I crashed… help me analyze what went wrong!

Now almost 2 weeks ago, I ascended the mighty Pico Veleta (somewhat successfully) and then descended it again (unsuccessfully).
I was more lucky than unlucky, with an AC Seperation (Level 4+) being the worst thing that happened to me.
Tomorrow is the day of surgery and after that Imma be confined to the turbo for some 6 weeks.
That also means I have a lot of time to ponder on what happened, and most importantly, prepare as best as I can for the next time I descent a big mountain.

My problem as of now is: I am not quite sure what happened and therefore don‘t know how to avoid it next time.

These are the facts:
I rode up the Pico Veleta over the Güejar Sierra side (https://pjammcycling.com/climb/5.Pico%2520Veleta).
Beautiful climb, big recommendation!
Despite the hot weather in The Valley and the relatively calm winds, things changed rather rapidly beyond the 2000m (6500‘) elevation mark. It got mega windy and became overcast.
Beyond 2500m (8200‘) the road became more of a path and I was faced with some of the craziest winds, I have ever experienced.
Whenever the wind hit me head on, I could barely move forward, and when the wind hit me from the side, I really had to slow downtown stay on the road. We are talking a 7% average climb here!
At just over 3100m (10300’) the path became gravel, it started to hail and I called it a day. The rest of the climb is gravel and hike-a-bike, so as a roadie, I‘d still call it a success.

I went down the road as slow as I could, still trying to avoid the hail. It was very windy and all, but I never felt in danger or anything.
I returned to the proper road, came through the village of Sierra Nevada (skiing destination in winter, Jumbo Visma altitude camp in late spring). Nothing of notice!
I continued my descent, took pictures every now and then and then, on a really really nice Strech of road ended my ride abruptly.

The crash:
The crash itself happened around here:

At around 10:35 to 10:45 before the left hand turn, I hit the deck.
At around 68kph, my handlebar was turned by 90 degrees within the blink of an eye.

I have not much of a memory of the exact proceedings, it just happened too fast. The handlebar was rotated to the right, my right elbow hit the ground first, the shoulder joint separated, I took a hard tumble, the downtube broke, the handle bar war rotated upwards a little. A few scratches on the bike, many more in my skin.

The most logical explanation is, that a massive gust of wind blew the handlebars out of my grip.

A few things I am however surprised by is, that I rode pretty shallow rims, that have never given me scares in the wind before:

(This image was taken literally 2 minutes before the crash).
39mm deep, 28mm wide, 28c tires that blow up to around 29mm.
Also, even as a flatland dweller, I was pretty descending trained, coming off a 9 day stint in Alpe d’Huez, tarring up Big descents with confidence.

Additionally, I didn’t experience a single gust to the wheel on the past 5ks+ of descending. And out of a sudden, I was hit harder than ever before.
I am no newbie to harsh gusts of wind. I ride deep wheels year round, usually over 50mm in the alps, and TT in gusty winds on 80-100mm rims.
I have experienced many scary gusts before but was never blown off the bike.
I also cannot remember not holding onto the drops properly, hard to really recall this. But I was focused on riding, not looking around, not scratching my back, nothing like that…

Sorry for the long write up, but I wanted to put as many information out there, to make it easier to analyze.

The fix:
I’ll need a new bike and Spesh made me a good offer. They’re checking if the wheels are fine, but the tires didn’t lose air or anything, didn’t break a spoke or else.
I was thinking about even shallower rims, but is moving from 39mm to 33mm or 30mm really a noticeable change?

I really don’t know! Riding mountains is probably the thing that gives me the most joy in life, and I really don’t want to do this in fear from now on out.
I hope you can give me good inputs, and look forward to discuss what to do.


Possible mechanical issue? E.g. You say the handlebars were rotated to the right, if you’ve been travelling with the bike and assembling/deassembling it, is it possible the stem bolts were undertorqued and that that rotation was the cause of the crash not a result of it? Other thought is if it had been hailing was the road still wet, maybe a bit of ice, maybe a spot of oil, and the causes loss of grip? If bike was sound and road grip was good then it does seem pretty unlikely that a freak gust of wind came out of nowhere and took you straight down. Though maybe possible you were coming out of a sheltered area and into a windy one? Have had some pretty dramatic wind before when coming round the shoulder of a mountain and suddenly getting hit by a wind that the mountain itself had previously sheltered me from.

Hope you heal up quickly!

Thanks for your reply and thanks for the wishes!
I am sorry for a few unclear statements by me:
The entire „steering unit“ was turned around like I had actively steered, so the fork, the wheel and the handlebars were all still in line, the were just knocked out of my hands. Even after the crash, everything was still perfectly aligned. That really surprised me, because a 70kph full stop on a Wheel completely turned to the right could have easily broken the wheel or at least rotated the fork within the stem.
Only the handlebar had rotated upwards within the stem. But that was by not much.

It also only hailed at the top. The roads were bone dry, and I felt like in a frying pan when lying on the road, waiting for the ambulance.

The „from shelter to unsheltered” is also my best explanation so far, but how could I ever avoid or anticipate that when descending?
Pro cyclists sitting on their top tube or only holding onto the tops while going 100kph+ clearly don’t seem to fear anything like that… I understand they are the best in the world, but I am talking about the handlebars getting seemingly ripped out of my hands on a straight, which isn’t really about being a great descender🤷🏻‍♂️

Hmmm, having the same wheels and been descending on a suuuuper windy Mallorca this spring, I would honestly say that it sounds like you just lost control? Plain and simple.

Travelling at 70km/h down a mountain, where wind gusts are a thing is just one of those things that one needs to be weary of.


Extra much this…

Maybe you should’ve seen the danger, and kept it slow for the rest of the descent?

Either way, no need to dwell it. Shit happens, you learn :slight_smile:

I was a bit of a risk taker myself before I had a bad crash and broke my elbow into 16 pieces, and now have 12 screws in there.

Not I just glide down the mountains whenever I descend. Of course I can hit 60-70km/h, but I never push it.

Hope you recover well, and maybe in the future you’ll have recalibrated your risk compass :wink:

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Definitely, I’d describe myself as a generally prudent descender.

Yeah, I had the thought of: “You f’ing idiot, why weren’t you more careful?” About a thousand times in the past two weeks.
I am however still planning on racing in the mountains in the future, so I want to do my best to regain confidence and not just slowly creep down every mountain.

Definitely. But there was not really any warning signs. Yes it was a gusty day, but that was 1500m higher than I was before. That’s the difference between Bedoin and the peak of Mont Ventoux. No other road in Europe even goes that high, so on basically any other climb in the alps, Pyrenees or canaries, I wouldn’t even have experienced the crazy winds of before, but still this crash at 1800m or so.
Also, it wasn’t like a gust hit me and I lost control, I couldn’t get the bike straight again or over reacted and made a dumb steering maneuver. It was the gust hit me and 1 second later I was on the ground.
I don’t really feel like there is skill I could have learned to counteract that besides holding onto the handlebar with brute force. Then again, I might assess the situation incorrectly….

The road was great where I crashed. As shown in the video.

Gusts of wind are unpredictable. I wouldn’t think too hard about it. Things happen and it doesn’t necessarily mean you could have prevented it or did something wrong. I’ve almost been blown over by gusts of wind and I was just riding along. I’ll give another example. I’ve also almost been launched from my bike on gravel rides many times because I hit some washboards or bumps that weren’t really visible. I was grabbing a gel yesterday on a gravel ride and hit washboards that you couldn’t really see and almost got tossed. I was taking a gel when the road looked smooth-ish. It wasn’t It is what it is.

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Pro riders will also have very detailed weather analysis, including the team putting people out on the course to monitor the wind and radio to the riders if there’s a section of cross winds or gusts coming up. Not much help for us normal riders though! Best advice I can offer is to check the forecast both up the mountain as well as wherever you’re staying, and then just be very aware of wind direction vs road direction and possible shelter. If you’ve experienced high winds at one point in the ride then chances are that wind hasn’t just disappeared, it’s just you’re currently sheltered from it and sweeping round the mountain means at some point you’ll be exposed to it again.

I had experienced wind on the way down. The higher slopes of the climb are pretty winding, with loads of turns, which means you’ll experience wind from all directions. I had however ridden for several kilometers with a tail wind at that point and there was no corner or anything where I could’ve turned into the wind or anything. The gust came out of a different direction than the wind had for the descent before. That can happen in the mountains and also in villages, forests or even around hedges.
It was just so surprising that I was apparently hit by the hardest gust I’ve ever been hit by, coming from a different direction than “the rest of the wind”.

One possibility – watching the video and it looks like the slope on the right disappears just in the area you said you crashed in. This slope could’ve had the effect of sheltering the road depending on what the wind direction was. As you move out of that relative shelter It’s possible you got hit by a sudden change in the wind speed and/or direction right as you entered that turn.

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First off, sorry you crashed! Sounds painful.

Gute besserung!

Regarding why… who knows, and if you don’t remember it all too well, which is understandable given the situation, it will be hard to pinpoint. Personally, I do NOT think it was the wind. As you know, wind can be brutal and can blow you off course, but in my experience it doesn’t turn your wheel. Your overreaction to getting blown off course may do that, but the wind pushes the bike as a unit to the side. Plus, it will exert equal force to the front and back of the wheel, thereby not turning the bars.

I think potentially you hit something, like a rock. I HAVE had that happen before, and an obstacle will turn the wheel quickly.

I would not change the wheels based on this one event. If you lived in an ultra windy place and kept getting blown around and you were sick of it that’s one thing but it doesn’t sound like this applies to you.


I have thought about that, too. I have inspected the front tire and rim and there isn’t much there. Wouldn’t there be any nicks or scratches at least on a mega light rim and a racing tire?
I know no one can answer that, but that was the main reason why I had abandoned that theory…

This is absolutely possible. But as @varmstrong pointed out: Does a gust really knock you over like that?
I disagree to a degree that front and rear wheel are effected equally. The front wheel can turn, that’s the big difference, and steering moment is a real thing.

Another theory I have contemplated was a “phantom braking”, because the crash is very similar to when someone grabs the brakes too hard.
But there was no reason to brake and I don’t remember braking at all.
Probably my memory is too fuzzy to really ever get down to the real core of the issue.

Your anecdotes and inputs however help me understand what might have happened a little better.

I kinda doubt it was wind….you have too much experience and time riding deeper wheels to sudden,y lose control like that.

I know you said that the roads were great, but is there any chance you hit an obstacle like a rock or something?

Having little recall of the actual crash makes it difficult to determine what exactly happened unfortunatley……We had a buddy go over his bars in a TT last year ( seriously injured, a few days in the ICU) and we have never been able to figure out what caused his crash. He remembers starting the TT and the first turn, but nothing after.

What I meant by this is that front of the wheel is getting hit by wind which will turn the bars, right? But so is the back of the wheel (still only talking about the front wheel) which will balance the force trying to turn the bars. So yes, the entire wheel will be pushed to the side, but as a unit. What we do though is overcorrect because of this force and then WE turn the bars.

Maybe, but not necessarily. Rubber is bouncy and all it had to do was knock your bars to the side enough to cause you to go down.

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Oh, front and back of the wheel.
Potentially the gust was blowing behind the sheltering and the front of the wheel just met it first… I still find this crazy to think it would just knock me over.

Hitting an obstacle isn’t impossible to think. I cannot say for sure I had scanned the road perfectly.

If that was cause really, my only take away would be be more careful - which is always a good idea!

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If you are in a corner and going at a high speed it take very little to up set a bike. “On the edge” is a literal, not figurative expression. So it’s possible a wind shift could upset the front wheels. And it doesn’t have to be a wind increase either. A sudden shift which reduces the wind significantly quickly can have the same effect. And, such sudden shifts are often caused by changes in the terrain.

Or, you hit a stick. The thing about crashes is they happen so fast that a lot of times you have no idea what actually happened.

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I think this is a great takeaway. You are obviously experienced. Stuff happens. I wouldn’t change things that have been working for you so far.

It is a good reminder about how fragile we really are out there, wearing aero clothing going 68 kph downhill. Pure attention in the moment is key and as soon as we forget it things can go bad quickly.

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I was pretty much on a straight though, which makes the whole thing even more perplexing to me.