WIPEOUT! A Guide to on Trail First Aid and Repairs

If you’re sending it as hard as you should be, you’ve probably had some gnarly crashes that have left both you and your mountain bike with some serious injury. While this obviously isn’t very fun, its bound to happen at some point, and being prepared with basic first aid knowledge and basic trail maintenance will help you get home in time to catch the game and enjoy a cold one with the bros.

First Aid

Packing a Kit

If you don’t come back from a ride bloodied and physically/mentally broken then you probably weren’t sending it hard enough. However, sending comes at a price, and if you’re not prepared you could end up in some less than chill situations. In order to perform any first aid on the trail in the event of an epic wipeout it would be a pretty smart idea to pack a well thought out first aid kit into your riding bag. Putting together a small first aid kit doesn’t require your whole paycheck or a whole lot of time, so there’s no excuse to not bring one along dude!

According to people who deal with a lot of the shredders you see splattered all over the trail, most mountain biking accidents are what they call “soft-tissue” injuries with the occasional broken arm or collarbone. Of course if you wash out and get a scrape or something you should just stop being a lil baby and rub some dirt in it and get back on the bike.

If your injury is in excess of what we described above, then having the following supplies would come in handy:

  • 1 x 1 size ambulance dressing (not ranch)
  • 1 x 2 size ambulance dressing
  • 2+ isopropyl alcohol swabs or liquid (sterile solution for cleaning out gnarly wounds)
  • 1 emergency aluminium blanket (in case you really beef’d and need to cozy up while you wait to get rescued)
  • 2+ triangular bandages

Assessing the Injured Rider

Preparing Your Mountain Bike Saddle Bag

Bike Saddle
Photo Courtesy of Arkel

Being prepared with the right tools can really make or break your shred. It’s a good idea to carry a saddle bag with a few basic supplies so your not stuck 10 miles from your truck while your bros are at the bar downing some draughts. A good saddle bag should consist of a few essential items, unfortunately though bros, one of them is not a beer. Those items are:

  • Tube: Having a spare tube that properly fits your tire will save you from having to hike out, or trying to fill your tire with grass (yes bros this does supposedly work).  
  • Tire levers: We know you and your bros are probably strong enough to get the tire off with your hands but tire levers make your job much easier and take up very little space. A good idea is to wrap a set of tire levers in duct tape to hold them together. The tape can be useful for a variety of issues that might arise out on the trail.
  • Multi-tool (with chain breaker tool): A good multi-tool acts as the Swiss Army knife of a bros bike bag. Most good multi-tools consist of several screwdrivers, multiple common bolt adjusters, and a chain breaker tool, which is essential for fixing a broken chain.
  • Extra chain links: These take up almost no room and are valuable to have if your chain gives out on you during a gnarly ride.
  • Patch kit: In some cases you might experience multiple flats during a ride, or your bro packed a beer in his saddle and doesn’t have a spare. Having a patch kit will allow you to shred back to the truck on two wheels instead of walking back with you bike over your back.  
  • Hand Pump or Air Cartridge: A hand pump allows for use over an extended period of time, while air cartridges usually fill up about one tire. Both are rather small and are a valuable tool to have in your bag.
  • Cash: Having some spare cash can be useful for a variety of reasons. Using cash to reinforce a sidewall blowout will help you ride back to the truck instead of walking, and once you’ve finished your ride that cash should be able to buy a few brews at the local bar.
  • Identification: You wrecked hard and are laying on the side of the trail missing your front tooth, and unconscious, big bummer bro. Having an identification card with your name, an emergency contact, and other pertinent information will help you make it to your next ride bruised, but with a nice new smile.
Multi-tool with chain breaker
Photo Courtesy of BikeRadar

Quick Mountain Bike Crash Checklist

After you have checked that you are okay and ready to continue to ride, now check out your bike. Here’s a quick checklist to see if your bike is still ride able.

  • Bike Frame: Check out the frame of the bike. See if there’s any dents or cracks, if anything seems badly damage have a professional look at it.
  • Handlebars: Check the alignment of your handlebars. If they became out of align, then it can very difficult to ride. For a quick fix, loosen the bolts by the headset and realigning the handle bars.
  • Tires: Check the pressure of your tires. If they are flat or losing air, you’ll have to change the tire. Look at the how to guide below to fix it.
  • Check your wheels: Spin your wheels to make sure they are still true. Inspects the spokes too, lose spokes can cause the wheel to become untrue.
  • Brake: Check the brakes. Make sure they still are working correctly, and no air bubble or cable were damaged.
  • Chain: Check your chain. Make sure your chain is still attached and working correctly.
  • Everything Else: Check out all other components on your bike. Make sure that your crank or your rear-derailleur is not bent. If they are you’ll probably have to bike hike out of the trail.

This video by Global Mountain Bike Network, shows more things to check on your bike after a crash and how to fix them.

Basic Mountain Bike Trail Fixes

So you just crashed you bike shredding down a gnarly trail, big bummer bro, but the real question is what are you going to do? Is your bike ok? Can you finish your ride or are you going to have to hike out? After you crash it’s important to check over your bike and make sure its still in riding condition. If it’s damaged though you might have a chance of fixing it on the trail. Here are a few on trail fixes that could save you a long hike out.

Fixing A Flat

While out shredding the most common issue you and your bros will run into is a flat tire, and without the proper knowledge and equipment you could be stuck hiking out, another big bummer for you and the bros. The main steps in repairing a flat are:

  1. Remove the bike wheel  

    Hand Pump
    Photo Courtesy of BikeRadar
  2. Remove the tube
  3. Find the cause of the leak
  4. Repair or replace the tube
  5. Reinstall bike wheel
  6. Pump up tire with hand pump, or air cartridge

To make your life easier make sure you always carry a spare tube that fits your tire, tire levers so you can easily get your tire off the rim, a patch kit to fix smaller leaks, and either a hand pump or air cartridge to easily inflate your fixed tire. Should you experience a sidewall leak or tear, your options are much more limited and you will most likely need a new tire. As a quick fix you can take a energy bar wrapper or a dollar bill and put it between the tube and tire to act as a tire boot. By inflating the tire you will help seal off the damaged tire, allowing you to ride back out where you can then properly fix your tire.

This video by Global Mountain Biking Network shows you step by step how to fix your a flat.

When You’ve Just Had Enough

Tire bottle opener
Photo Courtesy of REI

You’ve probably been there, broken down on the side of the trail fixing your tire or chain, not very fun right? You should be shredding or grabbing a drink, well you’re in luck because your tire can be used to open a refreshing beer. Just flip the bike over, crank your pedal, and place the beer into the tire tread. Now you have a neat new party trick, and a refreshing drink to help ease the pain of your broken bike.

Now that you have a basic understanding of first aid and on trail bike maintenance it’s time to get out and get sendy. That’s right, we want you to hurt yourself because scares are cool bros. Now have fun, but not too much fun because we don’t want you come home in a body bag.

To view our previous blog on great local Fort Collins mountain bike trails click here!