Andy’s take on Coming Back From an MTB Crash

Not all crashes have to happen and the old saying, “if you aren’t bleeding it wasn’t a good ride” is nuts. Skilled riders ride hard and fast and don’t crash much. Unskilled riders (like me for the first 11 years of mtbing) wreck a lot, Andy is very skilled, rides had and this was his first hard crash in over 2 years. Check out his article and stay tuned for my article on some ways to come back stronger than before you crashed.

Andy’s Take on Crashing

In almost every camp that I teach, there is at least one student that is there because he or she had a bad crash – possibly got injured – and then decided that if they wanted to continue to do this MTB thing, they had better figure out how to do it correctly.

I explain to these riders, when they ask me how to “get over” their crash, that with the knowledge of riding that they will receive from the camp, and with the solid and proper technique that will be obtained through diligent practice, their skill level will dramatically improve and they will be able to understand why that crash happened (often, riders really don’t know what went wrong and why they had that nasty crash) and what they should have done differently. We talk about working our way back with baby steps. We talk about how to fall safer. I explain that fear and failure are natural and necessary parts of learning and riding – its o.k. to be apprehensive after a big crash – and those things don’t go away when you graduate from beginner to novice, but, in fact, persist all the way up to the top of the game – the best riders in the world experience the same fears, the same trepidation, as beginners (about different and more difficult obstacles, obviously – and probably bigger and nastier crashes!).

 

The riders always understand this – it all looks good on paper to them – but they still look at me and say, “I’m still scared! What can I do?” So for the next three days of camp, I try to impart to them various methods of getting over that fear, that mental obstacle.

And guess what! I recently got a chance to practice what I preach, so to speak!

So the following is a run down of what I did – and am currently doing – to shake off some of my own demons after a particularly scary crash. Everybody’s situation is different, but here’s mine, and here’s what is working for me. If you find yourself in this situation, hopefully some of the following will work for you.

Without going into too much detail, I basically made a mistake in one of the worst places possible while going fast, fell out of the sky and tumbled down the earth a good bit. Aside from some cuts and bruises, being sore all over, tearing my riding kit to shreds and ringing my bell a little, I got away with a couple of pretty jacked-up toes and a severely bruised heal.

 

It could have been way, way worse …

The first thing I try to do after a gnarly crash is figure out what went wrong. And there were a couple of things that were semi-preventable, that perhaps, would have made the difference. But what really went wrong was this: I was pushing myself and my bike super hard in nasty terrain – something that I love doing. And, if you do this often enough, sooner or later, its gonna bite ya!

I know that there isn’t any way around that – and that’s what bothered me.

I don’t believe in lying to myself about the potential dangers of riding. I don’t believe “that it will never happen to me …” I don’t refrain form talking about crashing or injuries (I will knock on wood every once in while!). It is what it is … and that’s part of what makes it challenging and fun! And I believe that I need to understand what the consequences of my actions could be, and then be prepared to deal with them.

Unfortunately, the possibility of having a bad crash is always present – whether you’re a World Cup downhill racer, or a beginner riding off a curb. And bad crashes scare everybody! .. I don’t care who you are! Some people deal with this fear better then others, some people don’t deal with it well at all.

The bottom line is we all WILL get scared. As a rider you will ask yourself, at some point, is it worth it to do this? Whether that means dropping of a 1,000,000 foot cliff, rolling down a nasty ledge in Fruita, or – worst case – even considering quitting riding altogether (I’ve had plenty of students that have taken the camp because they decided they either needed to learn how to do things correctly, minimizing the chances of falling as much as possible, or hang it up altogether).

The question I had for myself was, “is it still worth it to push that hard?” (for some of us pushing our limits is trying to wheelie up a curb – that’s fine, and also plenty scary and dangerous if you haven’t mastered the skill yet). And I wasn’t sure that I still wanted too.

 

I could still teach riding for many years even if I decided to take up playing checkers in the park as a competitive outlet . I don’t need to ride as hard as I do to do my job. Like many of you, my job depends on me being able to function physically. Getting hurt isn’t an option.

 

And, there are tons things to do out there to get your jollies. But, if you’ve read this far, then you probably understand that you get some things from riding bikes that you just don’t get anywhere else.

Besides fitness, the social aspect, a great excuse to travel around, and arguably the world’s greatest job, simply riding the bike hard, bettering myself here and there, pushing that edge, learning … those are the things that I live for.

Riding hard forces me to keep myself in pretty decent physical shape. Could I still teach riding if I stopped working out, running in the trails, riding motocross, and polished off a box of donuts, fast food, and twelever of PBR everyday gaining 30lbs in the process? Sure I could. But would I have gotten out of that crash with only a couple of mangled toes and a head-ache? Hell no!

Riding hard means constantly having a challenge for myself: I always have a ride just around the corner with other riders that want to ride hard and push themselves. I think we all come into these rides both excited and also wondering where we’ll stand with our buddies. That’s Fun!

I believe that BetterRide offers the greatest MTB instruction in the world. Because Gene and myself – even as “old” guys – continue to push ourselves as riders, we continue to improve upon our already great product – with both the riding and teaching. We are able to prove and disprove theories, bounce ideas off one another, and test these things – still – at the upper levels of riding. Is this mandatory in order to teach mountain biking? Nope. Is it extremely important to us? Yep!

 

I believe that it is also extremely important to ours students to see that the basic fundamentals of riding that we may teach in the parking-lot during our camps, are the same exact skills that are used by high-level riders in the most difficult situations when we get out on the trail. Essential? Maybe not. Essential to me in order to provide the best product possible? Yes.

 

I constantly find myself looking into new trails, products, gear, in order to give myself (and my students) that little extra edge. I can get up in the morning and go for a ride, come home and work on BetterRide stuff all day, teach a clinic, then go drink a few beers with a few riding buddies and talk bikes all night, and then get up the next morning and do the same thing. This all stems from the passion of riding the bike.

And that passion also means, to me, pushing it a little bit … sometimes, a lot.

The point is this: big crashes are scary, as they should be! You don’t simply forget about them, and I don’t think you should. But doing what you love, what makes you tick, what makes it all worth while is mandatory in life! And after running through the above list of reasons, among others, that I dig riding, I know that the reward is worth taking some chances.

I think that for most of us, this is probably the case – whether we’re about to send it in our race run at the World Champs, or whether we’re feeling good on the bike and today’s the day we’re going to go for that foot-tall rock ledge that we’ve previously always walked. If we focus on all of the positives – and they’re truly accurate and positive – they will usually out weigh the negatives.

Will I implement the things that I learned from the crash into my riding? Heck yes! Will I ride a little conservatively for a while? Yep. I’ll use baby steps and time to help me get back to where I was. Will I be aware of the level of danger that I subject myself to? Yes. But, I’ll focus on those positives and the fun and the challenge and understand that part of going fast and riding hard is about not getting hurt by doing things correctly and by being smart!

Inevitably, those students in my camps, who showed up timid because of that nasty get-off that brought them to the camp in the first place – after only three days of instruction – see the trail, riding, and themselves as riders, with new eyes. The tools that they gain from the camp are their positives, the feeling that they get from riding the bike correctly and understanding, thus, being able to commit to learning the proper techniques, are also their positives. This is what they are then focused on – not the negative of that bad crash. And this is what gets them out there on the bike, having fun and challenging themselves, again.

And although my situation is different from that of those students – its actually quite the same!

Social Comments:

Website Comments:

8 replies
  1. Jake Carsten says:

    Hey Andy,
    Great article. Thought I’d share a similar experience. I took a really bad fall jumping at the Walnut Creek pump/jump track. Walked away with a helmet cracked in 3 places, tendonitis and bursitis of the hip, and seriously jacked neck/shoulder muscles.

    I knew pretty quickly what happened. I was riding past my conditioning level, and should have stopped riding sooner as I was too tired. As a result of being too tired, I made a bad decision to try a move at the last minute, and failed to execute.

    It took me almost a year to work my way back up to hitting that jump. I went back to riding smaller pump tracks, doing lots of trail riding, and then onto smaller jumps, all to rebuild my confidence and comfort level. Will I quit jumping? No way. I love the feeling of floating through the air way too much. Will I be more aware of when I’m becoming physically exhausted and should stop riding. Definitely.

    Looking forward to your next great article!

    Reply
  2. Max says:

    Good read and attitude advice.
    I think also of importance is people being realistic about their protection gear choice when going out for a ride. A recent bell ringing crash made me totally reassess how I suit up for each ride. Because my rides have a lot of climbing/pedaling I tended to forgo knee and arm protection. After my crash I realized a lot of my injuries could have been avoided with suiting up properly. I realized I ain’t getting any younger, and the time off the bike is not worth the slight discomfort and “dorky roller derby look” of wearing pads. The pads that are out there now are pretty comfortable so there is really no excuse. I have even started to wear them on mellower rides as well. Whatever I can do to keep myself riding longer is worth it.

    Reply
  3. BB says:

    I appreciate the article and Max’s comments. I’m typing this one-handed with my left arm in a cast (broken wrist) for the next three weeks (which means no riding at the moment). Caught my right handlebar where the trail narrows between two trees and landed hard on my left wrist. As a relative newbie this has been discouraging on many levels. As an older rider I too am ready to pad up before I go out again. I will also be keeping an eye out for classes in my area. I love to ride and it absolutely sucks being sidelined. Better skills, sharper focus, and some moderate protection will hopefully help me to get right back in the saddle the next time I (inevitably) crash.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi BB,

      Sorry to hear about your injury, heal up fast. Where are you from so we can inform you of upcoming camps?

      Reply
  4. STAN says:

    Great advice! Sorry to hear about your crash, but glad you’re ok (overall)… Stay positive, wish you a speedy recovery!

    Reply
  5. Andy says:

    Max,

    While its never a bad idea to pad up for the whole ride, there are many Backpack/Hydration-packs that are specifically made for hauling protective gear up the hill – including a full face helmet! (Dakine and Sombreo and others) This way you can stay cool (and still look cool!) on the ride up, and then keep it smart on the way down. Make sure you do wear a helmet even on the way up even if you have to swap out your XC lid for your DH lid when you get to the top.

    Andy

    Reply
  6. Geoffrey says:

    I just had my worst mtb crash to date yesterday. Wrecked my body and my thanksgiving plans. Cracked pelvis andbroken radius. Did it going down a sectiob of trail I’ve ridden countless times. Guess what? I lost focus. Right now, walking is a challenge. But…

    No surgery on the pelvis. No cast on the arm. Just meds and bed rest.

    And guess what? I’m still giving plenty of thanks, from friends to my great wife and kids to the hiker who helped me get off the mountain and back to my great wife. ;)

    When I can ride again, I will scout that section, and then stay ro the right. A bigger drop, yes, but farther from the protruding rock that grabbed my attention and then my wheel.

    Mountain biking is fun. Flipping over the bars and landing hip first is very unlikely. Besides, the Big Guy may be teaching me something through all this.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>