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How to protect my bum from breaking tailbone when falling?


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Hi from Poland! I'm new here and new to trials/street. Training it was my childhood dream but back then I was too scared to try and too poor to get another smaller bike for tricks. Now I'm 32 and have Polygon Trid with bigger gear in the back (yes, I know it's not trial bike per se) and I'm starting out. My trackstand got realy good after just 3 days so I'm hyped as hell. Tried unweighting front wheel and get it up today, which goes kind of good (super fatiguing after a while lol). What I'm concerned about is obviously falling on my a-s-s and potentially breaking my tail bone. How do you guys protect your bum from that? Is it even possible to neutralize that kind of force when you fall with your whole weight and hit concrete?

I suppose it's smart to learn jumping back off a bike before that happens but there may be times where it's just not possible I guess.

Any help would be great, thanks!

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I suggest you just try to not worry about it too much.

Your body's instincts are very strong. If you start to tip off the back, you will instinctively want to step off. If you progress with just a little caution then your reactions will learn how to save you from that type of crash, and each time you save yourself the habit will get better.
Of course, sometimes there's nothing you can do and you do just land straight on your bum. It doesn't happen often, but it can. Sometimes you can just walk it off, but other times it will hurt a lot. Even if it hurts a lot, your tailbone is VERY strong. Whilst it can break, I've never heard of it happening on a trials bike.

Are you particularly worried because your rear brake is not very good? That would be a good reason to replace it. But if the brake is good for you, just keep practicing and don't try to get too adventurous too fast and you will be fine :)

I'll wager everyone on this forum has had a crash like this at some point - some of them light and some of them heavy. It happens, and it hurts, but 99% you will not break your tailbone.

Enjoy!

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Know that you are going to hurt your booty eventually. Probably bad enough to sprain a butt cheek and turn large areas of your body purple-blue and yellow-green. A sprained butt cheek is probably the most annoying thing I've ever experienced other than jammed fingers. Eventually, you get used to it just like anything else. Admittedly injuries take a little longer to walk off after 40. So you got 8 years to get ahead of that. As long as you can put your palms on the ground from a standing position without bending your knees, and do a full slav squat without lifting your heels, you're loose enough to avoid a serious injury. Chicks dig scars and hot yoga, but learning how to bail is just as important as learning how to nail it. Starting on a cross-country bike is the right way to start, maybe mix it up with a cheap mod cause it's way easier to learn straight trials moves on. Keep it old school. BIU rules and pretend the ground is lava. Watch Monkey See Monkey do with Hans Rey and a chimp (it's on YouTube). The Super Rider YouTube channel has a "30 trials skills in 30 days" series that's good. Learn to wheelie (manual) really good before you jump into big back wheel moves on a cross-country bike which are a lot harder on your back, and wheelies teach you the fundamentals of body position on the back wheel without straining things. Find riders that are better than you to ride with. Your brain has to re-wire a little bit to get used to throwing yourself around in slightly unnatural positions but you have to go past that limit to unlock the next level. If you start getting too exhausted to do it while you're making progress, sleep on it. You'll probably nail it the next day. I don't and never have done comps, but if you do want to do that start immediately, cause that's a different mindset. I live in the US where trials has pretty much always been connected to mountain biking, so learning trials was about staying on the bike on trails more than it was ever about trials for trial's sake. Back when suspension was extremely unreliable you were better off with a rigid fork. Letting the bike move underneath you, throwing yourself around abusing the leverage of the bike, and knowing how to bail, were critical trail skills in the backcountry of Colorado. We didn't have manicured drops and berms in the 90's and early 00's. But the streets always had walls, stairs, picnic tables, and anything else you could work your way up to and launch off of, which turned out to be great practice you could have an excuse to do on your ride to work or wherever. Something that's harder to justify with one tiny gear. I did trials for at least a decade before I got an actual "trials bike." I was immediately able to back wheel hop up and down bleachers and side hop up picnic tables with it because the bike I learned on weighed close to 40 lbs and that thing (a "heavy tools") weighed half that and had geometry intended to be on the back wheel with. I also immediately stripped the steel freewheel hub on it doing that so it was a good thing I had a mountain bike I could bomb the streets on while I swapped that out with a BMX racing hub that wouldn't strip out. A mountain bike with a rock ring is the OG street trials bike. So you're on the right path, sir. God speed.

Edit: I just realized you are riding a dirt jumper. I hear Polygon and think cross country. 😄

On that note, some suggestions. (A dirt Jumper is also the only bike I have set up for trials right now sadly. It's hard to find an affordable build project where I'm located.)

Cockpit; the short stem and 20mm rise bars that came on it weren't gonna cut it for me body position-wise even though I'm only 5' 9". I slapped an 80mm rise bar with a 35deg 90mm long stem on it. But that still doesn't put me out far enough over the front end so I'm swapping that with a 20deg ish 90mm which may not look cool, but I don't care what it looks like, only if it feels right on the back wheel when going up things.
Drive train; I didn't have the option to swap to a bigger gear in the back and it's a Spanish BB. So the most economical solution was a screw-on 19T up front with an Echo ISIS BB and some trial techs. Now it's a 19T to 9T micro-drive which feels pretty ok kicking, and I can still yeet it around at the skate park. I just have to make sure I pump not pedal and choose lines wisely. 
Any bike can be a trials bike if you set it up right.
Lastly. You are way more likely to break your bum hucking jumps and riding ramps than hopping rocks and riding sections. You'll be fine.

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Edited by The Ugly American
Spelling and punctuation. Gahhh.
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Posted (edited)

Wow that's a long post :) Thanks! About cross country, I should add that I ride Trek X-Caliber 8 almost daily so it's not a problem to start learning wheelies, as you suggest. But it's a 29 inch wheeler and learning stuff kills me, super hard on a big bike. Which actually isn't really surprising cuz all things physical are hard for me for now. I lost 40 kilograms since 2022 and started getting back on bikes in March. Feels good :)

Funny thing is, I was feeling super unsure standing on my Trid since I bought it and it all changed when I put new big, pinned flat pedals from Crank Brothers on it. Surprising difference, I finally feel like I stand on a platform that covers my foot and shoes, and not some weird, small, almost spd-like little thing (but without spd shoes lol).

You mentioned important thing with that setup of yours actually. I noticed that my bar is really low in comparison and I'm standing on my Trid really bent to the front. I'm thinking about changing it to some more trials-specific, like yours. I suppose it's way more comfy to pull it up when it's higher.

I guess my plan to reduce spendings for fun-related things will not go very well 😅

Edited by marekdam1
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1 hour ago, marekdam1 said:

Wow that's a long post :) Thanks! About cross country, I should add that I ride Trek X-Caliber 8 almost daily so it's not a problem to start learning wheelies, as you suggest. But it's a 29 inch wheeler and learning stuff kills me, super hard on a big bike. Which actually isn't really surprising cuz all things physical are hard for me for now. I lost 40 kilograms since 2022 and started getting back on bikes in March. Feels good :)

Funny thing is, I was feeling super unsure standing on my Trid since I bought it and it all changed when I put new big, pinned flat pedals from Crank Brothers on it. Surprising difference, I finally feel like I stand on a platform that covers my foot and shoes, and not some weird, small, almost spd-like little thing (but without spd shoes lol).

You mentioned important thing with that setup of yours actually. I noticed that my bar is really low in comparison and I'm standing on my Trid really bent to the front. I'm thinking about changing it to some more trials-specific, like yours. I suppose it's way more comfy to pull it up when it's higher.

I guess my plan to reduce spendings for fun-related things will not go very well 😅

My bad. I remember first starting out and the things I whish I knew back then.

The crank setup is the only thing trial-specific on there, and the bars and stem set me back less than 100 bucks total. Cockpit setup is an important skill set in trials. Find out what the geometry of your bike is and work up from there. The measurement you want to pay attention to is the length from the center of the BB to the top of the bars. You don't want it to close even for a street trials setup, but you also don't want to stretch it out like a comp stock bike, cause you're not going to be doing huge back-to-front gaps on a dirt jumper. That being said if you get the right combo on there you can always put the bars forward and still be within your reach for maximum bunny hop leverage but be able to go more full trials mode on it. I like to make my bikes multi-function cause I still want to be able to ride a skate park and be a little more comfortable if it's not a straight-up trials bike which has a back wheel-oriented resting position. With that raked-out geometry positioning yourself closer to the front axle is going to be a big help but you are going to feel a lot more comfortable rolling into things on it, so the handling on both wheels is still important. Ali Clarkson put this thing called a slacker headset on his hex to stretch out the wheelbase and that would be a good set of videos to watch. In your case if you are running a suspension fork still (keep that BB high if you can manage it) I'd actually recommend running it in the -2deg setting to get you a steeper head tube angle assuming you have the aluminum Frame. My chromoly's headtube has an IS bearing set up so I can't even put the cane creek on there to achieve that, If you have the steel frame we're in the same boat. My only option is stem and bars or swap to a rigid fork which will drop my bottom bracket into the negative and make it way less back wheel friendly. 20 degrees here and 20mm there can make a huge difference for you doing trials. Look up RAD measurement for bike set up and that should get you started. Measure thrice and cut once. You already have the gears sorted, so for about 200 bucks minus shipping, you could get that thing much closer to feeling like a hex than a dirt jumper.

As for the 29r... the same RAD setup method applies for that you just probably don't want to mess with the head angle too much if you're trail riding it. Being only 5' 9" I have to get a small 29r and for older XC ones my foot used to rub the front tire on that cockpit with 70mm cranks, which is why I prefer 27.5(650b) set-ups for my trail bikes. My reach measurement is about 430mm which puts me firmly in the small category on most modern geometry bikes, but my RAD measurement (center of the BB to the top of the bars) is around 785mm. The fit matters more than the wheel size, if your bike is sized right for you and you set it up well you should have no issues trialing it. It just takes a little getting used to. 💪😅 The X-caliber looks like it would be a wheelie machine with the right bar stem combo. My dad used to run BMX bars on his cross-country bike because he had a bad back... it was ridiculously easy to wheelie. Much harder to bunny-hop up a picnic table. 😂 

Edited by The Ugly American
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I don't have a resource to factor bar measurement into your setup, that honestly comes down to a preference more than not since you're setting up a multi-use bike. It's all pretty standard rise over run though. #Math

RAD size measurement resource.
https://madscientistmtb.com/rad-calculator/

Stem length comparison resource.
http://www.yojimg.net/bike/web_tools/stem.php

I'd hook a string to your BB and bust out a measuring tape to help you figure out what works visually on the fly. Then you can plug numbers into the stem calculator and try to match what you come up with using that. If you're not comfortable on the bike it will make it harder to learn for a lot of reasons. I used this method just now and decided a 70mm 10deg rise stem would work out better with my 80mm bar rise. Which unsurprisingly ends up making my setup look more like an extra small XC frame the way I used to set up my bikes back in the late 90's. 🤓 It's definitely a preference thing. The highest rise bar you could get back then was a 40mm which is honestly probably better if you're not a BMX'r who likes that sort of thing. I know all the street trials bikes seem to come stock with a 75mm rise but that might not feel great on your longer bike. Have fun doing math homework. Just think of it as a calculated way to save your butt. 😂

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Thanks :) To be honest I don't actually understand all this measurements and I think I'll stay with what I got for now since I'm so inexperienced that I don't know what's good or bad for my riding.

Yesterday I practiced wheelie and trackstand on my 29" Trek. What I felt after the session was that the most missing part in my little Polygon bike is... lack of gear switching. I know trials bikes are single speed too but still. Last week I changed the back gear from stock 14 teeth to 18 teeth and it's much better still hard as hell. I'm gonna change it to even bigger like 21 or 22-23 cuz I just can't kick the pedal properly when I need it. But with bigger back gear comes lack of potencial speed when riding a little distance or getting some momentum before the jump :( Ehhh and there goes my "multiuse" bike.

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On 7/6/2024 at 2:04 AM, marekdam1 said:

Thanks :) To be honest I don't actually understand all this measurements and I think I'll stay with what I got for now since I'm so inexperienced that I don't know what's good or bad for my riding.

Yesterday I practiced wheelie and trackstand on my 29" Trek. What I felt after the session was that the most missing part in my little Polygon bike is... lack of gear switching. I know trials bikes are single speed too but still. Last week I changed the back gear from stock 14 teeth to 18 teeth and it's much better still hard as hell. I'm gonna change it to even bigger like 21 or 22-23 cuz I just can't kick the pedal properly when I need it. But with bigger back gear comes lack of potencial speed when riding a little distance or getting some momentum before the jump :( Ehhh and there goes my "multiuse" bike.

Understood. A much more hands-on way of figuring out your bike's cockpit situation is to hop on Amazon and buy the cheapest adjustable stem you can find that's about 90mm long (add it to your bike toolbox). A stock comp bike's stem is usually well over 100mm and puts you out over the front axle. Figuring out the angle that will feel right is the hard part. The actual length and bar height you'd prefer will present themselves once you figure out what makes it easy to pivot up front without losing your steerability on two wheels. For example in the absence of an inclinometer, I drastically underestimated my head tube angle with a 100mm shock up front. But I knew I needed to move the cockpit a bar width out and down to get it where it would feel right. So I went to the local shop and found the one I needed to achieve that using side-by-side visual comparison. It ended up being a 100mm 6deg rise. So I was really glad I didn't order the 75mm 12deg rise. And it now feels glorious. Front-wheel pivots take no effort and it somehow got way easier to get on the back wheel without feeling floppy when it's up there. I have yet to take it to the skate park to see how it feels carving and jumping but it's definitely easier to bunny hop, manual, and time my moves. I got the math half right and eyeballed it the rest of the way. That basically moved the point where my bars mount to the stem about halfway between the top of the steer tube and the front axle out from where it was, and it pretty much matches the angle of my top tube making a straight line from the rear axle to where the bars sit. So it makes sense that it feels more balanced in general. Your bike might only need a 55mm stem with a 17deg rise to achieve the same thing. Just don't go below the angle of the top tube into the negative because that will make it horrible for getting on the back wheel. (Leverage)

Being an old guy with a bad back, it felt pretty awful going up a picnic table which is something I've done so many times I could probably do it in my sleep. But if it hurts like hell when I'm not crashing, it's not fun. Now it feels like it's supposed to. Like I'm just using the bike to launch up it without much effort and it doesn't hurt. I know that a lot of riders will chalk this up to a preference but with proper setup, it takes the literal growing pains out of doing new moves. The more times you can practice a move without getting an overuse injury the less likely it is you'll ever get one.

I'm not sure if guns are popular where you live but the idea is sort of like zeroing a rifle sight. You can learn to administer the skill of marksmanship much better if the riffle is zero'd to itself, not the person using it. Most of the time skilled archers aren't paying attention to the bow or the arrow. They're spotting the target and they can adjust to any bow and arrow combination you hand them (over here we call that Kentucky windage 🤣). Bikes are built from the ground up, skills are administered from the top down. If the platform is solid you'll have a much easier time figuring out what you're doing wrong as opposed to what the bike is doing for you. Zero the bike to itself. Then it won't feel sketchy and you won't be so worried about crashing in general. Your brain will thank you for it.

Slow is smooth, and smooth, is fast.

As for the gears. Yeah I miss those on a single-speed setup, but being able to huck the bike when you have to bail and not readjust a derailleur or bend back a hanger takes a lot of stress out of the game when you're going all out or just starting. Though things have come a long way since rigging road bike parts to stay in place and thumb shifters (which I still love, but can be a huge pain in the ass). For reference on the street rig, I believe the inspired bikes come with a 22 up front and a 14 in the rear. So 8 teeth difference. Back in the day I used to run my middle chain ring which was like a 27 and 3rd or 4th gear in the back, which was either 8 or 10 teeth difference depending on whether I was trying to roll through a section or do more static maneuvering. I rode all of "slick rock trail" in Moab in the 10-tooth different configuration. Going downhill I didn't need to pedal and going up I felt it was easier to carry my weight up then dig into it to keep me moving, and because trials any little ledgy thing was just another way for me to carry the momentum or steal some from the terrain. Incidentally, I end up running third gear in the rear on really techy climbs, doing trialsy things, and wheelies on the E-bike as well. Right now I'm running a 19 up front and a 9 tooth in the rear on the street set up and it gives me just enough ugga dugga to get dropped in at the skate park as long as I chose my line right. Limitation is scientifically proven to increase creativity. It just means you'll have to make the skate part work for you and it forces you to develop a flow in your riding. I'm not super into dirt jumps anyway so I don't miss that part of it, and it's mostly still doable if the jumps are well-built. There's a formula for figuring out gear inches but that's more complicated and getting in the ballpark and figuring it out by feel will probably work out better for you. I like all the bike geek stuff nowadays cause I'm old and everyone needs a hobby. FYI, if you have a cassette hub on the rear of your dirt jumper you should be able to fit two different gears with a chain tensioner from Tarty bikes and then you can maintain that usability for getting to the skate park. There's also the tried and true skate board method for getting from place to place. Or as I refer to it, the high-speed strato dab. 😂

I'm not the kind of person that does social media, but I feel like there's a YouTube video in here somewhere. Thank you for forcing me to think about something like a new guy. I forget what thats like some time and I think it may have stolen some joy along the way.

 

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