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Dumping A Bike Is No Sin
But ending up under it is

By: James R. Davis

I have a suspicion that many here think that dumping a bike is to be avoided at all costs. That dumping a bike is extremely dangerous. That experienced riders simply don't do such a thing.

Nonsense! I do not know anybody who has a few years of experience on two-wheels who has failed to dump their bike, or who will not sooner or later do so.

To dump a bike should be an embarrassment, and is the stuff we kid each other about, but it need not be dangerous.

After a very long ride, I have seen very experienced people stop, get off their bikes and start to walk away from them - without having put their side stands down. I have seen people mount a bike that was parked on a right-biased slope and have the bike fall over to the right as a result. I have seen loose gravel cause a foot to slip away and the bike lay down before an eye could blink. But in virtually every case, there was neither damage to the bike nor to the rider.

It is no sin to dump a bike, but it is stupid and dangerous to end up under that bike!

The VERY FIRST riding lesson I give a person who is moving up to a larger bike is how to dump it. If they are not, yet, riding a big bike, I even let them learn this lesson using my GoldWing.

I have them take the bike onto a grassy area with relatively firm ground and, with the engine turned off, I have them lean the bike slowly over to the left. I have explained before we do any of this that what I want them to learn is that there comes a point in leaning the bike where the center of gravity of the bike will move past the side of their tank and that most of the weight of the bike will be on their 'down' leg. That at this point NOBODY can hold up a GoldWing and that to try to do so can result in injury! That they are to decide for themselves when they have reached that point and then to STOP TRYING TO HOLD UP THE BIKE. They are to let go of the lower grip, QUICKLY step on the high peg and step as wide away from the bike as possible with their 'down' leg as the bike lays down.

If they do this correctly they will find that they remain standing, one foot on the ground, the other on the high peg, with the bike between their legs on its side.

It usually takes no more than two tries to get this right - the first try usually finds them landing on their hands. (If they do, I remind them that they might want to let go of the lower grip before it pulls them to the ground .) But by the second time they get the idea that they have to let go of the lower grip, shift their weight VERY FAST to the high peg and step away with the other leg. This 'move' tends not to be forgotten long after it is learned

With the bike down they then observe, at least for Wings, that it usually does not even leave its wheels because of the engine and saddlebag guards, and that neither is there damage to the bike. This goes a long ways towards increasing confidence.

The next lesson, of course, is how to pick up a 900 pound bike.

By the way, I extend this lesson into a discussion of when you should keep your feet on the pegs and when you can safely step away from a bike that is going down: If the bike is moving faster than you can walk, keep your feet on the pegs! If it is going slower than that, stand on the high peg and let the bike fall between your legs and walk (hop) away from it.

[If you are going to practice this on your bike MAKE SURE THE BIKE HAS SOME FORM OF ENGINE GUARD TO PREVENT DAMAGE!!! I assure you that I've performed this practice SEVERAL times with my GoldWing without damage but your bike is an unknown to me. You can use a flat solid surface, such as a LARGE piece of cardboard and place one edge at the contact patch of both tires then see if anything other than your fold-up pegs and engine guards touch that surface. If so, it can hit the ground when you dump the bike and break. Notice has been given.]

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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