Crash… and Walk Away With a Bruised Ego

Dress for the crash. That means you should always wear a DOT helmet, protective jacket, good pants, gloves and sturdy boots.

A friend who wishes to remain anonymous recently went down. One moment he looked away and next thing you know the car in front of him stopped short. My friend laid the bike down and slid across the pavement… bike slid too and came to rest under the car. Thanks to my friend’s helmet and leather jacket the worst bruise was to the ego. He got up and spent the rest of the weekend riding his scuffed motorcycle. As far as crashes go, this is a happy ending!

Keep a safe following distance, practice your emergency swerving and braking, wear your protective gear.

18 Responses to “Crash… and Walk Away With a Bruised Ego”

  1. Glad your friend came away unscathed!
    Good advise.

  2. I’m glad your friend is okay.

  3. glad your friend survived the fall and the bruised ego will hopefully help him live and ride longer and better 🙂

  4. Thanks Chris. I think a close call like that might result in a heightened sense of alertness.

  5. Firstly, glad your friend walked away.

    Secondly, I wish the “lay the bike down” thing would go away forever.

  6. I have read enough on motorcycle safety to hear what you are saying ID. However I ask you, if one were not following at a safe distance, looked away for a moment and then had a split second to decide on laying it down vs emergency braking and hitting a car which is better? It’s a crash either way at this point. For the sake of this question assume a swerve is not possible.

  7. Jay, I’ve just gotta throw my two cents in on this one… sometimes , even when you’re following all the ‘rules’ a ‘situation’ arises in which you have to make a split second decision. and sometimes laying the bike down isn’t an option. At that point it becomes an exercise in self preservation – you do what you have to to minimize the outcome

  8. Yes, I was thinking of your incident and comparing the two in my head when I wrote the above comment. I think that ID was indicating that hitting the car as you did while applying emergency braking is the correct technique. I have read that laying it down is not a valid technique but I don’t believe that to be 100% true. Sometimes you have to hit the eject button and get out of dodge. The main thing is to dress everyday as if today is the day I’ll need it.

  9. Jay,

    You asked a fair question which deserves a fair answer. As you may be aware, the hit and run thing, or leaving a sniping comment isn’t my style.

    I could try to subjugate my propensity for verbosity and provide a fairly succint answer but it will still be longer than a normal comment. Out of respect to you, I would not presume to take up your blog space like that without your permission.

  10. Permision granted sir. I look forward to a detailed answer in all its glory.

  11. I was planning on a more comprehensive comment but decided it would take up too much room. You have already kindly given me permission but I dont’ want to wear out my welcome. Therefore, I will just lay out a few high points here. Further discussion here is certainly welcome to me at the instigation of commenters. I also plan to do a post on my own site that will be more detailed. Then I won’t feel guilty taking up room!

    Also, please understand that I do not wish to come across as making judgements on decisions riders may have made. My goal is to simply share information so that riders can make a decision based on a more widespread data base. My information is based on being a motorcycle safety professional who trains everyone from beginners, to civilians on a track, to motorcycle officers. This is my world.

    We will presume that we are all on the same page that prevention is the first rule. However, we start at the point that we either made a mistake, missed something, or Bob in the Buick did something quickly enough that we now find ourselves making the decision on braking or laying the bike down.

    Firstly, putting the bike on the ground is a self induced accident. There will positively be damage to the bike. It also guarantees that the rider’s body will impact the pavement. Sliding on said pavement will also happen to various degrees depending on speed, gear, etc. So now it is not a question of whether road rash will happen, simply to what degree it will occur.

    Most riders who put the bike on the ground say they do so to scrub off speed. It’s obvious that a rider sliding on the road can’t easily change direction so it’s not a move to ride around the obstacle.

    How efficient is this at scrubbing off speed compared to proper braking? Once upon a time bikes had woefully inadequate brakes. That hasn’t been true for many, many, years now. Bike brakes are good. Tire compounds are good. It is no longer required to make a bike into an anchor to slow it down.

    Friction between two objects is measured in what’s called “co-efficient of friction”. How resistant is a material to sliding? Put another way, what has more friction to slow a bike down? A rider’s body and the bike’s paint job? Or the rubber tires under braking force?

    Studies have been conducted that show a sliding rider will scrub off between 8 and 10 mph per second. Properly braked tires scrub off between 15 and 20 mph. Notably, then, braking is twice as effective at slowing the bike down.

    Here are some examples of speeds and stopping distances. This is for non-abs bikes.

    15 mph 15 feet
    25 mph 31 feet
    30 mph 44 feet
    45 mph 99 feet

    The point is that a properly braked motorcycle can be stopped pretty quickly.

    At 25 mph, for example, consider a rider who realizes they are in trouble. Beginning braking is easy because the rider is already in position on the bike. If a rider makes the decison to bail, it takes a bit of time. The body needs to be moved to one side. The bike needs to be pushed down, and so on. All the while the gap is rapidly decreasing.

    It seems entirely feasible that a rider who bails could have, in reality, stopped the bike by braking. Damage to the bike or rider? Maybe, maybe not. Once committed to laying a bike down, though, damage to the rider and bike is a hundred percent certain.

    I doubt a rider will decide to bail at speeds 45 mph or over. Imagine the damage to the rider and how far they will slide. Leather slides. That’s one of the reasons motorcycle racers wear it. Sliding is the opposite of slowing down quickly. We all know that a lot of riders decide to ride in jeans and t-shirts. That’s their choice but the consequences of laying a bike down are going to be costly.

    So what if a rider can’t stop in time to avoid hitting the car? Let’s end by taking a quick look at the differences between hitting the car while sliding versus while braking. That was the question, wasn’t it? What if you’re going to hit the car anyway? Isn’t it better to leave the bike?

    Braking until the last positive second will scrub off every bit of speed that can be scrubbed. The impact will be less than when a sliding rider hits the car. Less impact means less damage. We go back to the physics of how a sliding rider slows versus bike tires.

    A sliding rider will likely thump pretty hard up against the side or back of the car. What will more likely happen is that a rider on the pavement will get wedged under the bumper. A rider on top of the bike, however, will impact higher. A lot depends on the type of vehicle but it’s possible a rider will be able to tumble over the hood or trunk which will further disperse kenetic energy.

    I concede it’s possible that either way a rider will be injured. Which case will cause injury? On the ground or on the bike? Your friend sounds like he ended up under the car. Couldn’t tell if it was just the bike or him, too. Your friend was wise to be wearing a leather jacket and helmet. Although his legs might have been vulnerable.

    I’m only throwing this out for thought, but is it possible he could have stopped the bike in the same amount of distance? Consider the distance he slid and the speed he was riding when it happened. Again, not to judge. Only asking folks to think about other possibilities.

    Anyway, this has gone long enough. I don’t want to abuse your kindness. Look for my post if you want a more comprehensive look at the situation.

    By the way, I sincerely appreciate the fact that you advocate practicing skills and wearing proper gear. That, and your reasonable3 minded attitude. I remember when you started this blog, Jay, and were looking for advice on group rides. You’ve come a long way since then. You’ve certainly earned the right to be taken seriously as a motorcyclist, Road Captain, Sir!!

  12. Thank you Iron Dad. I appreciate the time it took you to answer the question seriously. Keep up the great work educating and training fellow bikers.

  13. Again, putting in my two cents… in our “incident” as you called it… we were approx 100 feet from the car that failed to yield to oncoming traffic (us) We were traveling at the posted speed limit which was 50 (maybe 55?) MPH… braking slowed us down, but we were still doing about 35 -40 MPH at the point of impact. Pete angled the bike (I don’t want to use the term aimed, but…) towards the lowest point of the car, which was the front fender which is where we hit, We indeed did vault over the hood, but the inertia was still enough to propel me approx 20 more feet past the car and onto the road. We were lucky.. we walked away with essentially minor injuries.. In my opinion, laying the bike down could have as irondad said, put us under the car that pulled out in front of us or worse into traffic in the next lane (the road we were on is a four lane divided ‘highway’)

  14. Last year was a little rough. Too many visits to the hospital. Glad this year is going better (knock on wood). Only one visit so far. Hope to keep it that way. i do wish everyone would wear a helmet. Drives me crazy seeing all these riders wearing shorts and sneakers and of course no helmet. Seems like the kids on rocket bikes are coming out of the woodwork. They are riding way too reckless.

  15. AMEN to that!

  16. I do not mean to disrespect anyone here or hurt anyone’s feeling intentionally.

    The words I write below will be hurtful to a few, but I am your friend and the wounds of a friend are faithful.

    I hope it will be taken in the context of safety and wanring with a little humor and not insult.

    For any insult, I apologize in advance.


    How do you lay a bike down? Is this really a viable option in a split second or is it a result of improper braking under panic?

    In those precious few seconds before impact do you run through your mind the proper technique or procedure, that you were never taught, for laying a bike down, because you are convinced this is the best option.

    “Laying a bike down” is synonymous with improper braking. In fact, it is actually code for I goofed up on braking but I can’t tell you that.

    Where does one learn how to lay a bike down and how often is it practiced?

    Ridiculous questions right?

    I am not aware of any training course that teaches laying a bike down.

    Bikes go down because of operator error mostly.

    At a collision, riders will say they “had to lay the bike down” as if it were a skill set they picked up from their many hours of practice?

    I have never heard a rider say to me, “Officer I just didn’t know what I was doing.” or “Officer, I intentionally over-braked my rear tire to induce a slide-out because statistically that was my best option.”

    Admitting fault or error or lack of ability is a difficult thing. Riders say things to me that I know are not true from the road evidence.

    I graciously record their statements and just keep smiling.

    If you survived a crash where you have slid the bike across the pavement sideways thank God you are alive and seek training.

    Once you have mastered the knowledge necessary for threshold braking, practice, practice and practice some more.


  17. Thank you Ruben. It is an honor to have you take the time to address this here. I’m glad to see you are still checking in on my blog.
    We have gone off on a tangent a little bit. The point was to applaud those who do wear their protective gear.
    However if this discussion educates and provides a platform to make people better safer riders, then the comments are welcome.

  18. Jay,

    You are doing a fantastic job and I read your blog frequently. You have one of the best blogs in my opinion and I ain’t just blowing smoke. Keep the faith brother.

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