Many of us have dropped a motorcycle at one time or another. Unfortunately, these seemingly benign tip-overs can lead to nasty injuries. But with a some knowledge you can avoid many of these mishaps.
1. Learn Slow-Speed riding techniques. With a little practice, you can learn to maneuver your bike at slow speeds and reduce the risk of tipping over. The trick is to maintain steady drive by keeping the throttle fixed while slipping the clutch and dragging the rear brake to control speed. Look over your shoulder as you lean the bike beneath you. Weight the outside footpeg for tighter turns.
2. Maintain a stable speed. Gyroscopic and inertial forces keep your motorcycle stable. As speed decreases, these forces grow weaker until they disappear completely when the bike is stopped. Adding as little as 1-2 mph will increase stability dramatically. Just be aware that adding speed means you need to lean the motorcycle a bit more when attempting slow speed turns.
3. Square the handlebars when stopping. One of the most common causes of tip-overs is stopping suddenly while the handlebars are turned or the bike is leaned. The trick is to straighten the motorcycle as you smoothly apply the brakes, making sure the bike is completely vertical with the handlebars “square” before completing the stop. When you have to stop quickly, straighten the motorcycle quickly before applying the brakes.
4. Keep your eyes up. It’s human nature to look down when riding slowly or stopping. But keeping your eyes and vision up at eye level will help maintain balance and allow you to spot hazards early.
5. Favor the rear brake. Motorcycles have powerful front brakes, which are necessary for slowing from higher speeds. But at slow speeds it’s easy to introduce too much front brake force too abruptly, causing the bike to stop suddenly before you have a chance to straighten the motorcycle. Motorcycles equipped with integrated brakes (where the rear pedal activates the front brakes) make rear-brake-only application impossible, so brake cautiously.
6. Choose your footing. Sand, gravel and slippery substances reduce traction not only under your tires, but also under your boots. Intersections, parking lots and tollbooths are particularly prone to collecting vehicle drippings, so keep an eye peeled and plan to stop where the surface is clear. Wear footwear with oil-resistant, tread-like soles to minimize the likelihood of having a foot slide-out from under you.
7. Pushing your bike. Maneuvering your bike around a parking lot or garage can be tricky. Taller riders may be able to straddle-walk while seated on the bike. But, inseam challenged riders are better off maneuvering the bike while walking alongside. If you push from alongside, hold both hand grips and lean the motorcycle against your thigh for stability. For lighter machines you may be able to maneuver it backwards with one hand on the handlebar and one on the passenger’s seat.
8. Mind your side stand. Failing to fully lower a side stand is a sure-fire way to inflict harm to your pristine chrome or plastic bits. Take the time to make sure the side stand is fully extended and then carefully lower the weight of the bike onto the stand before hopping off. Another common mishap involves the side stand (or centerstand) sinking into a soft surface or hot asphalt. Prevent this by placing a flat object underneath the stand's foot to spread the load over more surface area. And be sure to raise your stand before pushing it or riding away.
9. Remove before flight. Disc locks are a convenient way to keep thieves from rolling or riding your bike away, but forgetting to remove the lock before getting underway can cause your bike to come to an abrupt stop. To prevent a disc lock mishap locate your lock close to the underside of the brake caliper (or above the caliper if you know you'll have to roll backward) so the bike cannot roll more than an inch or so. You can also use some sort of device to remind you that your lock is still in place like a rubber band stretched over the throttle and front brake, a tether, or a "flag" hung off the handlebar. You may want to consider buying a disc lock with a motion alarm, which offers theft protection along with a warning to remove before riding away.
10. Learn to raise a fallen bike. Okay, this isn’t a tip for avoiding a tip-over, but even after following all of the above tips you still may find yourself standing over a prone motorcycle. So, it’s smart to know how to raise a fallen machine if nobody is around to assist you. [CLICK HERE to read about the proper technique for lifting a fallen motorcycle.]