So one of the things I have meant to write about for a long time is the best way to fall off an ebike without putting yourself in a hospital. Falling off my bike is one of the things I do exceptionally well, for the last 15 years it seems like I have practiced it at least once a week. Like I always tell my son, ‘practice makes perfect’. This article is about things to try to remember when taking a spill on your ebike. If you ebike for any real length of time, at some point you will crash, everyone does. Figuring out how to crash without ending up in the hospital is a skill that takes forethought and practice. This article applies to riding in the woods as well as on the highway, although the speeds and surroundings are different, the rules of how to take a spill are the same.
Look at where you want to go
The single most important rule to remember is to look at where you want to go, not where you are going. Wherever you look, so your body will go, that is just what our body unconsciously does. If you are about to hit a car head-on, don’t look at the car! Look at the ditch, or the sidewalk or anything other than the car coming at you. I was almost killed driving in Alaska when an 18 wheeler swerved into my lane to avoid a moose. I quickly looked off the road and ran my car off the road. If I had stared at that truck coming at me for even a second more I wouldn’t be typing to you right now. The moose exploded on impact and pretty much totaled the 18 wheeler which was insane to watch.
Even if you are airborne, or falling through the air or completely out of control you must look at where you want to go. It works.
Protect your head and neck
Whenever I flip over the handlebars I always instinctively duck my head down and use my hands to protect my head and neck. Here’s the hard truth, broken arms and legs will heal, broken necks and skulls not so much. Sacrifice those useless appendages to protect what really matters. Typically I put my head down and try to flip all the way over so I land on my back. Because I wear a backpack, that often partially breaks my fall. There are people that ride bikes without helmets, but I am not one of them. The $20 it costs for a helmet is going to be thousands cheaper than any trip to the Emergency Room.
Don’t ever try to break your fall with your hands
The best way to break your wrists or mess up your hands is to use them to try to break your fall. If you’re doing a superman over the handlebars and are about to do a faceplant, you don’t have too much choice, but even in that case I would put my head down and wrap my arms around my head. One of my good friends lost it on a road bike on a steel grate bridge and put his hand out to catch himself on the grate and cut over an inch down between his thumb and pointer finger. If you can catch yourself with your feet, it generally is best to do so. Your legs are a lot stronger than your arms and can absorb a tremendous amount of energy, especially if you tuck and roll.
Tuck and roll
The best way to bleed off energy without transferring it into your body is to roll. The easiest way to roll is to make yourself small. Rolling on your side like you would roll down a hill is easy to do, rolling headfirst like you are going to do a summersault takes a lot more preparation and forethought. I usually just make myself small into a ball and let the world do what it wants to me. As long as I don’t hit something hard like a tree or a car it’s a non-issue.
If you tense up when you take a spill it’s gonna hurt so much more. Think about all the times you have been wasted and had your friend push you in a shopping cart right into the curb so it tips over and launches you into the air. You never got hurt because when you’re completely wasted your body is relaxed and can take oh-so-much-more abuse. Whenever I’m about to take a spill instead of getting tense I force myself to do a long slow exhale and a meditative “oh boy, this is gonna hurt”. Ironically the process of doing that actually makes the spill far less painful.
This is great form, his elbows are in and he is going to roll to absorb the impact
Practice dismounting and not getting tripped up on the bike
You can pretty easily dismount most ebikes off the rear without too much trouble and then run out most issues without even bailing. Getting over the handlebars is a bit tougher for sure. You can practice on a bike and jumping over a bar as shown below in the youtube video, but be aware that I have never been successful at doing this move. I find that the best thing to do when going over the handlebars hard is to just keep my head down and tuck and roll. It goes against your instinct which is to look up at the ground racing up to meet your face, but it is the right thing to do.
Throw the bike away from you
Being connected to the ebike is not going to help you in any way. Once you start to lose it, just get the hell away from the bike. I wear a backpack battery so I have Anderson connectors that are held together with Velcro One strips that easily pull apart when I separate from the bike. Although your bike probably only weighs 50 lbs, it’s still gonna hurt when it lands on top of you.
Run it out
From years of skateboarding, I have learned to be amazed at how much speed you can bleed off by ‘running it out’. We used to build giant homemade sails out of sheets of plastic, PVC and a crutch as the main support (yep, all my friends own crutches). We would hold these huge sails and rip back and forth at the South end of Cayuga Lake on the super-smooth recreation trail on longboards. We would get going insanely fast, and when we would lose it, we’d just throw the sail away and try to run it out on the grass. Even at speeds over 25mph, you can manage to get a few steps in and bleed off a lot of speed before you have to tuck and roll. And it’s just good clean fun, insane fun, reckless fun, hide the children fun.
Learn to love the wipeout
This is the most important rule of all. If you live in fear of getting your ass kicked then you will never reach your full potential. Take a few Judo classes and learn from professionals how to fall and roll. Don’t fear the inevitable, your body is the most incredible of all machines. It is flexible, adaptable, it learns and most of the time it will heal itself. If you’re wiping out every ride then it might make sense to dial it back a few notches, but if you’re never wiping out then you’re just not pushing yourself hard enough.
Without pushing your limits you will just never improve.
Thanks to Howard Stone for the idea for this article. We both agree that if you’re going down, you might as well make it look good for the camera.