Mountain biking can be dangerous and accidents do happen. Some riders do get seriously injured and then they recover. Fortunately there are many ways to prevent accidents and injuries on the trail. They will help to improve your skills and keep you safer.
1. Going over the bars on a drop off
This type of accident can leave you pretty banged up and bruised, you might even have broken a bone. This type of crash happens because you did not get the weight off of the front wheel.
A drop off is usually around two to three feet tall. So when you come to a drop off and you do not do anything except roll right into it, you will get into trouble. Your front tire will just roll off the drop off very easily.
As you just roll off, your weight will naturally move forward due to gravity and momentum. This will cause you to fly over the handlebars as your front tire hits the ground.
The first thing you should do is lower your saddle or seat. This is very easy if you have a dropper seatpost. Just push the button and adjust the height while you are riding. If not you can lower your seat manually using a wrench.
The reason you want to drop your seat is so that you have more room. You need this extra room in order to shift your weight back before going over a drop off. Move your hips and butt back so they are over your rear tire.
If your hips are high because of your high seat and you go over a drop off, this will increase your chances that your weight will shift forward and you will go over your handlebars. You need space in order to keep your weight back.
Also make sure you are going fast enough to carry you through the drop off. If you are going to slow even with your weight back you will just roll right into the drop off.
Which technique you use will be determined by how fast you go. If you are going slower, you will need to do a manual. If you are going faster, you can just shift your weight to the rear tire and you will ride through and over the drop off.
It is important to also release your brakes as you approach the drop off, and stop pedaling. Keep your head up and look forward at the trail. Keep your front tire straight, don’t turn it left or right or this will cause an accident as you land.
Once you land on the ground and are settled on the trail, then you can brake.
2. Preventing a jumping accident
Jumping off jumps is great fun. Getting good height and distance is a blast. But it can also end in a crash. There are two main reasons for crashing on jumps, getting bumped and going sideways.
Jumps go wrong at first with the takeoff, then they get worse in the air, and riders get hurt on the landing. The main reason for getting bumped, and then having your weight go forward is because you get up and forward too early on the takeoff.
If you move your body weight up and forward too early before the jump, then as you hit the jump you will get bumped off balance. Riders will stand up and move their hips forward to try and get more air. But if you prepare for this before even hitting the jump you will be knocked off balance by the jump. Also moving your weight towards the bars makes this worse.
Getting knocked off balance by the jump can also happen if your suspension is not set correctly. If your suspension is set to strongly then when you hit the jump, you will be bumped offline, your body weight will be knocked off center as you take off.
The second way to crash on a jump is because you go sideways in the air. This is because you pull up on the handlebars.
This is not a good idea because by pulling up on the handlebars, you often will pull too much on the right or on the left. This will cause you to go sideways while in the air, causing you to land wrong and crashing.
To prevent this accident, instead use a manual as you go up the jump, then use a bunny hop to get more distance. Whenever going over any jump always keep your weight back, and your body balanced centrally.
3. Avoiding corner crashes
Going into, through, and exiting a corner is wicked when you can do it fast. The main reason for corner accidents is because the front wheel starts sliding and you lose control.
An easy way to know this is happening is because you will be sliding around the corner on your knee. Uneven weight distribution on your bike is the cause of this. If your weight is too far back this can cause the front tire to lift and lose grip causing it to slide.
Another reason could be the trail. The corner may have loose dirt and gravel. You should try and notice this beforehand by walking the trail first before riding it. Or slowdown before reaching a corner and try to predict where a slide might happen.
Sliding out your front wheel while going around a corner can be because the weight distribution is off and or your bike set up is incorrect.
Try to balance your weight evenly over both wheels. If this feels unnatural to do that, you can try lowering your chest to the bars. Plus try adjusting your fork setup, and the spaces underneath the stem in order to make it feel more natural.
Finally, it could be also that you are dragging the front brake as you go around the corner. You may not be as skilled or confident on corners, so you ride the brake going around it. It is better to just slow down before the corner if you feel you can;t handle the speed.
Other crashes and accidents happen in corners because you go off line. This happens because you misjudged your speed, causing you to drift wider around the corner than you thought. You also may need to look further around the turn to the exit, in order to plan it better.
4. Hitting obstacles
Running into small unexpected obstacles can make you crash. On the trail there may be a small log or wood which is sticking out. It is easy for you to drift and ride over it to the left or right of its center. You could ride over either end of the small log.
This can cause your front tire to slide out from under you, especially if it is wet. While riding, try to scan the trail for any small obstacles. Look ahead and from side to side, or use your peripheral vision to notice them.
Always be ready to move your weight back if you come across a small obstacle. By being ready to shift your weight back, you will be prepared to do a manual whenever you come across a root, log, stump, or rocks.
5. Braking accidents
Misjudging how much braking you need for a particular situation can cause a crash. If you are not braking enough and you are going too fast you will get into an accident. Using your brakes too much, riding your brakes, braking too hard can get you in to trouble.
If you are going down a steep short chute you will need to brake right at the beginning of the descent. But if you use your front brake too hard, then your front tire will slide, and you will either wipe out or fly forward on to the ground.
The solution is to use your brakes gradually, not too hard. Make sure to ease off your brakes when you come across loose dirt and gravel.
6. Avoiding an accident on a muddy trail
You may find yourself losing traction on a muddy steep climb. Your front wheel is moving sharply left to right and right to left. If you try to change lanes or turn your wheel can slide out from under you, and you are on the ground.
What is causing this? Your cadence is causing this, which is your speed of pedaling. You are pedaling hard, but your pedaling is not smooth. You have low cadence, because first you have power on the pedal stroke, then no power on the pedal stroke.
What is happening is you push down hard on the pedal then there is a pause of a second or two until the rider starts to push down the other pedal. Then there is another pause. This is not smooth pedaling and it causes an imbalance as you pedal. You speed up, then you slow down, speed up, slow down. This causes you to lose traction on a muddy trail.
Another reason is, you are not staying in your bike line. So your handlebars start to move to the left and to the right in order to stay balanced. Plus because you are pedaling so hard, this shifts your weight back and your front tire loses traction.
The solution is to pedal smoothly. Don’t pedal so hard and sharply. You need to gradually apply pressure down on the pedals so you can gain traction and remain balanced. Doing this, there is much less of a chance for your bike to slide on the mud.
7. Avoid joint injuries
Joints which may get injured include your ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. These types of injuries are caused due to wear and tear on these joints. Some riders ride for very long periods of time, or they ride very frequently. The solution is to make these joints stronger.
Ankles are very important when it comes to pedaling. Great force is put on them with each pedal stroke. A good way to make them stronger is to do one leg calf raises.
Find some stairs with a railing to hold on to with one of your hands. Use only your body weight, you don’t need any dumbbells. Pick a step and begin on the ball of a foot. Lower your heel below the step and then raise it back up so you are on the ball of your foot again.
Start off by doing 10 repetitions and then switch feet. Do this three times for a total of 30 reps for each foot. When you feel it becomes too easy increase the repetitions. You can do this once a week at first.
Your knees are like pistons when you pedal. There are many ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the knee area. Leg extensions are great for strengthening this area. You can go to the gym to do leg extensions or you can use ankle weights and sit at the end of a tall bed. Do 10 to 20 repetitions three times. you can rest 1 minute between each set.
Elbows should not have too much force placed on them if you keep your weight off your handlebars. But some riders do get tendonitis. To make them stronger you can do dumbbell curls for your biceps. You can also do dumbbell kickbacks for your triceps.
Lastly, your wrists are very important because they grip the handlebars and squeeze the brakes. Not having good control of your handlebars can be a big problem if your wrists become fatigued.
You can strengthen them by doing dumbbell wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. Do high repetitions, from 20 to 30 times. Do 2 or 3 sets if you can. You can start with 1 set of wrist curls then do 1 set of reverse wrist curls. You can also squeeze a hand grip exerciser. Try squeezing it 20 times.
8. Prevent a back injury
Your back is very important when mountain biking. It is constantly being held at an angle depending on what you are doing. It could be at 45, 60, 75, or even a 90 degree angle if you want to really pump your bike.
Back strength is needed, the best exercise for the overall back is the deadlift. This will strengthen the entire back, and its position is similiar to that of the attack position because you are bent over. If you don’t want to use weights you can do good mornings.
Stand straight up and while keeping your back straight and slightly arched bend forward so your chest is as close to horizontal as it can be. Then come back up, do 20 of these, try to work your way up to 50.
If you want to use your bike, you can first lower your seat all the way down. Then sit on your bike, and place your feet on the ground. Now, just bend your upper body forward until your upper body is at a 90 degree angle to your lower body. Or as far as you can, then come back up. Do this 20 times.
9. Avoid the unexpected accidents
Unexpected accidents happen because you are not familiar with the trail you are riding on. You may be riding quickly and you come upon a surprise corner. Or you may be going moderately and there is a drop off you did not see, and you roll right into it.
It is always a good idea to know the trail you will ride on beforehand. You can follow someone who knows the trail first. Or you can go through the trail section by section slower than you normally would and take note of what you discover about it.
If the weather is bad and it is raining or it has rained it may be best to not go riding at all if you don’t know this trail. You won’t know how muddy it gets or where it gets muddy. You won’t know how much standing water there is. It would be better to walk this trail in bad weather, so you will be better prepared for the next time.
10. Stop serious injury
Inevitably accidents are going to happen, but just because you are in an accident does not mean you will get hurt or seriously injured. Wearing the right protective gear can shield your body from serious harm and impact.
The number one gear to wear is your helmet to protect your head. Injuring your head can cause a concussion or brain damage if serious. A bike helmet will give you the minimum protection you need, for more protection you can wear a full-face helmet. This will also guard the back lower part of your head and neck. Plus around your jaw, chin, and ears.
Next for your body, you should wear body armor. This will protect your chest, back, arms, and shoulders. It is made of very hard plastic plates. These plates are connected to a mesh shirt you wear. This allows you to move your arms and shoulders without restrictions.
Wear cycling glasses. Flying over the handlebars can sometimes mean you get hit with a handlebar at your eye. Or you could fall toward some branches and get one of them coming toward your eyes. These accidents happen fast so it is better to be prepared.
To stop minor scrapes and bruises wear gloves on your hands, and elbow and knee pads on your joints. Sliding across gravel or loose hard dirt and tear up your skin. Let the padding and gloves take all the abuse.
11. Avoid fatigue crashes
Just as drivers of cars get tired for various reasons, make sure the same does not happen to you while mountain biking. Make sure you have enough sleep the night before you are going to go riding. Lack of sleep will reduce your energy and lower your performance when doing the skills you need to avoid a crash.
Make sure you eat a meal before biking but not too heavy of a meal. Bring a snack with you in order to keep your sugar up. Wash that down with some water. You want to stay properly hydrated, the best drink is water. So bring at least a bottle with you. You should drink water before, during, and after your ride.