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The Greatest Oxymoron Of All
"I laid down my bike to avoid a crash"

By: James R. Davis

I had to take a plane from Houston to New York City today and while I was waiting for my flight to depart I struck up a conversation with another passenger who happened to be interested in motorcycles.

The man confessed to having had three motorcycle accidents in the past - though "I almost avoided one of them", he said. "I dumped my bike in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to avoid hitting a truck."

That sounded like three crashes to me, no matter how you slice it.

With the sole exception of electing to do a 'low-side' rather than allow a 'high-side' to occur (that is, AFTER you have inadvertantly locked your rear wheel and cannot keep up with correcting the slide), I can think of no good reason to cause an accident in order to avoid an accident. I mean, if a CRASH is virtually certain to happen then it seems to me that one should do everything possible to minimize the severity of that event rather than abandoning the effort and settling for a different form of crash.

This man told me that he and his wife hit the ground at 45 MPH about 1 second before they 'T-boned' the pickup truck that had stopped in the intersection ahead of them. He was convinced that the road rash and a couple of 'minor broken bones' they got from the impact with the street was far less than what would have happened to them had they hit the truck first. (I'm convinced the man didn't have a clue.)

That makes no sense to me at all! If they had been able to stay on their brakes for a full second before impact they could have, at a stopping rate of 1 g (32.2 ft/sec^2), scrubbed off almost 22 MPH before the impact. In other words, they would have hit the car moving at a speed of about 23 MPH instead of hitting the street at 45 MPH.

When I asked him HOW he dumped his bike his answer sounded a little less than likely: "I stood on the rear brake and slid the tire out from under me." While I don't doubt that this is exactly what happened, I do doubt that it was deliberate - and, more to the point, I think that action was as far from reasonable as it was less than deliberate.

One more time: Locking your rear wheel is an invitation to high-sidehigh-side your bike - it NEVER makes sense to aggressively use your rear brake - NEVER!

Dumping a bike is a CRASH. Staying on your brakes until you actually impact something will reduce your speed at the point of impact far more than will sliding on the pavement before you hit an object - and there is no pain or damage done to you or the bike until you do impact. Finally, it should be clear that hitting something at 23 MPH is more survivable than hitting the asphalt at 45 MPH before you then hit that something at a speed still greater than 23 MPH.

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

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