an emergency, it is easy to panic. We are only human after all. However panicking will not help anyone. When you feel you are starting to panic, focus on breathing and staying calm until the situation is fully under control.
3 - Check For Injuries
With any fall, even small ones, you should check for injuries. Sometimes the smallest of tumbles can still result in something serious, so it is good to check rather than not. Check for:
- Neck injuries
- Head injuries
- Broken bones
- Severe bleeding
4 - Do NOT Move
If the person who fell have any of the injuries listed above, it is best not to move them (especially of there is a possibility of spinal injuries). Moving someone with spinal or head injuries could cause permanent damage if not done correctly. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) notes the following symptoms may be an indicator of a spinal injury (you can see more information here):
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back
- Tingling or loss of sensation in the hand, fingers, feet or toes
- Partial or complete loss of control over any part of the body
- Urinary or bowel urgency, incontinence or retention
- Abnormal band-like sensations in the thorax (pain, pressure)
- Impaired breathing after injury
- Unusual lumps on the head or spin
It is also important to check for possible concussion. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Sensitivity to noise and light
5 - Get Help
If there have been serious injuries (see point #3 above) you need to get help as soon as possible. To that end, you should always have a charged phone with you that has the local emergency services’ telephone numbers saved on it for quick access. If you are mountain biking in remote areas where there might not be good phone signal or an easy way to find you, there are emergency beacon transponder devices you can buy to take with you when you go mountain biking. Some phone apps also have location tracking features that allows someone you nominate to be able to see where you are in case of an emergency (e.g. Strava has the Beacon feature, which will alert a nominated contact to your location)
6 - Check The Bike (and Helmet) For Damage
If you are able to continue riding, first make sure the bike is not damaged before you go on. A damaged bike could lead to another fall if you are not careful. Check the bike for the following:
- The frame and fork – no bends or cracks
- Wheels – no bends and spinning normally
- Tires – holds air
- Breaks – fully operational
- Gears (both derailleurs) – functional and shifts as required
- Chain – In place and nothing jammed
- Saddle – in place and firm
Be Prepared - Items To Have With You On A Ride
The best way to handle an emergency, is to be prepared for it. When you go for a ride (especially a mountain bike ride where you might be far away from help) you should consider having the following with you:
- First aid kit
- Benadryl (bee stings/allergic reactions)
- Duct tape
- Emergency whistle – three blasts on a whistle is an internationally recognised signal for assist
- Location tracking apps enabled
- Let someone know where you are and when you should be back
- ICE contact details– In Case of Emergency
- Know where you are
- Know who to call (ambulance/emergency services/mountain rescue)
- puncture kit
- chain link
- Duct tape
I sincerely hope you never have to use the advice and tips listed above. However, we should always be prepared for such scenarios, especially in terms of what to look out for when you think someone might have a serious injury or concussion.
Have you had a major fall before? What lessons or tips could you share with the community from your experience? We would love to hear from you!