Mechanical failure represent a minority of bicycle accidents; however, they do happen, and are preventable. Protect yourself as a bicyclist by knowing your machine and what you can do in case of something goes wrong.

Tire Blowout

One of the most common mechanical failures is tire blowout. Just as a car or motorcycle tire can blowout, a bike’s tire can, too. Make sure you

  • check the tire pressure once a month – low tire pressure is likely to lead to blowouts
  • get your tires regularly inspected
  • change worn-out tires and examine them after any potential damage (hitting a nail in the road, etc.)

Should your tire pop while riding your bike, be sure to keep a level head and not panic. Gently steer your bike out of traffic.

Broken Crank

The crank is the lever connecting the pedal to the bicycle frame. If the crank breaks, the rider can be injured by brushing up against it, or losing control of the bike and crashing. Cranks can break due to undue pressure or metal weakness. Don’t forget to check the cranks when you give your bike a once-over, because it will be difficult to fix mid-ride. Look for cracks near the base of the crank – you don’t want to ride home one-pedaled!

Derailed Derailleur

Especially after a crash, you’ll need to check the rear derailleur to make sure its hanger isn’t bent. If you shift into the rear spokes (and broken hangers could lead you to do just that), you could damage the entire rear of your bike. If you don’t have a derailleur hanger tool, a bike shop is likely to have one.

If you feel a hesitation shifting into harder gears and hear a click, that could be a sign that your derailleur is bent. You don’t want it to get entangled into your spokes, so get your bike checked out right away if that happens.

Snapped Chain

A chain breaking when you’re in heavy traffic is one of the scariest things that can happen to a bicyclist. Prevent it and keep your chains happy by

  • keeping them well-oiled
  • keeping a spare
  • easing off pedaling while shifting – you don’t want to hear a “crunching” sound
  • keep those derailleurs properly aligned
  • let your bike get fully into gear before you stomp on the chain

Broken chains are rare. However, when a chain does break, it can lead to a fatal accident. In November 2011, 33-year-old Schuyler Vassen of Tennessee was sent flying over the handlebars into the curb when the chain on his bike broke. He did not survive the accident.

Weak Fork

Gary Lanoue, an avid 58-year-old cyclist from Attleboro, Massachusetts died in a crash in April 2012. He had been training for his fifteenth year in a charity bicycle race held in Rhosde Island. Police believe that there was a structural weakness in the fork, the part of the frame that holds the front wheel. The fork became detached from the rest of the bicycle. Cervelo, the manufacturer of his bike frame, had issued a recall on the Wolf SL, a fork unit on the model of bike Lanoue was riding. Faulty forks can lead to sudden, catastrophic failures, and serious bike riders often train at speeds in excess of 25 mph, which in this case, led to Lanoue’s tragic death. It is important to stay ever-vigilant about any total or partial recalls for the make and model of the bike you ride; although this can be daunting, a good bike shop should be able to keep you informed.

Preserve the Evidence

Serious crashes due to mechanical failure are thankfully rare, and much less common than those due to operator error or collisions with a motor vehicle. However, should you suddenly find yourself without a chain, seat, fork, or crank, preserve the evidence – this is your best bet of getting a defective products claim set in motion. Bicycle manufacturing companies know that their products can fail, hence the recalls. If you suspect that you have experienced a bicycle accident due to mechanical error, don’t hesitate to call Christensen & Hymas, Utah’s Bicycle Lawyers or send for a FREE bike accident book. Christensen & Hymas are firm supporters of the cycling community in Utah.