Practicing crashing

Today I rocked private clinic #2 with a junior female Cat 1 XC racer. She’s picking everything up really quickly, and today we got into some super-techy climbing skills. That was super fun, then she surprised me.

“Hey Lee, I want to practice crashing.”

Practice crashing?


I focus on giving people the skills to NOT crash.

But we all crash from time to time, so why not learn to crash well?

Here’s how we broke it down:

Option 1: Run away from your bike

It’s usually best to ride through sketchy situations, but that’s not always possible. Say you get into trouble you don’t think you can ride through:

– Get rid of your bike BEFORE you freak out. Once you panic, you get tense, then you’re asking for trouble.

– Send your body straight and send your bike to the side.

– Unclip one foot and reach it forward. Right before it hits the ground, unclip your other foot and leap over the bike. This is a LEAP with capital letters. Let your bike go.

– Start running at the same speed as your bike, then gradually slow it down.

– Find your bike and pin it!

We started slow and worked our way up to full-speed running dismounts. I’ll have to post video.

I once saw pro XC/SD racer Mike West pull this move while holding his handlebar. He lost his front wheel, jumped off the bike, ran it out then jumped back on in less than a second. Sick.

Option 2: Roll it out

You can’t always run away from your bike. If you do hit the ground, tuck and roll.

– Spot your landing.

– Actively close your body into a ball. Don’t just flop onto the ground. Pull everything in tight — head, arms and legs — and land on the back of a shoulder.

– Roll it out.

– Stand up. Find your bike. Pin it!

Next: Combine these techniques into the ultimate crashing kung fu. I need to post video.

Try not to crash, but if you crash:

Crash well.

— Lee

Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition has an entire chapter on avoiding injury.

Know more. Have more fun!

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7 replies
  1. Simcik says:

    I can volunteer to be the crash dummy for the video! We should start doing some video collabos for the site or something or just start shooting a DVD…hmmm interesting the possibilities

  2. Colin says:

    Whilst learning jumping I had a serious crash that resulted in 2 broken elbows and a smashed wrist that needed 2 surgeries. I was jumping a tabletop line and on the third one (about 10ft long, 5ft high) I got airborne with what I thought was a little too much speed and I also got bucked forward somewhat. I decided that the general mantra of “try to ride it out” is what I was going to do. It soon became clear that I was overshooting the down slope and also nose-diving badly. What happened next is a little sketchy because I also cracked my full-face helmet (with my head in it) in the crash . I think I landed on the front wheel then instantly lost my grip on the bars because of the force. At this point I was spearing into the flat ground at about 60 degrees and hit with both hands then my face, then I crumpled into a heap. What could I have done differently, after getting airborne, to avoid multiple broken bones ? The forward bucking motion meant zero chance of landing on my feet, but trying to forward flip and land on my back/shoulder seems extremely risky from 8 feet in the air.

  3. leelikesbikes says:


    FIRST: Proper jumping technique eliminates the dreaded buck. Learn to jump correctly. Master small/slow jumps before you step up the speed/size. This site has lots of jumping info, as does Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition, as do my clinics.

    If you do get bucked forward, you’ll know something’s wrong as soon as you take off. Here’s a thought:

    1) Get away from the bike as soon as possible. The longer you hold on, the farther forward your body rotates, and the harder it becomes to get your feet under you.

    2) Now you’re flying without your bike. Swing your arms in circles — roll down the windows — to get your feet under you.

    3) Land on your feet and run it out, run to roll, run to slide or whatever. Make sure you spread your momentum over as much time/space as possible. It’s not the crash that hurts you; it’s the sudden stop!

    This all happens in an instant. Practice correct jumping so you instantly know what wrong feels like. Practice getting rid of your bike in the air and spreading your momentum like soft butter. I’ve seen high-level DJers practice mid-air dismounts. Smart.

  4. Joss DeWaele says:

    I always incorporate some sort of tumbling exercise into my off-season training routine in the gym. We can talk about proper rolling technique all we want, but until we train our bodies to execute the movement, the brain will just get in the way. I always make sure that my tumbling exercises are done when my heart rate is at its highest, because it will most likely be there if I ever crash. Bonus: you look really weird doing these things in the gym.

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