I Purposely Crashed My Mountain Bike Today!

I Purposely Crashed My Mountain Bike Today! (How to Set Yourself Up to Ride Your Best)  MTB Training Article by Gene Hamilton

Seriously, I made myself crash! I didn’t want to crash but if you watched the lead up to my crash I did everything possible to set myself up for disaster.

I often tell my students that most mountain bike crashes happen within five minutes of throwing your leg over your bike. I explain that often, when we don’t warm up for at least ten minutes (twenty to thirty minutes is best) we aren’t fully focused and ready to ride. Today I disobeyed my warm up rule and paid for it. I woke early (5:45 am), fixed a rear flat and headed to South Mountain. When I arrived I had just enough time to get my riding gear on and we were off.  I even said, “I don’t know how you guys do this, I like to warm up before I ride.” Colin then said maybe we should do a long run (a series of trails that have a a few climbs and flat sections providing a decent warm up) and I decided against it! Off we went down Geronimo, I felt pretty good on the first section, missed a few lines but considering the lack of warm up felt alright. After waiting for the crew to regroup I took off down the trail and had a conscious thought (should I take my normal line or try this other line), took a different line than normal and the next thing I knew I was on the ground in a lot of pain.

Conscious thoughts have no place in mountain biking, you need to just do, not make decisions! I wasn’t in mountain bike mode, I was still trying to wake up, thinking about the election results and the traffic I fought to get to the trail. This was not the focus I needed to ride scary trails at my best!

I landed about seven feet below the trail and was fortunate to land on one of the only spots with sand mixed with rocks, as the next 100 meters is all big rocks on the side of the trail. I Feel really fortunate that I wasn’t hurt worse. Ended up with a sore left shoulder, deep thigh bruise on my left thigh, cut left ankle, headache, big scratch in my fork stanchion, broken left grip and feeling rather nauseous.

The moral of this story is warm up before you mountain bike! Your body and your brain both need to be warmed up and in bike mode (not loving father mode, stressed out business woman mode, mad about bad drivers mode or still thinking about what your boss said mode!) before you end down a trail! My usual warmup consists of 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching then a minimum of 15 minutes of riding (often doing body position and cornering drills plus a few sprints). I ALWAYS ride better when I do this! Glad re-learning this lesson for the 6th or 7th time did not involve a trip to the hospital!

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25 replies
  1. Bruce Bender Kinard says:

    Put a post-it on your mirror, a note to yourself in your car, and use a label maker to put a reminder on your bike where you’ll see it. I’ll tell you know, but you may not remember – I believe that head first crashes can impair short term memory and … ummm what was I saying?

    Reply
  2. Geoffrey says:

    I rode into work today on the trails. Nothing felt right, so I made the decision to walk anything remotely uncomfortable. Not scary, or steep, or loose, or off-camber: uncomfortable. I walked some easy stuff, for exactly the reason you described.

    Interestingly, my work commute has 15-20 minutes of moderately technical climbing in both directions, so I am usually in tune with my sense of riding before I do anything downhill. I never realized I was doing myself such a favor!

    Reply
  3. Brian Leal says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I always warm up especially now that I am getting older. I feel that this also reduces injury associated with a crash as well.

    Reply
  4. Bernadette says:

    While I’m sorry about your dip in the dirt, its nice to hear what you said about being in ride mode & just clear your head. That is a challenge for me & unfortunately my dip in dirt resulted in dislocation of ankle & 3 broken bones. I will ride again soon though & will for sure follow advise! : )

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Wow, sorry to hear about your crash Bernadette. Check your inbox, I am sending you my article about coming back from injury.

      Heal fast,

      Gene

      Reply
  5. Craig says:

    Great reminder! I remembered the hard way the other night when I decided to take a night ride down to the corner store. I came up on what would typically be an easy curb to hop right over, and but my head wasn’t in it and my timing was completely off so instead of hopping….. I ended up with my rear tire over my head and a face full of gravel, and I am sure however that the people at Rubio’s got a pretty good chuckle out of it! Thanks for reinforcing my lesson. Oh, and by the way, do you use Gnar Gnar to get to the top of South Mtn? I have been considering getting the card, but am still on the fence, any input?

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Ouch Craig, at least you provided some entertainment. I shuttle with Gnar Gnar every Wed. and Fri. when I am in town, good times. Inexpensive way to shuttle and have fun!

      See you on the shuttle,

      Gene

      Reply
  6. Jack says:

    glad your ok Gene! remember i looked you up because i want to stop crashing at 48 yrs old ! he! he!. warm up tip and focus tip are great! I slid out sunday cornering.i believe i was cornering good.but i hit some leaves! the size of the leave pile my tractioning tires made was 18″ high! 1st shoulder hit this year of 4 that did not hurt.I do believe that genes mini course has reduced my crashing 90%.weight on pedals tip is changing me and just a taste makes me eyeball the clinic shcedual alot! he! he! p.s. you got some shoulder nursing tips?

    Reply
  7. Gene says:

    Thanks Jack! Sorry to hear about the shoulder, ice and rest are your best bets. Hope to see you in a camp soon.

    Heal fast,

    Gene

    Reply
  8. Philip Madeley says:

    I did exactly the same this morning… got up late so shortened my warm up, was off the whole ride and even took a minor tumble… did not know why, just thought I was tired… and this article explained it for me exactly.

    Thank You
    Philip

    Reply
  9. JMichael says:

    Good article, Gene. Thanks for posting it. You are correct. There is no place for conscious thought in mountain biking. 8 weeks ago I was on my first few days of vacation in Idaho, riding my old (and ill-fit) bike on an easy trail I know well, enjoying the smooth flow but feeling a lack of technical challenge I’ve become accustom to on the rocky trails in Texas. Thinking I needed a bit more technical challenge I made a very quick and stupid split decision to try to catch some air off something that could offer a bit of lift…Bad decision. The resulting fracture on the distal end of my radius put me in a cast for 6 1/2 weeks and kept me off the trails of Mount Ashland for three days of riding I had planned. I’m riding smooth with a splint on my wrist for now and looking forward to getting back on the trails…soon, but not soon enough!!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Ouch J, sorry to hear about that! Isn’t frustrating when you crash on an “easy” trail? Conscious thoughts have no place in sport (except while learning) which is why the best athletes in the world do way more drills than actually doing their sport (Jerry Rice spent only 1% of his football related time playing in a game or scrimmage, the other 99% training and practicing!). The whole goal of drills is make the skills required to perform your best at your sport second nature. Some great coach once said amateurs practice until they get it right, pros practice until they can’t get it wrong (which means they never stop practicing!).

      Reply
  10. Bernie says:

    Glad you’re okay, Gene. We can all learn something from a little humility and it’s good to see you’re not afraid to go down that road. We have a trail that provides a nice warm up before heading out for the longer trails. I just never realized how crucial it was! I’ve wondered how my ride would go if I skipped the “warm up loop.” There are some steep sections that I wished I had more energy to push through with greater speed and thought that maybe the warm up took too much out of me. I don’t think I’ll ever have that thought again after reading about your experience. So I have to know, what caused the crash? Was it just a different line and a miscalculation? If it was South Mountain I doubt you had to contend with trees- rocks and boulders maybe but certainly no trees. Here’s hoping you avoided any barrel cactus or jumping cholla :-)

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Thanks Bernie. Rocks and boulders maybe? Have you ridden Geronimo? That is what it is made of! :) What caused the catch was I said to myself, “should I take my normal line or since I am going slower than normal take the straight line”, you never want to think like that just do with authority! I chose the straight line and still don’t know what exactly caused the crash (think my pedal clipped the rock on the side of the little shoot I was going down) and down I went.

      Reply
  11. Ken says:

    Older rider here and understanding the value of warmup is key to an enjoyable – anything active. I’ve had my share of dumps, lack of technical skill to be sure but also lack of focus. I would like to add that mind clutter, even with appropriate warmup, can lead to unhappy endings. After 3 days of riding BC mountain trails, I was on the last 100 yards of the last run on the last day when I went down. Why? Because in those last seconds I was thinking how nice it was going to be have a beer and reminisce. At a moment of good downhill speed my front wheel drifted to the edge of a gully. Too late to correct I crashed and slide another 50 ft. No obstructions to stop me cold, a lucky break, but lots of cuts and bruises. Focus…focus…focus.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Wow Ken, you summed up the “last run” syndrome really well. Skiers, snowboarders and downhill mountain bikers think it is bad luck to ever say “last run”. I explain it isn’t bad luck, it is because your mind goes to the next task at hand and you are no longer in the moment. Funny, I often say, “your brain starts focusing on how good that beer is going to taste!”. Sorry about your crash, I hope you are healed up and having fun on the trails again!

      Create a mindful ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  12. Allen Monsarrat says:

    could you please forward that article to me about coming back from an injury. I broke my collarbone in Oct and am just recovering.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Aleen,

      Sorry to hear about your collarbone, article has been sent.

      Create a strong recovery,

      Gene

      Reply
  13. jack says:

    freeze/thaw lesson today.went early to freeze dried trail and had fun with full pads arms and legs.after one of my favorite descents “Psychopath” i climbed back up and was on flat terrain 10mph around a corner.a mud patch was nestled inbetween som roots.I never saw it.it unhorsed my know nothing newbiew kiester real quick! thank GOD i was not even scratched. landed with palms and forearms bracing at the same time.most controlled crash ever for me.pads did their job.cant wait for cornering drills at camp. i like drills.because of drills i can paddle class 5 whitewater,play drums, and heck even drills made me better at speed chess! anyway i dont know how to pedal mud and sometimes sand as well…

    Reply
  14. Nick says:

    Great article. Focus is priority #1 on the trails. I’ve often found my mind wanering into the rigors of day to day nonsense. Clearing your mind is a must. Stay on top of the trails, or they’ll stay on top of you…

    Reply
  15. Angela Moore says:

    Ha that’s why I think Mtn biking is like golf!! To play well you have to be warmed up and leave everything but your game off the course!! It is also strategic like golf just not as painful when you miss something!!

    Reply
  16. Felipe says:

    Gene

    I wish I ahd read this one before and paid attention to the signals, I had a crash like you described, when you just dont feel in the riding mode… I was riding my motorcycle on twisty mountain roads, an obstacle on the road bigger than my skills/reflects to swerve ended up on dislocated collar bone, short term memory lost and a pretty bad shaped motorcycle. I swear it wont happen to me again… when I just dont feel like riding, do myself a favor and just dont, I dont care if I miss a day work or anything else…

    thank you!

    Reply

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