Crashing can be a devastating experience for a cyclist. There might be road rash, blood, or even broken bones, but even when the body heals and the bicycle gets repaired, there’s no guarantee that the head will be ready to ride again. What if you’re not ready to get back on the bike right away like others are suggesting? Here are a few of our tips to regain the confidence for cycling.

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First thing’s first, you have to let your body heal. There’s no need to copy pros who get back on bike all bloodied after a fall in the middle of a race. For one thing, your livelihood doesn’t depend on it. For another, it might even be unsafe sometimes, depending on the type of crash. But while your injuries are healing, it’s important to start formulating a plan. Crashing can trigger anxiety related to the situation in which it happened. But if you analyse it and identify the skills you can work on to improve and minimize the chance of it happening again, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting back to your original unafraid self. Let’s go through a few common crash scenarios.

Alberto Contador, injured after a crash, receives medical assistance during the Tour de France on July 2, 2016. © Profimedia, AFP

When it’s your fault

One of the most common reasons for falling is misjudging the situation and making a mistake. For example, you go into a corner, you don’t have enough traction and your bike just slides out from under you. Similar things happen in all kinds of weather, not just when it’s raining. So, the first thing to do is to check your setup. Maybe your tyre pressure was off, your brake pads are getting worn out, or perhaps you’ve changed your position on the bike recently. When you are sure the equipment is not going to be a problem, find an empty parking lot and practice cornering, braking before a turn, and shifting your weight over the bike correctly. Be deliberate and take your time. Just a single session in a safe environment like this can make a big change in your confidence.

When another cyclist causes the crash

Crashing because of another rider is also very common. It might be a beginner cyclist suddenly changing direction on a cycling path or a friend from your own group running into a pothole that caused your fall and subsequently loss of confidence in group riding. In this scenario, it helps to start small, go for a ride in a smaller group first, only with people you trust the most, and start getting comfortable in close proximity to other riders. Plus, you can practice bumping elbows and shoulders, leaning on a rider next to you, or recovering from an overlapped wheel on grass and at low speed. Then join a bigger group that does more relaxed rides before returning back to your full-on training group and racing.

“Paris–Roubaix is bullshit,” said Bernard Hinault after the 1981 edition. The photo shows him after one of the seven crashes that day.

When you get hit by a vehicle

The hardest return to cycling with confidence is after being hit by a vehicle. It’s a long physical recovery and even longer psychological and emotional one. It can leave you hyper-vigilant and tense around vehicles for a long time. If that’s your case, consider these steps.

First, equip your bicycle with new lights and yourself with reflective clothing, go over and beyond to be seen on the road.
Next, choose roads that have wide shoulders or generously spacious bike lanes and do a few short test rides to get comfortable. Keep in mind that you can bail at any moment.
If all goes well, join a large group ride to get comfortable with narrower roads. Vehicles have to be more careful when passing a large group, so you will feel safer there.

After taking these three steps you have to decide for yourself if you feel ready and confident enough to ride in traffic like you used to. But remember, no one will blame you if you switch from road to mountain bikes.

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