Strategies for falling

I posed Freewheeling by accident, and some searching I thought I would create a new post to pose my question and maybe try to consolidate some information into one place, that is, unicycle falling strategies.

Here’s my situation. With the addition of a brake I’ve been able to ride steeper trails than I’ve ever ridden before. It’s fun to find that point where any more braking and you’re skidding and any less and you’re out of control. There are a couple places of a primarily dirt trail that I ride where that I cannot walk down without crawling and sidestepping and I want to try riding them. I will fall. What’s the best strategy for falling down a very steep trail? This particular spot doesn’t drop off to a cliff or have dangerous rocks. Should I try to get feet down and dig in my heels? Should I roll laterally and thump the ground to try reduce my speed? Any thoughts? What works for people in this scenario?

Well falling off the back is probably a good place to start. Falling forward won’t be too great…

Good health insurance? EMT on quick dial?

When I have fallen off at speed I usually try to get a step or two in and then roll if I must. This works fine on pavement with some reasonable armor. On a steep hill is sounds like a disaster. I agree with Dane that falling off the back is important. The closest I have come to your situation is a short steep slope where I ride the brake down and occasionally step off the back if it looks bad. I have not gone over the front and I do not think that it would end well.

You probably want to get advice from younger, fearless people.


steep long sections I really prefer to fall back so I dont start running down the hill and get going to fast. The sad thing is that in order to fully commit to a line you have to lean forward and you will fall forward. I always look around for things to fall into or to catch myself. Cactus and boulders are never a good option. Bushes and trees are a lot more forgiving. Keep an eye out and be well aware of your surroundings. I fell off on a line that involved a decent sized drop to one side with cactus and a big boulder at the bottom. My next option was to the side that had cactus. I choose the cactus since its softer than the drop.

If you do find yourself falling forward try to come to a stop. This sometimes involve just falling straight to the ground on your chest. It beats running down a steep hill where you can twist an ankle or break a bone. I wear a full face helmet so I can open up more options to falling. Ive had times where Ive put my shoulder and the side of my face into the ground so I could roll out of an impact.

The two most important things if you fall forward down a steep slope, be alert of where you are falling and try to get your body on the ground as fast as possible.

In all kind of falling main thing is absorb impact and decrease momentum.
So firs of all you have to roll and do not try to stop using hands, just make one-two-three smooth rolls (depends of speed).

When speed a bit decreased try to get push-up position and stop putting all your weight on feet. This helps to minimize points of contact.
And yes - this technique was used by me several times in crushed stones areas and compacted sand hills. As result - only scratches.

In rocky area fall on back is bad thing but you never know how you will need to roll. Backpack always good thing to wear when rides in rocky areas.
I use Evoc freeride backpack with back protector - awesome product (opens wide for easy access, can accommodate all safety gear including helmet on external straps + big water pocket).

It is quite hard to learn correct mae ukemi (picture above) and be able to do it in any situation :wink: Usually it takes up to a year or two of trainings.

+1 I’ve got same expirience.

On steep hills rolling seems like a bad idea, since it will keep your momentum up. I say fall back and dig in your heels as much as you can.

Hm… maybe. I’ve got several years of sport gymnastics and army skills (martial arts) may be that’s why it is natural to me.

Rolling and keeping momentum - yes, bad idea. But you can learn to reduce it without rubbing all your body. Anyway it depends of lots and lots of aspects.
This it only one of hundreds scenario.

Thanks for the suggestion!

As my videos attest I am a big chicken, am super cautious, and wear a ton of protection so major injury is unlikely. I haven’t fallen over the front on a steep trail but have gotten out of control going downhill on my 36" in what was my worst fall to date. I somersaulted in the air, rolled a couple times forward then about ten times laterally and quickly got up and out of the middle of the street to get out of the way of a passing van going 60. My hydration pack was shredded and I had a little road rash but was otherwise unharmed. Thanks for the comments!

Thanks for providing your personal insight, Jacob! Your riding style is what I (hopelessly) try to emulate since it’s the closest to the freewheel unicycling that I do. I don’t fall on my chest often but can see where it may be the best option. Do you ever practice falls explicitly? When I was shooting my last video I had my full face helmet on and was padded up and was thinking about doing some practice falls but wasn’t sure that was good karma. I mainly wanted to figure out if my normal rolling style was congruent with the full face helmet.

Thanks for your feedback! I haven’t seen those packbacks before. When I’m doing something where there’s a likelihood of a fall I wear my Race Face Ambush Core shirt which has good back and shoulder protection (I bought it for when I get around to practicing dropping in at a ramp or bowl). Those are interesting graphics for controlled falling/rolling as well. I generally fall 2-5 times a week and they usually look something like that (sometimes with the addition of bushes).

Thanks to everyone for your input!

Body armor is good when you wear it :smiley:
I often preffer backpack due to hot weather. I own IXS hammer jacket and it saves good.
Bushes are good… when available :smiley:

Here is sample of my falling spot:

Be aware rolling that if done improperly, at the wrong angles, could result in a spinal injury… I wouldn’t do them just for fun.

Ive always been active in sports since I was a wee one. there was one point when I used to race bmx that I would practice bailing and unclipping. I think this helped train my body to absorb impact and how to react in a high stress situation. I also practiced how to tuck and roll, I did this by jumping off of small ledges and slowly moved my way up to the roof of my house. I suggest not doing that lolol. I think a key thing when falling is letting your body go limp and just letting things happen. Its all a balance though, there will be times when you cant fall. Try to avoid those situations at all cost. Another key thing is to get off the uni before you get into a bad fall. Ryan Kremsater taught me that at the north shore while riding tall wooden structures.

This is a pretty crucial thing that is worth emphasizing. Ditch that uni, kick it out of the way if you have to. It’s much better to break a uni instead of a part of your body! With your uni out of the way, you have less to worry about and less ways to injure yourself. I have seen some nasty crashes where the rider tried to keep a hold of his uni, so it wouldn’t get damaged… but guess what gets damaged instead? Better safe than sorry right?

When I was learning and really focusing on trying to do tricks, my friends would always laugh at me because I would shoot that uni off into the distance, even on the most harmless of UPDs. I’d rather replace some cheapo plastic handle grips than my ankle :slight_smile: I dropped my 24" muni off a small cliff once because I thought I was going to fall off it! :astonished:

Well just not “ditching” the uni but just stepping off of it. Imagine riding on an elevated skinny. You will prolly step off the uni before having an uncontrolled fall.

I was just looking at IXS because Chain Reaction Cycles is having a sale. I had never seen that brand before. What do you think of the hammer jacket? How does the sizing go for you? I’m usually a medium but their sizes are S/M and M/L. Besides the Race Face Ambush shirt I also have a Demon Hypervest but neither are ideal for sliding falls. I was thinking I could get an IXS Hammer vest to wear over the Race Face shirt. How is the chest protection?

So far they’ve usually been controlled and I have tiny bit of gymnastics experience.

Great advice! I’m very clumsy and uncoordinated but am pretty good at falling.

I’m also pretty good at ditching the uni. On my freewheel unicycles if my mind wanders even slightly it’s an instant UPD and I’ve become adept at pushing the seat to get it out of my way when necessary.

In my few years of stupidity I’ve learned
Rolling is MUCH better than skidding (scars are fading)
Ditch the object of choice if its in your way (handlebars on bikes have hole punched me a few times and mu uni has nicked me a few times)
And don’t try immidiate stops(brakes are not my strong suit)
If you are gonna uni down steep hills defenantly fall back but if you do fall forward ALWAYS KICK AWAY YOUR UNI even if you don’t think you need to because you never know if it’ll pick up speed or smack you in your nogin. Don’t try to catch it save yourself. I know I’ve tried to save my stuff when I shouldn’t have an 9/10 I paid for it with a new bruise SAVE YOURSELF FIRST. If you feel unseady get off don’t try to correct yourself because especially if its as steep as you say you can slide right off into a roll if your lucky or end up skidding down the hill. For falls down these types of hills I try what I nicknamed the spiderman techinique.

  1. Hop of the uni
  2. Enter a roll sideways so you are perpendicular to the hill side
  3. While you roll try to do a spiderman pose an dig your hands an downward most foot into the ground using the inside part of your foot to dig into the ground. Repeat as nessesary until you can come to a stop. And this should help slow you down with reduced injury.

My explainexplaination is probably pretty sucky and mayne someone else can elaborate/explain it better but this is what I do when my friends and I go run downhill or bail when we downhill bike, and me on uni&bike

+1 on letting the uni go. I’m too focused on where to land to think about ejecting the uni.

I try to get at least one foot down, then my hand, fingers first (like a crab or spider), collapse my arm so I don’t bend any fingers, then roll over my shoulder. Finding a safe path to fall on is similar to picking a riding line on the fly. Sometimes I need to do stuff like “I’ll place my hand here and fly over that rock”, of course that would have to be instinct.

A strong core makes it easier for me to place my feet where I want, & roll, esp to both sides. Push ups helped me to smoother absorb the impact of my hands and transition that to a roll.

I wear lots of pads (knee/shin, elbow/ forearm, but, helmut, & loosely packed backpack). Hard plastic seams to be good on concrete, transferring the impact force better & into forward movement (since for me there’s nothing to worry about running into on the street). W/ Muni soft pads seem to be better, w/ plastic I slide farther (then running into more stuff) & harder to get into a roll.

Yeah knowing your limits is good & if you think your going to fall & its going to be bad, you probably will. But then if you don’t push your limits your improvements will be SLOW.

IXS is good brand and I have some of their stuff - clothing are not the best but this jacket is very good. Got hammer jacket for $105 on sale from CRC.

It’s made very good and comfy to wear (mesh base and vent pads makes it not extreamly hot but in our +35…+40C I cant handle that).
Straps on shoulders and chest helps a lot - you just tight it and go (I fixed back straps in preffered position and now have to tight only front ones).
Sizing is good for me - I bought M/L based on height in size chart. Main thing is to have back protector fits. I’m 180cm (72kg) and chest about 100cm.
Sizing is always problem for me because I stuck in a middle between M and L.

Before buying jacket I own Brand-X X MKII Knee/shin & Arm/forearm Guards in White so I look like star trooper when wearing this set. Chest protection is not plastic but stiff.

I think the last sentence is for a select few group of people out there. A group of people that are willing to accept the consequences of having a bad fall. Luckily this year I only had one fall that had me off the uni for a wee bit. Either way its all about balancing the risk to reward. Another thing that everyone should keep in mind, LONGEVITY. Say you always step out of the comfort zone where you really are completely out of your skill level. You get hurt and have to be off the uni for a month. Tip toeing your way to the top is a good thing, you want to ride for many many years and playing it safe is the best way to do that. Getting hurt and not being able to ride gives me a mental block. I hurt my ankle a few years back really bad, took me over a year to be able to just ride off a curb again. Im fine now but its always in the back of my mind, “is this going to be my last drop?”. So yeah go hard but be smart about what you do. Take risk but take the right risk so you will be able to ride the next day.

There are lines I’ve seen on rides that were interesting and i thought I might be able to do but I never seriously considered because I’m not willing to risk the potential nasty UPD. One I’m thinking of was a skinny a bit off the ground, if it was only a few inches up I would’ve tried it.

A few that are at my comfort limit but I think I could do, I keep involuntarily bailing at the last instant. I can’t seem to force myself to commit.