The embarrassment is immediate. Then there’s that sickening feeling when you see your bike lying over on it’s side. It’s even more painful when it’s new. But that’s not the worst. Assuming no major damage to bike or body, shattered confidence can be the most disabling outcome from a dropped bike.
While no one wants or expects their bike to tip over, it will happen to even the most experienced riders, usually while stopped or during slow speed maneuvers. Ironically, it happens very quickly. Once you’ve passed the tipping point, you don’t stand a chance of keeping it up. The good news is that other than the damage to pride, there is usually very little injury.
With the first 10,000 km under my belt, I was proud that there was nary a scrape on my beautiful new bike. And then we were over. My drop happened because of improper slow speed control. After stopping to let the driveway clear, I proceeded with a slow right angle turn on a bit of a grade. Overly cautious, I held back on the throttle and ended up stalling it during the turn. We were over before I could say damn! I relate this story not because I’m particularly proud of it. Rather, it’s to encourage new riders for whom dropping their bike can be devastating.
There’s a saying that the best offence is a good defense. By far the best defense is to know how to manage your bike during those situations most likely to result in a spill. It’s also wise to be prepared for the inevitable so that when it happens, you know how to react. Rather than letting it get the best of you, here’s what to do:
- Shake yourself off and get up – unless you’ve managed to jump clear. Then you’re already up and just need to shake yourself off.
- Turn off the engine using the kill switch. Follow up by turning off the ignition as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Make sure there are no fluids leaking, especially gasoline.
- Take charge of the situation. You got yourself into this pickle; now get yourself out! This helps restore confidence too.
- Engage help if it’s available. Fortunately, my friend was right there and lent a hand – and manpower. And he took direction well.
- Make sure the bike is in gear. The last thing you want as it gets upright is for it to start rolling.
- Since my bike was on its right side, I put the side stand down before lifting it – just in case we “over” lifted.
- Clear the ground so you have good foot traction,make sure no fluids have spilled and use one of two methods to upright the bike. (More on the specifics in a future post.)
- Back into it using your legs to provide strength, or
- Cock the wheel in the direction of the lift and then complete a two stage lift. Surprisingly easy and the method we used.
- Make sure the bike is stable and assess it carefully for damage.
- After taking a few deep breaths, get back on and continue your ride. Learn from what happened and avoid a repeat.
10 reasons why bikes tip over (in no particular order).
- Forgetting to put the sidestand down before dismounting.
- Stalling and losing your balance.
- Loosing your footing while at a stop. Loose gravel, sand, or a simple pebble can cause this. So can putting your foot down in a pothole.
- Sidestand sinks into hot pavement and no longer supports the bike.
- Leaving it running while on the sidestand on an uneven surface. My previous bike was carbureted and needed to be warmed up. I left it running while on enough of a downward slope that it vibrated forward, the sidestand came up and over it went.
- Improper technique while putting the bike on or taking it off the center stand. It can also happen if the bike is on the center stand on an uneven surface. Or hot pavement.
- Applying the front brakes during a slow speed turn.
- Stopping suddenly and losing your balance.
- Losing good judgment due to fatigue.
- Not knowing how to effectively manage the weight and maneuver your bike while it’s stopped..
Be prepared. Practice your skills in a parking lot, free from distraction. If you drop your bike in traffic, you’ll be able to react quickly, minimize the embarassment and be on your way before too many people notice.