Emergency Situations : What Bikers Must Know

Nobody is perfect. Ride long enough, and you will go down, regardless of how careful you are, how diligent you are, or how skilled you are. Even if you always ride within your ability, not everything is under your control.

The types of emergency situations you can encounter are infinite, but they can be classified into two general categories: losing traction, and hitting something or having something hit you.

Motorcycle Crash

You’ll often hear people say that most accidents happen within the first six miles of putting your kickstand up. This may be a researched fact, or it may be an old wive’s tale, but there is a certain amount of logic behind the theory. Often when you first get on your bike, your mind is not completely engaged in the business of riding. You may be wondering if you put your change in your wallet at the fast food restaurant you just visited, or you may be thinking about work. Sometimes it just takes a few miles to get into a groove. Whether or not the six-mile rule has a basis in fact, thinking about it as a fact is likely to help you avoid having an accident in the first six miles because you may be more careful when you first get on your bike.

Losing Traction

The most common and usually least consequential emergency you will encounter is losing traction and falling down.

Remember, don’t panic. If you remain calm and use smooth throttle control, you can often regain control after you have lost traction. If your back tire starts to slide, don’t drop the throttle. When you suddenly quit supplying power to the back tire, it violently regains traction, jerking your motorcycle in the opposite direction. Your best bet is to ride the slide through.

If it’s too late, and you know you’re going down, just relax, let go of the bike, and ride it out. If you’re wearing your protective gear - and you should always be wearing your gear - chances are you’re going to be okay. Try to slide on your back. Keep your arms and legs stretched out, and try not to let them dig into the ground, which can cause you to flip through the air. Stay relaxed. Stay low to the ground, and try to move away from the motorcycle. Don’t stand up until you’re sure you’ve stopped.

Hitting or Being Hit

If you strike a small object, it is possible to prevent yourself from crashing by following the proper technique.

If you find yourself in the position of being unable to avoid a small object or piece of debris, don’t slam on the front brake. This will cause your motorcycle to pitch forward, forcing your front tire into the object rather than over it. It will also cause your front tire to lock up, and if ever you needed traction from your front tire, now is the time.

Many motorcyclists learn how to crash by riding dirtbikes. You are much more likely to wipe out on the rough surfaces found offroad than you are on smooth pavement, so dirtbikers crash much more often than streetbikers. Learning how to react in a crash is probably the most important off-road skill that transfers to the street.

Try to hit the object as straight on as possible. Apply a bit of throttle to take some weight off the front tire, and as you strike the object, pull back on the handlebars. If you remain calm, you can ride over the object without crashing.

Being struck by another vehicle is probably the most serious type of accident you can have, followed by you striking another vehicle. Both situations are extremely dangerous, but if you strike another vehicle, at least you have a split second to react. When you are struck by another vehicle, you usually don’t know what hit you.

The only way to deal with such situations is to avoid them - remember to be aware of your complete surroundings, and above all, ride at a speed slow enough to allow you time to react.

What to Do After an Emergency

Always carry a first-aid kit on your bike. A first-aid kit is something you hope to never need, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it. At the very least, your first-aid kit should have bandages, tape, something for bee stings, and some form of antibiotic ointment. In an emergency situation, a cellular phone can be the most critical piece of first-aid equipment you can carry.

If you do have a crash, you need to remain calm. If you are still on the road, you need to move off the road, if at all possible. No matter how badly you’re hurt, you will be hurt worse if you stay in traffic. Once you’re out of harm’s way, you need to take stock of your injuries, particularly to your spine. Check to see if you can move your fingers. Don’t move any more than necessary until you’re absolutely
certain you haven’t damaged your spine.

Above all, don’t remove your helmet until you have made certain that you have no spinal damage, since that can cause even worse damage. Even if you have damaged your spine, you may be okay and suffer no paralysis if you don’t further damage your spinal column.

If you are able to walk away from a crash, you can treat it like an automobile accident : exchange insurance information if other drivers are involved and remove your motorcycle from the roadway, if it is safe to do so. If there is any chance of spinal injury, all you can do is wait for help.