“There are two types of riders, those who have been down, and those who are going down”. We’ve all heard the saying. And chances are, that you have been lectured by friends, family, or even complete strangers about how someone they know’s brother’s sister’s cousin was injured or killed on a bike. And as much as we all get annoyed with being lectured about how we shouldn’t do something we love because its dangerous, this phenomenon happens for a reason.
Unfortunately, the Lean Angle crew has had more than our fair share of unscheduled get-offs this season. Capped off by this past weekend’s events, which contained more carnage than we have experienced in recent memory. With two bikes ending up in the junkyard and one rider fetching a ride to the hospital in a helicopter, we figured it may be time to review some common steps to keep everyone safe.
Obviously, the best way to avoid a crash is to not let it happen in the first place. But since we can’t control everything, the next best step is to be prepared in case it does happen. Some items we have found to help minimize your chances of a wreck in the first place:
Know Your Limits! We are listing this first as it is the most important thing you can do to avoid an accident. The vast majority of motorcycling “incidents” can be prevented by slowing down and giving yourself enough time to react. A common saying is “don’t ride faster than you can see”. However, Just because you can see something doesn’t mean you ave enough time to react to it. The “two-second rule” is taught in all MSF classes, where you pick a stationary point and begin counting when the vehicle in front of you passes it.. If you get past the object before you get to “two Mississippi” then you don’t have enough space to stop properly. Additionally, MotorcyclistOnline published a great article years ago entitled “the pace”. Many groups and advanced riders use this mantra on the street with large success. Don’t let anyone else’s riding affect your own. Ride your own ride, and if the group doesn’t wait for you, they probably aren’t the people you want to be with anyway. Real bikers wont leave one of their own behind.
Wear your gear! Both of our riders walked away with minimal injury and bloodshed because of proper equipment. Trey was wearing a full textile setup in addition to his Arai helmet, which undoubtedly helped to save his life. Whereas Chris managed to keep his sweet tattoos thanks to the help from his full Dianese 2-piece suit. Proper gear is expensive, but if you cant afford the gear, buy a cheaper bike. This could literally be the difference between walking away or not. Best part: most insurance will cover your gear, so if you wreck in it, you wont be out a ton of cash just to be safe again.
Know where you are! It’s a good idea for everyone to have a rough idea where you are and will be going. This includes someone not riding with you. From an experience last-season I can tell you that trying to call an ambulance with nothing more than a rough idea of what is around you can be nerve-wracking. While the operator may be able to pull your location from phone data, you will be much more calm if you can explain exactly where you are on what road which will help with the rest of the situation. If you don’t know your exact route, or are unfamiliar with the area, keep an eye on road signs. If you are going to fast to read road signs, take it to the track.
ICE Yourself! Most modern cell phones will have a dedicated emergency contact section which is accessible without knowing the phone’s password. While 911 should be your first call, your next should be to the rider’s family to let them know where you are and where you are heading so they can meet you there. If you have a regular group that you ride with, it may be a good idea to begin a group emergency list which can be stored on a forum or other “cloud” accessible to all members. This can be as simple as a contact name and number, or extensive enough to include allergies and other important medical information.
Doing these things will help prepare you just in case something happens. But when the rubber hits the road (or rather, leaves it), there are some other things you should be prepared for:
Designate a leader! This will usually be the first person to the scene. However if there is someone in your group with medical experience, hopefully they will step in and take over. As leader, you should give specific directions to specific people. General statements like “Someone call 911” are likely to result in everyone thinking someone is already doing it, resulting in no one doing it. This is more commonly known as the “Bystander Effect”. Instead, point and make eye contact, using names if necessary to say “You (Insert name here) call 911”. This creates a specific person responsible to make the call. The leader should also be the one to coordinate with the medics regarding which hospital the rider is going to, so that you can let the emergency contacts know.
Don’t make any unnecessary movements! In some instances, the rider will be able to get up walk away and take their gear off, that’s great! But if the rider is unresponsive or unable to move, do not try to move them. Leave the helmet on unless it is causing immediate danger. Instead, wait for paramedics to properly stabilize and remove the lid. If necessary, use a jacket, towel or other gear to stabilize the head from rolling side to side or back and forth. While you may think that removing the helmet could help, there may be head/ neck injuries that are worsened by additional movement.
Get out of the way! Once someone has taken the lead or the paramedics have arrived, your best bet is to remove yourself from the immediate vicinity of the rider as it makes communication confusing and difficult to hear. Since your accident will likely take place on a public road, your efforts are better served directing traffic, getting the bike out of the road, or notifying the rider’s emergency contact.
Call a truck! Most of us know someone with a pick-up but you should always have the number for a reputable cycle-towing company in your phone in case your contact with a truck can’t get to you. One thing that was made clear after an incident last season was that the local police may not know any towing companies to call, and if they do, that company may not specialize in or know how to haul motorcycles.
Take pictures! The downed rider will (obviously) have some difficulty recalling the exact events, especially in the event of a loss of consciousness. Pictures of the crash site, impact site, and gear involved can help to re-construct the crash, and provide valuable information for your insurance company to indemnify you as best as possible. Some things to snap pictures of include any skid-marks, gravel/ hazards in the road, any tracks, or points of impact, resting place of the bike, and so on.
Report back! As the person involved in the wreck, your primary responsibility is to get better. However if your riding buddies aren’t there for you to get discharged, shoot them a message or give them a call whenever you are able. They can then fill you in on where your bike is, who has been notified, and anything else they may be able to do to help you in your journey to get back on the road. Wrecking is terrible, losing your bike only makes it worse. I can promise that your riding buddies will jump at the chance to help out or turn some wrenches.
Obviously no one likes to wreck, and if it does happen, we hope it is just a low speed tip-over which doesn’t require use of any of the later steps. However we have chosen a sport that is inherently high-risk and where wrecking is an unfortunate reality of riding. Chances are that you have your own pre-outing rituals to prepare for your ride. But the best way to prepare for any ride, is to prepare for any crash.
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