Video: Top 5 ways to survive a crash

Crashing is a part of our sport but we can get better at it

Go feet first when going over the bars.

Go feet first when going over the bars.

Ever wonder why bmx kids seem to fall out of the sky and walk away unharmed? It’s because they’ve crashed many times before and have learned to control the situation. Us mountain bikers can learn a lot from them and improve our chances during a fall.

Innocent tumbles can sometimes lead to very serious injuries while massive falls can leave a rider unscratched. How is this possible? It gives us hope that we have some control over one of the few constants of our sport… crashing.

Controlling the impact can lead to drastically different outcomes during a crash. And the preparation one takes plays a major role as well. Check out what Seth has to say as he is well versed in the subject. Lots of practice and experience definitely helps.

One area he doesn’t cover is the subject of protection. Knee and elbow pads, full coverage helmets and clothing are key to improving our chances during these unplanned get-offs.

1. Know that you can always improve your predicament

Even if you can’t save yourself outright, you can usually find a way to get less hurt. When you’re crashing, time slows down, and you can use it wisely. As you’re crashing, you need exercise whatever sliver of control you still have over the situation to minimize your injuries. Maybe this seems obvious, but keep it in mind and internalize it. The next time you’re going down in flames, act quick and be decisive.

2. Totally disregard your bike

We all love our bikes, but they can always be repaired or replaced. Even if you make minimum wage, a new wheel or set of handlebars will likely cost less than your medical bills, especially here in the US. Also, what good is your bike if you’re injured for the rest of the riding season? You can’t put a price on that. So, when you’re crashing, put yourself first. After all the demonstrations in this video, my bike just needs to be hosed off.

3. Practice dismounting in a hurry

If you’re clipped in, your feet should always come off before you let go of your bars, so hold on and try to jump off the bike quickly without getting hung up. Whether or not you hold on to your bike after that will depend on the scenario. If you’re riding flat pedals, it’s not so important to get your feet off first, so you can actually jump off in one step. Although you may not want to practice ghost riding your bike, getting good at quickly dismounting can save you big time.

A D30 pad protects the front of the knee.

Although not mentioned here, knee pads and protective gear are the essential for surviving unplanned get-offs unscathed.

4. If you’re going OTB, do it feet first

Yes, it’s possible to go over the bars and totally escape injury, that is if you can get them under your feet. This makes it possible to land feet first, or into a controlled tumble. While this might not be easy to practice, you can at least get comfortable with the motion by finding a horizontal bar to jump over. By holding on while getting your feet over, you can attempt to commit this to memory. This maneuver is particularly hard to do while clipped in. The only advice I can offer is to try and twist your feet while you toss your bars.

5. When you hit the ground, Tuck and Roll

If and when you make an emergency dismount, you’ll usually be traveling at speed. Sometimes it’s possible to run out of a dismount, but not always. The best way to minimize your injury is to tuck and roll. To do this, put your head down and loosely tuck with all of your appendages, letting yourself tumble to a stop. You don’t want to tumble head over heels though. Instead, try to do more of a barrel roll and keep your feet near the ground. This also lets you regain control of the situation at the soonest opportunity. Also keep in mind that staying rigid and trying to break your fall can lead to the worst injuries. It’s better to cooperate with physics and roll out of it.

So now that you know these 5 tips, how can you get better at bailing out of a crash? Will these tips really help you when you’re hurdling through the air? Over the short term, no, but through experience crashing can actually be something you can get better at.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • dave_f says:

    Best article in a long time

  • gg says:

    Clenching fist in crash will help avoid fingers/wrists from getting caught up and breaking.
    Applies to skiing and boarding as well !
    Knees pads mandatory as far as I’m concerned since knocking into the top tube for example can cause quite a painful injury. And this can occur even without a digger.
    Rainy days is a good time to wear the elbow pads as well especially on rocky or gnarly trails.
    No injuries are fun and even the smallest can require long recovery times.
    Hopefully these suggestions will prevent some hardship.

  • The Reverend says:

    “An ounce of prevention…” Decent tips here but I’d recommend protection for elbows and knees. They make the most innocent of slides annoyances rather than situations where you’re looking to grow back skin.

  • myke on a byke says:

    As someone who rode bmx for 15 years, and wasn’t ever particularly great at it, I crashed quite a bit. However, very early on I learned quite a few of the above steps, and developing an instinct for bailing out probably saved me from more than a few hospital trips. Learning how to crash is one of the most important skills one can have on a bike. Get to practicing kids!

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