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Jenelle Crooks: equipment safety lessons from a former pro

9 September 2022

As far as I know I’ve been very lucky not to have undergone any serious issues with my bikes *touch wood*

When it comes to damaged bikes, however, I’ve certainly seen my fair share! Whether from a crash, a bump or damage sustained in-transit (car or plane) it seems miraculous to me now that I managed to get through my professional career unscathed. In hindsight I, and the people around me have been extremely lucky to have professional mechanics working on our bikes every day to assess and prevent damage in some way.

Below are some of the things I have learned throughout my five years as a professional cyclist.

For me, travel really seemed to be the common thread when it came to damaged bikes. Countless times I’ve seen what appears to be minor to severe damage after flying. Moral of the story? Get a good quality bike bag and buy some extra bubble wrap!

Another common issue is not having a clean bike to reliably identify possible damage! I attended an event not long ago and observed an athlete riding a bike with a nearly snapped rear stay. Aside from a ‘funny feeling’ (which only experienced riders may be aware of), she was completely unaware of it until she cleaned her bike. 

Do not over-clamp bikes when using the roof rack systems on your car!

Some small, seemingly insignificant crashes can cause cracks that are hard to identify, appearing underneath the paint work. A friend and former teammate of mine crashed her bike and it took our mechanics two races to find the crack (which they did, 15mins before the start of a world tour race!) Without having the bike very clean and professional mechanics constantly assessing the bike for damage, the end result could have been disastrous.

Following crashes, I’ve observed racing bikes that have literally shattered into pieces. It’s hard to say if these bikes have sustained damage prior to the crash, but it was a huge shock either way.

Cheapo frames from online marketplaces such as Ali Baba can present issues, and I’ve heard my fair share of stories about how dangerous they are. From my limited knowledge of this space, I don’t think it is the quality of carbon that is the issue (as most manufacturers buy their carbon from the same factories), but the design. Manufacturers invest a lot of time, effort, and money into developing novel designs that push the limits between strength, weight and durability. I guess, some do it better than others!

I’ve seen sticks fly up into the rear mech and cause the rear stay to sustain frame-compromising damage. Again, what appeared to be cosmetic damage turned out to be a lot more serious.

I’ve witnessed some poor guy drop his bike at a coffee shop... resulting in damage requiring an (expensive) repair. As I have come to learn, top tube damage from swinging handlebars is quite common.

For a large chunk of my adult life, cycling has been both a passion and a job. As a result, I’ve had the benefit of learning about bikes directly (through experience) and indirectly via some of the most amazing mechanics in the business. The times I have noticed something was ‘off’ I have been able to catch these early and pass on my concerns. We were always lucky enough to have access to another safe bike to ride also, so it was not something we constantly dwelt on. However, this does make me think of the many cyclists out there who either don’t know what to look for, or do not have the time or money to invest in robust inspections of their equipment. What do they do? Where do they turn? Who do they ask?

 I think it is so important to have regular services, to always keep your bike clean and to always monitor (before and after every ride) for any signs of visual wear or impact damage. But what is clear to me now is the importance of having inspections performed by those who know what to look for, and who have the technology and processes to support them in this process. This is something that I know Cycle Inspect are looking to introduce, and I’m excited the confidence and reassurance this will bring all riders of carbon bikes – whether you are a racer or not.


Jenelle Crooks is an Australian former professional road cyclist, who rode professionally between 2016 and 2020 for the Mitchelton–Scott and Tibco–Silicon Valley Bank teams.





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