Those Who Have Crashed and Those Who, Well …

I was at a party recently and someone happened to mention that I’m a motorcycle safety guy. That pretty much triggered a series of testimonials by a number of folks conveying how they or someone they knew had to “lay it down” when some idiot cager pulled in front of them. As each told his unique story, the common theme was, “there was nothing I could do.” To prove it, the riders who told me firsthand showed me their scars. The folks telling of their husband/son/brother/cousin/neighbor went into gory detail about injuries and hospital stays, somehow believing that information was critical for me to know. I’ve experienced this scenario many times and each time I bite my tongue to keep from being rude or to in any way downplay their experiences with my contrasting take on things. The truth is, more than 90% of motorcycle crashes can be avoided. Contrary to popular belief, our destiny is not strictly in the hands of other drivers on the road nor are we just living right or “lucky” to have avoided crashing up to this point. It’s been said that there are two kinds of riders: those who have crashed and those who will. Well, I would argue that any time we reach the point of “there’s nothing I could do” and end up in an inevitable crash it is only because we have failed to effectively recognize a developing situation (or the potential of one) early and establish our response before it is too late to do anything about it. Examine any crash you have seen, heard of or experienced and I would challenge that nearly every instance could likely have been avoided, regardless of whom may have been  found at fault.



6 Responses to “Those Who Have Crashed and Those Who, Well …”

  1. motorhead30510 Says:

    I laughed at your quoted phrase “had to lay it down.’

    I have heard so many old salts telling campfire tales which inevitably include that phrase, and then a full description of heroic wrassling of the handlebars, sliding one foot on the pavement and (even though they may not have practiced this skill for decades) managing to initiate a life-saving slide (think: lots of sparks and loud screeching sounds) which allowed them to avoid the impending disaster.

    Everyone who can, in a split second, throw their motorcycle sideways into a slide and guide it deftly, say, under the belly of a tractor-trailer please put a quarter in my pocket. If you can also do this intentionally, rather than slamming on the rear brake in panic, accidentally locking the tire and losing control in a slide out, better raise it to fifty cents.

    I’m going broke fast.

    I won’t say that no one has ever, not never no way no how avoided some sort of mishap using an intentional maneuver which included the motorcycle sliding on its side.

    I will say this: rubber has a higher coefficient of friction than chrome, especially the rubber our motorcycle tires are made of. Most motorcycle front brakes are capable of bringing the front wheel to near-lock up when applied forcefully. If in an attempt to avoid slamming into a hazard directly in front of your motorcycle, given the choice of keeping the bike upright and hauling down your velocity with the front brake, or throwing the bike over on its shiny parts and sliding unabated forever, would you intentionally choose the latter technique?

    Back in the early days, before motorcycle front brakes or tires were what they are today, I understand some police departments required motor cops to be able to do this maneuver. I would call it a last-option desperate act.

    We’ve come a long way, baby, since those days.

  2. Randy Kuklis Says:

    As a MSF-certified instructor, I hear this quite often from Basic RiderCourse students as they relate the experience of someone they know who had to “lay it down”. They will sometimes ask if they will be learning this technique during the BRC (or any MSF course). By laying it down, the motorcycle pilot relinquishes any control over the motorcycle to, call it what you wish – fate or luck, and may also risk their own safety. Unfortunately, such BRC students are unaware of the details that led to such actions, but it can always be related back to the rider not paying attention, being caught off-guard, and suddenly being presented with a situation that requires immediate attention. Immediate meaning there is little or no time to analyze what is unfolding and plan an appropriate course of action.

    In support of this, I am a volunteer at a local level 1 trauma hospital. Part of my volunteer service is to visit trauma survivors, being one myself (non-vehicle related). I see a lot of motorcycle crash survivors. I usually don’t tell them I teach MSF courses as well as advanced riding courses. I always ask them what brought them to this point in their lives. I listen to their stories of how their crashes occurred. Based on what they tell me, and the rest that I fill in, they are there because of something they did or failed to do. Not because of another driver.

  3. skiph Says:

    I’m with you, motorhead30510. I just have to roll my eyes whenever I hear, “…had to lay her down.” Layin’ her down is crashing. What sense does it make to crash to avoid a crash?

  4. Ian Shuttler Says:

    I really appreciate all the comments here. My first advanced instructor in the UK impressed upon me that in the event of one having to perform an emergency stop or being involved in a crash – you will have made a mistake! I can honestly say that in analysing all the crashes I’ve had (fortunately, very few and when I was much younger!), in every case I made a mistake, and often that mistake was several seconds before the incident; a lapse in concentration, incorrect observation and interpretation or being slightly too fast for the prevailing conditions. But I made the mistakes.

  5. Michael Kyser Says:

    I’m a RC too, and based upon the many ERCs that I’ve taught, and upon witnessing the skills of some, “experienced” riders, I’m of the belief that motorists do see us more than we give them credit for. If they didn’t, some of the, “experienced” riders wouldn’t have made it to the RiderCourse!
    Those who think that they need to lay it down to avoid a mishap should do so before they begin their journey…and leave it there.

  6. Manny Says:

    Perhaps all accidents can be avoided if all we focus on is imminent danger, such as a speeding car crossing their red light at every intersection in an urban area when the light is green for you, so you slow down after every block just to make sure. But, if you take safety that far, you won’t be enjoying riding the motorcycle much, so you might as well drive a car since you could have a cage protecting you in the event of a crash. Everyone chooses their own balance between Safe/Boring and Risk/Thrill.

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