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  1. #1
    Gios
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    Falling. Is there a right way?

    On the road I mean? I ask because I somehow hit a biggish bump the wrong way the other day, fell, and landed fairly heavily on my left side .... and have, ahem, broken my collarbone. Not too serious compared to some it seems, but I'm all strapped up for a month nevertheless.

    I've been looking around, but can't find anything specific on right/wrong/best ways to fall.

    Any tips for when the inevitable happens?

    B

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bing181
    On the road I mean? I ask because I somehow hit a biggish bump the wrong way the other day, fell, and landed fairly heavily on my left side .... and have, ahem, broken my collarbone. Not too serious compared to some it seems, but I'm all strapped up for a month nevertheless.

    I've been looking around, but can't find anything specific on right/wrong/best ways to fall.

    Any tips for when the inevitable happens?

    B
    There is no correct way to fall, but I have learnt one thing over the years. If it is a sudden stop and you know nothing about it except there is the bike behind you and you have gone over the bars, nothing you can do except slide along the road or track. However, if you know you are going over- Keep the hands on the bars, and the feet in the pedals. That way you don't put out a hand and break the wrist, or leg to break the ankle. The only way to perfect this technique is to practice, but This is one event I'd rather give a miss to.

  3. #3
    Burnt Orange Blood Longhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bing181
    On the road I mean? I ask because I somehow hit a biggish bump the wrong way the other day, fell, and landed fairly heavily on my left side .... and have, ahem, broken my collarbone. Not too serious compared to some it seems, but I'm all strapped up for a month nevertheless.

    I've been looking around, but can't find anything specific on right/wrong/best ways to fall.

    Any tips for when the inevitable happens?

    B
    So sorry to hear about the broken collarbone! I hope you recuperate quickly!

    I can't imagine that if there is a best way to fall, that I'd remember how to do it.

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    Well, since there's a wrong way, I assume there must be a right way

    I did it the wrong way and put my foot down when my back wheel slid out,
    resulting in a broken ankle, which was fixed up with a steel plate and
    seven screws. (I'm still bummed that I didn't get titanium, but Hey --
    Steel is Real!)

    Sorry about the broken collarbone.

    Nick

  5. #5
    Gios
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    Thanks ... will try to remember that er ... next time!

    meanwhile ........

    B

  6. #6
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    I strongly recommend abstinence!
    Visit my blog! The Leadership Almanac
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    Proud member of the original Club Tombay

  7. #7
    Curmudgeon Wil Davis's Avatar
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    Just remember to smile as you go down…

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  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    There are way to reduce injusries when you fall. Most involve some sort of rolling when you hit.

    I did a face plant several weeks ago and ended up tangled with the bike no harm to to ethier of one of us. Helmet, goggles, and gloves. Hands hit first then my face, my arms took most of the shock. I did end up spitting pine needles and dirt out of my mouth. I was going about 20 mph when I left the road.

    I think one trick is to not stiff arm when you hit. You use your arms like springs, so, when you start to hit the dirt/road you don't hold your arms stiff but let them absorbe some of the shock while flexing. It is kind of like doing a pushup. You will hit the ground but it won't be as hard and with any luck nothing will break.

    A few sessions at a judo dojo would not hurt in learning to land right.

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  9. #9
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    taylor8 is right on. If you have time to think, try to absorb some of the fall and roll with the fall. Of course if you're clipped in options may be a bit limited. At the very least you should be able to slap the ground as you're saying hello. Every bit of energy you can absorb will help.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  10. #10
    Senior Member freeranger's Avatar
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    Wouldn't know about road falling. I'm more of a freestyle mtn.bike faller myself. Strange-I usually fall on the non-drive side of the bike-I guess if you're going to fall that's the best side!

  11. #11
    Got Speed? moore.speed's Avatar
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    I was doing some research on this myself after spraining my left wrist (twice!) during low-speed falls on my MTB and road bike, and found this site: http://www.ipmba.org/newsletter-0206-falling.htm . This is pretty much what I have heard from various other sources: if you are going over to one side, tuck in and allow your shoulder to absorb the impact. Endos are not as "easy". This site recommends flipping over the handlebars and allowing your calves/butt to absorb the shock, but I think I will have other things on my mind besides proper landing technique if and when I crash. I am most worried about losing traction and wiping out at, say, 30mph on a downhill. There is a bike path I ride about twice a week that has some long downhill sweepers that always seem to have gravel or sand on them at the apex of turns, so I end up having to slam on the brakes to keep from losing it. Anyways, hope the site helps. I will certainly try to keep this stuff in mind and even more certainly try to avoid falls

  12. #12
    sch
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    My experience, on the road, is that it is better to stay attached to the bike rather than attempting to bail or as others have noted put a foot or arm out to catch oneself especially if the ground is the only catchment site. Wrists, clavicles and elbows tend to fracture in that order with shoulder coming up last on falls on the outstretched arm. If you keep a tight grip on the bar with the hands inboard of the brakes and elbow tucked in you risk road rash on the elbow and shoulder, shoulder and clavicle fractures. The hands and wrists will be spared. The deltoid is a pretty good pad and may prevent shoulder fx. AC seps and rib fx can also occur with this type of fall. The susceptible also risk hip fracture/dislocations and road rash at the hip if the pants rip out that much and at the fibular head. Knees tolerated a side blow off the bike very well, but not a patellar whack. Going over the bars is a very risky scenario and a LOT of tumbling experience is necessary to get the body to go into the automatic roll mode, which is very difficult to do if the bike is endoing with or next to you. Extended arms are at high risk for fracture and should be tucked preferably around the head and neck. A catapulted, non tumbling ground impact can easily result in the Christopher Reeves scenario, or the equivalent further down the spine with 3mo disability to permanent damage sequelae. I have found that although my LWB bent is more prone to slide out, the fall from 15" seat height is not at all bad even at 25mph on asphalt. If you stay seated, clipped in and holding the bars only the elbow, hip and fibular head areas get road rash with very little bruising and almost no risk from fracture at sub 30mph speeds, assuming no secondary collisions.
    For a well written report on a fall read: http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/...04/springbreak
    It took him about 7-8mo overall to recover and he has abandoned his racing, something he pursued avidly for the last 6-8yrs. Steve
    Last edited by sch; 08-23-05 at 09:54 PM.

  13. #13
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    learn to break fall martial arts style? Unless you are really good I am not sure that it is really possible in a high speed bike crash though.

  14. #14
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Okay, let me give some opinions here. I have extensive training in falling technique, and am a safety professional. I have also fallen several times on my bicycles. The training I had involved parachuting in the US Air Force, and as a US Forest Service Smokejumper (all this years ago). I also trained a lot while in the USAF and in college in judo. Both provide excellent training in falling techniques.

    Let me go over some applicable principals first:

    --Don't fall on bony parts of the body. The impact should be on the soft parts of the body. A parachute landing fall (PLF) involves hitting with the ball of the feet, the calves, the thigh, the buttocks, the deltoids of the shoulder, and then roll over onto the other shoulder.

    --A PFL (poor fowled-up landing, or you can substitute a word there) involves one of the following:
    1. Trying to catch ones self, and extending an arm or leg where the point of impact is the bone, and it projects force onto the bony areas of the body.
    2. Any time the head touches the ground. Not tucking one's head down into the chest is the main cause of this.

    --In judo, we practiced front rolling falls and side falls. In the front rolling fall (analogous to going over the handlebars on a bicycle), one hand is extended over the head, and becomes the first point of impact. But it is different from trying to catch one's self. The hand is used as a guide for the body, and the point of impact is the outside (opposite the thumb) of the palm. The body remains relaxed, and follows the hand and head. When the head is tucked, this motion initiates a roll, as the body follows the head. In other words, the body will go where you look. If you are looking at the ground in front of you, you are hyper-extending your head, and setting yourself up of a Christopher Reeves type injury to the neck. If, on the other hand, you tuck your chin, and look down at your chest or armpit, you will initiate the roll you desire. In judo, it is said that if you are looking at the person you are trying to throw, you cannot throw that person. During the roll, you want to have your body to roll along the lines set up by the initial motion of the arm and head. In other words, the points of contact come sequentially, lessening the impact on any one part. They are: hand (outside), forearm, upper arm, deltoid muscles, lower side, hip, thigh, calf and foot (if you are good, you can actually stand up at this point). In my over the handlebars roll, I stayed in a ball after the initial points of contact and ended up upside down in a bush, with only scraps (I was wearning cutoff shorts and thongs, and that's all in my college days--no helmet, and head did not touch the ground).

    I have read the above entries, and agree with a lot of what is said, although I would elect a different fall than is taught in the cited paper. But then again, I learned different techniques.

    A couple of comments need to be made about falling. As we age (I'm now 59), our bones are less forgiving, but we can still take a tremendous fall and walk away. In my last serious fall, I don't remember the circumstances. I went upside down, and apparently did tuck my head. I came down and impacted on my helmet first, followed by my shoulder (maybe simultaniously), arm and then my thigh hit hard (really bad hemotoma). My helmet was destroyed--DO WEAR A HELMET!!!

    In a fall before this, I was T-boned by an SUV, and pushed my bicycle into the car's side. I then fell on my right side, and kicked away from the SUV's wheels as I went down. I stayed on the bike, and continued holding the handlebars throughout. But I did not reach out, and ended up with skinned up areas, and a very large bruise on the inside of my left thigh where my bike's top bar impacted my leg.

    I had a fall to the side, when the bike fell out from under me in a turn. I went down on my side, and absorbed the impact on the entire side of my body. But there was enough force there to crack at least one rib. I would not recommend trying to "slap the ground" as in judo falls, as there is forward momentum and that could cause hand injuries. Again, I kept my grip on the bars, and this prevented hand and lower arm injuries.

    I currently ride these bikes: a Trek 1420 upright bicycle, a Schwinn LeToure that I have worked on for 20 years, and a Rans Stratus recumbant (for the majority of my riding). I too feel that the long-wheel base recumbant design is more stable and safer during a fall, and will prevent some kinds of falls (you cannot go over the handlebars head first on this bike).

    As we become adults, and especially as we age, we become more afraid of falling. We should not, as falling rarely will kill us, and with good technique it can be managed well. But falling should be practiced, on wrestling mats or in a judo ring (totami mats). Some of the martial arts, especially judo, teach good falling techniques.

    Good luck,

    John
    John Ratliff

  15. #15
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    If you mtn bike, and fall a fair amount, your skills at falling from a road bike will benefit, depending on speed. All comments about rolling, etc., are correct. Funny thing - first time I was in Munich, I noticed a lot a city cyclists, and also noted a lot of people walking around with casts on arms. Finally put two & two together and realized that people w/ casts were just former cyclists who put out arms to brace for relatively low speed falls on city streets. I've fallen once in the last year on a road bike. Bundled up for winter, and went down really hard on my hip. Strong hip - just a major league bruise. But - wearing a helmet is mandatory, under all conditions, and at all speeds, in my opinion. You just never know...

  16. #16
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    When riding my MTB, I usually don't have enough time to decide how I am going to fall. But, I think keeping two hands on the bar and two feet on the pedals helps. My falls on my road bike have been aided by motorists. Even when I was broadsided by a car that was doing close to 40 mph, I was not hurt. I stayed with my bike, rolled up on the hood, through the windshield with my shoulder, over the top of the car and down the back without ever unclipping. My wheels were bent but I got up and walked away.

  17. #17
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    i agree that mtn. biking helps build these skills. you're constantly looking for the path of least resistance and avoiding trees\rocks\pit falls\etc.

    i got in an accident last weekend, where i was struck by a car and then crashed into a telephone pole. it's amazing that i actually did have some control over what happened, even though the whole event probably lasted a second or two. i was able to turn and slide into the car rather than hit it head on, and then as i flew toward the telephone pole i was able to turn my body so that my upper back took all the force rather than the front of my shoulder. i'm certain that i would have had broken bones otherwise. the important thing is to try to reduce the damage as much as possible by finding the softest possible way to fall. of course, this is easy to say on an internet forum

  18. #18
    Gios
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    Great info .. which of course, has come one crash too late for me. If there's a next time ...

    But, one question. If I take the tuck and roll/hang on to your bike approach, and then land with all my weight full speed on my shoulder/hips, is the consensus that I wouldn't/shouldn't break anything?

    I ask because althought I put my hand down, (OK, OK ..), it feels like I landed pretty heavily on my shoulder .. my shirt is all cut up around the shoulder, and I have a lot of grazing. Would it have been that that broke the bone, or the jarring/force from landing on my outstretched hand?

    FMI ..

    B

  19. #19
    sch
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    B: The operative idea is to roll and avoid impact. You can break bones either way but rolling reduces the forces applied. Tucking makes you rounder, roll better and reduces risk of head/neck injury. The problem is that developing a tuck and roll reflex takes a tremendous amount of training. Judo is one way, if you have a year or two, tumbling gymnastics is another, parajump training is a third, horrendously expensive if not government sponsored and it helps to be a twenty something. The problem is even the most reflexively acting rider is still going to have to go into action in a few tenths of a second and tuck and roll is really hard when you are still attached to the bike unless you are endoing. If you catch an unseen root, slick RR track or paint stripe it is all over in 1-2seconds. If somebody hits your front wheel in a group you have a little more time to react but it is really hard to bail off a bike sideways for a tuck and roll. Steve

  20. #20
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bing181
    Great info .. which of course, has come one crash too late for me. If there's a next time ...

    But, one question. If I take the tuck and roll/hang on to your bike approach, and then land with all my weight full speed on my shoulder/hips, is the consensus that I wouldn't/shouldn't break anything?

    I ask because althought I put my hand down, (OK, OK ..), it feels like I landed pretty heavily on my shoulder .. my shirt is all cut up around the shoulder, and I have a lot of grazing. Would it have been that that broke the bone, or the jarring/force from landing on my outstretched hand?

    FMI ..

    B
    FMI,

    On your first question, the answer is, "depends." It depends upon velocity of travel, weight, height, whether you hit a curb or object, etc. Full weight distributed over a larger area (shoulder/hips/legs) will cause less damage to a specific spot than if the entire impact is taken on a small area (like the shoulder). It is possible to get away with minimal injuries in this way, but not a sure thing.

    On your second question, it is most probable that your shoulder took the major force of the impact. My son put his hand out and took the full force on his hand, and his injury was not a broken collar bone, but a dislocated shoulder. Usually this kind of injury (broken collar bone) requires either a blow to the center of the bone, or to the end. It is possible that in your situation, that was the best outcome too. It appears that your head did not hit the ground, so a broken collar bone is not a huge problem for the body, whereas a fractured skull is.

    John
    John Ratliff

  21. #21
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    I agree with everything that Steve said above. I had the training, and have used it effectively. But if you learn nothing else from this thread, take away two body-saving ideas:

    1. If you start to go down, tuck your chin to your chest.
    2. Relax, and maintain whatever you are currently doing.

    If you are going over the handlebars, tucking will initiate the roll. If you are going sideways, tucking will protect your head, and relaxing will allow the soft parts to hit the ground. There is a reason why drunks don't get hurt much in falls (usually). They are completely relaxed and unafraid. Don't get drunk, but be relaxed and you'll come out better for it. Tuck and relax.

    John
    John Ratliff

  22. #22
    Senior Member BLIZZ's Avatar
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    All good comments, but sometimes it's just the luck of the draw.-I have had many crashes some small {forgot to clip out**-some big{sky-ground/sky-ground/sky-ground** some you walk away from thinking you should be hurt, and some you are hurt and didn't think you should be. I broke my colarbone and didn't put my arm out, but just happened to land solidly on my shoulder. You can't focus on the chance of getting hurt if you do it will take all the fun out of ridding & you probably will have more falls than if you just focus on the ride.

  23. #23
    Dare to be weird!
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    Is falling something that can be practiced safely under controlled conditions? Or is falling so unpredictable that it's better to just wait for the real thing to happen unexpectedly and hope for the best?

  24. #24
    Senior Member BLIZZ's Avatar
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    I practiced falling in the first part of a mountain bike class {everything went good** and broke my colarbone later in the day. I think it is best to be experienced in learning not to fall or minimize the chances of a fall than practicing the fall itself.

  25. #25
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    I've been in a number of falls over the years, & as a meditator i would say that simply being relaxed & not tensing is better than any technical approach to falling. I once even broadsided a car that turned in front of me at an intersection - i was doing about 15, he was doing about 30 - & didn't have so much as a small scratch or bruise, tho my front wheel & fork were trashed.

    As one other poster suggested, your basic intuition can take over in these crisis situations & enable you to avoid serious injury even if you don't have a "plan" for falling, which may not work because your plan probably won't fit the situation.

    Ironically my only "real" injury was a scraped hand when i was going over one of those angled asphalt curbs at about 3 mph, the bike stopped & i fell off!

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