Cam Zink's Good Advice on Surviving Bad MTB Crashes
In the past three years, Cam Zink has stood atop the podium at some of mountain biking's biggest freeride contests, including the Crankworx slopestyle and Red Bull Rampage. Despite those victories, the rider is perhaps better known for his injuries and horrific crashes. The damage inflicted on his body includes two ruptured spleens, 4 torn ACLs, a broken foot, a broken tibia and multiple concussions, among others. That’s another way of saying Zink’s go-for-broke style often leaves him lying on the ground in a cloud of dirt.
Last October, Zink misjudged a massive gap jump at the Red Bull Rampage, separated from his bike and then finally smacked into the hard earth 80 feet later. Incredibly, he walked away with only bruised heels.
We caught up with the rider while he was attending a freeride competition in Columbia to get his advice on how to survive a crash. While he doesn’t advocate practicing your bailout technique (“You’ll look like a moron,” he says), Zink does recommend a few simple strategies that might save your hide, whether you’re jumping over canyons or just ripping your local singletrack.
Stay with the bike:
Consider it your metal airbag to soak up the landing. “The suspension, the flex from the bike, even the wheels folding will benefit you because it’s absorbing force that would otherwise be inflicted on your bone,” Zink says. And if, as during Zink’s Rampage crash, you can’t stay with the bike?
Lead with your feet:
Don’t lock out your legs (or any of your joints), but instead use them to absorb the shock. “Turn into an accordion,” he says. “You want to start at your toes, then heels, then bend your ankles, knees, waist, and upward.”
Avoid sticking out your hands, but if you have no choice, don’t try stopping yourself. “The quicker you try to stop yourself, the quicker a bone will snap,” Zink says. “Even in a minor crash, fold and roll. If you’re hands-first, think of folding from your palm through your forearm, then to the shoulder as you start rolling.”
Think it through:
Zink isn’t one to practice his crash landings, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think about how to handle them. “If you think about the movements enough, they’ll happen subconsciously when you need it,” he says. And when you’re pushing yourself to the edge, you might need them sooner than you think.
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