John D. Schubert, Bicycle Expert
Case Synopsis: A middle-aged woman seeking to improve her cycling from casual riding to triathlon competitions went to a bike shop to purchase a suitable bike along with cycling shoes and a pedal binding system favored by competitors. While being fitted to the pedal binding system, seated on a bike located on a trainer stand, she fell and sustained substantial injuries.
Expert Analysis: Every cyclist who utilizes a pedal binding system faces an initial period of getting accustomed to having his or her shoes secured to the pedals. The cyclist must learn the motion (moving the heel to the outside) that disengages the shoe from the pedal. The cyclist must make this motion instinctive, and not feel afraid of the system.
A recommended place to learn this motion is on a bicycle mounted on a trainer stand. However, even this “safe” environment requires care and knowledgeable precaution because a bicycle on a trainer stand is not very stable. Surprisingly, minimal sideways body motion will cause the bike, trainer stand, and rider to fall over.
The store clerk assisting the cyclist was inexperienced in these matters. He tried to adjust the tightness of the binding system by working on the shoe; however, the tightness adjustment is done via a screw on the pedal as there is no adjustment on the shoe. In telling the customer how to position her body mass as she got on and off the bicycle on the trainer stand, he positioned her exactly the opposite of what he should have done — he positioned her body mass to the side, thus destabilizing her, rather than keeping her in the middle.
The customer was having trouble learning the motion, the binding system may have been adjusted too tight, and the clerk was not holding the bike securely as he should have. As a result, the customer fell sideways.
Result: Case settled.
John D. Schubert, Bicycle Expert with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.
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