This blog brings you new perspectives and interesting ideas in cycling, without any charge. You may pay me back through your continued interest.
Some months back while visiting a good friend of mine, I happened to grab a vintage cycling book off his shelf and flip across its pages. I like the smell of old books. Its like battery acid for the mind of a book enthusiast, just stimulating. In one of its uneventful pages simply titled Appendix, I came across the following words. Read carefully, as the author comes across as completely assured of what he's about to theorize. I'll tell you who wrote this at the end of the quote.
"If you been riding long enough to have some falls, I'll bet that almost every injury has been on the left side of your body. How do I know this? Because its the same for me and many other riders. If you want to find an old bike racer, look for a guy with scars on his left elbow. There seems to be a physiological reason for this and it is very interesting, though it hasn't been formally documented as far as I know. It has to do with the location of the heart, the body's primary organ.
As we know, the heart is to the left of the center in the chest. When the body loses equilibrium, it has a strong tendency to fall toward the heart side. This also explains why most riders find it easier to corner to the left than to the right. And it's why track races go counterclockwise so that all turning is to the left. The reason it feels more natural is that the distance from the heart to the ground is less when turning left than when turning right. Even though track riders often do fall on their right side, this doesn't disprove the theory. It just points out the bike's tendency to slide down the banking.Cozy Beehive edition of original illustration by Grid Designs
What is the practical value of all this? For one thing it means you may need more practice cornering to the right before it feels as natural as cornering to the left. It may also be wise to wear a protective pad on your left elbow in criteriums, especially if you've injured it before. Should you crash there is a better than even chance you'll land on it again. Keep this "left side" theory in mind and you may find other ways to use it for your benefit. "
The author of those words, documented in the 1985 classic Bicycle Road Racing, was none other than the Polish coach, Eddie B (also known as the father of modern American cycling). Being one of the most respected coaches in history, you'd think he'd make sense with his ideas.
This one is particularly interesting as he's stating that "almost every" injury is to the left side of the body because the body (if you consider it to be an inverted pendulum while on a bike) has a directional falling bias. It is also stated that because this "falling" is easier to the left than the right, cornering towards the left side is as well. Therefore, velodromes are run anticlockwise.
Today, you readers can be fellow mythbusters. I did my part, analyzing some 10-15 real world videos of bicycle crashes. I found no correlations with the statement above and all crashes highly depended on riding conditions. I also counted all my scars and there are more to the right side than the left. I don't believe gravity has a preference for this side or that side.....unless you can take a fresh cadaver, cut the flesh into two equal halves and find out that one side weighs more than the other. Are any of you active in criminal investigations? This whole thing begs me to ask : what side is a dead body more likely to fall towards? (If you have murdered someone, are in jail and use an iPhone to read my blog, let me know....)
So today's question : Is there biologically any reason behind the supposed tendencies to fall towards the left side, or is it just a subconscious reflex action to protect your derailleur and chainring from getting damaged? Ah. Think about that one for the weekend.
ADDITIONAL READING :
We Might As Well Crash