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  1. #1
    Kbiker BCKRider's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    B.C. Canada

    Don't Drop the Bike

    This is an article I wrote for the BMW ON about 2 1/2 years ago which was never published. Thought I would share it with you. Perhaps with your additions and differing opinions there might eventually be something worth editing for publication in the ON. At least, maybe we can help each other avoid really dumb errors we've made, witnessed, or heard about. I apologize for the length of this post. If you want to quote in a response, please do so selectively.

    "Lets define dropping the bike as ǣa motorcycle accident at 0 2 mph. These accidents inevitably cause elevated blood pressure, fears about how to raise the fallen beast, at least some scratches to the bike if not the operator, and acute embarrassment. The otherwise excellent books and articles about riding safely mostly ignore the causes of these accidents and the preventive measures one should take to avoid them. My qualifications for writing this article are simple: in ten years and about 50K miles of riding Ive made several of these mistakes and also admitted them in campfire conversations. Virtually every rider I talked to told me about a time or two that he also dropped a bike. Some of the ideas come from those conversations.

    There is a myth that these are problems only beginners have. I wish! Sure, beginners make these errors more often, but I believe it is a life-long problem. Most of us dont repeat too many of our previous errors, but learning through print how to avoid any type of accident is definitely better than learning through experience.

    Side Stands: While taking the MSF beginner course I once dismounted the bike without putting the side stand down at all. I thought I had put it down! Moral: always be sure the side stand is down and will take the weight of the bike before dismounting. On flat concrete you have no worries after you are sure the side stand is really fully extended. On every other surface, beware. Make sure the ground is not too high or too low or too soft before you commit yourself. Before you leave the bike, ask yourself if the side stand could sink into the asphalt - quite possible on a hot day - or if the weight of the bike could push the stand deeper into sand or gravel. Carry some sort of pad to place under the side stand whenever there is a question mark. Make it standard practice to always use the side stand before dismounting, even if you intend to pull the bike onto the centre stand. When your right foot encounters that forgotten duffle bag as you dismount, you will be glad that the side stand is taking the weight of the bike.

    I guess it is obvious that parking a bike with the front wheel pointing downhill is inviting disaster. Occasionally it is unavoidable. Shift to first gear, use the rear brake to hold the bike in place as you shut off the engine, let out the clutch and release the brake to engage the engine. Then put down the side stand and dismount.

    Center Stands: There is a knack to putting a bike on a center stand, but it is easily acquired if your bike doesnt have a lowered rear suspension and the ground is hard and flat. Remember those words, ǣhard and ǣflat. If that bike tilts ever so slightly to the right because the ground under the two center stand contact points really wasnt flat or the right leg contacted softer ground, gravity will yank that bike out of your hands. While many of us prefer leaving our bikes on the centre stand, the side stand (with pad) is safer if warm asphalt, gravel, or strong winds are a threat. You do promise to never use the center stand if the ground slopes ever so slightly downhill, right?

    Front Brake Mistakes: I guess almost everyone realizes by now that it is the front brake that provides most of the stopping power in most situations. The old fear of flipping the bike is almost groundless. The fear of locking the front wheel and falling down is not groundless! One problem with the front brake occurs on sand or gravel roads, or worse still, sand or gravel on hardtop. The instant that front wheel locks you will suddenly find your bike horizontal. Ive twice dropped a bike making a very low speed turn when there was gravel on pavement. Both times I saw the gravel, did my serious slowing before reaching it, but I think failed to get completely off the front brake before the wheel touched the gravel. Riding on sand or gravel roads, favor the rear brake and use the front brake very judiciously if at all. On wet pavement (maybe all pavements) release the front brake lever when you are almost stopped and use the back brake for the final stop. Yes, Im afraid this is the voice of experience. The road was wet, my wife was the passenger, and all of a sudden there were two very unhappy (but unhurt) people and another scratch or two on the bike. And this was just a simple stop sign, not a panic situation at all.

    David Hough preaches that in an emergency your reaction will be your usual riding practice. I think this idea can be extended: in an unusual situation (for many of us, riding in the rain qualifies) you will probably apply your dry road habits, though you certainly wont brake as hard unless you have and trust anti-lock brakes. If using only the back brake for the last bit of a stop in the wet is a good idea, I think doing the same thing on dry roads is also a good idea, even though easing up on the front brake certainly works just fine on dry roads. Build good all-weather habits.

    Modifications: I had just installed a new windscreen and took the bike for a short test ride. When I pulled into a gravelled church parking lot and made a slow left hand turn, the bike again was suddenly on its side. The proximity of the church did nothing to improve my language. It took me awhile to figure out the cause of that accident. With the bar turned fully to the left, the windscreen touched the front brake lever. Rotating the clutch and brake levers a bit provided the necessary clearance. This is definitely something to check before you ride off with your new screen.

    Flat feet: I think it is a very good idea to be able to put both feet flat on the ground while sitting on your bike. It can be tough for people with shorter legs on some bikes, but there are solutions. Tippy toes are ok on flat concrete. Every other stopping situation puts you at much greater risk of dropping the bike.

    Check it out: A couple years ago I was examining a friends quite new F650. Though this man has ridden many more years and miles than I, his right saddlebag bore lasting testimony to a drop. ǣWe pulled into this gravel parking lot. I put my right foot down and it just kept sinking. Couldnt hold the damn bike up. Maybe you should park the bike and check out suspect parking lots on foot before committing yourself. That, of course, is for wimps. But being a wimp can save you both money and pain. Im now old enough to take the kidding.

    Ramps: If parking your bike involves riding up a ramp, make it a very wide ramp. Yet another time I dropped the bike, the ramp was pretty narrow because the rise into the open shed was only a couple inches. I managed to kill the engine and that extra two inches before my foot touched ground was more than enough to put the bike on its side. And also into my wifes scooter. Our bikes are now housed in another building that requires a ramp. That ramp is 4.5 feet wide.

    I have transported motorcycles a few times in the back of my pick-up and remember getting the bikes in a rather scary experience with narrow plank ramps. Suggested article for someone who knows what he/she is doing.

    Pushing and pulling: A lot of bikes topple while being pushed or pulled. Hasnt happened to me yet, but boy am I ever careful. These accidents frequently involve less than ideal footing such as gravel or wet grass, a slight grade (slight, because nobody expects to push or pull a road bike up anything greater) or else you bump into something. At home, figure out a safe routine for moving your bike in and out of where you store it. At a campsite you might want to park the bike and then figure out how you can park it under power so you can also ride out under power with no manhandling. Brainpower beats muscles in this department. If you err and there are people around, ask for help. I assure you they would rather help push and pull while you steer than help you pick up the machine. These efforts always involve both hands on the grips with a couple fingers over the front brake lever. Ive heard that some more modern BMWs have almost no front braking with the engine off. If that is the case on your bike, be sure to find it out before you have it pointed downhill with the engine off.

    Snags: I heard about a low speed catastrophe in Spokane at the 2004 rally. The guys pant cuff caught on the footpeg as he tried to plant his left foot. The foot peg severely injured his leg as the bike toppled over. Could this happen to you? Do you ever ride with loose cuffs? Not if you always wear riding boots. Before I bought my own BMW, a friend let me ride his K75RT. A fine bike, and I almost dropped it, because there was fairing exactly where I was used to putting down my foot on my 1980 Honda CB750. Before you ride a different bike, be sure you can get your feet down.

    Certainly not the last word: I remember Sandy Cohen, former editor of this magazine, mentioning in an editorial that she had dropped bikes quite a number of times. No details were mentioned. Good for her to not come on as the total expert, though I am sure she has more years and miles under her belt than the majority of our clubs members. I wish she and others would write a sequel to this article because I feel that what I have written is just the tip of an iceberg. It seems that having a serious accident has a certain cachet. Dropping your bike because you backed it into your car, etc. just seems (and is) stupid. But most of us have done a few of these really dumb things and only realized after the fact that the accident could have been avoided with a little thought. Anybody else willing to ǣfess up and save the rest of us some pain and bucks?

    Anyway, I hope this article saves some scratches on both you and your pride and joy."
    1992 K100RS

  2. #2
    this is a really good article, not sure why it wouldn't be published other than it may have fallen through the cracks.

    i call these kinds of drops "Laugh-in tip-overs" in honor of the guy in the yellow raincoat riding the tricycle.

    the only thing i have to add is if the bike is going to fall, let it fall. don't bust a gut trying to save it once it tips beyond the point of no return. jump out of the way.

    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________________
    '67 Trail 90 || '86 R80 G/SPD+ || '97 F650ST || '00 1150 GS || '06 HP2e || '07 Xchallenge || '14 Grom

  3. #3
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    Sheboygan, WI


    You wrote a really good article. Why not contact Roger Wiles and see if it might be suitable for MotoSafe?!
    Kevin Greenwald - MSF Lead RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer)
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.) / IBA Member #34281
    Motorcycle/High Performance/Teen/Winter/ATV Driving Instructor - ROAD AMERICA Track

  4. #4
    RK Ryder
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    London, Ontario
    You have touched on a lot of good points, a number of instances to which I can identify. Good article.
    Retired and riding my RTs, the '87 K100 & the '98 R1100 !
    Niagara Riders #298 & Knights of the Roundel #333

  5. #5
    sMiling Voni's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    53 sMiles south of Alpine, TX USA
    I'm hoping you'll resubmit this article. It has so much really important information. Do you have pictures? Maybe we could help with that.

    If there aren't pictures, it didn't happen . . . .

    Live fully. Laugh deeply. Love widely.
    BMW MOA Ambassador / FOM / Roving Forum Moderator/
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  6. #6
    FUKENGRUVEN SURVIVOR akbeemer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Good stuff; thank you! I've suffered my share of such mishaps.

    Have you ever encountered the tendency of riders that have just suffered a drop to try to immediately pick-up the bike in a near panic? I guess it is a natural response to limit the potential embarrassment and regain one's dignity. I witnessed a Wing rider (an older version of smaller size than the contemporary models) drop his bike during a slow speed parking lot maneuver. No damage was apparent to rider or machine, but he nearly hurt himself trying to right the bike before others could get to him. I've felt the same urge myself in similar circumstances. Might be helpful to add a cautionary note about taking one's time to think through how the bike is to be picked-up.

    Oh, and it certainly helps if there is someone present to give you a loving cuddle following a drop like the lucky little rider pictured above.
    Last edited by AKBeemer; 01-05-2011 at 05:37 PM.
    Kevin Huddy
    Tm Pterodactyl MT Outpost

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Voni View Post
    oh golly, i've been there.

    it isn't much fun, though, after watching your kid do a 50-foot endo in slow motion (due to riding over his head and rolling off the throttle just before jumping) to run over and ask him to wiggle his fingers and toes.....

  8. #8

    Stupid mistake

    Originally Posted by AKBeemer
    Have you ever encountered the tendency of riders that have just suffered a drop to try to immediately pick-up the bike in a near panic? I guess it is a natural response to limit the potential embarrassment and regain one's dignity.
    YEP!!!!! Just dropped my beautiful RT the day before Christmas at the gas pump. Haven't dropped a street bike in 20 years. Felt really stupid, immediately jerked the bike up, in total embarassment, in stead of stopping, taking a breath and lifting it the correct way. I'm still hurting due to my haste, probably should see the doc... but typical biker guy ...I won't.

  9. #9
    Registered User dadayama's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Oklahoma City
    a few years back, i don't know what i was thinking but some how i pop the clutch making a left hand turn at a very busy intersection, killed the engine and laid the bike over.

    I felt as if every single person on earth was looking right at me, i just wanted to get back on the bike and get the hell out of there!

    On another note... i was taking a free motorcycle class put on by one of the local police departments. The class was going through some slow maneuvers, weaving through cones when the guy in front of me on a Gold-wing started to lay his bike over and tried to stop it with his leg. Bike won, leg lost he was carted off to the hospital.

  10. #10
    Registered User ANDYVH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Green Bay, WI
    Unless you are riding a small dirt bike, once it starts to go over, step away and let the bike go! Attempting to stop the bike fall with your body results in either broken bones or a wrenched back. For that matter, if its a small dirt bike, let it go too! They're made to take the dumps!

    If you do have to pick up your bike, do it right. If the bike is on the rh side, first fold out the side stand. Then, facing back to the bike, knees bent but back straight, grab the rh grip with your left hand, find a good grab spot for your right hand, and walk backwards into the bike lifting ONLY with your legs until the bike tilts over to the side stand.

    If the bike is on the left side the technique is the same, but you can't fold the sidestand out. So, apply the same technique but STOP the lift when the bike is near vertical and while holding it up, fold out the sidestand with the back of your left or right heel. Then rest the bike on the sidestand.

    For either side, make sure the bike is turned off and IN GEAR before you make the lift, so it won't roll away as you lift it. I can easily lift any R series bikes, most any K series, but have not attempted a K1200LT.

  11. #11
    Kbiker BCKRider's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    B.C. Canada

    Comments from the OP

    1. Thank you for the positive response and suggestion to re-submit the article to the ON. I believe, with more help from all of you, we can come up with the material for a really worthwhile article (or two?) that will save readers a lot of grief.

    2. I believe Voni was right. I don't have pictures, which may well have been one of the reasons the article was rejected, and maybe some of you can help. Which reminds me of a story from a friend whose bike suffered in the mishap. "Long line of bikes all backed into a curb and as close together as possible. One guy somehow knocks his bike over to the right and - dominoes." A picture of THAT would be something! Other than that, I'm a bit mystified how pictures would make this information clearer. Perhaps you shutter bugs have some good ideas.

    3. I'd like to thank VISIAN, AKBeemer, and ANDYVH for their advice to just let it fall, take some time, get help if possible, and the correct way to lift a bike. All that info definitely belongs in the article. (I too have often done most of it wrong in my haste to, well, maybe pretend it didn't happen.)

    4. ANDYVH, as a very experienced rider, I'm sure a tall saddle with your shorter legs is no problem at all. As an experienced rider coach, would you say the same about your students? It took me a few years before I could be sure the bike would tilt left, not right, when I came to a stop. So I think my comment about "flat feet" is appropriate, though "this does not neccessarily apply to experienced riders" perhaps should be added. Welcome your comments.

    4. Finally, klutz that I am, I don't think I've fully explored or heard about all the truly stupid things one can do to drop a bike. Certainly there was the mention of an unfortunate incident in a garage which required immediately closing the door. And somehow a bike went down at a gas pump. But the details are important if others are to learn from our errors. And that is the WHOLE POINT of these posts and a possible article in the ON.

    Please see my next post for thoughts on getting those details.
    1992 K100RS

  12. #12
    Kbiker BCKRider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    B.C. Canada

    Getting the details

    It finally occurred to me why there were not more responses to the question "what stupid thing did you do to drop the bike?" It's one thing to admit that you have had to pick up your bike after doing something truly dumb. It's something else to describe in detail that dumb thing for all the world to read. But that detail is EXACTLY what people need to read to avoid doing the same thing themself.

    My suggestion is that someone(s) who is widely known and trusted (and I know I am not - I've probably never met any of the posters personally, and my number of posts is a small percentage of many) VOLUNTEER TO FORWARD ANY PM'S MARKED "DON'T DROP THE BIKE" TO THIS FORUM.

    So, we need the volunteers offering this service. We probably need one to tell us how to send a PM (personal message) and the assurance that the PM will be sent on to this thread as a quote with NO identification attached.

    I hope my intent is clear - lots more information about this topic without personal embarrassment to anyone. Your better ideas are most welcome.
    1992 K100RS

  13. #13
    Merlin III

    My drops

    In the past two years since re-entering motorcycling, I have dropped the bike twice. The first time was when I was coming down a partially rutted cemetery road and a guy on a riding lawn mower started to turn out in front of me. I avoided him and continued down the road thinking that he was now fully aware of my presence. He actually pulled ahead of me after that. I was going probably a couple miles per hour and he was going faster than me. As I got to the blacktop he turned into my path again and this time I went down when I braked. His actions were clearly the proximate cause of my drop. I had friends who calmed me down and helped me right my bike.

    The second time was just recently when I backed my 1150GS out of the garage with a full tank of gas. The garage slab is a foot higher than the driveway so I placed three 2 by 10s together for a ramp. As I was backing down the ramp I slowed myself down with the front brake and placed my feet down on the ramp only to have my left slip off the wet plank and onto the ground 8 inches below. The bike angle passed the angle of no return and we went down with me being able to cushion the drop with shear strength.

    As noted by others, I was so ripped at myself that I immediately tried to pick up the bike. The first attempt failed primarily because I just grabbed the bike while facing it and attempted to make upright a GS with a full tank of gas. Next I attempted to upright it the right way while having my back to the bike with one hand on the handle bar and one on the bar at the rear of the bike.

    I successfully got the bike upright with no real damage to the bike. I on the other hand, did some bodily damage to myself. Apparently, I strained a lot of muscles in the lifting process. Actually, I believe it was the second attempt to right the bike (the right way) when I was hurt. It is my belief and my RN wifes belief that I actually fractured a rib on my back side from the straining.

    The lessons I learned from these two mishaps were to do more thinking beforehand when I attempt something where there is a clear chance of a mishap. Also, I came to the conclusion that I need to be in better physical shape and have now joined a gym where I concentrate on leg presses and lower back exercises. : )

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    If it's not too late, here are couple thoughts related to front brake mistakes:

    Rolling stops with right turn: I used to really hate putting feet down, and would creep toward the stop sign, looking for traffic. More than once I was surprised after starting to initiate a right turn and grabbed too much front brake. Now, if I'm not absolutely certain about visibility before I downshift to 1st, I keep my eyes forward and stop completely before looking for traffic--besides, that's the legal way turn at a stop sign.

    In gravel or very tense slow maneuvering situations, I use two fingers on top of the brake lever. Between lack of leverage and lack of friction, it's harder to "grab too much" brake.

    Rotating the hips and shoulders, along with head and eyes, in tight U-turns helps turn head and eyes farther and hold them there longer.

    Dropping the elbows creates a more relaxed upper body and helps prevent the arms from fighting each other's inputs. Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds second basemen (back in the day) was famous for flapping his inside elbow when at bat. The reason was it reminded him to get it into the ideal position before the pitch. I check my inside elbow, then relax and drop it before pushing on the opposite bar at low speeds.
    Rick Swauger

    84 R65
    98 1100RT
    02 Kymco Cobra Racer

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    western mass
    Great article! thanks for sharing your experiences.

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