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When commuting in the city, i encounter many transitions between road and sidewalk. It's easy to jump from the sidewalk down to the road (~20 cm vertical) if you have enough speed, but to get back onto the sidewalk, i always brake, losing energy.

I tried doing a bunny-hop or the like to jump from the road to the sidewalk (seems easiest when approaching perpendicularly to the curb), but i never got proficient enough to attempt that at high speed (had a crash, breaking an unimportant part of my bike, so decided to stop trying).

Is it possible/worthwhile to learn the jumping technique and become good enough to do it all the time, without having to slow down, without the fear of a crash?

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Why the downvote? I agree that this is unsafe behavior, but that doesn't mean the question itself is bad. –  Neil Fein Aug 23 '12 at 21:54
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Please don't. Besides safety, you're likely to irritate people who already dislike cyclists. The "trick" should really be cycling courteously, obeying traffic laws & signalling. –  OMG Ponies Aug 24 '12 at 0:06
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Riding on the sidewalk is one of the leading causes of cycling collisions. If you want to be safe, don't ride on the sidewalk at all. –  user973810 Aug 24 '12 at 2:09
    
This strikes me as a very antisocial way of cycling. Depending on your jurisdiction, riding on pavements/sidewalks may also be illegal (it certainly is here in the UK) –  GordonM Aug 30 '12 at 7:12
    
In my town you don't get 100% safety when commuting, even without tricks. –  bigstones Sep 3 '12 at 19:58

9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted

You can't bend over and tie your shoes with 100% safety -- you might throw your back out, you might lose your balance, etc.

As to "tricks", one man's "trick" is another man's "ho-umm" -- it depends on your level of skill and physical conditioning. Certainly, hopping a moderate height curb is within the realm of possible (I used to do it on occasion, before I became old and crotchety), but doing so at relatively high speed is non-trivial.

But "tricks during commuting" is concerning -- while you're welcome to be as daring (or foolish) as you want to be when you're safely by yourself and not a hazard to others, when any bicycle, pedestrian, or vehicle traffic is nearby (or potentially nearby but unseen) it's incumbent on you to behave in a manner that does not put others at risk (or serious inconvenience).

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What is "ho-umm"? :) –  Starx Aug 29 '12 at 5:24
    
@Starx -- Should have been "ho-humm" -- meaning boring. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 29 '12 at 11:50

A bunny-hop is a skill that all cyclists should learn. It's not really a trick, IMO. You don't have to be MacAskill-good, but being able to get over a curb (or curb-like object) is handy.

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I rode BMX professionally (1998 x-games) but my specialty was "Street" as in jumping curbs, sliding rails, wall rides, something like you want to do. My favorite place to ride is in San Francisco. It has so much to ride and lots and lots of curb cuts dropping down into the streets. Not one day of riding ever goes by where I felt that I was 100% safe. I come from the school of thought that stronger parts were more valuable than lighter parts and still ride the strongest (heaviest) bike of anyone I know. Even with the strongest bike around parts fail, tires blow, bolts strip, cables snap.

The fear of crashing makes you not do stupid things, that is nature keeping you alive. Mat Hoffman (arguably the most influential BMX rider EVER) has had more injuries than any other rider (you can get The birth of Big Air a documentary about Mat by ESPN on Netflix). Crashing is a part of the sport, the price you pay for the games you play.

About the only thing you can do is work your way from smaller curbs to bigger ones and just get used to how your bike handles in the air and on impact. The next most important thing is learn how to crash. Learn how to roll out of a wreck without getting hurt, parkour can help. Here is a video of me wrecking a backflip and walking away no problem.

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You could get some knee, elbow pads, a back protector and of course gloves and a helmet should be mandatory, so you'll be less likely to injure yourself when you do fall off.

Find a smaller curb and work your way up to 20cm. Remember to throw you body weight back whilst you pop your front wheel up, and then forwards whilst you lift your back wheel.

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The answer is yes - it is possible and worthwhile to be able to jump curbs.

My reasons are: As a daily commuter we are often called upon (or forced) to do emergency maneuvers. If one has never planned for these things then crashing is your (forced) option. However if you are able to avoid the accident by having a skill you know you have - you may have just saved your own life.

My other reason is this - daily commuting means taking the same road day in, day out. You know every cm of that road to work or school. The commute may become a chore and with that comes carelessness. If you use those bike trips to potentially improve your biking skill - the daily commute is a daily challenge.

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FWIW, I've just seen a biker do just that to get out of the way of a car. –  anatolyg Nov 2 at 20:18

Is it conceivable that you could practice this and be proficient enough that you would rarely crash, if ever, when bunnyhopping up a curb? Absolutely! I'm sure Danny Mcaskill could do this all day long.

In my experience, however, I have a hard time bunnyhopping a road bike, especially with the seat positioned 'properly.' With legs near full extension, I find it extremely difficult; by contrast I can easily bunnyhop my BMX or mountain bike 2 feet consistently without issue. If you want to do more stunt-oriented riding, perhaps take a look at your frame size/tire volume/seat height configuration, and consider a different bicycle if they can't be adjusted for this type of riding.

Part of your question has to do with speed; and if you have the technique down, speed just makes it easier. The faster you are going, the less you'll have to get your timing perfect; you'll be above the curb for longer. (Just don't be late). If you are a bit early, you may dent your rear rim, but it probably won't make you crash. Once you have the technique, your confidence should grow with it.

Then again, I do wheelies, stoppies, and sit on my motorcycle's tank in traffic and frequently pass 100MPH on public roads. If you're not willing to take the risk, then don't. If you are; practice.

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+1, but I assure you, the person in the video has had many, many wipe outs (some serious) and probably ends up on his ass several times a day! –  Angelo Aug 29 '12 at 13:15
    
I hope you wear all the gear when you stunt on your bike; there are enough macho idiots who get on motorcycles with the wrong image in mind. –  Trevor Alexander Apr 7 at 6:55

No, it's not possible. Crash happens.

Nothing is ever 100%, especially when talking about moving objects surrounded by elements that are not completely under your control. Is that a small pebble at exactly the wrong spot causing your bead to be pushed in just enough that you get a blowout when you are expecting instead a nice grippy tire landing? Ouch, it was a one in a million but now the pedestrians you just buzzed on the sidewalk are watching your body slide across the road leaving bits of clothing and the top layer (or two) of flesh as a sacrifice to the road.

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Oh, but you can probably get good enough to feel confident to do these at speed. Be careful of those around you and be willing to sacrifice a bit of blood/sweat/tears every so often. –  Ken Hiatt Aug 23 '12 at 18:34

If "tricks" could be done with 100% safety, then they wouldn't be tricks would they? So, I'm going to answer your last question...

Is it possible/worthwhile to learn the jumping technique and become good enough to do it all the time, without having to slow down, without the fear of a crash?

Yes, this is very much possible and extremely worthwhile. Just use common sense and don't practice on a busy curb. Practice/repetition builds confidence, which will reduce your fear of a crash.

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I'm not a lawyer, I'm certainly not your lawyer and I don't know the laws in your city. That said, my advice is that you shouldn't try to hop on the curb/sidewalk at high speed. In my city there is an ordinance against riding recklessly on sidewalks. Whether or not "doing tricks" while commuting is actually reckless, I believe that a police officer could plausibly cite you if your city has a similar ordinance. If that happened, you would, at the minimum, waste a day of your time in court (and possibly pay a fine if you can't convince the judge that you were riding responsibly). So, from a purely legal perspective, it seems like a bad risk.

Curb hopping also seems like a bad idea from a safety standpoint. There's always a chance you could miss and crash, hurting yourself and others. Also, pedestrians aren't always visible from the road, so you risk running over someone when you ride fast onto the sidewalk. Additionally, most automobile drivers don't watch the sidewalk and are not expecting a bicycle to transition to the road at 15 to 20 mph, so you risk colliding with an auto. One of the most common types of collisions is where a motorist makes a right-turn into a cyclist who is riding through a crosswalk or across a driveway.

Most state's vehicle codes allow bicycles to use the roadway in a similar manner as if you were driving a (slow) farm implement. Doing so is probably the safest way to ride for you and those around you. Remember to stop at red lights and obey the speed limit (probably not a problem unless you have a nice long, steep hill with good pavement). If your jurisdiction allows cycles to "take the lane," don't be afraid to use it when appropriate[1]: it's safer for everyone when drivers don't try to squeeze through a substandard lane without changing lanes.

[1] Where I live, for example, cyclists can take the lane when it is less than a certain width and where there is no designated bike lane. There are certain stipulations, however, like pulling over to let cars pass when there is only one lane and more than a certain number are following.

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