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I would like to know if my bike can handle going down a flight of about 15 stairs. (edit: ride it down, not jump)

Specifically I have a Merida Crossway 100 . However, I would like to know if there is a general rule of thumb that I can use for my future bikes.

Just to clarify:

  1. The stairs in question are 13 x 30 cm each.
  2. I realize that technique is also involved, but whereas bones can heal, wheels cannot.
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    "Bones can heal, wheels cannot" :D – BSO rider Jan 10 '17 at 10:13
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    It's not the bike that has to handle it, it's you. Like so many questions: if you have to ask, the answer is no. Plenty of people would, as the ads say just do it. – andy256 Jan 10 '17 at 10:24
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    Pretty much any bike, in good condition and with decent (and not too narrow) tires, can handle going down a moderate flight of stairs, so long as the tires are properly inflated and speed is kept under control. The real question is whether you can ride down the stairs without damaging YOU. A bad fall, even if it doesn't kill or disable you, can easily cost $10K in medical bills, and have you in bed or on crutches for weeks. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 10 '17 at 13:37
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    Bones can heal, but wheels are much quicker and cheaper to replace! – Toby Speight Jan 10 '17 at 18:36
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    Yes. Your bike can handle it. if you have any doubts, watch Martyn Ashton -Road Bike party - Question is, can you. – mattnz Jan 10 '17 at 19:45
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There's no real way to be completely sure but to try it. Anything else is merely a guess and no one can be 100% sure of the answer: suppose there's a tiny crack somewhere no-one knows of and it just happens to receive enough stress while riding the stairs then you might get damage. But such things are impossible to predict.

Moreover there are many other factors to consider but you don't specify any of those. What kind of stairs? 15 stairs where each step is 1.5m deep and 5cm high (yes that exists, architects invent all kinds of things) is like riding down 15 seperate tiny curbs with hardly any impact. But 15 stairs with steps of 20cm deep and 15cm high is already something else. Still, you don't specify how you plan to ride them nor what your skills are. If you ride them fast, lifting the front wheel so you barely touch them, most impact will be when landing them, on the back wheel. Which might or might not break, depending on rim/spoke/build quality. Or you could ride them very slow like going 1km/h while constantly braking and gently rolling down eacht step so there's hardly any impact at all. I wouldn't expect any damage there but you need some balance skills for that. Or you could just ride down at a speed of 20km/h both wheels at the same time. Then the geometry of the stairs vs the geometry of your bike plays a role in how gentle the ride will be. If you're lucky each wheel happens to land on each step 'nose' exactly and you won't even notice it's stairs as it will be like riding down a normal slope. If you're out of luck (usually, in my experience) it will be rougher. I'd still advise you to lift the front wheel to clear the the last couple of steps as it makes for a softer landing back to flat.

tldr; there's more to consider than just the bike

is there a general rule of thumb that I can use for my future bikes

No hard rule, but: if the bike is rated for terrain which roughly matches the stairs you're aiming for, then it should handle those stairs. A 10000$ downhill machine should be able to deal with any 15 stairs with no problem as it's made to deal which much stronger impacts. I wouldn't take a 200$ BSO down stairs though.

Your particular bike seems to be some hybrid targetting 'cross' whatever that may be, but it doesn't exactly seem to be targetting rougher terrain. I don't have any experience with the brand nor quality so I have no idea how solid it is. From the looks and specs, and if it's in good conditions I'd take the risk and ride it down the stairs no problem but that's just me, don't take my word for it. Or maybe try with stairs of like 5 steps first: should there be damage, it will be less. As said before: ultimately the only way to know for sure is to try it.

  • Based on your comment and the other I will avoid trying with my current bike. Thanks for your help. – HanMah Jan 10 '17 at 10:06
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    Merida isn't a no-name brand, I should expect decent quality. – gschenk Jan 10 '17 at 19:49
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I wanted to add some more info, as I am a downhiller and did a fair amount of street biking and park.

The bike will probably handle the stairs, but some components will definitely suffer (headset, hubs, rims, spokes and fork). Depending on the frame quality and material, the frame could break.

That said, having broken two cheap frames, it takes quite a lot of abuse before actually breaking. The wheels are a lot more likely to explode before that, which would result in a face plant, i.e a severe head first crash.

As others mentioned, I advise you to get a suitable street/dirt mountain bike if you want to do this and further (Gaps, rails, 180s)...

Also, consider wearing a helmet if you get into this seriously.

  • do you happen to know if my bike in particular can handle riding down stairs? – HanMah Jan 10 '17 at 18:48
  • @stanislasdrg Good answer - welcome to SE Bicycles! – Criggie Jan 10 '17 at 19:30
  • @HanMah Well it's not my role to say do it or don't do it. You have all the infos to make your own opinion about this, let it be in terms of risk and bike damage. I personally follow a 'if you're going to do do something dangerous, minimise the risk' mantra. This means equip yourself well and use appropriate tools, in that case an appropriate bike. – Stanislasdrg Reinstate Monica Jan 11 '17 at 10:46
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    Quality components are surprisingly resilient. When Martyn Ashton shot Road Bike Party, the only damage to the bike (according to the out-takes video) was one burst inner tube and a couple of chips and scratches from falling off. – David Richerby Jan 11 '17 at 10:51
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This answer was based on the initial question before edits, and was taken to mean jumping over the stairs and landing

Just don't jump stairs and your bike will be fine.

It's far more technique and ability, instead of what model of bike you've got.

If you're going to do this anyway, start small. Practice away from other people. I suggest you try jumping cracks or chalk lines on the footpath/pavement. This provides a safe landing even when you fall short.

Then work up to small pebbles and rocks on the concrete. Your aim is to clear them with both wheels. If you can't get this down, then stairs are right out. Upgrade to a brick if you want a challenge.

Once you can get your bike up and across something, move up to a drop. A simple kerb/curb is a good start.

Here's a visual representation of what you have to be capable of, to jump 10 steps. (I have used 10 because it fits in the image better)

Original Content Note bike is to scale based on step height and 700c/29" wheels.

Assuming these are standard-sized steps then they have a height of around 20 cm and a depth of around 25 cm. Outdoor steps have more variance with deeper ornamental ones, but generally they all have very similar heights.

So you need to get your bike in the air at the top step, and travel a total of 2.5 metres for 10 steps or 3.75 metres for 15 steps before touching the ground again. And if you fall short you'll land on the steps themselves and then you're stuffed.

You need to have enough forward velocity so that your airtime is enough to carry you across X gap without touching the ground. Don't think that height Y is going to make up for a short X - it doesn't work like that.

Finally you also need to be able to control the bike as it drops from a height of Y onto solid ground. This is harder to practice, but try rolling up sideways on top of a kerb and track standing, then jump sideways. The bigger the landing the easier it is to break yourself and your bike.

Other thoughts

You will find that clipless pedals or toeclips may make it easier, because they will hold the bike to your feet when not on the ground.

Safety factors

  1. Check your bike frequently. This hard abuse is likely to bust spokes, untrue wheels, crack frames, and loosen bolts. Any hard landings are bad for a bike. Triply-so if you biff it (or "screw up the landing")

  2. Keep clear of people while practicing, but also don't do this kind of thing alone. Have a practice buddy who can assist if you do come to grief.

  3. Just wear a helmet. Even Evel Knievel wore one.

From many sources on the web

Final Say

I wouldn't do this. I recommend you don't either.

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    I will continue to wear my helmet, I don't have any death wish. However, based on your comment I will avoid stairs until I get bike that is more appropriate for things like this. Thank you for your help. – HanMah Jan 10 '17 at 10:05
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    I see you were the one who added the 'jumping' tag... what made you think OP was talking about jumping down? They specifically state the size of each step. It seems obvious to me that they were talking about riding down. – BSO rider Jan 10 '17 at 10:22
  • @BSOrider yes there was an edit between my answer and the "riding down" info. – Criggie Jan 11 '17 at 2:36
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I ride up and down stairs every day because I'm lazy and where I park my bike has stairs. I ride a cheap mountain bike and it handles it no worries. The only times I've come off were my own fault. I do seven steps.

Going down is much easier than up, because it's just a matter of balancing. Going up is a bit more tricky, you need to line up properly, then pull a bit of a wheelie so your front wheel doesn't impact the first step or two until you're at the right angle when your back wheel hits, then power up in one go. Don't mess around on the way up and keep your weight on the back.

I disagree with the answer telling you to wear clips, you may need to ditch in a hurry (I know this from experience, my steps are narrow and don't have guard rails), it's better to have your feet free.

As far as I have found you can go down on pretty much any bike with properly inflated tyres and a bit of common sense, but my 29'er mountain bike does it better than my wife's 26'er so wheel size makes a difference.

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