Here is why you should not lay your motorcycle down if about to have a collision.
“Dat darn truck just turned right in front of me, so I had to lay ‘er down…” Ditching your motorcycle in order to avoid an accident is a frequent theme of conversation at biker bars and across various motorcycle forums. But, are you using the proper technique to send your pride and joy sliding down the road in a shower of sparks? Here’s how to lay ‘er down.
Photo by Ian Ransley
Step One: Use Your Head
No, no, please don’t attempt to physically use your head to slow your bike. Not only will the blood, skin and brains actually reduce friction (the ally of proper speed retardation), but all that grey matter can be put to better use by controlling your brakes. Instead, evaluate the need to lay ‘er down before you do so. Ask yourself: what will more effectively slow my bike? The friction generated by smooth paint and chrome or two big, grippy rubber hoops specifically designed to grip the road surface? If the former, go ahead and throw you bike onto the ground and jump onto the 50 mph belt sander that is asphalt. If the latter, apply your brakes.
READ MORE: How to Avoid Drunk Drivers
Photo by Rick
Step Two: Set Yourself Up For Success
This is all going to be an awful lot easier if you’re a) sober and b) know how to use your motorcycle’s controls. While getting drunk may reduce the immediate pain of an accident, we assure you that, once the alcohol wears off, things are going to smart a bit. It also turns out that motorcycle riding is a skill and, like any skill, practicing it will improve your ability. Do you know what your bike’s maximum braking force feels like? Go find out! Find a big, empty parking lot and work up to it, starting at 15 or so mph, practice progressively applying your brakes until you feel yourself at the point of locking them. Then do the same at 20 mph, 30 mph and so on. Feel free to practice layer ‘er down once you can comfortably control your brakes, often the damage that results to your bike from sliding down the road can impact its braking ability.
READ MORE: How to Safely Pass Other Traffic
Photo by Newtown Grafitti
Step Three: Avoid The Obstacle
Will sliding in a totally straight line from the point your bike decks out avoid the obstacle? If so, then laying ‘er down will work for you. Sadly, the cause of laying ‘er down is frequently objects straight in front of you, in which case laying ‘er down will not be an effective tool at obstacle avoidance. Instead, in those circumstances, you may need to rely on your motorcycle’s handling and braking. To do so, try and force yourself to look where you want to go, away from the obstacle, and apply your brakes progressively, “loading” the front tire before reaching max braking force. You can read more about advanced riding techniques like braking in RideApart’s How To section.
Photo by Pieter van Marion
Step Four: When To Jump Off
Here’s a formula for you: given the average road surface, expect to lose an additional 1 mm of flesh for every mph you’re going over 30. Sorry for the un-American units, we suspect a former Nazi war criminal/scientist came up with this arithmetic. So, if you’re traveling at, say, 50 mph when suddenly faced with a lay ‘er down situation, try and calculate your flesh loss before abandoning ship. At that speed, you’d lose at least two centimeters of flesh. That’s about three-quarters of an American inch! Losing that much from your hands, arms, torso or legs is simply no bueno and, if you end up wearing into bone, you risk fatal bone infection. So don’t jump off your bike until you’re traveling slow enough to avoid such injuries. We’d suggest 10 mph or less. At which point, of course, you can probably just bring your bike to a controlled stop.
Photo by 401(K)
Step Five: Budget For Repairs
Unfortunately, this accident avoidance technique doesn’t come without costs. You’ll find that most bikes, even Harleys, are made to operate with their wheels, not their bodies and frames, in contact with the road. Before laying ‘er down, run a quick calculation of the costs in doing so. Components like exhaust pipes, headlights, fuel tanks, sweet tassled-leather saddlebags, frames and chrome engine covers cost money. How much laying ‘er down costs is up to you!