How do you look behind with falling off your bike

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
ndwgolf
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How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby ndwgolf » 16 Mar 2019, 1:09pm

I’ve now been riding ~3 years. 2 1/2 of that on a mountain bike the last 6 months on a road bike. One thing I really struggle with is looking behind and not being able to stay in a straight line.
I bought some TriEye glasses and like those but because I have a prescription in my glasses the TriEye just don’t cut it.
So my question is this. Is there a nack to looking back without potentially falling off your bike?
Thanks in advance
Neil

Brucey
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby Brucey » 16 Mar 2019, 1:31pm

I may be almost alone in this, or it may be more common than I suspect, but I usually look twice; once to look at long range and a second look at close range before I make a rightwards manoeuvre. The second look is over my right shoulder and is akin to the 'life saving look' that is commonly taught to motorcyclists.

The purpose of the long range look is to be absolutely sure that there is not a vehicle that is far off but travelling at excessive speed; this is one that mightn't be able to stop and will probably seriously injure/kill you in the event of a collision.

The thing that is unusual about my long-range look is that it is usually over my left shoulder, not the right, and lasts for about two seconds; long enough to take in the smallest detail. This leftward look allows me to hold the handlebars with my (favoured) right hand only, and allows me to keep the LH edge of the road in clear view within my peripheral vision, which means I am much more likely to hold my line.

I don't think I have ever heard this taught or even mentioned; it is possible that it is something that is unusual.

cheers
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thirdcrank
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby thirdcrank » 16 Mar 2019, 1:43pm

IME, the nearer your "other" hand is to the centre of the bars, the less the tendency to drift off line. I'm assuming the rider is on their nearside of the road and concerned about what's approaching from behind and may be about to overtake when they are preparing to move further out into the road perhaps intending to turn on their offside or to overtake a stationary or slower moving vehicle.

I'd suggest trying moving the nearside hand to the centre of the bars, remove the offside hand from the bars - it may be needed for signalling any way, and then twist the upper body for a look back (or two if using Brucey's tactic.) Not perfect if there's not a good spot for your nearside hand and it takes your hands away from the brakes, but it prevents looking round from causing you to pull the bars. Depending on riding position and luggage, try looking beteen your legs or under one arm.

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Vantage
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby Vantage » 16 Mar 2019, 1:46pm

After my stroke I found I couldn't look behind without straying all over the road and getting dizzy. The rear view mirror is my alternative. I take several looks in it to be sure the road is clear.
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The utility cyclist
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby The utility cyclist » 16 Mar 2019, 2:48pm

practise, practise, practise, 6 months is really nothing at all, going from off road to road can be hugely different in terms of what you are needing to look out for and risk assess (though no less numerous if you're doing a fast downhill run and constantly assessing). Some people get it readily, for some it's a constant struggle, sometimes it's simply a biomechanical thing, sometimes ones peripheral vision isn't as good as others (so you need to turn your head more), sometimes being already aware of veering off just compounds matters and can cloud your ability to take in and digest what's occurring.

I would never EVER advocate looking behind for 2 full seconds as above poster has stated they do, this is a bit too long and will increase the chances of you endangering you and importantly others, a look back needs to be half that, taking into account the turning of the head, another 2 seconds looking and then rotating the head back is a good three seconds, that's far too long to take your eyes off the road ahead in a busy environment, more so when you have pedestrians in the vicinity or driveways/side junctions in quick succession. If you have to look back twice to check again before doing something, do so, things can change in an instant.

On the road generally I don't look back for other traffic until I absolutely need to (road narrowings, making a turn/changing lanes, overtaking another vehicle or parked vehicles, peds looking like they're going to step out etc.) this is why I do not advocate having mirrors - unless you have an issue being able to turn your head to look behind, constantly looking behind you all the time is never a good thing, it induces thinking about non events, distracting from what's in front and undue worry about being struck. From what mirror users say on here they are constantly moving into the kerb to avoid collisions, collisions that are unlikely to occur at all, yes close passes are not nice but making constant assessments of every vehicle is simply illogical, weaving left and right because of the constant nearness of motorists is simply not something you want to be doing so using the Trieye is not something I would recommend either.

Are you riding on road with narrower drops bars or still with flats, if so this does have an effect on your control, particularly if you're fairly new to drops.

You could try practising somewhere secluded/very light traffic, note what happens when you look behind, how far do you think you've veered off, it may not be as far as you think? Classic motorist excuse of cyclists being all over the place/veered off line actually means a handful of inches, something akin to you steering around a pothole. Have a think what you can do biomechanically to redress your veering, is it more active control on the bars, is it the speed of rotating your head around, are you overthinking the action itself?
Last edited by The utility cyclist on 16 Mar 2019, 3:26pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby mjr » 16 Mar 2019, 2:50pm

Road bikes tend to have narrower handlebars which means smaller movements can send you off course quicker, making it more difficult to look back stably. The principle is the same, but the bike will turn more readily. Shift your weight the other way or do one of the other methods mentioned in guides like https://coachlevi.com/cycling/how-to-lo ... ight-line/

I wouldn't look back as long as 2 seconds either, plus I tend to coast while looking back.
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foxyrider
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby foxyrider » 16 Mar 2019, 3:31pm

I think, as others have said, experience and practice are key. Find a quite path or bit of grass and practice where making a mistake won't be an issue. It's a skill that's well worth learning. I'd also encourage you to practice 'no hands', not because you should ride (clearly you shouldn't :roll: ) that way but it helps to teach your body to balance and move on the bike which in turn will help you keep good control when looking behind.

Sometimes I will just glance under my arm but if I want a better look I might go as far as sitting up and turning my whole upper body which certainly gets (most) drivers attention. More usually i'll just turn my head to look over my shoulder.
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby whoof » 16 Mar 2019, 4:40pm

If your are looking over your right shoulder try taking your right hand off the bars. As you look you won't turn the bars as your shoulders turn. Practice somewhere without anyone else about. As above a quick look relatively early and then just before a manoeuvre is better than one long look.
Once you feel comfortable with this try with both hands on the bars. It's all about practice and confidence.

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby mercalia » 16 Mar 2019, 5:03pm

also learn to use your ears more?

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby UpWrong » 16 Mar 2019, 5:20pm

I started using an eyewear mirror on a bent where looking behind is very difficult. Now I use it on an upright too. I use it for the long-range look Brucey describes. I still look over my shoulder to do a "life-saver" before turning or traversing a lane. The eyewear mirror has no blind spots if you move your head to scan the road behind as required. I have the mirror ahead of my right eye which is my dominant eye and have no problem switching my gaze between forwards and backwards. Not everyone finds it as easy as i do though. Honestly, this is the most helpful bit of kit I have come across to lessen the stress of riding in busy commuting traffic.

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby irc » 16 Mar 2019, 5:32pm

Practice. Like anything else.

I don't take a hand off the bars doing a shoulder check
I use a mirror and in traffic if I need to move right will spot a gap in the mirror before a last second shoulder check.

Unlike the opinion posted above I tend to watch all passing traffic without giving it much thought. I very rarely need to move left to avoid close passes but I prefer that option to not knowing about a close pass until my elbow is brushed.

I have once had to ride off the road to avoid being hit by a 70mph camper van. Saw it coming in my mirror and by the time it was 2 seconds away I knew it wasn't braking and oncoming traffic meant it couldn't move over

I use a brake hood mounted mirror on my drop bar bikes. This gets the mirror far enough forward and high enough it's only a flick of the eyes to check it.

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby Ivor Tingting » 16 Mar 2019, 6:40pm

mercalia wrote:also learn to use your ears more?


What if you have a hearing impairment?
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londoncommuter0000
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby londoncommuter0000 » 16 Mar 2019, 6:49pm

ndwgolf wrote:I’ve now been riding ~3 years. 2 1/2 of that on a mountain bike the last 6 months on a road bike. One thing I really struggle with is looking behind and not being able to stay in a straight line.
I bought some TriEye glasses and like those but because I have a prescription in my glasses the TriEye just don’t cut it.
So my question is this. Is there a nack to looking back without potentially falling off your bike?


I personally don't actually look behind. I turn my head to direct my gaze about 90° to one side, and my peripheral vision deals with the rest.

YMMV.
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531colin
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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby 531colin » 16 Mar 2019, 7:33pm

To balance a bicycle we steer so that the wheels are underneath our centre of mass. (Including "underneath" the resultant force of gravity and centrifugal force, when we are leaning on a bend.)
I suspect that we wobble when we look round because we accidentally shift our weight, and turn the bars by reflex in order to stay upright.
Going quickly, its much easier to keep a straight line when you look behind, and that applies equally going straight or on a bend.
Going at walking pace its relatively difficult to balance, and as my sense of balance worsens with age, I find myself making great sweeps with the bars to stay in balance, and looking behind at walking pace is becoming really difficult.
What to do about it? I think practise riding no hands, and with one hand; I also think riding off road is excellent for the balance.

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Re: How do you look behind with falling off your bike

Postby peetee » 16 Mar 2019, 8:07pm

Some people find that easy, some don't. I have been riding for 30+ years and still struggle to keep my line - but then I really don't like riding hands-off either.
I suspect it's all down to your inner ear where the balance receptors are. Fighter pilots are able to look all sorts of directions while maintaining course whilst your average bod would fall over if they tried to walk head-up.

What does help me is 'looking' with my ears. I do this constantly to be aware of the proximity of vehicles. That way when it comes to the turn of the head I can be sure nothing risky is too close if I wander off line.
There is no way I would ride even a few yards with headphones. I would feel too vulnerable.
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