Fatbiking Safety | The Unexpected Crash

I'm guessing that when most of us hop on our fatbike to take a spin, getting into an accident or putting ourselves in danger is the last thing on our mind. Grabbing a helmet and ensuring the cell phone is charged is probably the extent of most people's safety planning. I recently learned the hard way that you need to be prepared as accidents can happen at any time.

Not long ago I put a good dent in the "honey do" list and ended up with a little time to kill in the afternoon. As the weather was great I decided to head over to a local mountain bike trail that I frequent and bounce around for a couple of hours on some of the unfamiliar side trails. I contacted a couple of buddies, but they were tied up so I went flying solo.

When I hit the first side trail I encountered some rocks and semi-technical downhill sections. As I expected these types of challenges I was riding in the attack position which allowed me to shift my weight around and stay upright on the fattie. I'm no speed demon . . . but I had fun. With one trail down it was off to find the second one on my to do list.

This one was more of a meandering trail through the woods with a couple of rocks thrown in for visual interest. I was pedaling along on the trail and spied a small rock ahead and decided to roll over it on the right. As the front tire crested I knew I was in trouble as there was an unexpected drop. My weight shifted forward and OTB I went . . . face planting in the dirt. I was alone, without a cell phone, bleeding, had minimal medical supplies and on a trail that was not well used.

I surveyed my injuries (nothing broken), cleaned my wounds (flushing with water bottle), found my broken riding glasses and hobbled back to my vehicle with an uninjured bike. It was off to the hospital where I discovered I needed eight stitches in my forehead. I also had a broken nose, broken bone under my nose and multiple facial cuts scrapes and bruises.

CAUTION - The following video contains graphic images.

Click HERE to see the 3 minute uncut crash footage.As I was healing I realized that the situation could have been much worse. It was time to review my trail riding safety list.


Its always best to ride with a buddy, but at times we have to ride solo. If a trail side accident occurs your buddy can help triage the situation and get you back to safety. This luxury is not available when riding alone. When flying solo I ensure that people know where I am going and approximately how long I will be gone. Leaving a Google Map of the area with a loved one and a contact number of a riding buddy who is familiar with the area is extra insurance.

I'm not a lover of cell phones, but they can provide an important lifeline in case of an accident. However, you need to be conscious and have cell service for it to be of any benefit. For those who do carry a cell phone on their fatbike outings there are several GPS tracking services that can send "crash alerts" to programmed people in case you take a tumble. And having your name and contact information on a piece of paper somewhere on your person would greatly help any passerby who may find you in an injured state.

In addition to snacks, tools and a spare tube . . . a first aid kit should also have a place in your off-road fatbike excursions. Although slapping a bandage on scrape may not be necessary, I wish I had a larger bandage to cover the gash on my forehead after the tumble. Find a kit that works for you and squirrel it away in your backpack.

I know that many of us just grab the fattie and go, but a quick pre-ride bike check is always a good habit. Its better to notice that loosened pedal before the ride than out on the trail after picking yourself up from the dirt.


I never ride without a helmet, but surprisingly some people do. I think those folks are crazy as a rock will win against a skull every time. Some manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every 3-5 years while other say that may be a conservative time frame. However, it is widely accepted that a helmet should be replaced after a crash. 

I'm certainly glad that I was wearing my riding glasses when I took my recent tumble. They flew off my face after impact and when I found them I discovered one of the lenses had popped out. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had not been wearing eye protection. During many a ride my glasses offered additional protection from dust, rain, wind, bugs and the errant tree branch.

Gloves. Some people hate wearing gloves, I can't ride without them. Landing after an OTB superman my gloves were covered in dirt, rocks and twigs. They certainty would have been in worse shape if I had been flying naked. Gloves also reduce rubbing against the grips and offer additional protection when scrambling up or down rock faces.

Shin protection. I'm pretty sure that most people have felt the bite of pedal pins on your shin after missing a pedal stroke. Its definitely not pleasant. I experimented with a couple of bike specific shin/knee protection options over the years and discovered soccer shin protectors fit my riding style. They are light, not as warm, don't move around and many have built in ankle protection.


The main reason why I went OTB was that I was not paying close attention to the trail. It was an unfamiliar trail and its non-threatening meandering nature tricked me into not paying attention. Its also easy to become complacent when riding a familiar trail, as they too can serve up a surprise when you are least expecting it.

When riding its best to pay attention at all times and expect the unexpected. And even if you are paying attention there is no guarantee that you will not take a spill. Everyone goes down from time to time.


My unexpected impact with terra firma could have been much worse. I will be left with a scar reminiscent of a lightening bolt over my right eye as a permanent reminder.

I will be taking a look at the Giro Switchblade and Bell Super 3 as they offer interesting convertible helmets that cross riding styles between trail and downhill.

I will be researching lightweight body protection and will probably supplement my riding gear. I want to increase protection, but not to the point of riding around like a jousting knight.

My first-aid kit will be much better stocked for the next trail side experience, and I may have to invest in a cell phone (sigh).

Be safe . . . have fun . . . ride FAT!


  1. My Fly12 front camera and my Garmin Edge 820 explore both have incident protection to inform my contacts that I'm down. Glad to see you are ok and the scar will always remind you of your two biggest miscalculation . 1: Riding unfamiliar trail and second riding it alone. Have a great and safe summer.

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