Rock Dodging

by Susie Jones

Riding safely on the road requires a knowledge and understanding of traffic laws and the principles that determine and govern these laws. However, even when you ride predictably and occupy your proper place on the roadway, situations may arise that necessitate an emergency maneuver on your part. The ability to execute an evasive maneuver could mean the difference between a close call and a serious, or fatal accident.

In this article, I will discuss a maneuver called Rock Dodging, an essential skill for any cyclist to master. Picture yourself riding along when suddenly you see a rock in your path. There is a ditch to your right, and a car or another cyclist on your left. You don't have to hit the rock-there is a way to go around it.

Before the technique will make sense though, it is important to understand how you stay upright on your bike and what happens during a turn. To keep from falling over on the bike, you steer the wheels so they are exactly under you. Using John Forester's example in Effective CyclingTM, imagine that you are balancing a stick upright with one end resting in the palm of your hand. You balance it by moving your hands so that it stays under the stick, no matter which way it starts to fall. This what also happens on a bike. It is not possible to balance exactly; you are always wobbling to one side or the other, steering to correct the unwanted lean. If you fall, it is because you have steered the wheels out from under you.

To execute a Rock Dodge, keep riding straight until you are very close to the rock. Just before the rock, turn the handlebars suddenly with out leaning so the front wheel goes around the rock. For example, if you steer to the right of the rock you will automatically start to fall (lean) left. However, you will catch yourself as soon as your wheels have passed the rock by steering more to the left than is natural. Your wheel snakes around the rock (see illustration), but your body and handlebars have barely moved.

Rock Dodging

The entire action happens in a split second.

This technique will feel unnatural at first and will take quite a bit of practice before you can do it smoothly. Once you master the Rock Dodge, practice it regularly to maintain proficiency. While out riding, dodge rocks that you would otherwise be able to avoid, or make constructive use of the time spent waiting for an organized ride to begin by practicing in the parking lot. For an emergency maneuver to actually work in an emergency, it has got to come naturally, with out your having to think it through first.

Reprinted from "Effective CyclingTM Notebook" from the League of American Bicyclists.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site,, or e-mail them at

Serving the Pacific Northwest for over 12 years.

Home | Clubhouse | Sponsors | Links | Webmaster

©1998-2010 Seattle Bicycle Club, Inc.