If you ride a PF long enough, you’ll have a fall. Every other PF cyclist I ride with- including myself- has had a fall. Maybe some other road user will cause you to have one, maybe you’ll fall due to your own screw-up. Better to think about ways to reduce injury in advance of a fall. So let’s take a moment to talk about falling…

What’s Falling Off A Penny Farthing Like?

I’ve had several and can tell you: it’s like falling off a horse, but only onto tar. I have been mowed-down by a Jeep SUV driver whom I thought was yielding to me but out of habit merely paused before continuing on without seeing me. Another time I went over the handlebars after hitting some potholes. And the most recent (I won’t say “last” ;-> ) was when I was cycling about 12-13 MPH in a turn. This time too, a rough patch of road got me while turning. It appears that the angle of the lean in the turn around the roundabout was steep enough -I believe-to have “pinched” the wheel just enough in that recessed “trench”in the road where some pipe had been laid; I went over the bars with huge force.

The only fall where I was injured in was the latter. I suffered severe blunt trauma to my forearms and hands as I brought them in front of my chest. I couldn’t even unscrew the cap off a water bottle and could barely wipe my own bottom. But I broke no bones; not a single one. So a bit of discomfort was the worst of it for (3) falls which could have been quite serious. It’s thus that I know about falls and trying to mitigate the damage from them.

(6) Ways to Reduce Damage From a Fall:

One should be cycling defensively and avoid situations that place them at risk of falling. But sometimes doo-doo happens.

1. Wear Protective Padding: This is discussed in the “Equipment” section.

2. Reduce SPEED:  If you see that you’re going to crash/fall, reduce speed. The more you can reduce speed, the more proportionately that you can reduce the risk of serious injury.

3. Reduce HEIGHT:  The higher the fall, the more serious the blunt-force trauma to bones, organs and soft tissue. If you see you’re entering an area which might require a sudden stop, then move from the saddle to the mount pegs and coast into it. This gives you options: if the risk doesn’t materialize, just re-mount the saddle and continue pedalling. If it does, you can apply the rear brake to step down. But if you do fall from the mount pegs, you’re now a foot off of the ground rather than five feet were you in the saddle. By standing on your pegs you drive your weight down over the rear wheel making the caliper brake on the small rear wheel much more effective.

4. AIM FOR THE SOFTEST LANDING: If you’re in a situation where you’re going to crash/fall, aim for the least painful option to hit- barring of course pedestrians. A friend that I cycle with lost a pedal once going down a fast hill, he had no mechanical rear brake and was headed for a junction. He aimed for the bushes and only his pride was injured ;-).  If for whatever reason you can’t avoid a collision- in this case it was a mechanical failure- don’t get so blinkered that you don’t consider alternative landing zones.

5. PROTECT YOUR HEAD!: Never allow your head to strike the ground first, ever. If you’re sat about 5 feet off the ground, then your head is going to be about 8 or so feet above the road. If you have to suffer an injury, sacrifice some other part of your body other than your head.

6. DON’T THROW YOUR ARMS OUT: Although it’s instinctive to throw an arm out to brace for a fall, if you do this on a PF your arm will be absolutely shattered. I’ve been able to escape injury by bringing my forearms into my chest as much as possible. The fall at 12-13 MPH in the roundabout without protective pads I suffered severe blunt trauma to my forearms & hands. The other headover hitting a pothole, I was wearing pads and suffered zero injuries- and the force of the impact was so severe it bent the spine of my 50″ Penny-Farthing. I’ll never say “never”, but as much as possible avoid throwing an arm out in anticipation of a fall.

These are some simple- but effective- ways to mitigate injuries from a fall/crash.  And once again, if you ride a PF, at some point you will have a fall. Better to have a plan for dealing with it in advance.