Sunday, June 27

Getting Better

Instructors Explain Extreme Stopping to Student
Some posts turn out differently than expected. This is one such. I went to Traffic 101 in Dallas today. This makes my third T101. Originally, I intended to discuss how BikeDFW has sharpened their Traffic 101 course, and how I find it interesting that the students are mostly women. Instead, it's about what they don't tell you about Bike Ed, and what it has to offer someone who knows how to handle their bike in traffic, as well as someone that understands how their bike works. The US Military and civilian aerospace both embrace what that is. In short, it's training for the emergency that may never happen. It's why my oldest daughter did her first Autocrosses while she was on her learner's permit, why my middle daughter got taken to a snowy parking lot in Colorado, and why I'm getting a tetanus shot this year (the track requires it).

Traffic 101 is oriented toward an inexperienced rider, but part of it that isn't well publicized are the bike drills. Some of these are the bike equivalent of learning to operate a motor vehicle under extreme conditions; resulting in the student better understanding what their vehicle can do. As in the case of high performance driving of a Jaguar or Alfa Romeo, this should not be done on public roads. Conveniently, bikes are different, and a reasonably sized parking lot suits them much better than Texas Motor Speedway.

If Those Guys Weren't Around, This Student Would be About to Fall Over as His Bike Stops Moving
Pretty much anybody likely to read this blog knows how to stop their bike. BikeEd students, however, learn how to stop their bikes a few feet quicker. If they're smart students, they practice many elements of quickly stopping to help out their muscle memory. It may never matter, but once in a rare while, stopping two feet quicker can be the difference between a close call and serious injury - or worse. The quick stop drill is one that I am unwilling to do on my own. My commute is made with clipless pedals and I find that I will often fall over at the conclusion of a quick stop. If I have to make that kind of stop in the real world, I will gladly accept falling over if it means I avoid a collision. I don't care if you are someone that wants to ride vehicularly in traffic or only on recreational bike paths. Someday you may need to stop a couple of feet quicker. Quick stop can do that and it's a hard thing to learn on your own, no matter how long you've been riding. If you're reading this blog, you're worth saving.

She's Starting to "Get It." With Practice, She'll Be Able to Hit that Inside Marker and Maybe a Bit More
 A second drill that is inadvisable to practice on the street is the instant turn. The instant turn is a maneuver designed to give you an option on how to deal with that Escalade that just made a right turn in front of you besides going underneath it. Again, there's a very good chance it'll never happen, but if it does, someone who performs an instant turn in an emergency might be able to just have a close call. This IS a drill I do on my own, using empty parking lots. If I ever need to do it for real, I do not want to have to THINK about how to deal with the emergency. BikeEd will show the principle, but the student has to make the decision to practice, practice, practice. You don't get that from regular riding. If you're reading this blog, you're worth saving.

One last word on the instant turn. In his book, Effective Cycling, John Forester writes:

You can't safely learn the instant turn on the road, and you will never do it right without practice. ... The only time I was hit was before I learned the instant turn. A car coming the other way turned into a wide driveway. I managed to get into the driveway, but couldn't turn sharply enough to outdistance the car.

Like Forester or hate him, he has credibility when it comes to a statement like that above.

There are a number of other drills as well, but most of them will do no more than teach you how to get a bit more out of your bike, and maybe avoid flats. Those have the ancillary benefit of allowing you to get more out of your cycling, but the ones above may save your life. Even if they don't, knowing you are prepared will improve your confidence on the road just a little bit. If you're reading this blog, you're worth it.

Actually, the Bike Drills are Also Fun. In a Way, it's Like a School Bike Rodeo for Grownups

BikeEd is Alive in Dallas. Thanks, Gail & Richard!

On this blog, I've often stated that bicycling is safe and fun. Well, it is, and that's true even if you never learn this stuff. Aviation is also safe. Partly that's because they practice for emergencies to make it even safer. Conveniently, bike emergencies are usually less dramatic than aircraft ones, but the principle is exactly the same.

You Practice so All the Passengers Come Home Alive! From Wikipedia

7 comments:

Chandra said...

very nice summary. i will make sure to read this blog :)

[eace :)

cafiend said...

Well-meaning non-pilot friend: "Flying is much safer than driving, right George?"

George the pilot: "It IS true. You will not have a car accident when you're in an airplane."

Dottie said...

Interesting. Now I want to learn the quick stop and instant turn. Do you think those techniques would work on a big, heavy, upright Dutch bike?

Steve A said...

They would absolutely work with a utility bike. One of the instructors teaches on a Gary Fisher City which has an internal gear hub and a basket on the front.

jodycb said...

I really want to take a Traffic 101 class but there never seem to be any with less than a 4 hour drive near me. I've been riding for a while but I feel like I'd really benefit from some of those technical riding drills.

Steve A said...

jodycb,
I certainly benefitted from the drills. I suggest going to the Bike League education page and seeing what LCI's live near your zip code. Call until you find one that has a useful suggestion for you. Taking the drills will still help when you DO get to take a Traffic 101 course later. You may find that the LCI will also be willing to give you some helpful suggestions that'll sharpen up your riding in the meantime. Email me and I can send more details.

Khal said...

Excellent post, Steve, and thank you so much for the engineer's perspective.

I push the Traffic Skills program here at Los Alamos National Lab for the same reason we do nuclear facility drills or why serious drivers or motorcyclists do autocross or motorcycle skill drills: you do NOT want to wait till you have a crisis to practice what you will do when the brown stuff hits the fan. This indeed isn't just about beginners--its about all of us honing our skills so we can land that plane in the river, or avoid that suddenly turning car. Like Forester, my worst crash was one where I was not able to turn inside a clueless driver and ended up instead being hauled off the road by the Meat Wagon.

Thanks for all you do,

Khal

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