Psychologist and author, Dr Saul Miller, tells us how to get over the psychological impact of crashing your bike.
- Best bike helmets: a buyer's guide to help you find what's right for you
- How to crash your bike with dignity and (hopefully) keep your teeth
- How to crash like a pro
- UK readers: can you help us get more people on bikes? Whether you’re a keen cyclist or a complete beginner, we’d love you to get involved in our Get Britain Riding campaign, in association with B’Twin. Click here to sign up!
If your physical and psychological crash symptoms are mild to moderate, don’t put off getting back on the bike. Initially ride at an easy pace for two days, then gradually increase the challenge.
But if you feel the crash symptoms to be moderate to severe, then take a break. Let your body and mind rest and then do what psychologists call systematic desensitisation.
In a relaxed state visualise yourself on an easy ride. Gradually increase the intensity of these imagined rides and when you feel comfortable, begin riding your bike again, starting with easy rides on quiet roads and then slowly increasing the challenge.
Ultimately, when you feel ready, ride the crash site to banish the fear it has given you. It might take a few rides, but you’ll learn to disassociate it from the crash.
2. Use your mistakes
I tell the athletes I work with to ‘use’ whatever they are faced with. But how do you use a crash?
You can learn from it. Ask yourself if there are technical things you can do better to avoid crashing. Should you be more alert, especially on hazardous roads and corners, riding at speed, in bad weather, or in a group?
Could you be better at anticipating the actions of other road users? Although it is hard to overcome the anxiety, disappointment and loss associated with a crash, by learning from the experience you can try to find a positive.
3. Tough it out
Often the biggest mental obstacle that a rider has to deal with when recovering from a crash is getting back to the level they were at when the crash happened.
Athletes tend to think in the present; when circumstances force them to take a step back and they realise how much work is involved getting back to where they were, it can be a very daunting challenge. And if you feel overwhelmed then depression can set in.
Instead, see this as a test that can teach you what you have inside, and demonstrate the inner strength you have to move forward and deal with it. Giving in and feeling sorry for yourself never helps anyone.