Video Lesson: Group Riding Crash Video

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of the guy who crashes trying to avoid his buddy who just hit a dog. The second rider doesn’t hit his friend, but almost gets creamed by an oncoming Tractor Trailer. A lot of comments and Monday morning quarterbacking have filled social media already, so I wasn’t planning to add to the noise until a reader requested that I share my thoughts. So, here you go.

First off, I am really sorry this incident happened and I’m glad everyone is okay. I’m very thankful that the truck driver was paying attention so he was able to miss hitting the sliding rider. It’s really too bad about the dog, though.

For those of you who have not seen the video(s):

In addition to these clips, you can read a local TV station's post that interviews one of the riders, as well as a so-called "Expert". You can see that HERE.

Another Example of the “I Had to Lay It Down” BS

The second rider said he avoided hitting his friend by deliberately dropping his bike. I hear this all the time…”I had to lay it down to avoid [fill in the blank]”. It’s BS.

I know, the idea is to try to avoid what could be a worse crash. And in VERY rare situations, this may be true. But, 99.9% of the time, crashing to avoid a crash makes no sense. Today’s brakes and tires allow tons of grip and stopping power to scrub off big speed very rapidly…if executed correctly.

Even if this was a viable solution, having the presence of mind to deliberately crash while facing a panic situation is not bloody likely. It’s way more likely that a person will react the way untrained humans do…by grabbing the brakes abruptly enough to cause the front tire to skid. Classic mistake.

Unfortunately, this video will help keep this dangerous BS myth alive.

Human Nature

The truth is that the second rider who crashed screwed up by braking too abruptly. Don’t feel too bad. We humans make mistakes.

As much as you’d like to think of yourself as a hero for sacrificing your bike and riding gear to avoid hitting your buddy, the odds are that you just braked so hard as to loft the rear tire and skid the front tire, which dropped your moto to the ground in an instant.

You’re not alone. A lot of riders claim that they layed down their bike because they:

  • genuinely believe it was the best thing to do
  • probably know better, but are in denial
  • helps them feel better about screwing up. And who can blame them, after all people easily accept this explanation in a positive way. Just look at the TV reporters and so called expert who gave the rider a big attaboy.

The Case For Training

It’s likely that this guy has not been exposed to such a severe situation before and was not trained to handle it. Unfortunately, most riders are ill prepared to handle this.

To be fair, it’s possible that I might do the exact same thing, because I too am human and make mistakes. But the odds are that I won’t, because I’m trained. One thing for sure is that I would not have deliberately crashed my bike because I thought it was best to throw in the towel.

Practicing braking techniques not only teaches your body how to execute the maneuver, it also puts the maneuver into your muscle memory. This is key when you have a split second to respond. Untrained riders snap, whereas trained riders are more likely to remain in control. ABS would have helped the second rider stay upright, but deferring rider ability to technology has its problems, too.

Notice that I say “respond” and not “react”. There is a difference. Trained riders respond, untrained riders react.

What Went Wrong

A few things went wrong here:

Unleashed Animals

Animals are unpredictable, making it super difficult to know when they might dart in front of you. I hit a small dog last season when it ran out from some high brush and directly under my front wheel. We can’t control this, except to scan for movement along the sides of the road.

Staggered Formation

The staggered group riding formation that the group was using is not unreasonable when traveling on a straight section of road. But, if you look at the video from the rider ahead who looked back, you can see that the rider that struck the dog could not see the animal until it was really too late. That’s because the video rider was blocking the view of the side of the road.

Staggered formations also prevent the riders from using the full width of their lane and limited their option to swerve.

Instead of using a staggered formation that spans the full width of the lane, I suggest staggering only enough to see past the rider ahead so there is more distance between the yellow (center) line for riders staggering on the left part of the lane, and more distance between the white line for riders in the right part of the lane. This will help prevent them from “eclipsing” each other from hazards. This works best if there is ample following distance between riders.

Riding Too Close

It’s hard to tell just how close each rider is following, but a too close following distance commonly results in panic-induced over reaction. I suspect this was another factor.

A Lack of Training

We hit this already, but it is worthy of reiteration. The second rider got on the brakes hard, which is good. But, his abrupt braking caused his rear tire to leave the ground, which was quickly followed by smoke coming off the front tire from a skid. Once a front tire skids, it’s all over, most of the time.

Speed?

Speed is usually a factor in incidents, simply because the slower you go, the more time and space you have to respond to hazards. That said, it appears that the speed was reasonable for the road.

An Interview with a So-called “Expert”

The television station interviewed a local motorcycle safety instructor about the mishap:

“A perfect choice by the rider,” says Vandervest Harley-Davidson Riding Academy Coach Susie Davis. “The bikes can be fixed much easier than people can be fixed – so proud of them for doing that.”

Both men decided to drop their bikes and skid on the road instead of swerving to avoid the dog and then each other. Davis says that split-second decision may have saved their lives and the lives of the other motorcyclists with them.

”I think they did a miraculous job,” said Davis. “They let the bike go. They saved themselves. They came out alive. They’ve come out with minor injuries. I don’t know that it could have been done any differently.”

WRONG! This coach is dead wrong and is perpetuating this BS. Having a supposedly trained instructor miss the point just goes to show how deeply ingrained this myth has become. Sad.

A Similar Perspective

Riding Man author Mark Gardiner wrote these two excellent articles that corroborate my point of view. Check them out.

His Blog

Revzilla

The Takeaway

Untrained humans will react in a knee-jerk manner to panic situations. To avoid this:

  • Get yourself trained
  • Select lane positions that offer the best angle of view
  • Don’t lay your bike down, or at least stop claiming that laying it down was your only choice.

The guys did at least one thing right: They were wearing protective gear. Good job, there.

Share your thoughts below.


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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Safety, Rider Education, Video Tagged with: , , , ,
11 comments on “Video Lesson: Group Riding Crash Video
  1. Joshua says:

    Note also that the second rider was riding (at that very unfortunate moment) on the road middle paint! That did not help in providing traction for braking. I would say that guy was pretty lucky to not be apple sauce on the lorry windscreen.

  2. James J. says:

    Nice job Ken with the breakdown, it all happens so fast. Glad that everyone was ok. As for the gear worn, I’ve seen much worse, unfortunately. The BS comment is classic and the intentional laydown is just an excuse. Get some training!! J.

  3. John Jarnagin says:

    I have taken several riding instruction courses and even a non-sport track day in order to learn and practice what I need to know to be a safe rider. I have never, ever been told or shown how to “lay a bike down”. Grab lots of front brake and lean? How? When? My point is these situations call for immediate responses, something practiced before. Just where is the knowledge or memory of a “lay down” is going to come from?

  4. C Galanopulo says:

    Small dog… why even brake at all? Since misapplied braking is the culprit here, a small dog soft tissue and small bone structure would have been just bump in the road… to some it may sound cruel. I’ve hit a squirrel and a big possum no big deal it’s not like hitting a solid object like a brick or curb. This seems like a panic chain reaction of bad judgement. BTW don’t know of any modern firearm that would fire a round if dropped or even slammed to the ground unless of course it was Japanese Nambu from WW2. Anti-gun mythology.

  5. Bill Kenney says:

    Ken, looking at the videos, I don’t really see anyone wearing proper gear. Looks like the girl rider is wearing a sweatshirt and mechanics gloves, the guys are all wearing sneakers and jeans, one sneaker which came off when he went down is still in the middle of the road. They could all use an “accident scene management” course. Definitely could have been much worse and I hope they all learn something from it. Odd part, it seems as if the two guys that crashed the hardest would have got away with no or few injuries if he didn’t get run over my his friend.

  6. Pete Tamblyn says:

    In addition to correctly calling BS on the “laid it down” excuse, I put further blame on the group’s riding in staggered formation. If we believe that a certain position within one’s lane (left wheel track, center, or right wheel track) is for any given situation the preferred or correct position to maintain, then if a group assumes the full-on goose-step locked stagger, half of the riders will by default be forced to ride in the wrong part of the lane. Ken’s suggestion that the staggered formation be modified to just a slight offset from the rider in front to allow visibility ahead is a much better option for highway riding than a total right lane/left lane stagger. This way it is much easier to maintain situational awareness (i.e. better visibility) and also permits each rider to correctly maintain a 2-3 second following distance. Too often the formation tightens to allow a scant 1-second following distance behind your wingmate in the opposite lane; if he needs the entire lane suddenly, you’re all over his rear end with severely reduced options.

  7. You can’t avoid what you don’t see coming. Reading the surroundings constantly may her given the tail rider a bit more time. That “grab ‘ of the front brake suggests he was caught by surprise .

    (13 years MSF RC and ARC instructor (Retired)
    (Retired Lee Parks Total Control Instructor and site manager).

  8. Bob LoCicero says:

    There is 3rd video of this accident. https://youtu.be/1Q6mRPP1_58 Freeze frame this at 20 seconds and you’ll see the DRZ skidding the front tire with the rear in the air.

    The rider with the camera has time to stop before hitting the rider in front of her, but then hits the rider who hit the dog.

    For rider of the DRZ: on a dual sport like the DRZ the rear brake is large part of minimize your stopping distance. It appear there was still room with he went down.

    Also note the clear visible firearm on the downed rider’s hip. I’m presuming this is a loaded weapon (or what’s the point of carrying it?). I’m not a firearms expert, but this seems like a questionable decision on the rider’s part: best case falling a hard metal object, worse case unintended discharge.

    • Doc Lemire says:

      If he was wearing a proper holster with retention there is a really low risk of it coming free or discharging. Motorcyclr cops have a weapon on them everyday. Carrying on a motorcycle is not a poor choice. I would rather be a warrior in the garden then a gardner at war.

      • Pete Tamblyn says:

        I don’t have a problem with some one carrying while riding. However,I would much prefer to crash-land on proper hip armor than a 9mm Glock! That would only add to the bruising. Ouch!

  9. Tom Oakes says:

    The reporter and ‘riding instructor’ make it sound like the second rider made a deliberate choice to lay down the second bike. I agree with you that it’s total BS. He panicked and locked up that wheel well before he reached his buddy on the roadway. He had an opportunity to see the dog darting in front of his buddy from a greater distance and had more time to respond by braking and steering. There was room to the right of the fallen rider to get around. As for the first rider, it could have helped if the lead rider would have thrown out leg or arm or some other caution to slow down. His view of the dog was partially obstructed. I would not say the first collision was unavoidable but it may have been more difficult to avoid because he didn’t pay attention to the cruiser brake lights ahead of them that just passed the dog.

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