In a post the other day, I recommended caution about the danger in jumping onto a 20-mph e-assist bike for someone who is more used to the pace of a beach cruiser. In a post a while back, I also stated (humorously, of course) that nobody has ever whiskey throttled a race bike. People, lots of them, have whiskey throttled an eBike, though. I went on, in the first post, to suggest that part of the problem leading to an increase in bicycle accidents related to eBikes is that the speed of an eBike comes without a price (other than the cost of the bike itself).
The point is, if anyone can hop on an eBike and immediately ride 20+ mph (32 km/h), there are bound to be a lot of accidents as that kind of speed on a pedal bike takes quite a bit of knowledge to build up to. As I said, I had to bust my butt to be able to ride that fast unassisted.
Over the next couple of days I got to thinking about what I do to ride at that speed, both solo and in a group and thought it could be helpful to pass that on for new cyclists.
First things first, the greatest lesson I learned is to assume everyone in a motor vehicle is a complete idiot. This is the safest way to ride. If I expect someone to do something stupid, it’s easy to take evasive action when they do. I’ve had someone speed by me and make a right turn, literally 50′ in front of me and didn’t hit the car even though I was traveling at about 40′ per second at the time. And yes, that motorist got an earful.
This leads to the second point: as I wrote in my first post, widen your focus as the pace increases. Tunnel vision is bad. We have to ride accordingly as we widen that focus, too. I hear people say, after narrowly avoiding a crash (or not avoiding one), “but I had the right of way”. Folks, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way in a crash with a car. The cyclist loses. Every time. It doesn’t matter who had the right of way if you’re in a hospital. If we are going to ride fast, we have to know when to push it and when to back off to avoid trouble. Learn when to back off. Once you’ve crashed or been crashed into, there’s nothing you can do but hope and heal. Avoid both by riding smart.
Things are coming at you at 30 to 50’ per second. You have to learn to think 500’ up the road – and that’s what I mean about widening the focus.
Finally, speed on any kind of pedal bike is awesome fun. That speed has to be respected, though. And that part isn’t in the operators manual. Ride smart, ride fast, but be safe… and live to tell about it.