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Time trial bikes now too dangerous for training on public roads, says Tom Pidcock

Ineos Grenadiers rider believes “extreme” riding positions are cause of his and Egan Bernal’s crashes

Tom Pidcock says that it is too dangerous for professional cyclists to train on time trial bikes on public roads because of the riding position involved.

The 22 year old was speaking to BBC Sport following the crash on Monday that left his Ineos Grenadiers team mate Egan Bernal in intensive care after he crashed into the rear of a bus during a training ride in Colombia.

> Egan Bernal in intensive care following successful surgery on training crash injuries

Pidcock himself broke his collarbone last June when he crashed while training on his time trial bike in the French Pyrenees, close to Andorra, where he lives.

> Tom Pidcock suffers broken collarbone in training crash 

“Positions are getting more and more extreme and we spend more time trying to hold these positions,” the Yorkshire-born rider said. “You don't necessarily see where you're going.”

He suggested that ways could be found to adapt training to remove the risks encountered when riding on roads shared with motor traffic.

“It's evident now where it's getting quite dangerous,” he said. “I don't think we need to stop progressing, but think about how we can train in a safer way and try and mitigate these crashes.”

Ben Turner, who will race alongside Pidcock for Great Britain at Sunday’s UCU Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and who has joined Ineos Grenadiers this season, also had a serious crash on a time trial bike while riding the Prologue of the Tour de l’Avenir last August.

“I crashed on a time trial bike, Ben crashed on a time trial bike. Egan's now crashed – it’s getting quite extreme, the position,” Pidcock said. “I think that’s the biggest causes of the crashes recently."

Bernal, winner of the 2019 Tour de France and the reigning Giro d’Italia champion, has undergone two operations for his injuries, which his team said include “fractured vertebrae, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, thoracic trauma, a punctured lung, and several fractured ribs due to the heavy impact.”

His father, Germán, told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that the 25 year old’s recovery was progressing well.

“I’ve seen him a little better,” he said. I’ve exchanged a few words with him, because he speaks little. In the midst of everything, we have been calm because his health is better than in the previous days.”

Bernal’s mother, Flor Marina, posted an Instagram story showing pictures of him as a child and, referring to his ongoing recovery, said: “My happiness could be compared to what I felt 25 years ago because I felt that my son was born again.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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36 comments

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jacknorell | 2 years ago
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The forward visibility issue can be solved with tech for training. Eg camera and display. The bike control issue is much harder to resolve

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andystow replied to jacknorell | 2 years ago
1 like
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grOg | 2 years ago
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Triple MotoGP race winner Rins was forced to miss the previous Catalan Grand Prix when he broke his right arm in a cycling accident on the Barcelona circuit.

He revealed ahead of this weekend’s German GP – having been declared fit to race following surgery – that he crashed into a van that he didn’t see because he was sending “an important message” on his phone.

“Yeah, for sure, as you say the truth is this – I crashed there in Montmelo because I was sending an important message,” Rins said on Thursday at the Sachsenring.

“For sure we need to stay off of our phones because also when we are driving and I’m including [myself], always we took the phone to see the time, to send a message and if you pay attention to the phone you don’t pay attention to the other cars or to the street.

“For sure, it’s hard. I prefer to hit the van, as I did, than to hit a person. So, imagine if there are guys painting and the van was not there? It would be even worse.

“So, this is a clear example [of the dangers].”

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Welsh boy replied to grOg | 2 years ago
4 likes

And how does this link in to an article about TT bikes dangerous to use on public roads?

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IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
4 likes

I've not really understood why TT bikes (or at least disc wheels and TT bars) haven't been banned by the UCI, after all a time trial is still a fair time trial with standard bikes.

I've seen some scary riding by amateurs on TT bikes, barely keeping on the right side of the road riding on windy days.

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Rendel Harris replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
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IanMSpencer wrote:

I've not really understood why TT bikes (or at least disc wheels and TT bars) haven't been banned by the UCI, after all a time trial is still a fair time trial with standard bikes.

I do think this idea has merit, as you say if everyone had to ride their standard road bikes the differentials should remain equal - Cancellara on a road bike isn't going to lose to me on a TT bike, alas - and it would also save the cash-strapped teams a ton of cash not having to buy and maintain a stable of TT bikes, not to mention all that wind tunnel time.

ETA I realise most of them don't necessarily buy their bikes but the money spent on them by the sponsoring firms could go elsewhere.

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Brightspark | 2 years ago
4 likes

When I started cycling, I went on a fast training ride and was riding head down and straight into the back of a parked car. I was not on tri-bars, just a normal road bike with drops. Should we ban these as well?

I was told by my club mates that I was a prat. I felt hurt by this as I thought that if the car wasn't parked in that spot and if the other ca...but then I was being even more of a PRAT.

Anyone who drives a vehicle without being able to see ahead, whether they are on a bike, looking at their phone or having a frosted up windscreen, is a PRAT.

For that reason Pidock and Bernel are prats. The mechanics that set these machines up are prats and the management that made this happen with performing any sort of risk assessment are criminals who have endangered the health and safety their employees and members of the public. 

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rct replied to Brightspark | 2 years ago
2 likes

IIRC Pidcock got hit by a car from the side.   Not as a result of not looking ahead.

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grOg replied to rct | 2 years ago
2 likes

Pidcock has raised the issue of limited vision riding with the head down; this is not just a TT bike issue but one in general to be considered by cyclists; there are numerous videos of cyclists crashing into objects because they were looking at a device on their handlebar; the same sort of distracted riding that cyclists abuse car drivers for, when they see them using mobile phones while driving.

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bobrayner | 2 years ago
3 likes

When I first experimented with clip-on bar extensions, I had some scary-near misses. It's a combination of delayed reaction time (your hands are away from the brakes) and, perhaps, reduced visibility if you've got your head further down. Reduced steering control might be a factor too? Anyway, with a bit of trial and error I got a better feel for when you can get away with it (and quickly abandoned a silly experiment with moving brake levers to the extensions).

Probably fine if you're some elite racer on a carefully-chosen closed road course, a bit more of a risk for the rest of us average people on average roads.

I wanted to compare the effects to the modern problem of phone-distracted drivers- who don't see 100% of what's happening around them and may not react quickly to problems - but the difference is that a rider on TT bars is only going to hurt themselves, whilst the distracted driver is probably safe in their steel box and more likely to hurt *somebody else*.

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massive4x4 replied to bobrayner | 2 years ago
1 like
bobrayner wrote:

I wanted to compare the effects to the modern problem of phone-distracted drivers- who don't see 100% of what's happening around them and may not react quickly to problems - but the difference is that a rider on TT bars is only going to hurt themselves, whilst the distracted driver is probably safe in their steel box and more likely to hurt *somebody else*.

The police do collect data as to the contributory factors in fatal accidents.

Driver using mobile phone was a factor in 22 incidents, out of 1400 deaths. Incidence for lower consequence accidents was much lower in % terms.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/reported-road-accide...

For all the media attention it gets mobile phone use is not a big contributor to road accidents.

Also note that exceeding the speed limit is only 5th on the list but gets the overwhelming amount of public attention.

Top ten causes:

Loss of control 501
Driver/Rider failed to look properly 386
Impairment or distraction 346
Driver/Rider careless, reckless or in a hurry 294
Exceeding speed limit 216
Poor turn or manoeuvre 213
Driver/Rider failed to judge other person`s path or speed 201
Travelling too fast for conditions 191
Pedestrian failed to look properly 169
Driver/Rider impaired by alcohol 128
Aggressive driving 127

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Hirsute replied to massive4x4 | 2 years ago
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Isn't traveling too fast for the conditions a subset of losing control?
Even if it is icy or snow and you lose control, that's pretty much due to excessive speed.
Or is it supposed to cover mechanical failure ?

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mdavidford replied to massive4x4 | 2 years ago
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But how many of those 'loss of control', 'failed to look', and 'distraction' were caused or contributed to by phone use that was either just ignored/not investigated or couldn't be conclusively proven? And similarly for speeding?

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massive4x4 replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
1 like

If somebody dies in a road accident the cost is greater than £1million to the state on average. Ergo they do a pretty thorough investigation.

Pulling device logs and mobile phone data is pretty trivial especially as the car's data recorder will give you most accident times down to the second.

Also most "looked didn't sees" are done at junctions where mobile phone use is much less likely.

Regarding too fast for conditions Vs loss of control. Most of the loss of control deaths are motorcyclists falling off or cars going backwards through hedges on B roads.

Too fast for conditions would include crashing in fog for instance.

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mdavidford replied to massive4x4 | 2 years ago
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Fair enough. Although that suggests that both loss of control and failed to look are mostly irrelevant in terms of assessing the danger to other people from phone use and speeding - the latter because it's not happening in situations where those are less likely to be happening anyway, and the former because it's generally killing the driver / motorbike rider themselves rather than someone else. Which leaves just over 500 deaths, of which the 216 speeders (if not the 22 phone users) look a rather larger proportion.

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CXR94Di2 | 2 years ago
7 likes

When I heard Egan Bernal had injured his neck and spine, I cringed.

 

A mate of mine who was big into his TT spent a whole winter riding his road bike with TT bars to improve his perfomance in the TT position.  He was doing 2x30 miles to work nearly every day. 

 

He then just dropped off Strava for a few months, we heard he'd been involved in a crash hitting a van.

He now can never walk again, broken cervical spine and has just started riding a hand cycle.  Some 2 years later.  

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Simon E replied to CXR94Di2 | 2 years ago
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I know a local rider who had a really nasty crash while on a cycling trip with friends (either Spain or Majorca). Paralysed from the waist down and has been riding a power-assisted handcycle for a number of years.

On the subject of training on public roads one has to consider the condition of those roads, the weather, the number of vehicles you're sharing them with and some other factors before drawing too many firm conclusions about the relative safety of TT bikes compared to road bikes.

In terms of road bikes in TTs, I'd like to see more road bike events (or events with a road bike category) but so many time triallists seem to want an excuse to buy the blingy kit, pointy hat, disc wheels, clothing etc. But in the local scene I see a large number of people get into TTs, buy a load of kit, do some decent times but then stop racing and sell the TT bike. For some it's other commitments but others lost interest and it stopped being fun, which is a real shame. There is a lot to be said for just turning up and having a go. Unless youre at the sharp end of a race or category you are really only racing against yourself (which I like).

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Podc | 2 years ago
0 likes

There isn't that much difference between moving from aero bars to brakes than moving from handlebar tops to brakes on normal drops.

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jn46 replied to Podc | 2 years ago
11 likes

Personally I'd disagree with that, as there is a much bigger weight shift required.

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ejocs replied to jn46 | 2 years ago
6 likes

Right, not to mention that when you're riding on the tops you're just cruising along pretty casually, but on the TT bars you're likely to be going much faster.

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jn46 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Part of the issue is obviously braking, or rather the extra time it takes to go from extensions to bullhorn brakes. This is exacerbated by the current aero superiority of having a decent amount of separation between arms and base bar, hence why the taller pros run such small frames a la Wiggins in 2012 Olympics. HED used to make something called a third hand, which was a little brake lever you could attach to the shifters with a cable splitter. Not enough to stop, but enough to scrub some speed off and add some safety. From recollection the UCI banned it.
The evolution of wireless or wired electronic braking could be an option down the line.
Pros obviously train differently. I think most amatuers do the head down intervals on the turbo and are more cautious when they take the TT bike out on the road, other than racing, and they are running positions equally as "extreme" as the pros.

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lesterama | 2 years ago
4 likes

Pidcock is not exactly saying that TT bikes are too dangerous for public roads, more that the more extreme positions are major factors in causing crashes. Pros can get away with having their heads down more often on closed roads. No one can get away with too much head-down riding on open roads.

It is tricky. As well as heads sometimes going down too far, more upright seat position and TT (ski) bars make for an inherently less stable position. I know I have to back off a little more turning on a TT bike than a road bike. I've never crashed on TT bars in more than 30 years of using them. Maybe that's why I'll never be a TT champ.

 

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Justnotverygood replied to lesterama | 2 years ago
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Also the trend to having the skis super close together adds to the inherent instability, makes rescuing the bike far less likely. 

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grOg replied to lesterama | 2 years ago
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Froome lost control of his TT bike when he took one hand off the bar..

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MattieKempy | 2 years ago
8 likes

Or is it actually that public roads are now too dangerous for training on time-trial bikes?

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Flintshire Boy replied to MattieKempy | 2 years ago
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No. Listen to the pros.

Next question, please.

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MattieKempy replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
1 like

Thanks for the engaging and though-provoking response.

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mdavidford replied to MattieKempy | 2 years ago
5 likes

To be fair, it was a more well-thought through and finely-honed point than their usual posts. So that's progress...

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Velophaart_95 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Yeah, I've thought this for a while. You occasionally see people out on the open road in the TT bike/ position. It's not great for seeing what's going on around you....

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bobbypuk replied to Velophaart_95 | 2 years ago
0 likes

Be very difficult for me to get to events without using the open road. Though there would be two events a year if we took them off the road so maybe not an issue.

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