Learn from others', too!

There’s a very old saying that states there are two types of riders: those who have crashed, and those who will crash. When you ride a motorcycle, mishaps are a given because the natural resting state of a bike is on its side. Whether it’s a zero-mph tip-over while parking or something much worse, every rider knows (whether we admit it or not) that a crash is a real possibility with every ride.

When that crash happens, how do we react? Well, if it’s not totally catastrophic, a crash can either be a point of shame or a great learning experience. If you ride with safe, supportive people, it’s always a learning experience. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s what makes us human. When we can learn from ours or other people’s mistakes, we gain experience. We can take any mishap and learn from it: why it happened, what could have prevented it or made it less severe, what we could have done differently, and how our safety gear fared (or failed us).

“What Happened?”

Maybe a car pulled out in front of you, or you hit a patch of sand. Maybe there was oil on the road or some wildlife interrupted your ride. Sometimes we can see a crash coming, and sometimes (we think) it happens out of the clear blue. The more we analyze our crashes the more we can see that very few of them can’t at least be anticipated: weather, road conditions, traffic patterns. What time of day was it, were you in a sea of commuters or vacation traffic?

“What Did I Miss?”

Maybe more, and brighter, lights on your bike could have lit up the underbrush and you’d have seen that raccoon sooner. Maybe knobbier tires would have handled that mud pit better than the dual-sports you were running. Perhaps you should have been inspecting both ends of your clutch cable all along, since it broke on the road, on the engine side. Slowing down might have given you just a little bit more braking distance ahead of that deer. Usually, a crash is the result of a confluence of mistakes or oversights, on your part or those around you. Keep digging until you’re pretty sure you found them all. Be honest. Blaming the other guy, and not thinking about the crash beyond that, doesn’t help anyone.

“What Helped?”

Your full-face helmet might have some major scarring but it protected your head. Those sleeves bunched up and exposed some flesh between the cuff and your glove; maybe that’s why your arm is a little bloody. Your armored boots are scuffed up but are you ok? The armor in your riding jeans shifted, so perhaps your knee is a little raw and bruised–-it might be time to upgrade to real riding pants with better armor. You probably could have braked harder, since the road was wet but not sandy; it’s time to practice better threshold braking.

Sharing a post-crash analysis with like-minded friends by running through all these questions can open your eyes to mistakes you made that you might otherwise have missed. It’ll help you to avoid those mistakes in the future, and it might save some of your friends from the same fate. You’ll know you’re with responsible, safe riders when they are all open and honest about their own crashes, and offer their own experiences honestly, to help everyone learn.