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"I laid it down" is a crock
(More charitably, it is an excuse.)

By: James R. Davis

I recently had a message posted on my board from a long-time rider which said the following:

I laid it down one time on purpose.
I was entering a green light intersection about 30mph when I saw what turned out to be a drunk driver entering on my right intending to run his red light.
I ran thru 3 options in my head:
1) If I keep going he will T-bone me;
2) If I try and stop I will T-bone him;
3) Lay it down and hit him with both of my wheels and the whole bike between me and his car.

I took Option 3, destroyed my helmet on his A-pillar, destroyed his left front fender/wheel/ door, landed on my tailbone after flying over his car. Bottom line: totaled Harley, totaled Plymouth, totaled Bell helmet, cracked tailbone, opened up head, 10 days on a board in the hospital.
I never ride without a helmet now.

His 'logic' was reasonable, though badly flawed, but worse by far it sounded like a recommendation to others to consider doing the same thing. On balance, it was a crock of ...

This is the kind of story that a newbie must learn to filter and dismiss instead of believing. It is especially difficult for them given the 'story' includes a rational and obvious bit of good advice (to always wear a helmet).

His 'option 2' was the ONLY viable and certainly the safest choice he could have made. If you are going to crash you want to do it at the slowest possible speed and that happens only if you use an emergency braking maneuver. By 'maneuver' I mean that you squeeze the front brake hard, then harder, then harder still without locking up the brake, and by using the rear brake modestly and then with less and less pressure so that it, too, does not lock up. And it means that you keep your head and eyes pointing straight ahead, the bike pointing straight ahead, and you lean forward to lower the bike's center of gravity.

Let's look at the whole idea of 'laying it down'. Do you wonder where a person learns how to lay a bike down on purpose? I mean, I have never heard of a class, certainly not an MSF class, that teaches a rider how to do that. Yet, it seems, this rider knew just how to do it in an emergency situation. Isn't that fantastic?

Let's suppose that you really did want to lay down a bike while it's moving at highway speeds. Which control would you use? There is no 'lay down' button on your motorcycle so it must be one or more of the other controls. Since this rider wants to end up with his wheels hitting the car ahead of him, my guess is that the bike has to be made to turn 90 degrees from its direction of travel. The only controls that you have to change direction are the handlebar itself. And, at highway speeds, you have no choice but to use counter-steering. So, it must be that you use counter-steering to lay a bike down. But my experience has taught me that when you change direction you actually move in a different direction. If this rider merely pressed forward hard on, say, his left grip, then his motorcycle would have moved dramatically to the right, not just swiveled in place within his lane of traffic and switched the front end of the bike from pointing dead ahead to pointing directly to the left.

But if the bike actually moved away from the track he was riding in, and aggressively so, then wouldn't that actually be a panic swerve? And if a panic swerve COULD be performed such that you would miss the collision altogether, why wouldn't you simply do that instead of going further and ending up on the ground?

The fact is that if you could use a panic swerve to avoid an accident you would do so instead of 'laying it down'. This rider already claimed that that was not an option because it was not listed.

In order to end up on the ground your tires have to lose traction. That happens, as you know, if you overuse your brakes. Skid marks are clear indicators when that happens. And the brake that is easiest to overuse is attached to the rear wheel. Its at least a coincidence that when you skid the rear tire your bike's rear end tends to yaw to one side or the other, particularly if you are also using the front brake. And the result can easily be that the rear tire, not the front one, is what slides out from under you while you tend to stay in the same lane you were traveling in at the time. Surely it is more likely that in order to 'lay a bike down' you use the rear brake instead of counter-steering.

But if you skid your tires you no longer are getting maximum stopping power from your brakes. Instead, you have reduced your rate of deceleration by about 25% from what it was just prior to the start of the skid.

Now I don't know about you but if I had my preferences I would want to be slowing as quickly as possible when faced with a crash and that means I would not want my tires to skid at all.

But what if you could increase your rate of deceleration by sliding on the side of your motorcycle instead of on its tires? Well, the problem with that is that steel (and plastic) have less friction when scrubbing against asphalt than does the rubber of its tires. So that a sliding motorcycle which is on its side instead of on its tires will slow even less quickly than if you simply skid your tires.

You know what I'm saying ... 'laying down' a motorcycle is NOT a deliberate event on the street. Instead, it is an after-the-event explanation, an excuse, of what happened which is designed to save face. In short, it is BS.

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

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