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How to Lay Down the Bike

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There are many myths associated with riding motorcycles, like they make you impervious to pain, your mother loves them, or that cops can't see you when you're speeding on one. Another common myth is that it's a good idea to lay your bike down in order to avoid a crash.

The Beginnings of a Dangerous Myth

Most motorcyclists have heard at least one story about someone who claims he was forced to lay down his bike to prevent a potentially fatal crash. In many cases, however, these stories end with broken bones, head injuries, and totaled bikes. So it's only logical to wonder whether this is truly the best technique for avoiding accidents.

The motorcycles you see today are much more technologically advanced than bikes of the past. In fact, motorcycle brakes were once so bad that riders could often stop better by sliding or tumbling off the bike. Back in those days, practicing how to lay down your bike was actually a standard part of learning to ride.

Fortunately, we now have tires with better traction and antilock brakes that let us stop in a straight line on any surface. Today's bikes are also capable of stopping faster than ever before, making the advice about always lying down to avoid a crash obsolete. For this reason, motorcycle safety instructors do not teach new riders how to lay down a bike.

Of course, it's also possible that this myth was merely started by motorcyclists who wanted to cover up the fact that they fell accidentally. However, accepting this lore as good advice can result in serious or fatal injuries.

Proper Crash-Avoidance Techniques

When faced with a potentially dangerous situation, it's generally best to remain upright on your bike. Remember, tire rubber has an immense amount of traction. However, plastic, steel, and chrome (the materials found on the side of the bike) offer almost no traction. When you stay on your motorcycle instead of letting it slide, you'll be better able to stop in time or swerve out of the way. The only possible time where it might be a better idea to purposely end up on the ground is when it's better than the alternative, like going over a guardrail down a cliff or into the middle of a ten-car pile-up. Once you lay down a bike, you have absolutely no control over where you will end up.

Knowing when and how to stop or swerve is the best way to keep yourself safe while riding a motorcycle, other than not getting into an accident in the first place. In fact, recent studies show that most accidents can be attributed to two factors:

  • The motorcyclist underbraked the front tire and overbraked the rear tire.
  • The motorcyclist did not separate braking from swerving or failed to swerve when appropriate.

To stop your bike quickly, apply both brakes at the same time. If your front wheel locks while braking, release the brake quickly before firmly reapplying and pressing on the rear brake. If you accidentally lock the rear brake, it's best to keep it locked until you have completely stopped.

If you are turning or riding on a curve, attempt to straighten the bike before braking. However, if you simply must stop while leaning, it's best to apply the brakes lightly while reducing the throttle.

Of course, if you have the choice, you can swerve to avoid an accident. But if you're in a situation that calls for both braking and swerving, apply your brakes before or after you attempt to swerve. Never try to swerve while braking simultaneously.

Motorcycle Safety Training

Even if you've been riding your bike for years, it's a good idea to attend a motorcycle safety course on a regular basis. Motorcycles can be dangerous, especially if you're not familiar with the latest safety practices.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a national organization dedicated to helping motorcycle owners learn the skills they need to stay safe on the road. Safety courses are offered at various locations throughout the United States. The curriculum covers essential skills for both novice and experienced motorcyclists. To find a course near you, call (800) 446-9227 or visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation online.

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