How to Recover From Dropping Your Bike

You know who's really good at dropping bikes, only at high speeds?  MotoGP rider.

You know who’s really good at dropping bikes, only at high speed? MotoGP rider.
photo: Marco Bertorello (Getty Images)

It’s one of the first things you learn when you do an induction motorcycle Security class or your MSF: what to do if (and when) you drop your bike. Because chances are you’ll drop it at least once. Before a few cold springs, my instructor was very strict in her instructions on how to handle this situation. If you drop your bike, jump out of the way immediately. Don’t try to catch it. Then press the kill switch.

Simple execution instructions. But what about the after or the “get back on the bike” part?

The first time I dropped a bike was during my MSF course. I made a classic, common mistake that resulted in me dropping three other bikes of my own, each only once but always in the same way. The fall came from losing my balance when stopping just because the front wheel/fork was spinning. I was also on some kind of incline or decline. Everyone. Single. Time.

When I dropped this very worn and tired 1991 Kawasaki Eliminator during class, I made sure to follow these recovery instructions. I jumped out of the way as the old motorcycle hit the sidewalk. I dived in and hit the kill switch. Then I quickly jumped back to a standing position with my hands in the air like I’d just finished a Broadway musical number and yelled, “I did it!” You can ask my husband, it was a sight.

In this case and for the rest of the course the instructors would collect your bike, inspect it and then give the bike back to you. Sometimes it was so easy to hop back on the bike and do an exercise. Sometimes they would ask if you were ok and give you time to be ready to get back on the bike. Honestly, it was a good lesson for the road ahead (or the road below…).

So let’s break it down now. Here’s what you should do if you ever stop driving:

Jump out of the way if you feel like you’re about to lose your balance or your bike

Motorcycles are heavy and typically weigh many times your weight. My 2017 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 air-cooled weighs about 3.5 times my weight, so about 400 pounds, wet. Trying to “catch” it before it hits the ground is futile – my lack of upper body strength won’t be able to easily catch or lift something like that. If you try to lift your motorcycle incorrectly you could injure yourself, pull something or even crush something trying to rescue your loved one. Just get out of the way.

Hit that kill switch

Your bike may be in gear or running and simply hit the ground. To ensure your safety, it is best to turn it off immediately. The kill switch is there for situations like this.

Check if you are okay

have you been hurt bruised? Do you need medical help or attention? are you shattered It’s okay to pause and catch your breath before attempting to pick up your bike.

Pick up your bike

Getting your special bike into the correct, upright riding position will be an event. First things first, don’t try to pick it up like you would a box, kid…you will hurt. There are several recommended techniques from experienced riders that you can find on the internet or ask an experienced rider or trainer for advice. You can always (carefully) lay your bike on its side to practice.

Is your bike ok?

I accidentally dropped my bike recently (yes, on a wheel-spun slope) and if I had checked my bike once it was up I would have noticed that my shifter was being pulled significantly toward the bike, about 1 .5 to 2 inches . A few miles down the road I pulled to the side and turned on my hazards so I could troubleshoot and hopefully fix my shifter. I could flex this shifter quite easily—enough to be functional and shift enough to get me home. Had I looked over the bike first I could have just limped it home.

Anyway, checking your bike when it’s finally upright is good practice and allows you to account for anything that might be out of place, badly crushed, or leaking. In my case, I had a bent shifter, a scratched clutch perch, and a small scratch on the swingarm Poor. My ABS fault light is also on. But all are fixable, and frankly, it could have been so much worse.

Back to riding

Dropping the bike is embarrassing. But, you know what? It is in order. Some of these accidents are the result of a simple mistake or even a lack of practice, and everyone does them at some point. That’s what makes getting back on the bike so important to continue growing as a rider.

You may need to practice some turns or other tight maneuvers to get to know your bike better. Maybe you just need to pay attention to how you stop your bike, or understand the limits of turning your wheels or your body when you stop. So find a parking spot, set some cones or mental parameters, and practice! If you are nervous while riding, practicing is fine and recommended. The more you know you can’t corner or drop the bike, the better your future rides will be.

I know I’ll do a few practice laps once I fix the shifter. Oh how the mighty have fallen, literally.

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