Racing again after a crash


@mentalgrit, I was hoping you could share a few words of wisdom on how to approach the first cycling race after a crash. TeamODZ had a rough start to the season, with @AndyJ, @justin and me having crashed during crit races in the last 2 months.

I have my first post-crash race coming up on Saturday, and am afraid I will stay in the back, scared of crashing again! Many thanks.


Hey @Coach_Theia, what a big topic of discussion! I wonder how many other cyclists have a similar
’fear’ after big crashes.

A few comments that I would make here:

1) You Give Power to What You Pay Attention To
The simple fact is, it is easy to go back to the crash and replay everything that happened in your head over and over again trying to figure out what happened or simply because it was an emotional event. The problem with this is that, by replaying the event in your mind, your body will respond just as if the event just happened. You will get that anxious feeling, maybe feel a little sick, and the fear response will kick in…

Know now that THIS IS OK!!! However, what is not ok is sitting in the image of what you fear and giving it more power. I would ask that if you find yourself thinking about or imaging the crash to 1) acknowledge it and 2) simply shift your attention to a few reasons why you are a good bike handler.

Give power to what you can control in these situations rather than to the uncontrollable event.

Training Grounds
Take a moment to write down thoughts, images, or anything that can tip you off of the fact that you are engaging in the fear.
Then, take a moment to write down as many controllable skills that you have that will enable you to execute and manage the race (IE… bike handling).

The game is simple from here… If you find any of those tip off’s, acknowledge it and then shift the attention to the controllable. That is one rep. Remember that mental strength and GRIT is a practice. So get practicing! :slight_smile:

I would personally be interested to hear the tactics other cyclists use when they feel fear start creeping in…

Community question:

2) Stay Focused On Pre Race Norm
There is no reason to change anything from your normal pre race routine… Even after a crash. The pre race routine is there for a reason… To get you ready no matter the event type or circumstance. Just execute the routine.

Note: If you don’t have a routine I would advise that you begin to work through your past “great” races and begin to identify the effective things you did to go into those races ‘READY’. Write those items down and begin to create a semblance of a routine that works well for you!

Hopefully, this is helpful! Let me know if you or anyone has any questions! :slight_smile:


Thanks so much-- this is very helpful! I am inviting @cullenac to this discussion because she had a post about bike fear (in general) and I believe she too can benefit from your insights.

I’ll kick off what I usually do when I feel the fear start to creep in… before an event… I tend to be negative about it, and even contemplate not doing the event, which is not helpful at all. I usually get quite aggressive in races, and am also afraid I will stop being that way and just hang off the back! I will work on applying the techniques you mentioned above and will report back :slight_smile:


This is excellent!

During an event if I feel fear starting to creep in I tell myself to relax and check in with my body and the places I tense up – shoulders, hands, etc. In crit races when I start to feel a bit worried, I bring my focus back to myself and what I need to be doing – looking ahead, holding my line, etc and that’s usually enough for me to stop paying attention to how close together everyone is and what if…


That’s interesting Stefanie… In a way you are already applying some of the things that Nate said. I do all my worrying ahead of time (weeks and days ahead, I think, overthink, agonize, get anxious, etc.) and when I line up- and during the race- I am usually very calm. Or at least I was before the crash- let’s see how it goes now!


Great little tip off’s to know its the fear talking rather then your true self…

Great oportunity to respond with that agressive nature that you know is helpful! :slight_smile:


Ah yes!!! Great response

All athletes get distracted (by fear, negativity, devilitaive thinking). The only difference between good and great athletes is the practice of refocusing on thr effective.


You will do great this weekend @Coach_Theia! The team holding crit clinics here had one on crashing that freaked me out a little. But one thing they said – the more you worry about it the more likely it is to happen – stuck with me so I really try to not think about it. Easier said than done in some cases, but it turns out I am pretty good at denial :rofl:


I have not raced IRL like you ladies, but the fear that I have when riding down hill in the mountains where I live. Every time I I have to self talk- I try like @Stefanie to relax my shoulders and hands… I try to focus on the road ahead of me… I find that when I’m too cautious I tend to hit more rocks and am soo stiff by the time I hit the bottom of the mountain! Excellent tips!!


I think racing again after a crash is one of the hardest things to do. Very good information given so far. As a mountain bike racer, crashes are going to happen. Last year, I shattered my wrist after getting tangled in rocks and trees. I did manage to get back on and do 2 races by fall.
The self talk is so important to keep positive. Keep thinking of what you do well. I concentrate on relaxing my neck and shoulders and loosening my grip. The easiest way to do this is to tighten them as hard as you can and then relax. Breathe out.
The other trick in riding and racing is keep looking at where you want to go, not what you want to miss. If you look at the tree, you will hit the tree. Look past the obstacles. Keep scanning right in front and then farther up the course. Don’t get hypnotized by the wheel or rock or log right in front of you.
Third, learn how to fall and roll. Sometimes, just rolling with the bike if you’re going down will do the less damage. Keep your hand on the handle bars and tumble with the bike.
Hold your line. You own your line in a race.
Lastly, if it’s getting really hairy out there, sit up, back off and just ride.
Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!


Thanks Linda! Will keep your tips in mind! Interesting about the roll… I rolled when I fell 2 weeks ago and came out with only minor injuries. I don’t remember rolling- one of the course marshals said I did.


Hey @Petals love these!
I particularly resonate with:

This is an ideal that I like to call “achievement before avoidance” - of which we will discuss in future videos… All in all, it is simply the act of seeking for what you want before what you do not want… This is an IDEAL mindset for performnace and something we can always practice!


Oh @Petals, yes! I attended a crit clinic not long ago on crashing and this was brought up. They told us to look where we want to go and the bike will go there. If we see a rock ahead and focus on it – oh no a rock don’t hit the rock, don’t hit the rock – we are going to hit the darn rock! And it’s true! I have learned that the hard way! The whole looking where you want to go thing is still new to me and is like bike magic, especially when going through corners in a crit race.


Amazing tips. I am good regarding self awareness and body posture and focus. It’s when the fear hits however breaking back into flow that challenges me. My body starts to feel it and then tap into every fear around me like the road and people in cars in bad moods etc etc. So I’ve to snap out of that! I feel practicing just above comfort level and below fear so we keep pushing forward is what will work for me and I am considering some rollers so I get better to move with the bike.


the tips here are superb (for my fears on the road on my new bike). i had an awesome ride this morning (2 hours Zone 2). As ian said i threw the bike up on the trainer for the past few sessions and this helped (and also reinforced my knowledge that the fit is horrendous!) Today was less windy so i practiced looking ahead and focusing on my line, balancing on one arm on the TT bars to engage core and find where i am riding the bike from (ok sounds a bit mad but one arm on the TT bars and one on the hoods made me use core to steer the bike while being more attentive to weight balance on the bike and also learning her reactions to the wind and trusting rather than bracing. i have found when i brace i am almost becoming weight less making it worse rather than engaging core and hunkering into the bike to make myself stronger if this makes sense and also spent a lot of time just playing about between hoods and drops and bars so that i really feel i know my new bike now and am not fearing every gust with the aero wheels). I did this on a hard shoulder on a quiet and wide road (sunday morning) so it gave me far more confidence then knowing i am the one driving the bike and not the wind. I sound like a drama queen here clearly i can ride a bike and have been racing tri for the past 3 years but i have been doing so with some fears about stability on the bars. also and i dont know if this is correct @Coach_Ian but i tried to learn my strengths and comfort zones better and rode with these. so instead of feeling i must force myself onto the aero bars down hills which i dislike in any bit of wind (and I slow) i tucked myself low and narrow into the drops and rode harder going down the hills and realise this is where i feel comfortable… is this bad Ian? your tips here are super about focus… which i know but needed to be reminded of… everything in life is about our focus!! but i played around with it a lot more even creating zig zag lines in between stones and markers to teach my body to just follow the line. thanks everyone for the tips!


I raced yesterday and did not crash! YEAH! I found myself more cautious than normal, and was not as aggressive as I usually am… I am OK with that, I needed this one race to get my mind back on track. I confess I was not working very hard. You can actually tell by looking at the pic below. Thanks all for the great tips!


@Petals I have TOTALLY done this with a crack in the sidewalk, I focused on it and hit it crashed my bike and everything!


Me to! :slight_smile:


Andrea, playing to your strengths is very important, but so is improving on your weaknesses. In the case of descending, going downhill in the drops is a perfectly acceptable alternative to the aero bars. In fact, it is much better in terms of control. At higher speeds, your reaction time is limited, but, more importantly, adjustments/changes are amplified. Thus, if you jerk the aero bars a little due to fear or seeing a rock or hole, you could actually cause and crash that the obstacle would not have caused. Being in the drops allows you to have greater control over the adjustments. @Coach_Flo will eventually get the descending video up, from our Cali ride, but there is a little bit at the 22:30 mark of this video:

I don’t recommend that people do what I do, but I just want to show the differences. If you watch the video, I come out of the super tuck as the road ahead of me becomes uncertain. Throughout the ride, I changed my position based on road quality, speed, traffic, etc. Everything is situational dependent, and I do not tie myself to a position for anything.

As for bracing, that is a big no-no. If you brace for a crash when approaching debris, a hole, a turn, or whatever, you are increasing your chances of fulfilling that prophecy. When you brace, you tense up. That means movements are not fluid, and you fixate on the place you do not want to be. There are two keys to getting through crashes in front of you, tight turns, road issues, etc. First, as discussed earlier, look where you want to go. That means you need to not look at the carnage. Look for the clean road or open space. Second, relax. That doesn’t mean kick back and chill. It just means to have a firm but not tight grip on the bars (to avoid slipping off the handle bars if you cannot avoid hitting the hole, object, or whatever), keep a slight bend in the elbows, as locking out will make your jerky, and keep the knees soft. Keeping the knees soft means not clenching the glutes and thighs. This will help absorb some of the impact of whatever you hit and let the bike bounce underneath you a little bit. GCN did an episode on how to ride the cobbles where they cover some of this.

If you hit the hole or debris, get through it before making any major corrections. Do not slam on the brakes or jerk the bars trying to get back on your old line. Stop pedaling briefly if you need to collect yourself and take stock of you and your bike. As happened to me the other day, I hit a big pothole in my aero bars because my mind had drifted. The bars tilted downward a little because of where my weight was when my front wheel made impact. I quickly recovered and just levered my bars back into position without stopping. If you aren’t comfortable doing something like that, stop and make the adjustment on the side of the road. Then, get back at it.

From my experience racing on crap roads, these techniques have helped me stay upright on occasions when others have gone down. When you couple this with riding within in your skill limits and being conservative in crappy weather, you have a much better chance of not going down.


thank you!! @Coach_Ian since my bike fit body is comfortable, balance is far better and with this confidence. I am using my weight appropriately depending on where it needs to be in relation to keeping the bike steady and i am using a lot more weight on the front assisting wheel stability (and not bracing), looking through my lines (its a bit like riding a horse in this respect, where you look the horse goes as she reads your weight - bike is similar. look where you want to go), keeping low but easily moving between drops and aerobars. the difference is amazing. look speed on the downs is going to take practice but it is far better than before and in race at the weekend i dropped only a few positions and far less than normal. the few i did drop was me being cautious on gravel (on the melted tar, far too much gravel!) and gusts on the higher roads, and others having more confidence or being more reckless! i caught back a few on the run. now ive a few more weeks to gain more skills and i have a set of 33s on the way for the windy days. I cannot believe the difference bike fit makes!! thanks :slight_smile: