You’ve probably a story like this one before: Someone was out for a ride and a car pulled out in front of them unexpectedly, or something similar. They didn’t want to get hurt, so they deliberately laid down their bike in order to prevent themselves from running into the car. After hearing such a story, you probably thought that your friend’s quick thinking, daring, and skill prevented injury, or worse. Then you got to wondering when and how you should lay down your motorcycle in such a situation. Fear not, for we shall tell you.
First, let’s cover when to lay down your motorcycle.
The answer is simple:
Bet you weren’t expecting that. If you were, then give yourself a pat on the back.
Hopefully, it is now obvious that we’re not going to tell you how to lay down your motorcycle, either. Instead, we’re going to tell you why you should stay on it and how to do so, because that is always favourable. If you know or have ever known someone who has laid their bike down on purpose, then that’s a good sign that their motorcycle control skills were (and quite possibly still are) lacking. That, or they were simply trying to cover up the fact that they really lost control and are embarrassed. Well, they should be.
The idea behind laying down your motorcycle to avoid injuries has become very readily accepted simply because the people who have done so got lucky. Thus, to them, the concept is a gospel truth. Those who’ve been in such a situation only once and came away unscathed should be congratulated on beating the odds, not on their motorcycle riding skills. Those who know better understand that it leaves things purely to chance. It’s best that you have as much control as possible over what goes on while you’re in the saddle. If you deliberately lay down your motorcycle, you have absolutely no control over where you go or your motorcycle goes. Zero. Why leave it up to chance if you can maintain control?
Upright, a motorcycle rests on tires. On its side, a motorcycle rests on plastic, metal, or a bit of both. The simple truth is that the traction your motorcycle’s plastic and metal bits offer you is far, far inferior to the traction that your tires offer you. A motorcycle that you keep upright has the best chance of coming to a safe stop in the shortest distance because the tires give you the control to do so.
Rather than laying your bike down, rely on your braking techniques and your swerving techniques.
First, use both your brakes. Always. You will stop in the shortest distance possible. Yes, your rear tire will get light, but it will still offer you some traction. Use it. Second, shift your weight backwards by moving back in your seat and resist the natural tendency to throw your weight forward onto your handlebars. That will help stabilize your bike by evening out the weight distribution. Third, grip your motorcycle’s fuel tank with your knees and/or thighs because you will need to keep yourself in position on top of your bike.
If you are unfamiliar with how your tires behave at or near the braking limit, then it’s a good idea to find a safe, secluded place to get familiar. One technique for getting a feel for your front tire’s limits under braking involves rolling at a reasonably low speed, then applying full front brake force. As soon as the front brake locks, you will hear as well as feel the front tire break traction, so you’ll need to let go of the brake lever immediately. You need full attention to do this, but you will know your limit. Beyond that, practice full-power stops with both brakes routinely. If you participate in track days, use that as an opportunity to refine your braking technique as well.
When it comes to swerving, it’s all about your counter-steering technique. If you are in a situation where it is safe to swerve without any obstructions, then doing so will put you right out of harm’s way. Remember to avoid target fixating, too. If there is room to brake before swerving, then do so, as long as you release the brakes before you counter-steer. If it is optimal to swerve and then brake, then do that. Never perform both actions simultaneously. If you do, then you’ll find the limits of your front tire very quickly and you’ll crash.
Want to go one better? Use SIPDE to avoid getting to the point of having to put all of the above into practice in the first place! If this is all seems kind of new to you, then consider taking a safety course. There, you’ll learn some important fundamentals in a safe environment.
Consider this: if you don’t have the time to brake, then you probably don’t have the time to lay down your motorcycle; if you do have enough time to lay down your motorcycle, then you should be using your brakes. Develop the confidence in your bike and in your abilities, and the idea of laying your bike down to avoid injury will begin to seem as antiquated as it really is.
Do you have any other techniques to avoid laying a bike down? Share them below.