The natural resting state of a motorcycle is on its side. If you know someone who has “never dropped a bike” they haven’t been riding long, and/or don’t ride much. It happens to the best of us. But, what do we do when that happens?
OK, so you’ve dropped your bike, or maybe someone else hit it with their car and dropped it for you. What kind of damage should you look for, and is there anything that would make it unrideable? It depends. Did you drop your dirt bike in dirt? Chances are, it's fine. Did you drop your sport bike on pavement? You'll want to give it a very thorough once-over.
I know it can be difficult in the moment, but if you can remember, take a good look at the bike while it’s on its side and note all the places it has made contact. Take pictures if you can. Yes, I know, there may be traffic and it’s probably leaking gas. Pick the bike up carefully so that you don’t drop it on the other side, and take a good look at the entire thing.
Get Their Information
The method of the tip-over (was it dropped or pushed?) and the style of your bike will dictate a lot of the potential damage. If someone backed into your bike, do not let them get away without grabbing all of their information and maybe a few witness statements. Damage can be hidden and severe, and that jerk had better pay to make it right.
Check For Damage
If your bike was on its kickstand and a car pushed it over on its clutch side, your kickstand and its mount will probably be damaged. Since your clutch and shifter are also on that side, check to make sure your lever and shift peg are not bent or broken. Some motorcycles’ designs are such that a solid tip-over will push the shifter peg into the engine case, cracking it or punching a hole right through.
On the other side, your front brake lever and rear brake pedal are exposed and prone to bending or breaking off. Again, there’s sometimes potential for the brake pedal to contact the engine case and crack it. Inspect the engine case for damage very carefully. If your engine case is cracked, pushed in, or damaged in any way other than a small scratch, do not ride the bike away from the scene. Get a tow, because there is potential for oil loss and internal engine damage.
Check your foot pegs. Sometimes cast metal foot pegs will crack instead of bending. They will look fine from some angles, but can be structurally compromised. Check them very carefully, since you potentially rely on them to bear all your weight.
If your bike has a plastic fairing, there’s little doubt that will get scratched up. Your turn signals and handlebar ends may get broken or scratched, and your handlebars might be bent. Your mirrors may be broken, and if your mirrors have integrated turn signals, that repair can be very pricey. If your mirrors are fairing-mounted, the mount points may also be damaged. If you run luggage, be sure the luggage rack is not bent such that it makes contact with something it shouldn’t, and isn’t broken or loose.
Make Sure It Rolls
While you’re checking your bike to be sure it’s not leaking anything and nothing is super broken, touch all the pieces that are scratched or potentially damaged to be sure nothing is loose enough to fall off or get into any moving parts. Make sure all your lighting still works. Make sure the bike still runs smoothly.
Protect Your Ride
Just like you wear protection when you ride, so can your bike wear protection. My goal is always to keep riding, so the protection I wear and the protection I bolt to my motorcycles is all to make sure a small mishap or a random tip-over doesn’t mean I can’t ride away. If your bike is on the dirtier side, it will likely come from the factory with touches like turn signals that aren’t brittle, so that they can bend instead of breaking, and minimal plastic fairing.
Dual sport and adventure motorcycles, and some cruisers and tourers, can be fitted with crash bars which will take any tip-over damage and protect the bike in the process. You can often fit hand guards, too, to protect your levers (and your hands) in the event of a tip-over. Sportier bikes have options for frame sliders and swingarm sliders, which will minimize damage to the body of the bike. If you run luggage, you know that will touch down first, so think about your style of riding and let that dictate whether you want fancy, expensive, paint-matched luggage, or bare metal or black plastic luggage that will take a beating and still look just as terrible.