Moto-Myths 3: You are going to Crash

People often say:

“There are two types of riders in the world, those who have crashed and those who will crash.”

“You’re going to crash a few times as you learn to ride.”

Crashing (or even just dropping your bike while learning to ride) is NOT inevitable. You don’t have-to crash. Especially if you ride smart (start off with an MSF class, start with a smaller lighter bike, and practice your skills regularly)… The danger of this moto-myth is that it sets people’s expectations too low.

The Facts – Single Vehicle Crashes

When most people talk about “crashing” a bike they’re really talking about single vehicle accidents. Taking a turn too fast, hitting the brakes too hard, etc. These single vehicle accidents account for 25% of all motorcycle related accidents (according to the old Hurt Report, the last major study of motorcycle accidents, which is a bit dated, but still relevant). And out of these 25%, weather, mechanical malfunctions, and road conditions, were NOT a significant cause of the accidents. In other words, “Why do 25% of riders crash without anyone hitting them?” The answer is rider error. The lesson is, you don’t have-to crash. And your expectation should be that you should develop your riding skills, hone them and continually improve them so that you do not contribute to this 25%

Car-Bike Accidents

The other 75% of the motorcycle accidents have to do mainly with passenger cars. Anyone who has ridden a bike or scooter around the city knows that (although the majority of drivers are relatively careful around bikes) some drivers are careless and dangerous to be near. You can’t do anything about that right? Wrong. The statistics show that although motorcycles may not be the cause of the accidents with cars, rider experience and caution can improve one’s chances significantly.

As a result, “Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly overrepresented in accidents…” Riders between 30 and 50 are underrepresented. Also, here’s the kicker: “92% [of those in motorcycle accidents] were self-taught or learned from family or friends.

Some more statistics: (cut and pasted from the Hurt report summary)

  • More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle (meaning on that particular bike even if they’ve been riding longer)
  • Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would overbrake and skid the rear wheel, and underbrake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent.
  • Motorcycle riders with previous recent traffic citations and accidents are overrepresented in the accident data.

So you don’t have to crash. Learn to steer and control your bike. If you’ve never taken any classes, and have been riding for while, maybe go for the advanced rider course.

Having said all that, you can learn a great deal from crashes.  Racers crash on the track all the time as they push their bikes (and their skills) to the limit – and usually they get right up and walk away or start their bikes up and keep going.  But just the way you don’t need to have a life-threatening disease in order to be a good physician…you don’t necessarily need to crash in order to learn some important lessons about riding.  Of course, you can’t always control “accidents” (otherwise they wouldn’t be called accidents) but you don’t have to accept them as inevitable either.  Cheers!

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4 responses to “Moto-Myths 3: You are going to Crash

  1. Pingback: How to get back to riding after a fall « nuBiker - motorcycle enthusiasts community

  2. Sometimes it’s handy to have a “first drop” when you learn to ride. It shows you the point of no return on a bike and helps you to recognise it before it’s too late. If you have never dropped your bike, you don’t really know how far you can go and still recover it. Although it’s certainly not a good passtime.

    I have dropped my bike and learned from it 1000%. I have also had a pretty major accident, survived, got up and rode home on the busted bike. I’ve learned from that 10000%.

    Accidents are avoidable and yes the best thing to do is to not crash, but sometimes the tamer accidents give us experience that is unbelievably handy and results in gaining pre-emptive skills that you couldn’t learn through other means.

  3. I agree with learning from crashes, just prefer to study them and not be in one.

  4. I’d kind of disagree. Certainly there are a few people who ride for years and never crash but they have just been lucky and they have not learned as much nor progressed as fast as people who do push their limits.

    I have instructed at high performance track schools and seen the older guys come in claiming to have never crashed. Generally their skills are abysmal and they are the most resistant to learning new skills.

    I had one student, who I predicted would crash as a result of his resistance to learning and his clinging to bad habits.

    The next session out he did exactly what I said he’d do. He was lucky and just ran off the track into the grass. If that had been the street, he’d have ended up in hospital.

    Crashing is not a stigma or indication of a bad rider. It is simply a learning experience and a part of this sport we love.

    As someone mentioned above the first crash can actually be a good thing as it gets it out of the way so the rider stops obssessing irationally about NOT crashing, which is counterproductive to improving riding skills.

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