How to Steer Clear of a Bicycle Crash

How do you negotiate a turn on a bicycle? Or more specifically, how do you initiate one?

A. Lean in the direction you want to go.

B. Turn the handlebars in the direction you want to go.

C. A and B

D. None of the above

Ask 100 cyclists and many will choose 'A.' This might come as a shock, but the correct answer is D—none of the above.

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If that's a surprise, this one will be bigger: In order to turn a bicycle to the right, you must first turn the handlebars to the left. And vice versa. This simple act initiates the turn. Without it, you'll continue in a straight line.


So why is 'A' such a popular answer? Because leaning in one direction will indeed move the bike in that direction. But when you lean you're actually putting forward pressure on the handlebar on one side. In essence, you're turning it away from the lean.

For example, when you lean to the right, you unknowingly put pressure on the right handlebar, which will cause your bike to briefly hint at a motion to the left before laying over into a right-hand lean.

So why is this a big deal? Who cares how a turn happens as long as it happens? And how can this help you to avoid crashes?

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The Method

Moving the bars the opposite way is the direct method of turning the bike, and leaning is indirect way to turn your bike.

The direct method gives you greater control. You aren't reliant on your weight distribution and you aren't affected by the lag time to get your weight into position. You therefore experience no hesitation when changing course.

It's a simple thing: Push on the right to go right. Push on the left to go left.

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