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-

16 thoughts on “Tumbling skills for mountain bikers

  1. Steve says:

    Hi James

    Thanks for this post, it contains great info. I’ve recently started training BJJ (3 months in) and I’m loving it! How are you finding the balance between riding and training BJJ? I’m concerned that training BJJ will take away from my time on the bike. Basically I’ve read traditional training books (Joe Friel) which emphasise time on the bike as the best form of training for XC racing and obviously any time spent cross training during race season can hinder that.

    I’ve just found your MTB strength program and I’m interested in what you have to say about mixing the two sports as it seems you are coming from a more strength / mobility point of view. Do you think it’s possible to use BJJ as a mechanism for improving my racing?

    I’m new to racing (ridden for years though) and have just finished my first season. I want to improve for next year but I do get disheartened when I read that to do that I have to put in loads of time on the turbo over winter, I just don’t find that fun. I know there are no quick fixes and I need to put the work in but is there any merit in trail riding + BJJ + weight training = better race performances? I’m also interested in what you think about that mixture creating a better overall health as opposed to just race ‘fitness’?

    Thanks
    Steve

  2. Steve says:

    Hi James

    Thanks for this post, it contains great info. I’ve recently started training BJJ (3 months in) and I’m loving it! How are you finding the balance between riding and training BJJ? I’m concerned that training BJJ will take away from my time on the bike. Basically I’ve read traditional training books (Joe Friel) which emphasise time on the bike as the best form of training for XC racing and obviously any time spent cross training during race season can hinder that.

    I’ve just found your MTB strength program and I’m interested in what you have to say about mixing the two sports as it seems you are coming from a more strength / mobility point of view. Do you think it’s possible to use BJJ as a mechanism for improving my racing?

    I’m new to racing (ridden for years though) and have just finished my first season. I want to improve for next year but I do get disheartened when I read that to do that I have to put in loads of time on the turbo over winter, I just don’t find that fun. I know there are no quick fixes and I need to put the work in but is there any merit in trail riding BJJ weight training = better race performances? I’m also interested in what you think about that mixture creating a better overall health as opposed to just race ‘fitness’?

    Thanks
    Steve

    • bikejames says:

      There is an old saying that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. With all due respect to the contributions guys like Joel Friel have made to the cycling community, the truth is that they tend to have one tool (cardio training) and they use that one tool as the answer for everything. When you have a more diverse toolbox you can pick the right tool for the right job and usually get better results with much less time and effort.

      With that said, I have two points. The first is that I strongly disagree with the notion that the only way to get better is to spend the bulk of your training time on a turbo or on a road bike. That works on just one aspect of performance (seated pedaling cardio) and leaves out so many other elements that go into mountain biking. I worked with the current Israeli National XC Champ and we did no work on a turbo or road bike and instead had him spend time on his mountain bike and using a cross-training method he liked (roller skiing). There are a lot of riders who have success without spending the bulk of their time on the trainer and you can choose the method that best fits your personality.

      With that said, my second point is that you have to keep in mind that you aren’t going to be paying your bills based on your race times and so you have to keep that in perspective. Sure, focusing all of your time and energy on riding is the best way to get better at riding but it is also boring and leads to overuse injuries. While it may not make as much sense on paper, over the long run I think that having interests outside of riding and being able to learn and apply lessons from those things can help your riding more than the singular focus. In other words, yes, training BJJ is going to take away time and energy that you could put into riding but I think you are better off for it from a big picture perspective.

      Hope this helps, good luck with your BJJ journey and riding.

  3. Steve says:

    Hi James, thanks for replying. That’s a great answer and so true. I think it’s easy to get caught up in applying ourselves 100% to one thing to become the best at it when in actual fact having a balanced life can easily improve us more overall.

    It’s funny because a couple of weeks ago I trained in BJJ and had a race the Sunday after and I felt really up for the race after my BJJ class. Then the following week I skipped BJJ because I had a national level race and I was no where near as motivated. To be fair I was probably still a bit tired from the previous race but my mental approach wasn’t as committed as it was after training BJJ.

  4. Steve says:

    Hi James, thanks for replying. That’s a great answer and so true. I think it’s easy to get caught up in applying ourselves 100% to one thing to become the best at it when in actual fact having a balanced life can easily improve us more overall.

    It’s funny because a couple of weeks ago I trained in BJJ and had a race the Sunday after and I felt really up for the race after my BJJ class. Then the following week I skipped BJJ because I had a national level race and I was no where near as motivated. To be fair I was probably still a bit tired from the previous race but my mental approach wasn’t as committed as it was after training BJJ.

  5. Vinay says:

    I like how you look outside the standard mtb bubble. It really is fun to start something new. Also because you usually see a lot of progress in the early phases whereas once you’re futher in the process, progress is much more gradual. Pick up something new and enjoy the journey. And as mountainbike riding is already quite time and capital intensive, it is nice to start something that doesn’t require much special gear. So when I got a mountain unicycle (just because it doesn’t need any maintenance, it is cheap and doesn’t break in crashes) I noticed how much fun it is to even ride your first two metres unsupported. And I saw the same sensation in my kids’ eyes when they learned to walk, to ride their bikes. That made me realize that yes it is good to specialize in something, but you’re really missing out if you don’t regularly mix things up and start something new.

  6. Vinay says:

    I like how you look outside the standard mtb bubble. It really is fun to start something new. Also because you usually see a lot of progress in the early phases whereas once you’re futher in the process, progress is much more gradual. Pick up something new and enjoy the journey. And as mountainbike riding is already quite time and capital intensive, it is nice to start something that doesn’t require much special gear. So when I got a mountain unicycle (just because it doesn’t need any maintenance, it is cheap and doesn’t break in crashes) I noticed how much fun it is to even ride your first two metres unsupported. And I saw the same sensation in my kids’ eyes when they learned to walk, to ride their bikes. That made me realize that yes it is good to specialize in something, but you’re really missing out if you don’t regularly mix things up and start something new.

    • bikejames says:

      Yeah, unless you are paying your bills based on your performance in a particular sport I think you are much better having a variety of sports and activities you do. The human body is made to move in a lot of different ways.

  7. RennyG says:

    I really liked this post James! It has taken me too long to realize that technique is so much more enjoyable than just being able to go fast !
    Cleaning a section of technical trail with Finesse is so much more fun than just blasting through it and feeling like oh my God I just survived that section of trail. Riding with good technique is also a much more “in the moment experience” than just riding fast!

  8. RennyG says:

    I really liked this post James! It has taken me too long to realize that technique is so much more enjoyable than just being able to go fast !
    Cleaning a section of technical trail with Finesse is so much more fun than just blasting through it and feeling like oh my God I just survived that section of trail. Riding with good technique is also a much more “in the moment experience” than just riding fast!

  9. CrossStuntry StuntMonkey says:

    I have somewhat recently (2013) started ObstacleCourseRacing with more than a ‘curiosity’ yet less than a ridiculous obsession…
    My *CrossStuntry* MountainBiking, which is a very ‘Playful’ XC which basically kinda-sorta means *choose the most challenging lines* (on whatever trail you are on) allows greater procurement of technique while avoiding boredom, with an additional benefit of seeing and being able to utilize ‘passing lines’ that typical racers do not even notice….
    While waiting for (re)groups, I have been known to grab a branch and do PullUps, or break out into Burpees during an unintentional ‘get off’ (to disguise the fact that I am no Hans Rey or Pat Smage or Mac-A-Skillz or Martyn Ashton or other such wonders of bicycle mastery)…

  10. CrossStuntry StuntMonkey says:

    I have somewhat recently (2013) started ObstacleCourseRacing with more than a ‘curiosity’ yet less than a ridiculous obsession…
    My *CrossStuntry* MountainBiking, which is a very ‘Playful’ XC which basically kinda-sorta means *choose the most challenging lines* (on whatever trail you are on) allows greater procurement of technique while avoiding boredom, with an additional benefit of seeing and being able to utilize ‘passing lines’ that typical racers do not even notice….
    While waiting for (re)groups, I have been known to grab a branch and do PullUps, or break out into Burpees during an unintentional ‘get off’ (to disguise the fact that I am no Hans Rey or Pat Smage or Mac-A-Skillz or Martyn Ashton or other such wonders of bicycle mastery)…

  11. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for interesting article about things you can learn from BJJ. I actually didn’t know that because you dedicate a lot to BJJ it could help people learn to enjoy the process of becoming better more. This seems very important especially if it can affect how frequently you try to better yourself and your body.

  12. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for interesting article about things you can learn from BJJ. I actually didn’t know that because you dedicate a lot to BJJ it could help people learn to enjoy the process of becoming better more. This seems very important especially if it can affect how frequently you try to better yourself and your body.

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