The Not So Gentle Art of Bailing Out...

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The Not So Gentle Art of Bailing Out...

Postby wa_desert_rat » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:12 pm

Sometimes the choice comes down to riding your bike into oblivion or leaving it and letting it go where it will without you. The not-so-gentle-art-of-bailing-out is, like a lot of things in bicycling, hard to describe; but most of us can remember when we should have bailed and could have bailed... but didn't. I actually have a few scabs on my left elbow and my left knee left over from my last incident when I thought, "Should I just jump off?" and didn't.

It's not always easy to determine which is better and you don't have a lot of time to figure it out, either. But sometimes it's just better to get off and take your lumps on your own. Other times it's better to ride the bike and let it absorb the bumps. Here's a few tips on how to tell when it's time to jump off that bike.

First of all, recognize that you can, in fact, bail out and be better off for doing it. Mental preparation is the key. You can even practice it. But if you never think about it then I can pretty much guarantee that you'll do it wrong. Also (and this is where I went wrong), when you think to yourself, "should I jump off this bike?" then THAT is the time to do it. In other words, your mind is pretty much telling you to JUMP... don't try to rationalize it.

There are basically three reasons to bail out:

1. You are going way too fast and you've lost all ability to control the bike's speed and have little control left on direction and the trail is not getting any flatter;

2. A mechanical failure has rendered the bike uncontrollable;

3. Something has suddenly and unexpectedly put itself into your path leaving you few options; and, finally....

4. You screwed up and can't recover.

If the bike is going far too fast and you have tried the brakes and all the bike is doing is skidding... then bail out. Sometimes you can just jump right over the handlebars; tucking your knees up to your chest and landing off to the side and slightly ahead of the bike, feet first. You have to be on a pretty steep gradient to get away with this though; unless you're an Olympic-class gymnast. Usually it's lay the bike down and skid a foot off away to the side; letting friction part you from the bike.

The last thing you want to do is lead with your upper body. The word to remember is "slide". And add to that, "feet first".

If you can, bail to the high side of any off-camber trail. This, you'd think, would be pretty obvious. But you'd be surprised.

Try to get a foot down first... not your hands and not your shoulder. And absolutely NOT your head. Would it surprise you to learn that the most frequent biking injury is a broken shoulderblade? This goes for both MTBs and road bikes and the reason is simple... we tend to hang on to the handlebars far too long which causes us to tuck. Then, when we finally loosen that death-grip on the handlebars we are head and shoulder down moving forward off the bike and aimed squarely for a shoulder-meets the pavement landing. If you have the time and presence of mind to let go of the handlebars early in the crash you have a much better chance of sitting up and getting at least one foot onto the ground first.

If you clip in then you absolutely MUST learn to twist out of those pedals to the point where it's a natural reaction. Practice dabbing on a banked turn. Make that a dab on the inside of the turn first, not the outside. Riders who clip in often find their bicycles following them down in a crash and beating them up while they're doing it.

When something presents itself in front of you the natural reaction is to lay on the brakes. This is fine as long as it's not mostly the front brake as that will send you over the bars in a flash. The trick is to try to lay the bike down in a skid and step off the bike using the foot on the down-side of the frame. This will let the bike slide ahead of you while you slide along like a baseball player sliding into home plate. Hopefully.

A mechanical failure is often so quick and so drastic that you have little time to react. Often you have no idea what broke until the entire incident has ended. But if you can manage to get a foot off that will slow your body and let the bike bits continue on their own. Slide, slide, slide.

The "you screwed up" incident is often the easiest to jump away from. Like getting too high on a banked turn and you know the bike is going to go over it? If you're not going too fast you can often just step off to the high side of the berm before the bike gets there. Then you get to watch your bike go over the top and down the other side.

A couple of times I had to almost THROW the bike away. At least that was the feeling I got when I did it. Just physically throw it from under you. Then land. And slide.

There is an old time photo around of a rider with his legs tucked going over his crashing bike. Apparently he survived this trick and even landed on his feet (according to the legend). But it was a very steep slope. Only on a steep slope can you hope to get you and your feet over the handlebars.

I have a best side to jump off... maybe you do too. My best side is, unfortunately, also the side where the derailleurs live and these are arguably the least sturdy components of any bike. But that's my best side... and broken derailleurs are cheaper than broken legs so that's the way I guess I'll keep going.

If you have anything to add, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

"No one has ever had to evacuate a city because the solar ;panels broke!"
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Re: The Not So Gentle Art of Bailing Out...

Postby Renaldow » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:40 pm

Good post! I think that's something we all dread and don't think about it. You're right though, already having a game plan in mind is 75% of it right there.
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