It’s going to happen eventually – whether it’s something in front of you, someone behind you, or a miscalculation on your part, you’re going to crash at some point. It doesn’t matter how you end up on the ground, it only matters what you do right after the wreck.

Keep reading for 5 quick tips to apply after you and your bike take a spill.

1. Check your area and surroundings

Whether you crashed during a race at the track or on a crowded trail, once you’re on the ground, you’re vulnerable. After you go down, your first concern should be avoiding another potential crash. Try to get off the track or trail as soon as possible to not get hit by another bike. Look both ways before you cross, though, or you may end up more hurt than you were before. 

As soon as your somewhere where you can sit/lay down to catch your breath, scan where you crashed to make sure there isn’t something you need to remove – a large rock, root, etc. – or something that you left behind – broken gear, broken bike parts, blood. A thoughtful examination like this can help fill in the blanks as to how you crashed (if it was related to the terrain) and how hard it really was.

2. Do a body check

Once you’re in a safe area and aren’t under the risk of getting run over by another rider, do a quick body check. Can you wiggle all of your toes? Move all of your fingers? Is everything moving and bending like it should? What about moving and bending like it shouldn’t? If you can, pat yourself down to make sure there isn’t any unsuspected or hidden bleeding.

Post-Crash Check: 5 Things to do After You Wreck
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

Apart from what you can see, spend some time focusing on what you can’t. Concussions are a common consequence of a dirt bike crash, but sometimes they can be tough to spot. Some symptoms can take more than a few days to fully manifest while others become noticeable right away. Of course there are the obvious indicators like complete memory loss, but there are a few others you should also be looking for:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering new information
  • Early-on nausea and/or vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Emotional changes like irritability, sadness, nervousness or anxiety, or just not feeling like yourself

If any of the listed symptoms show up right after the crash or even days to weeks after, it’s worth getting checked out. The long-term effects of untreated concussions can be far-reaching and detrimental, especially when considering how treatable they really are. For more information on warning signs and care, as well as a list of resources, check out this helpful document from the CDC.

Post-Crash Check: 5 Things to do After You Wreck
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

3. Slow Down

Not so fast, though, champ. Just because you passed a basic pat-down doesn’t mean everything’s coming up aces. The best thing for you to do is move slow and listen to your body. Every crash, no matter how small, is going to get your adrenaline pumping, and after every crash, you’re going to feel like you’re okay for the first few minutes. Adrenaline’s job is to mask pain, which means you could be more hurt than you think. Do not fall into some of the foolish misconceptions of adrenaline:

  • My crash wasn’t that bad, so I probably don’t have any adrenaline. If I did, it’s long worn off by now.
  • I should use the adrenaline I have to get me back home/back to camp/back to the pits before it wears off.

At this time, it’s not smart to try and move your bike (if you don’t have to). You can sit up or stand up if you feel up to it, but just give yourself a few minutes to take in the crash. If no sharp, distinct, or worrisome pain starts to creep in, then you’re probably fine, albeit a bit scraped and bruised. If you do start to feel pain, however, then it’s time to assess the crash. How did you land? Which body part took the brunt of the force? Use your surroundings as clues. If you can’t remember, check your helmet for scratches, cracks, or a broken visor. You may have hit your head and could be suffering from a concussion.

All this being said, most riders have a general idea as to how bad their crash really was. There are freak accidents, but it generally follows that the harder the crash, the worse the injury. If you know you went down hard and your gear is torn, broken, or wasn’t there to begin with, then proceed with extra caution. In every crash scenario, it’s better to assume the worst and be overly cautious than to flippantly cause more harm.

4. Make sure your bike isn’t leaking

Once you’ve taken the time to make sure you’re okay, you can move on to assessing the damage to your bike. Assuming it’s not a yard sale, stand your bike up. The first thing you should be looking for are any leaks. Check your cases, handlebars, and controls. Pump the brakes a few times to make sure they’re still working and that nothing is spewing. If there is a leak, try to identify the cause as it could be a split line, a popped seal, or even cracked housing. The damage here can determine how much longer you’re riding, if you can even ride at all.

Post-Crash Check: 5 Things to do After You Wreck
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

5. Give your bars and controls a good once-over

It’s common even after a minor crash for your bars and wheels to not line up. Luckily, it’s a pretty easy fix. Straighten out your bars to see if your wheel is in line or angled another direction. If the wheel is off-center, a forceful kick in the right direction should do the trick. Holding your bars, you can kick the wheel back into place. Obviously it’d be more ideal to loosen your upper and lower triple clamps before kicking the wheel and then torquing the pinch bolts back to spec after, but not everyone has the tools for that on the track or trail.

Post-Crash Check: 5 Things to do After You Wreck
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

Next you should check your levers and cables, including your shifting lever. You can usually make it back with a bent lever, but only if you know what damage your bike has and ride it accordingly.

After the Crash

What you do the days after your crash is just as important as what you did the minutes after. Here are some questions you should consider:

  • Did something go wrong with my bike and that’s why I crashed, or was it a mistake I made? If it was my bike, what do I need to fix? If it was me, what did I do wrong and what do I need to work on?
  • Are there body or protective parts for my dirt bike that will prevent damage in future crashes?
  • Do I need to replace any broken or compromised gear, like my helmet, after this crash?
  • Is there more gear I could be wearing to prevent injuries in future crashes?

Go over your owner’s manual for repair instructions and review the manufacturer’s suggestions for any protective gear like helmets, boots, roost deflectors, and so on. Take the necessary steps now to keep you and your bike better protected on your next ride. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and so on…

Post-Crash Check: 5 Things to do After You Wreck
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

Play it Safe

It’s never inconsequential when you go down on your dirt bike, so it’s always best to play it safe. Take things slow, double and triple check yourself, and make sure your bike is safe before your start ripping it.

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Tell Us What You Think

What’s the worst crash you’ve been in? Did you follow any of these tips after, or are we missing some? Let us know all about it in the comments below.