Tumbling skills for mountain bikers

We’re all going to crash – it is just a fact of life for mountain bikers. I don’t know why but practicing basic tumbling drills is not something that has been recommended for mountain bikers to help them understand how to crash better…until now.

Getting good at these basic drills will save your a** some day. It can be the difference between walking away from a crash and lying there in a bloody, wimpering heap. Trust me on this one, I’ve had these drills save me more than once!

-James Wilson-

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  1. Phil Kmetz says:

    As a pro DH racer, and having taken gymnastics, I can vouch for the importance of knowing how to tumble. It has saved me on countless occasions. I’m really glad that this is being mentioned.

    I will also add that I have used the backwards roll, at some point or another, to get out of crash.

    Reply • December 7 at 9:54 am
  2. electric says:

    Love that mat!

    I recently got into a discussion where somebody was advocating going “rag doll” and or tucking arms in and going down with the bicycle… i told them they were f’n nuts. They were “clipless” guys though so they just explained how they simply SMACK hit the ground because according to them you can’t do anything if you crash suddenly… yikes.

    I’d recommend taking Judo, great way to learn all sorts of tumbling. Even at the beginner level you’ll develop a sense for that motion.

    Reply • December 7 at 4:34 pm
  3. HB says:

    My most recent crash (that I’m still recovering from) was caused by going too slow to clear a double jump, but too fast to roll it. Front wheel went into the upslope, and I went straight over the bars in a forced somersault and landed on my head/shoulder first (cracked helmet and AC separation), and then used half an acre of skin as a brake to bring myself to a complete stop. I was riding flats, but it still happened way too fast for me to imagine being able to do anything about it. I suppose I have to accept the advice of those more experienced if they say that tumbling practise will help, but I’m struggling to think it would’ve made any difference.

    Reply • December 7 at 7:25 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Its hard to imagine how much it can help but you’ll be shocked at how much things “slow down” when you are used to tumbling. If you never tuck and roll your body won’t know what to do and things will happen much faster during a wreck. Not to say that tumbling skills will get you out of every wreck but you’ll be amazed at how much it will help.

      Reply • December 8 at 9:36 am
  4. Geoffrey says:

    Just had a crash two weeks ago, on flats, and cracked my pelvis and broke my elbow. There was no “slowing down” which I’ve had happen, but not this time.

    Interestingly, I think I did tuck and roll. Had I done the “catch myself” move, I would have likely broken my wrist and collarbone as well. So, sometimes the damage will happen, but it’s always better to minimize the damage.

    The crash was an endo that picked me up and threw me down on a rock. The pelvis managed to hit the rock. There was very little forward motion after the impact.

    So, yes, it helps, but, no, it doesn’t always prevent damage.

    Reply • December 9 at 3:04 pm
  5. marijn says:

    very nice vid, i agree that a lot of injuries can be prevented. and its not that hard to learn.
    what he is basicly demostrating are some basic judo rolls.
    (tip: not every body whats to pay that much attention to a lot of talking. ADD no offense)

    Reply • December 10 at 12:14 pm
  6. John K. says:

    I watched this video last summer when I was sidelined with a broken leg. During the winter, I practiced these drills into a snowbank. After a while, I was able to create some variations on these drills in order to simulate different crashing scenarios. All in all, it was actually great fun and gave me a lot of confidence.

    This summer, I had two high-speed wrecks on the bike and was able to roll out of them unscathed. And indeed, it almost seemed as if time slowed down as I was flying through the air headfirst. One thing I always try to do now is a shoulder roll. A straight somersault in my opinion exposes your neck to injury, whereas a sideways roll reduces that exposure. Anyways, thanks a lot James for putting this out there, really really appreciate what you’re doing.

    I agree that tumbling probably won’t save your bacon every crash. Sorry to read about some of the injuries here, heal fast!

    Reply • December 11 at 12:43 pm

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