Crashing is a part of our sport! While it usually ends well, crashing can end up turning into a serious emergency. If it’s suddenly up to you to help a friend or stranger, a lack of knowledge, dangerous half-truths and long-forgotten first aid courses only aggravate things. Our must-read guide to first aid shows you what to do so you don’t have to bury your head in the sand.

70% of you have had a serious crash in the past. What’s worse, however, is that our survey of 2,800 readers on crashing also found that a lack of knowledge, dangerous half-truths and long-forgotten first aid courses can aggravate an already bad situation. These facts have prompted us to address the issue. This is not an online first aid course; it’s just about raising awareness and passing on the basics, so that you are prepared for the worst. Use these helpful, easy tips and tricks to make your next bike ride a little safer.

We ride our bikes to have a good time and very few of us like to dwell on the darker side of the sport. But every pro and guide will know how important it is to consider all eventualities and weigh up the worst-case scenarios. It is no different with pilots: getting a pilot’s license means learning to fly, of course, but a large part of your flying hours deals exclusively with emergencies and situations in which things go wrong. With regards to mountain biking, this is the same – there are those who know how to crash and roll properly, and those same ones who prepare correctly for their adventures can be much more relaxed about the risks.

Our editors have over 100 years of riding experience between them and they’ve gone through a lot over the years. One editor in particular, Peter Walker has completed a three-year course as an emergency paramedic, learning and applying best practices first-hand. In this off-bike role, he has seen a lot and helped with some serious mountain bike crashes—and naturally, he’s also learned a fair bit.

Simple preparation, conscious behaviour and the right prevention can avoid a lot of drama in an emergency situation, save lives, or significantly reduce long-term damage. Peter Walker, technical editor and trained paramedic

There is no need to be afraid if you’re prepared

Regardless of whether it was an accident at home, in the car, or on the bike, we’re all likely to have witnessed something or gone through it ourselves. Even if nothing happens to you directly, you’re not immune to the effects of shock. Spectacular images and terrifying sounds get your adrenaline pumping, making your heartbeat so fast that you can no longer think clearly. Emergency situations easily become overwhelming—you’re struck by the sense that you don’t know what to do. Those who can think clearly in an emergency and apply targeted, systematic measures are at a great advantage. Fortunately, this is something that you can learn.

But with the proper preparation, emergency situations can be significantly mitigated or even avoided, especially when you’re riding in hard-to-access or unfamiliar terrain. Most accidents happen out of carelessness, through a misjudgement of the surroundings, or of your own limits. You can quickly find out whether you’re ready for your next adventure by creating a short checklist and ticking it off:

1. Where are you going?

A lap on your local trails carries different risks compared to a trip to a bike park or a search for new trails in the Alps. Be prepared for sudden weather changes, poor cell phone reception, and inaccessible routes for rescue workers. Make a note of the local emergency numbers in advance and find out whether the region or the bike park has a special emergency contact where you can get help from someone who knows the area well. Landmarks like “the third jump on the red line” usually mean little to the emergency services dispatcher, so being able to explain your precise location can cost valuable time and nerves.

2. Do I have the right equipment?

Are you wearing enough protective gear for the terrain so that you feel comfortable and safe?

Check your equipment:

  • Is your bike in good condition? Regularly check the most important bolts (cockpit, frame, thru axles of the wheels), especially before longer rides
  • How long have you been using your helmet and what has it been through?
  • Have you packed a first aid kit and is your mobile phone fully charged?

Very few of us like riding with a hip bag or backpack, but you don’t want to be caught without a first aid kit. If you’re riding with friends, make arrangements beforehand so that nothing gets forgotten and you don’t drag along unnecessary gear. Many manufacturers offer specially adapted first aid kits or integrate helpful features into their products, such as the NFC chip from POC. Most of us already carry a very useful device anyway…

Almost all of us ride with our phones in our pockets! Make use of features such as Apple’s medical ID so that anyone who finds you can easily access important medical information and contact details.
The first aid kit from High Above is specially configured for mountain bikers and contains essential items. It’s handy, light and fits in every hip bag.
The NFC chip in the new POC Kortal Race MIPS helmet
Valuable information such as your emergency contact details, address and allergies can be stored in the NFC chip via an app. The helmet also features RECCO reflectors, allowing rescue services to locate you more easily via special sensors.
The Tocsen crash sensor from UVEX
If you crash, the sensor attached to the helmet can notify your emergency contacts and other Tocsen users, even sharing your GPS coordinates.

3. Prevention first

Ride with your head and don’t overestimate yourself. If you’re riding alone in a remote area, don’t attempt risky manoeuvres or big jumps. If you’re having a bad day or feeling tired, there’s nothing wrong with a relaxed ride in nature, skirting round the biggest jumps, and not trying to beat Strava records. If you haven’t received any texts for a while because of poor network coverage, keep in mind that in the event of a crash, someone will have to get help! If that isn’t possible, you could end up spending a very long time alone in the woods.

As already mentioned, this article isn’t meant to be an online first aid course, but it should encourage you to refresh your knowledge regularly. We highly recommend taking a course specially designed for outdoor sports. Team up with your bike buddies and enrol on a day course. Local rescue services or other organisations will offer a wide and mostly inexpensive range of special mountain bike courses as well as standard first aid training.

Shit happens – What to do when it does

Keeping a cool head is key! If you suddenly find yourself in an emergency and don’t know what to do next, the solution is to take 10 seconds for 10 minutes. Drop everything, take a deep breath, and give yourself 10 seconds to think about the next 10 minutes. Prioritise what really matters and decide how to proceed. Keeping calm instead of panicking and acting on impulse will help you and, most importantly, will help the injured person too. Secure the scene of the accident – especially on highly frequented trails – and move your bikes and gear off the trail to avoid further collisions. If that isn’t possible, block off the route at a sufficient distance from the accident and make it clearly visible. Only when that’s done should you attend to the victim and clarify the severity of the situation. If you decide to call for help, you will have to explain exactly where you are or use the emergency dispatcher to locate your position. As a guide, remember the five W’s:

  • Where did it happen?
  • Who‘s calling?
  • What happened?
  • Who is affected?
  • Wait for questions!

Situation permitting, rescuers benefit from a well-positioned marshal that can guide them to the scene of the accident. Having several marshals can be super helpful because you’ll usually have multiple vehicles arriving at different times, or access could be difficult and require several spotters. As a helper, stick around after the rescue services arrive in case they need information or help. That said, give them the space they need to do their work and avoid stepping over equipment or huddling close to your injured buddy.

Fortunately, most people are very helpful when the sh*t hits the fan and will often ask whether they can help. Accept their help – even if you can’t think of a specific task right then, they may come in very useful as marshals and to help with carrying. If you end up not needing them after all, very few people will be annoyed that they had to wait.

Your injuries, our evaluation

Nobody wants to see these statistics and certainly not the pictures, but every rider should know what they are getting themselves into! The results of our big first aid survey of 2,800 readers:


While no one likes thinking about the worst case, it’s part of our sport and important that we don’t bury our heads in the sand. Preparation and prevention help mitigate the risks and regularly refreshing your first aid skills will keep you calm in an emergency, just like the 10 for 10 rule. In serious cases, this can’t replace professional rescue services, but it can make life easier, safer, and longer for you, the rescuers, and the injured party. Let’s prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and remember rule number 1: rubber side down!

Words: Peter Walker | Photos: ENDURO | Illustrations: Julian Lemme

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.

About the author

Peter Walker

As editor-in-chief, Peter is as much a man of action as he is of words. This expert, screw-driver-flexing two wheeled-whizz has many envy-inducing characteristics, including a background in motocross, several EWS race plates to his name, and more than 150 recorded days at Whistler Bike Park. However complex the bike and however steep the trail, he’s probably already nailed it, twice. Oh, and he can do it all on skinny tyres too. When it comes to guiding consumers, Peter cut his teeth at Vancouver’s oldest bike shop and now puts pen to paper on the daily translating this know-how into our editorial plan. When not tearing up Stuttgart’s local trails while testing bikes, he loves nothing more than loading up his self-renovated VW T5 and hitting the road. The fact that he’s a trained paramedic gives his colleagues reassurance out on the trails. So far we haven’t had to call him by his alias ‘Sani Peter’, so here’s hoping he keeps it right side up for the rest of his time here!