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Check3GPS Readiness Quotient

Your supervisor may use the following checklist to determine if you have adequately addressed the risk factors for mountain biking. If you answer “yes” to all the questions below, you should be good to go!

 

1. Do you wear a helmet and eye protection (i.e., personal protective equipment [PPE])?  

 

2. Do you wear other recommended safety equipment (e.g., lights, leather gloves, hydration system, body armor, first-aid kit)?  

 

3. Do you ride with a partner?  

 

4. Do you carry a small toolkit when you ride?  

 

5. Do you ride within your skill level?  

 

6. Do you perform an inspection on your bike prior to riding?  

 

7. Do you let someone know where you will be and how long you will be gone each time you ride?  

 

8. Do you wear brightly colored clothing, especially if biking in heavily wooded areas?

Top Hazards And How To Mitigate Them

1. RIDING WITHOUT PROPER SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Mitigate: First and foremost, buy and wear a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-certified bicycle helmet that has been properly fit to your head shape and size. If you choose a half-shell over a full-face helmet, be sure to also wear glasses to protect your eyes from sharp sticks and other pointy objects along the trail. Outfit your bike with high-output lights on the front and safety lights in the back, even if you don’t set out to ride in the dark; you never know what might happen to extend your day on the trail. Instead of the traditional water bottle, strap on a hydration pack; it not only holds more water but also leaves your hands free to control your bike over difficult terrain. Last but not least, invest in some protective body armor, such as shin, arm, and chest guards, because it’s never a question of whether, but when you will fall.

2. RIDING ON UNFAMILIAR TRACK OR IN UNFAMILIAR CONDITIONS

Mitigate: If riding alone in an unfamiliar mountain biking area, it is best to start on the trails rated least difficult and work your way up to the trickier terrain. Better yet, ride with someone who does know the area, who can show you the best trails for your skill level. Finally, you can download a free app like MTB Project, which incorporates IMBA’s comprehensive trails guide, complete with offline maps, full GPS route info, elevation profiles and photos.

3. LACK OF FIRST-AID KIT AND KNOWLEDGE OF BASIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE

Mitigate: Since mountain biking often takes you off the beaten path and accidents are not uncommon, it is important that riders have both the knowledge and tools they might need to get someone breathing again, restart a heart, prevent infection, or splint a broken bone. Be sure to carry a prepackaged or DIY first-aid kit, and take a CPR class at a local hospital, college or outdoor store.

4. RIDING ABOVE ONE'S SKILL LEVEL

Mitigate:  Don’t succumb to pressure to keep up with more experienced riders; only ride terrain on which you can consistently maintain control. Honestly assess how long you have been mountain biking and how comfortable you are with steep sections of trail, jumps, drops and rocky surfaces. Similarly evaluate your fitness level. How often and how vigorously do you exercise? What are your strength and stamina limits? Consult with an established mountain biking technical skill and fitness rating system.

5. FALL FROM BIKE

Mitigate: Ride within your skill level and never so fast that you cannot stop if necessary. “Endos,” which are falls in which the biker is thrown over the handlebars after an abrupt halt, happen more often on a descent, because the rider is moving faster and tilted forward. So, stick to gentler, cross-country rides until you gain enough skill to handle the steeps. Learn to “read” the trail as you ride: look ahead for rocks, roots and tree stumps in your path. To improve your balance, make sure that your pedals are level and your weight distributed evenly on both feet.

Collarbone Fractures: Treatment

and Recovery

The collarbone, aka clavicle, is the most frequently fractured bone on a mountain biker’s body. It ranks just behind surface wounds (i.e., cuts, bruises and abrasions) as the second most common mountain biking injury.  It usually happens on downhill vs. cross-country courses, where a sudden deceleration can launch a rider over the handlebars onto outstretched hands, transmitting enough force up the arm to cause this painful break. While preventative measures include body armor, clip-in pedals and full suspension bicycles, the best way to avoid cracking your clavicle is to stay within your skill level.

Symptoms and Tests

A long, thin bone connecting your arm to your chest wall, the clavicle helps to hold your shoulder in place and protect underlying nerves and blood vessels.  A broken collarbone that doesn’t heal properly can result in abnormal scapular motion and chronic shoulder pain and weakness. It’s important to see a doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms after a crash:

  • Pain—immediate and sharp, settling into a dull ache

  • Deformity—bruising, swelling, small bulge or bump, and arm hanging forward

  • Numbness or pins and needles

  • Decreased movement—difficulty and pain in lifting the arm

 

An X-ray will tell the doctor the location and severity of the break and what kind of treatment it warrants. Other tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, will only be necessary if the doctor suspects damage to the surrounding soft tissues, blood vessels and nerves.

 

Treatment: Sling vs. Surgery

 

There are two basic options for treating a collarbone fracture. One is surgical repair of the broken bone, which involves realigning the bone fragments and inserting plates and screws to pin them in place. The alternative is setting the arm in a sling and allowing the bone to rejoin on its own. Surgery is typically indicated if the break meets any of the following criteria:

 

  • Bone displacement of 2 cm or more

  • Compound fracture (bone is breaking through the skin)

  • Multiple breaks

  • Associated damage to nearby nerves and vessels

  • Bone is not healed after three months of conservative treatment (sling)

 

If the fracture is uncomplicated and there is minimal displacement between the two ends of the bone, the break will usually heal on its own when the arm is immobilized in either a simple sling or one that wraps around both shoulders and the neck, known as a Figure-8. Since the Figure-8 sling tends to be less comfortable and has not been proven to be more effective than the simple sling, most people opt for the latter.

 

Reported benefits of surgery for a busted clavicle include less pain in the first few weeks, a shorter overall healing time, and earlier return to activity, which is why it is often recommended for active patients, such as mountain bikers. With surgery, there is also less chance that the bone will fail to heal after six weeks. On the other hand, surgery has its own risks, including neurovascular injury and infection and the need for a second surgery to remove plates and screws.

 

Recovery

 

Like most fractures, broken clavicles will take six to eight weeks to heal and up to three months with physical therapy for full restoration of strength and range of motion. Fall-prone sports should be avoided during that period. Whether you choose surgery or sling, the road to recovery is the same:  

 

  • Keep arm supported in sling for the first few weeks

  • Use pain and anti-inflammatory medication and ice packs as directed for the first few weeks

  • Gradually wean off sling as pain subsides

  • Remove sling a few times each day to move your fingers, hand and elbow

  • Avoid lifting objects heavier than five pounds for at least six weeks

  • Avoid lifting your arm above your shoulder height

  • Avoid contact sports for 10 to 12 weeks

  • Follow physical therapy regime until you are back to normal

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