Not if, but when

Not if, but when… here’s how to walk away from a tumble. Although crashing is not exactly a skill, learning what to do when it’s going awry is important.

Words by Andy Barlow of Dirt School

Unfortunately if you ride a mountain bike then you’re going to fall off of it now and again. It’s not a matter of ‘if ‘you’re going to crash, but ‘when’. So how come some riders can walk away from fairly big departures and others always seem to hurt themselves on a regular basis?

There could be a few things that you could do in advance to protect yourself the next time you leap from your bike.

First of all make sure you’re wearing your helmet, knee pads and preferably using flat pedals and shoes, that way you’re taking the necessary precautions to limit any damage if it goes wrong.

Here’s some things you might like to try…

1. Practice stepping off

This one is an easy one to practice. Your bike is going to end up on its side here, so find an open grassy field or lawn and pedal up to a slow walking pace. Now steer one way with your bars and step off to the other. If you’re turning right then step off with your left. If you’re turning left then step off with your right. You’re going to want to let go of your bike with your hands so that as your bike turns away from you you end up stepping your remaining foot off and running out of it in a slow jog. Your bike will fall over but you’ll hopefully still be on your feet. This one is great to familiarise yourself with because it can save you if your bars clip a tight gap in a fence or a tree.

2. Get your bars down

This time you’re going to have to find a steep slope that you can ride along next to. The steeper the better. Don’t go fast here, in fact the slower the better. You’re trying to deliberately fall over towards it, only this time instead of taking your foot off and running out of it, try coming to a complete stop and taking the impact as you fall over with the end of your handlebars. Keep your knees and elbows away from the slope and make sure you don’t trap your pinky. You’d be amazed how much force you can put into your bar end instead of your knee in a real crash.

3. Jump off

You’re really best to be on flat pedals for this one. Ride along at a slow pace and gently come to a halt. Just before you come to a complete stop however steer one way of the other. This will start to tip the bike so that as you stop you’re already falling over sideways but in a direction of your choosing. Now you have to jump off completely with both feet at the same time. You should be able to keep holding the bars and end up just standing next to your bike. This is a safe way of learning how to jump off if it all goes wrong and you’re much better trying it for the first time at a stand still rather than in mid air.

4. Get over it

Don’t be afraid of falling off. It will only make the risk of injury worse if you tense up, put your arms out straight, and close your eyes. Instead, try and familiarise yourself with being able to step off in a safe environment. That way if it happens for real you might have a better chance of getting away with it.