The chances are high that if you have spent a good bit of time around motorcyclists, you have probably heard someone tell the story of how they, or someone they knew, had to lay down their motorcycle in order to avoid a serious accident with another vehicle. These stories are certainly exciting to hear and recount; however, they tend to not describe his or her injuries. So it may yet to occur to you if laying down the motorcycle was truly the best course of action after all. Well, the results are in: It almost certainly wasn’t! Let’s take a look at why this myth exists, the reality behind it, and what you should do instead in emergency situations.
Laying Down Your Motorcycle Helps Avoid Major Injuries
Laying Down Your Motorcycle Often Results in Broken Bones, “Road Rash,” Head Injuries, Neck Injuries, and a Totaled Bike.
So if these dire results are the likely outcome from a motorcyclist attempting to lay down his or her bike, then why does this myth even exist? Why would this piece of advice be so pervasive, and why are the stories of riders who have done this so bountiful? It turns out there’s a solid reason based in the history of motorcycling that explains this erroneous belief.
THE OLD DAYS: LAYING DOWN YOUR MOTORCYCLE USED TO BE AN ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE
The reason that so many motorcyclists swear by the practice of laying down their bikes in order to avoid an accident is that in the early days of motorcycling history this practice was actually taught as a safety measure and recommended to riders. The reason was because the brakes on early bikes were so bad that actually succeeding in stopping before a crash may have been an unlikely option. Additionally, early motorcycles often had poor maneuverability which meant that swerving to avoid an accident was frequently off the table.
NOWADAYS: BETTER TECHNOLOGY MEANS MUCH BETTERS ALTERNATIVES
Today’s modern motorcycles offer a number of significant technological improvements including:
-Better Conventional Brakes
-Tires with Better Traction
-Enhanced Motorcycle maneuverability
These advantages add up to a much better likelihood of stopping or avoiding the accident before it happens. By contrast, if the motorcyclist voluntarily lays down the bike at the first sign of trouble, without doing everything possible to stop or swerve, then it almost guarantees injury to the rider and damage to the bike. The much better option then is to attempt to keep yourself and your bike completely free of harm and simply stop or swerve instead.
SCIENCE: YOU CAN’T FIGHT PHYSICS
Still not completely convinced that laying down your motorcycle is usually the wrong move? Then keep this important scientific tidbit in mind: The friction and traction between rubber (your tires) and the road is much greater than it is between plastic, steel, and chrome (the materials found on the side of your bike) and that same pavement. That means that for purely scientific reasons you stand a better chance of stopping with your bike upright than on its side.
THE EXCEPTION: IS LAYING DOWN THE MOTORCYCLE EVER THE RIGHT MOVE?
You’ve probably heard that there’s an exception to every rule, and you may be wondering if there is also an exception for this one. The fact is, it’s unlikely that laying down your newer model motorcycle is the better move over trying to stop or swerve, but it may be the right course of action in a few rare instances. The only real reason to do it, is if you are almost certain that you will not be able to stop and you have nowhere to swerve to avoid the accident, and when failing to stop will result in very dire consequences. For instance, you may be about to crash through or over a guardrail and down a very steep, mountainous embankment. In that case, it’s probably better to abandon the bike that to go with it over the side of a cliff. Just remember that once you lay your motorcycle down you cannot control where you, or it, will ultimately end up.
SAFETY MEASURES: DO THIS INSTEAD
So what should do instead to maximize your success rate for swerving or stopping?
– Safe, Successful Braking
Successful, rapid stopping is best accomplished by quickly applying both the front and rear brakes at the same time. If doing so results in your front wheel locking, then you need to quickly disengage the brake before firmly reapplying pressure to the rear brake. By contrast, if it is your rear wheel that locks up rather than your front wheel, then it is best to allow it to remain locked and to continue applying the brakes, until you have stopped completely.
– Swerving Smartly
If you are attempting to swerve to avoid the accident then there are also some important things to keep in mind. First, make sure that you are not swerving into another vehicle or obstacle. Second, if the situation calls for both braking and swerving, then either apply your brake before or after you swerve. Do not attempt to swerve and brake at the same time or you may lose control of the motorcycle.
– Prevention and Vigilance Are Key
Remember that it is one thing to know how to handle an emergency situation once one arises, but ideally you should take every effort to avoid finding yourself in that situation in the first place. That means driving safely at all times is essential. Follow traffic laws, do not speed or tailgate the vehicles in front of you, always try to leave yourself an escape route, and remain attentive and focused while you are driving. Additionally, take care of yourself and never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while tired or sick.
– Maintenance Should Never Be Ignored
One of the most crucial factors in whether or not you will be able to stop is your tires. It is essential that you do not let them wear out and that you are driving with the proper tires for your bike and terrain. Additionally, make sure that your brakes are in good working order and that your motorcycle is free of other mechanical failures waiting to happen. Take care of your bike so that it can take care of you.
– Safety Is On-Going
Just because you have been riding for years, doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from attending a motorcycle safety course on a periodic basis. Safety tips and guidelines may change over time and even if they don’t, it can’t hurt to be reminded of them every once in a while.
Following these safety tips and not laying your bike down, will not ensure that you will never get into an accident, but it will greatly improve your chances of avoiding major injury. Please also remember to spread the word and do your part to dispel this dangerous motorcycling myth about laying your bike down to avoid accidents.