Crashing Spectacularly

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    • #246295

      I was thinking about doing a race this Sunday and although the distance isn’t too daunting (18 miles), I was a little concerned I would get caught up in the excitement and over-do it. Initially I was thinking about taking my single-speed so I would treat it more like a fun ride but I made the mistake of looking at the times from last year and realized I wanted to finish in about an hour and a half to not embarrass myself. After all awards are presented 2 hours after the start, I didn’t want to be the guy collapsing at the finish line in the background of the podium pictures.

      My riding style is to have fun and get better. Fitness would be nice but it is secondary. I only work on the fitness aspect to make the riding more fun. A typical ride near my apartment is fairly technical narrow singletrack (rock gardens, switchbacks, steep chutes and punchy climbs) and I usually take it pretty easy on the flat parts.

      I thought I better try training a little and see how I do at race pace. So, I mapped out a loop in my mind. Starting out flat with some singletrack followed by a couple short steep chutes down to the first climb (about 2 minutes ranging from 8% to 12% grade). Then the biggest descent followed by a gradual climb to flat a bit more single track mixed in to keep it interesting and back to start. About 100 feet of climbing per mile with 30-40% flat to work on pace and  10% tech to keep it interesting.

      I was very happy with this plan and thought I better do the loop at least 5 times. It went great for 3 minutes. Still in the flat part I came around a tree at 8.5 miles per hour (according to Strava) hit a root, my handlebars went sideways and I hit the ground hard. Bell rung. I walked it off for a couple minutes, inspected my helmet and decided I could continue on. Things went pretty well until the second part of the first climb, when I tried to shift down even more and put my chain between the spokes and my granny gear. Took full 13 minutes to get it out. To my surprise, the chain felt good. No skips. Continued on.

      I finished the first lap and went for a second with no incidences. Didn’t have three more in me though. Between hurting everywhere and only being able to do 5 miles at a brisk pace, I think I am sitting out the race until I can just enjoy the ride or can approach the goals that I hastily set for myself.

      I do need a bit of advice though. I either need to learn to bail or to crash with more pizzazz. I imaging an onlooker would have seen a guy about 10 feet into the woods riding along and just diving head first into the ground. Ideally, I would have been able to save it or drop the bike and save myself. But alternatively I could have launched clear of the bike and tumbled down the side of the hill, which would have looked cooler.

      I clipped my wheel and I was just along for the ride. I accepted immediately that I was crashing and there was nothing I could do about it but I was very surprised when my head hit the ground. How would I have better protected myself in this situation? How can I practice bailing?

    • #246328

      I’ve had some pretty spectacular crashes myself, but the only time I’ve hit my head was on a climb. The trail was a singletrack width rut, and my front wheel wandered over to a damp, off-camber root, sending it flying off to the left. I went down and head met earth.

      The best advice I can give you is to start riding more technical trails at a more intense pace. Over the summer I’ve been riding much more aggressively, and as a consequence I’ve had some close calls and some bails. The upside is I’ve gotten faster and, more importantly, I’ve gotten used to being barely in control of my bike. Unfortunately this can lead to more crashes in general, but hopefully you’ll be able to stay on your bike and maybe just slide to a halt off-trail, rather than being unceremoniously flung into the bushes.

      Last Saturday I came down a short hill on the side of a ridge; the trail curves to the right and is narrow, loose, and cambered to the left. I went too fast and started to slide off the trail. I was able to lock my back brake and slide so that I was nearly perpendicular to the trail. Some rude tree jumped in the way of my left crank and brought me to a sudden stop, but I probably would have been able to at least come to a safe stop without it.

      Earlier on the same ride I accidentally drifted through a loose corner, sliding both wheels. It was probably the coolest thing I’ll ever do in my life. On my second time through the same corner I overshot it and ended up skidding wildly into a bush. You win some, you lose some.

      The best thing you can do in a crash is protect your head. Put your arms up and use them to cushion the blow, get your feet off the bike if you can, practice tucking and rolling. On several occasions I’ve slid down the trail on my chest, and I instinctively pull my head back as much as possible to avoid eating dirt.

      • #246367

        You know its a good one if youre chewing on sand later on. Gets into the mouthpiece on your hydration pack too.

    • #246366

      Seth (of Seth’s Bike Hacks) did a video on this along with some demonstrations:


    • #246507

      I watched Seth’s video. Going to try some of those moves (jumping off the bike and jumping a pipe) so they feel more natural when I am less sore. I don’t use clipless pedals so that should help.

    • #246529

      Took my first hard crash in a couple of years last weekend.  Fortunately no real damage.  I slammed my head hard on the ground, but thankfully my helmet did what it is supposed to do.  I had to make a few adjustment to the bike, and I was good to go.  Unfortunately, my good friend was not so lucky.  He broke a rib flying through the last technical downhill turn on the ride.  I was right behind and got the old front row view of the crash.  It was painful to watch.

    • #246536

      vapidoscar562: How would I have better protected myself in this situation? How can I practice bailing?

      I used to ask the same myself, and gave up. 🙂  But over the last couple of years or so, I seem to have learned (instinctively maybe because I’m getting older and more fragile) to shift my focus sooner from what I’m doing on the bike as I’m crashing, to what I plan to do as I go down.  I’ve also finally gotten to to the point of not worrying so much about my equipment, and worrying more about my body.  I feel like I’ve limited bruising, significant cuts and trail rash by letting the bike go sooner, and planning my landing.  I’ve started grabbing tree trunks and limbs to slow, and occasionally prevent, a full on landing.  I’ve also shifted from landing “on all fours”, to landing into a roll.  That has really helped limit injuries.  It may not look as cool, but it hurts less.  Rather than worrying about my hydration pack, I now use it as a pad for rolling.  My packs seem to survive just fine.  Interestingly, I’ve noticed that since I shifting my crash approach, I now find myself thinking through what I might have done when I have near misses.  Nothing about what I’ve mentioned here was planned or a result of being smart, so I chalk it up to getting older and self preservation. 🙂

    • #246605

      I know you are right about not worrying about the equipment and focusing on self preservation. I took my worst crash, with respect to long term pain and damage to bike, at the beginning of the season last year. Went OTB and dropped the bike off a small cliff. My back went straight into a 2-3″ diameter tree but it felt more like a redwood fell on me. The bike ended up with a broken shifter and I ended up with a sore back for about 3 weeks.

      Sadly I was more mad at myself for dropping the bike. But you live and you learn.

    • #246702

      My most spectacular crashes are usually the least interesting from an injury or bike damage standpoint. Each time I’ve gotten hurt or damaged my bike, it resulted from pretty lame, often embarrassing, crashes.

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