E-man
Hello Everyone, 

This may not be the best place for this topic but lets try anyway...

I am new to the sport (only about a year in) and have done mostly road riding and racing (but I do have a gravel bike on order so I am excited to try this scene out!). I'm 36 years old, Cat 5 and have a long distance running background from college. I like riding because its similar yet much easier on the joints.

However, I was involved in a crash that was not my fault and the person in front of me had to go to the hospital. I don't know what happened but some how even though we both fell at the same speed he was bleeding from the head and incoherent while I was bruised but fine. I stayed with him holding his had until the ambulance arrived. 

This got me thinking, it doesn't look like it from the outside but this sport is/can be super sketchy at times....

I guess I am just looking for some feedback on this topic. My intention is to keep cycling of course and keep pushing myself to get better, faster, stronger but does that mean I am assuming more and more risk as my fitness and skills increase? 

Just looking for feedback.

Thanks, 
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chas

Wow.  That is pretty deep.  Not sure the circumstances of the crash, so I can’t comment on that.  But, certainly riding within your ability, and being very aware of your surroundings is important. 

I do all kinds of riding, and gravel is probably the safest – although I do get my share of scrapes (its just how I roll).  But it doesn’t have the obstacles and crash potential of mountain biking, nor does it have the speed or traffic of road riding (unless you are bombing downhill on gravel).

Gravel does have low traction – so that is certainly something to be respectful of.  I think most anything is manageable with experience and a heads up attitude.    The biggest problem I see with gravel riding is drafting or following close – because you can’t read the road well.   Following someone close on a downhill is how most people get flats (or crash).  I tend to side draft when I’m going those speeds – following someone, but off to the side enough where I can read the road and avoid holes/rocks/etc.

I race on the velodrome at high speeds with no brakes.  To some that sounds crazy, but its one of the safer forms of biking.  Our track people have good discipline, don’t let people get away with sloppy riding, and it’s a very controlled environment.  No one is going to do anything sudden or slam on their brakes – and of course no traffic or surprises around the next corner, lol.   It is very smooth and even meditative.

I’ve been commuting by bike since 1975.  That sound crazy to some, but I’ve learned what to look for.  I basically assume most cars are going to try to hit me – which isn’t far from the truth since cell phones became prevalent.  So, I make sure they see me, or I assume they are going to hit me.  So far it has worked for 45 years.

For you, keep riding.  Understand your limits and when/where you need to be more vigilant.  You are not necessarily assuming more risk as your skill and fitness increase – as long as you are also learning to be aware and of your limitations at the same time. 

The time when I do see that as a problem is if you take a strong road biker and throw them on the velodrome or cross or some other sub-discipline (or stick a mountain biker in a road paceline) – If one is strong and experienced at one aspect of the sport – they need to be humble enough to learn the subtleties of the other discipline (and humility isn’t a strong suite of a certain sub genre of cyclist).

 

Does that help?

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Koyote
I was never into mountain biking, so my technical skills on a bike are minimal -- and around here, most gravel races have some highly technical sections -- rock gardens, mud bogs, steep and sketchy descents, etc. That is the biggest risk, for me, and so I take it easy in those sections. I'm not going to ever make it on a podium, so I am not shy about taking it slow and even walking my bike through some of the toughest sections.

Just my $.02. I guess there is some advice in there.
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chas
Sometimes its fun just to ride and enjoy the race. 

Here I am last weekend.  It was my second race of the day, so I was more chill than usual.  I started at the back of a pack of about 50 (cat 3/4).  So, I got the chance to pass a LOT of people, ha ha.   Here I am at the start, in 50th place.   While everyone else is racing for the front, I'm just waving at the drone hovering over us.  LoL.   cx wave2.jpg 
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Cmtgravel
I find one of the biggest risks of gravel is how quickly the road conditions can change. You can be flying down a beautiful stretch of smooth, hard-packed gravel road, and turn a corner and hit a sketchy mud patch, a washed out or rutted area, really loose gravel or sand,etc. I've learned to just slow down and take it easy. I'm 50 yrs old, not gonna win any races or set any records, so i just slow down and enjoy the ride. Try it.
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Nubster
Cycling is inherently dangerous. People die doing it all the time. I think generally our greatest risks are cars and medical conditions but there's certainly plenty of folks getting seriously injured or killed from non-motor vehicle related crashes. It's just part of the game and a risk you have to be comfortable taking. I feel that if you think about it too much your riding will be a lot less enjoyable and you'll ride stressed out to the point that it could actually cause issues. You just have to stay alert and focused, ride within your skill set, and enjoy yourself. 
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Angstrom
"I guess I am just looking for some feedback on this topic. My intention is to keep cycling of course and keep pushing myself to get better, faster, stronger but does that mean I am assuming more and more risk as my fitness and skills increase? "

Well, if your skills increase but you don't take any additional risks, you'll be safer.  If your risk tolerance increases at the same rate as your skill, you'll be just as safe.  And if your confidence increases faster than your skill, you'll be less safe.

increasing time in the the saddle does mean increased exposure to road hazards, but you can control a lot of that by where and when you ride, and with whom.  Increased fitness gives you more options for routes. 

One does get better at reading road conditions with experience, but there are always surprises.  I tend to go easy on the downhills and save going hard for the climbs.

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Volsung
I was a jailer for 8 years and am a bike commuter so I'm kinda jaded and think everyone is out to get me and won't put my safety in anyone else's hands. 

Riding close to someone falls in that category, so in races unless I know the person I'll pass just to stay away rather than draft. 

Plus in gravel people in the front have a better view of the best lines so they may be kinda all over the place. 
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nellborg
You're right in that bike racing can be a lot sketchier than it looks from the outside.  Ignoring interactions with cars for now:

I road raced and trained on the road a lot back in the 80's and 90's.  Loved the thrill and adrenaline and tight group work, but multiple crashes and two broken helmets later, and I decided that the combination of high speed and being in groups where everyone is trying to win the race is a recipe for disaster.  The speeds are just too high, the draft is too big,  and crashing on the road isn't fun as you've found out.

Mtb racing is safer IMO because the speeds are so much lower, but crashes and more minor injuries are probably higher because you're closer to so many more immovable objects like trees and rocks.  That might be something for you to look into, though.  I lost interest once those races got too crowded and hectic.

Gravel is more relaxed and it seems much safer.  The speeds tend to be lower because there's more resistance from the road surface, and drafting groups tend to be smaller and more spaced out and there's no yellow line rule.   The minimal emphasis on results, the longer distances, the looser surface (which slows us down around corners), and aid/food stops, I find it WAY more fun and relaxed - even though I'm oftentimes redlining my effort just as much.  

My suggestion is to acquire road skills and mtb skills by doing those things in a controlled manner, but look at mtb, cyclocross, track, or gravel for your racing.
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sidewinder
learn to read gravel at least two seconds ahead of the bike for those lines
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