How to Fall off a Bike and Not Get Hurt

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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How to Fall off a Bike and Not Get Hurt

If you’ve ever watched the pros in the Tour de France, you’re probably aware that even the most serious cyclists take a tumble every now and then. While injuries during a high-speed crash can’t often be avoided with little to no time to react, recreational cyclists traveling at slower speeds can reduce their injury chances by learning to fall correctly.

Keep these basic tips in mind to prevent injuries the next time your wheels slide out from under you.

DON’T BRACE FOR THE FALL

Instead of crashing at 40 mph in a sprint to the line like a pro, an amateur cyclist is more likely to fall in the 15–20 mph range when crossing wet train tracks or getting a wheel caught in a drain cover. Since there’s more time to react, the instinct is to let go of the handlebars and brace for the fall with your hands.

A fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH) is one of the more common ways to break bones in your hand, wrist, elbow and clavicle. To avoid this, it’s better to either keep your hands on the bars or as close to your body as possible to protect your face and chest. If you can roll with the impact instead of bracing against it with your hands, you’ll spread the forces of the impact across a larger surface area, reducing your chances of a fracture.

LEARN HOW TO FALL

Getting ejected over the handlebars is quite different from having your wheels slide out from under you. While getting yourself into a ball and using the tuck-and-roll method will definitely work on an over-the-handlebar accident, when the bike slides out from under you, this technique might not — particularly if you’re traveling at slow speeds.

In a situation where you’re falling to the side, the best practice is to turn the front of your body away from the road and absorb the impact with the back of your body. Here are a few other tips you can use to fall correctly:

  • For spills from the side, use the back of your shoulder, hip and butt to absorb the impact instead of your arm as you hit the road.
  • Always keep your chin tucked to your chest to avoid head trauma. If your head touches the ground, you’ll need to get checked for a concussion.
  • For over-the-handlebar falls, use your arms to protect your face as you tuck and roll. Keep your chin tucked and try to roll over your shoulders.
  • Before impact let your body go limp. Tensing up just before a crash makes a fracture more likely.
  • If you can manage to get your feet free from the pedals in time, getting them on the ground can help stop your momentum (sort of like a brake). This will also buy you more time to roll to your back as you hit the ground.

PICK A GOOD LANDING SPOT

Unfortunately, these tips are all easy to talk about but can be harder to put into practice when you’ve only got a split second before you’re on the ground. In a situation where you’ve got little to no time to react, picking a safer landing spot can make the difference between serious injury and saving your skin and bones.

In those situations when you know you’re going down but can’t do anything to stop it, aim for as safe a spot as you can to land. A grassy shoulder is always going to be easier on your skin and absorb more impact than the road.


READ MORE > 7 MUST-DOS AFTER A BIKE CRASH


Keep in mind, though, that there are some instances when you’ll need to use your better judgment — such as a high-speed descent down a mountain. Aiming for a soft shoulder when a cliff awaits you on the other side will be significantly more dangerous than laying your bike down on the asphalt and dealing with the consequences.

No matter what happens, after you take a spill move to the side of the road, away from traffic when possible, and use these tips to take the proper precautions immediately.


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About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.  

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