What's the best downhill safe fall if you're getting a lot of speed wobble, or you're on a really rocky course and lose control?

I noticed a lot of people try to slide the bike down to its side, but that isn't always possible. When it's not possible to do that, should the bicycler try to pop a wheelie and go to his back? Jump up and start running, and then slide on his nostrils? Roll? Log roll? I've seen so many different falls, and I've always improvised. I'm of the belief that you have to know how to fall before you do any sport, though, and I don't feel right not having researched bicycling safe falls.

  • lol, I'm pretty happy I didn't understand the title of this :)
    – STW
    Nov 2, 2011 at 1:16
  • 1
    Aim for someone soft? Nov 3, 2011 at 18:08
  • So far, my reading points to Tae Kwon Do-style side break falls as being the safest at high speed. I'm not sure I agree because they leave your armpit exposed, and that's a dangerous place to have punctured. I suppose any place is, though. I guess I'm too used to riding my skateboard. Maybe it's easier to think about falling when jumping into sand on a bike. Maybe I should ask how to recover.... Thanks for the tips. Nov 4, 2011 at 15:52

2 Answers 2


Between BMX and mountain bikes I've fallen quite a bit over the years. If you're getting bad speed wobbles then there is something not right with your bike. I've never seen anyone get speed wobbles on a rocky course. If you're going fast enough on a rocky course that this is a risk you should be wearing at a bare minimum a full-face helmet. Shoulder guards wouldn't be a bad idea either as would shin/knee combos and elbow pads. Get a helmet, get safety gear.

The worst crashes I've seen have always been when the person doesn't see it coming, and you're probably not going to see it coming. Popping a wheelie and landing on your back is known as looping out. Even if you land on your feet, at speed you're going to mess yourself up anyway. Don't do it. I might try locking up my back brakes and skidding sideways, but that's still really sketchy and a desperate measure.

When it comes to crashing there really isn't definitive answer, and you really must use your best judgement. You want to stay loose and judge the situation in that split second before impact. Screw the bike, save yourself. It's better to get road rash than to hit a semi/boulder/tree. Be aware of the worst hazards and TRY to choose the lesser of two injuries. Remember that if you're going fast enough that speed wobble is an issue, then losing control of your bike is one of the worst things that could happen.


The best option is to have a bike that doesn't wobble at speed. On a road bike, there are many bikes which are stable at upwards of 60 mph, and on an MTB, it should be similarly stable, although it is unlikely you will ever ride it at that speed.

Speed wobble is caused by an excessive amount of movement between the rider interface, which is in this case the handlebar, and the wheel. That movement can be in the bar/stem, headset, fork, or wheel.

It is a sign of a poorly spec'd bike at best, and possibly of a poorly designed frame.

Training for methods of falling safely is not a bad idea, as at some point you're pretty much guaranteed to fall, but avoiding falls by riding safe equipment is better.

Avoiding impact with your head or spine are the priorities in a crash. For that reason, sliding the bike out is our best option, however painful it might be. Looping out a wheelie is not a good option unless you're confident of staying on your feet, and you can't be confident enough to risk that.

Going over the bars is a movie stunt that isn't likely to end before ou plant your face in the ground. Repeat, head contact bad.

There is no safe way to crash. Ride safe equipment, and avoid crashing where possible, and be ready to suffer if you can't avoid the crash.

  • 1
    I'll add that I know a guy who went face-first over the bars. He's now in a wheelchair. Landing face-first is pretty much the worst way to fall, from a potential injury standpoint. Better to tuck your head down and roll if you have the choice. Nov 1, 2011 at 12:06
  • Face first really hurts, since the helmet will do you no good whatsoever in that kind of impact. I've done that once on pavement and it took the skin off the whole side of my face. The wife has also done that and she hit hard enough to get her sunglasses embedded into her face. Nov 1, 2011 at 12:32
  • 3
    The worst thing is that it bends the neck and upper back in the direction opposite of what it wants to bend. Shattered vertebrae are easily possible. Nov 1, 2011 at 15:53
  • It is a sign of a poorly spec'd bike at best, and possibly of a poorly designed frame. No, just NO: "The top five influences on wobble have been found to be lateral stiffness of the front tire, steering damper, height of bike center of mass, distance of bike center of mass from rear wheel, and cornering stiffness of the front tire." And EVERY bike is susceptible: Jun 3, 2023 at 13:11
  • (cont) "Each bike has a critical speed at which it will cross the Hopf bifurcation value, and then steady state becomes unstable and wobble becomes the stable state" Jun 3, 2023 at 13:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.