Emergency Stops--Part Twelve of Fixed Gear 101
by Greg Goode
What if your brakes fail, your chain breaks or pops off, you get something caught in the chain, or your pedals get out of control on a downhill? What can you do? There are several techniques. They aren't pleasant to use, but they are better than the alternative!
Lean the bike over
Try to remove your feet from the clips and lean the bike to the side. Plant your foot on the ground and do a one-half Fred Flintstone. One associate of mine got his shoelace caught in the chainring and had to lean the bike over to where his knee scraped the ground. He stopped finally, and learned to tuck the laces firmly into his shoes!
Skid to a powerslide
This is a prolonged skid where you also whip the tail of the bike around so that the bike faces sideways. If your forward foot is the L foot, you'll probably find it more comfortable to whip the rear of the bike to the R, and vice versa. The powerslide redirects your forward motion sideways and brings you to a quicker halt. It's the same movement as you might have done as a kid with your dirt bike, MTB or BMX. You might have even seen skateboarders doing brakeless powerslides.
Ride into the shoulder of the road
This will soften the blow. You'll wipe out into dirt or bushes, or even something harder. But it's probably still better than riding into a busy intersection at high speed. If there's a curb at the shoulder of the road, then you might have to bunnyhop the bike. To do this, do a wheelie to get the front wheel up and over, then immediately, unweight the rear wheel and pull up as explained in the section on Skip and Skid stops.
Foot into the seatstays
You might have done this on your bike as a kid. Using your dominant foot or your more limber leg, unclip and bring the foot up and back. Plant it in the gap where the rear wheel goes through the seatstays. Ideally, it will be your shoe and not your ankle that'll lodge into the space, providing a brake to the rear tire.
Glove against the front wheel
Use this one with caution, since it can make you flip forwards. But people have done this successfully. Press the palm of your gloved hand onto the tire in front of the fork (not in back of it!) and press down or squeeze with your hand. Try not to lean too far forward.
If your chain breaks or pops off...
...unclip from the R pedal, swing your leg over the saddle and drag the foot on the L side of the bike like kids do. Or take your butt off the saddle, sit on the top tube with one haunch, and do a Fred Flintstone with the other foot. Or use a combination, a one-footed Fred while leaning the bike to the side.