Technique: Crashing for dummies

How to deal with the four most common crashes

One day you will crash – stunt man Rob Jarman explains how to do it properly

Over the bars

What happens

Your front wheel gets stuck in a drain cover, or you ride into a curb or your neighbour’s dog. Whatever the reason, your bike has stopped dead and you’re heading over the handlebars.

What you do

Don’t just hold on tight and aim your face at the road. Instead, get your hands up and ready. Extend your leading arm towards the ground to start absorbing the impact, bow your head and tuck your chin into your chest, while protecting your head with your other arm.

As your leading arm hits the road, let your momentum roll you over the same shoulder, a bit like a lop-sided forward roll. Keep your head tucked in and you’ll end up on your back. Hopefully your feet will have clipped out of the pedals at some stage – but either way, be prepared to fend off your own flying bike, which could be falling right on top of you!

High side

What happens

This can often happen a fraction of a second after you’ve just saved a slide, and the back wheel has gone from washing out in a corner to suddenly gripping. The bike will sit upright in an instant and you’ll be ejected over the side.

What you do

Similarly to the ‘over the bars’ crash, you’re going to be ejected into the air but this time it’s faster and it’s sideways. The first thing to do is to try to get you and the bike separated from each other. Let go of the bars and unclip from the pedals.

It’s really important here to try to spot your landing and make every effort not to hit anything that could do you serious damage, such as a kerb or a wall, if you can possibly help it. There’s not much else you can do, because you’ll be barrelling sideways and probably quite disoriented. Tuck your head in and protect it with one arm then try to relax and go limp so that you absorb the impact through your joints and not your bones.

Low side

What happens

You’ve come into a corner a bit too aggressively and the back wheel, front wheel, or both wheels have started to slide. You can’t recover the slide and you hit the deck, continuing the slide on your hip or arse.

What you do

No doubt about it, you need to stop sliding as quickly as possible. Legend has it that at 60mph a road will burn through an inch of flesh per second of sliding. I don’t know if that’s true or not but that Lycra sure isn’t going to offer you a whole lot of protection!

As the bike goes down, try to rotate your upper body to face the direction your bike is sliding in. If you have time, take your lowest hand off the bars and drop your shoulder so that the back of it can take most of your impact with the road. If you’re going really fast, put your feet out in front of you and push them down into the road surface to use as a makeshift brake.

Sack of spuds

What happens

This is a clipless pedal newbie’s favourite, but can happen to anyone who’s not concentrating or anticipating properly. As you stop, you either forget you’re clipped into your pedals or you can’t unclip in time. The result is a sideways topple into a surprisingly painful and embarrassing heap on the road.

What you do

The reason slow crashes can sometimes hurt the most is that you don’t have any momentum in your body to roll or spin out of it – instead, you hit the floor square on and your elbow and hip take all the impact.

To avoid this, lean away from the floor, keeping your body upright until the last moment. Push your bike down so that the bars and inside pedal take the sting out of the fall, and then roll over your shoulder and onto your back as your body hits the road.

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