How to Crash


I sometimes get questions from students, readers and other fellow riders asking whether there are ways to minimize injury during a crash. I’ll give you the few tips I know, but realistically you don’t have too many options once you and your motorcycle part ways. In most cases you will not have any control of the situation to do much more than hang on for the ride.

Sky, Ground, Sky, Ground photo: Josh B.

What Are The Options?

It’s not all bad news. Some “easy” crashes (like a low side on smooth pavement with plenty of runoff area) may allow you to exercise a few options.

  • Try to relax to make your limbs less rigid to minimize the risk of torn ligaments and broken bones (think cooked spaghetti).
  • If you’re sliding, extend your arms and legs to help slow yourself down and to spread the load so you don’t burn through your riding gear.
  • If you start to roll and tumble, tuck your limbs against your body…kinda like when you rolled down a hill as a kid.
  • Try not to extend your arms to break the fall. It’s human nature to extend your arms as you are falling, but this can lead to a broken wrist or collarbone. Even if you don’t extend your arms like Superman, a good whack on the shoulder can still snap a clavicle in two.
  • Let go of the bike! Hanging onto the handlebars will only make things worse. You want to be as far away from the bike as possible when it starts tumbling.
  • Don’t stand up right away. More times than not, you are still sliding even though you think you’ve stopped. Next thing you know you are seeing sky, ground, sky ground.
  • Remain flat on the ground. It’s better to have another bike behind run you over than hit you as you sit or stand up. If you crash on the street and get run over by a car, it doesn’t really matter.
  • Assess the situation and crawl to safety. You’re pumped with adrenaline and may not make good decisions, so look first and then move.

Remember, these are “shot in the dark” suggestions that may help, but may not.

Marc Marquez takes a big hit. We would all wish for his airbag race suit if we were to crash.
Marc Marquez takes a big hit. We would all wish for his airbag race suit if we were to crash.

To The Moon, Alice!

Adding throttle and increased lean angle at the same time is a bad idea.
A highside in progress.

If you’re particularly unlucky you’ll get to experience a highside. A highside is when your bike’s rear tire loses traction (usually while you are exiting a corner on the gas) and the rear of the bike swings sideways. Just then, the rear tire regains traction and immediately tries to realign with the front wheel. This turns your bike into a trebouche and you are the catapult’s fodder.

Your landing will be hard and what happens after that is anyone’s guess. I just hope you’re wearing good armor (and back protector) and have decent insurance.

Crash Prevention

Instead of trying to control something that is not controllable, you’re much better off focusing on preventing the mishap from happening in the first place. Don’t drink and ride, don’t ride over your head, don’t ride faster than the environment can support, and become the smartest and most talented rider possible. Now, those are areas where you have some control.

Prepare For the Worst

Most crashes are preventable, but some aren’t, which is why it’s smart to be as protected as possible to minimize the damage. That means wearing a full-coverage helmet, sturdy jacket and pants with armor, gauntlet gloves, and boots that provide extra impact protection for your heel and ankles. Don’t leave home without it!

The Racetrack is Safer

Hopefully, any crashes you experience are on a racetrack where you aren’t likely to hit anything lethal (like unprotected guardrails and oncoming vehicles). If you end up hurdling over a car hood, I hope your affairs are in order because that rarely turns out well.

Have you crashed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.


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10 Replies to “How to Crash”

  1. The “don’t stand up too fast, you could still be sliding is true..”
    I did it once and as soon as my boots hit ground I scorpioned. Not fun.

  2. I went through a Highgate high side crash about a year ago. After leaving the restaurant with a friend of mine we both started to get on the in trap ramp he hit it so did I( he has a gxsr 636 I have a R1). I lost traction the bike kicked once I pulled out back in only to get kicked right back out, this time it launched me off. After flying through the air I landed on my side and went into a back slide as my bike slid past me. Lucky for me that night I was fully geared. My bike was damaged but rideable, after it all I almost broke my hip bone and have permanent nerve damage but I still get on my old girl. This was in Colorado in March so sand on the road was to blame.

  3. A few of your comments about street riding were gratuitous, snarky and self righteous. It’s fine for you to prefer riding on the track, but no need to be preachy about it. Our industry is small enough as it is, under constant attack from do-gooders who think riding on “donor-cycles” should be outlawed completely (including on your precious and “safer” racetrack).

    We don’t need industry insiders telling us it doesn’t really matter if we get up or stay down in a street crash. We don’t need the condescension of “I hope your affairs are in order”…

    The street comments reminded me of this season’s “you’ll shoot your eye out” know-it-alls.

    The rest of the article was fine, but certainly nothing new was covered.

    1. Wow Richard. Sorry I rubbed your fur in the wrong direction. I hope that other readers get the intended message; that it’s better to focus on preventing a crash and not thinking you can crash and get away with it…racetrack or street.

  4. After a few on track off as well as one on street off I can honestly say once your in it its too late. Fortunately we can control a few things going in. Gear, bike speed and equipment state are things we can control. Well, that and our own self control! Every time I crash I learn something. I guess that’s the positive take away from them.

  5. 2 crashes on the street for me. Both I can blame on riding too fast for the conditions/environment. The first was a lowside on cold tires. I lost the front in a left hander while riding in NH. It happened very quickly. The bike and I were sliding on our left sides while I was still trying to figure out why I could see my frame slider actually touching pavement. I separated myself from my bike but unfortunately slid headfirst on my back. I could not turn myself into a more protective position before I left the roadway. I was very fortunate there was a large soft soldier and a very soft drainage ditch that my bike and I slid into. Bike was pretty trashed but I walked away with a bruised hand and ego. My gear and a duffel bag full of luck saved me for sure.

    The second was at Deals Gap on a very quiet morning. Again I was riding too quickly for the environment but what I felt was a very comfortable pace for my skill level at the time. I did not anticipate the large turkey crossing the road in the middle of a blind right hairpin though. Instinctively, I grabbed front brake while trying to stand the bike up but had too much lean angle. The front tire overloaded from everything I was asking from it and I tucked the front. The pavement was not as friendly this time and I hit quite a bit harder. I still walked away but very slowly and didn’t get very far. A few days in the hospital and I was on my way home with some new metal parts inside. Again, my gear and a lot of luck saved me from what could have been a much worse outcome.

  6. Ken,

    What is your opinion of the effectiveness of strap-on body armor relative to built-in?

    ps: best wishes on your new gig writing for a glossy.

    1. Mark,
      The problem with strap on armor is that it can shift underneath you jacket or pants when you slide on pavement. It usually twists and leaves your critical anatomy exposed. Strap-on armor can be okay if it is very snug and secure, but even built-in armor can move around if the garment fits too loosely. Heck, Vanson leathers have been known to give serious road rash even without the leather ever tearing.

      So, make sure your leathers or jacket, pants fit snugly and that your armor is secured so it stays put.

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