Don´t drop your bike

I wrote the attached article with the idea of submitting it for publication in the BMW Owners News.

It occured to me that, klutz that I am, I may still not have mastered all the ways of dropping a bike and that some of you may have found other methods. If you would care to share any horror stories on this topic and what you learned, please do so by emailing me no later than April 20. I absolutely guarantee your name will not be mentioned in the article. If I get several responses I can use, I will give credit to "members of the VBMWR club."
Thanks. Doug Sonju <> [Sorry, everybody, I'm so late. ecy]

Don't Drop the Bike
Let's define dropping the bike as ìa 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 qualification for writing this article is simple: in four years and about 30K miles of riding I've made most of these mistakes, and sometimes more than once. 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. 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. Riding off with the side stand still down is another 'no-no' which I have committed several times.

I think the risk of accident is slight  but, I assure you, the embarrassment is acute. My mantra is 'side stand before gear.' I still sometimes forget when I ride my wife's scooter. No gearshift. Centre Stands: There is a knack to putting a bike on a centre stand, but it is easily acquired if your bike doesn't have a  powered rear suspension and the ground is hard and flat. Remember those words, 'hard and flat.' If that bike tilts ever so slightly to the right because the ground under the two centre stand contact points really wasn't 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 or strong winds are a threat. If you can't push the bike off the centre stand from the saddle, then you'll have to ease it off from the left side of the bike. Make sure the bike isnít aimed downhill and that the side stand is in place. Front brake mistakes: I guess 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. Train yourself to always squeeze rather than grab the front brake lever and you can stop pretty quickly even on wet pavement. The main 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. I've twice dropped a bike making a very low speed turn in that situation. Both times I saw the gravel, did my serious slowing on the hard surface, but I think failed to get completely off the front brake before the wheel touched the gravel. Riding on sand or gravel roads, favour the rear brake and use the front brake very judiciously if at all.

Actually, there was a third incident. 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.
I hope this article saves you some scratches on your pride and joy.
Doug Sonju

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