How Cyclists Rear-End Those Behind Them

Yep, you read the title correct. I am talking about you riding your bike and being hit from the front by the rear wheel of the cyclist in front of you. How in the world does THIS happen, you ask? Pretty darn easy and WAY too often, I answer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 6.35.09 PMYou are riding along and everything seems to be going smoothly but all of the sudden, the cyclist in front of you pops out of their saddle and their bike seems to abruptly slow down…just long enough for their rear tire to come in contact with your front tire. Have you ever seen this or experienced it for yourself? If you have been on the receiving end of this, then you know just how much this catches you off guard and causes your heart rate to jump about 50 beats in a split second. If you happen to be riding defensively, then you have a higher chance of diverting this ‘touching of wheels’.  

So, my question to you is, whose fault is this scenario and what can be done to eliminate it?  Glad you asked.  The remaining of this post will give you the secret sauce, so to speak.  Wait a minute, if I tell you then it won’t be so secret anymore.  Hmmmm…..  OK, I’ll tell you anyway.

To answer part of the question I posed, the short answer to whose fault it is…is the cyclist who popped out of the saddle.  It all boils down to ignorance but the funny part is how I hear SO many cyclists try to combat this rear-ending scenario.  I’ll explain that later.  Here’s the ignorance part; way too many cyclists do not understand that when they stand up out of the saddle, they have to do something specifically different in their pedal stroke AND shifting, in order to completely eliminate their bike from going backwards.  Let me explain the specific root causes.

First off, when you stand up out of the saddle and stay in the same gearing, then your bike will slow down.  Think about it, when you stand up, for a second or two, you are disrupting the continual pedal stroke you had when you were sitting on the saddle.  When you transition your center-of-gravity (COG) from the saddle to standing up, you will affect the fluidity of your pedal stroke (or cadence).  That’s the fundamental root cause.   Secondly, cyclists not knowing or realizing the COG issue is where ignorance comes in.  Now, there’s a lack of knowledge and if the awareness is not there, then how can you expect a cyclist to correctly counter-act the root cause?  Ah……therein lies the problem.

Have you ever been on a group ride and heard someone yell out “Standing“?  I have to be honest, the first Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 8.37.17 PMtime I heard this the cyclist who yelled that out was directly in front of me.  In my mind, I was thinking “what was that”?  This cyclist had a bad habit of letting her bike fall backwards all the time.  I am not sure where she picked up this band-aid solution but it did nothing to eliminate her bike from abruptly slowing down.  My suggestion is she should have given it back and learned to eliminate the quick slow-down.

If you happen to be one of those cyclists who yell out “stand”…please stop!!!  It does NOTHING to eliminate the problem so why continue to use it?  Therefore, let me walk you through what I believe is the BEST approach…because it eliminates the bike slowing down.  It’s super complicated, multi-faceted process but you can do it.  NOT!!!  Once you read it, you will realize just how simple it is.

OK, you made the decision you want to transition out of the saddle.  Great.  You have only two things that Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 8.40.13 PMyou need to do; that’s it.  Going back to the COG shift, you now know that this movement forward will impact a constant cadence, causing your bike to abruptly slow down.  To combat that, before you actually get out of the saddle, you want to do one of two things (based on the terrain):  The first option is to purposefully speed up your cadence if you don’t want to shift to a different gear.  One scenario for this option is that you would typically be riding on an incline and your cadence has already slowed down.  The second option invloves shifting up to a harder gear, which you would typically do when the terrain is relatively flat.  No matter which option you choose, both creates the same end result; the ability to increase your speed.  This is super critical because without it, you cannot counter-attack the disruption in your cadence when you stand up.

Now that you created the ability to increase your speed, your next step is timing.  A split second before you literally stand up out of the saddle, you have to speed up.  I’m not talking about increasing your speed by several miles per hour, I’m talking about a very small amount of additional forward momentum.  When you get the timing down pat, it should feel like you are speeding up as you stand up.  If there is ANY delay in speeding up, then just know that your bike will slow down.  This ‘speeding up’ is what counteracts the disruption in cadence.  You do this and you will never have to yell out “Standing” again.

If you stand up out of the saddle and your bike slows down, then that’s your fault.  I don’t think anyone will argue with that.  It DOES amaze me at how many cyclists accept this whole scenario as just part of riding.  Please don’t let that be you.  Letting your bike slow down when standing up is totally unacceptable and has caused countless rear-end collisions….and countless unnecessary crashes.  With that said, you as a cyclist need to be continually aware of how close you are riding to the wheel in front of you and be ready to respond when that bike in front of you abruptly slows down.  If that happens, then you know they never read this post!!!!

Got a cycling topic or question?  Send an email to and I’ll address it in a future post.

Coach Robert…






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s