Flip-flops, a T-shirt and shorts aren't going to offer much protection when a truck smashes into you.
Sportbikes are like magnets for clueless drivers. Try to find a protected parking space where your ride won't be exposed and vulnerable.
The best day can quickly become the worst in the blink of an eye. It's the same old story and there are countless scenarios: after an epic ride with your buddies a car comes out of nowhere and ruins it in an instant. Or maybe it was a deer in your headlight that forced you off the road. Hell, maybe a looped wheelie or a banana peel put an ugly end to an otherwise perfect day. How you managed to hit the ground isn't as important to a positive end result as the steps you take immediately afterwards.
It's a terrible thing to consider, but we must keep a crash plan in the back of our minds at all times-it's all we've got to keep us on our toes, which means riding smart and returning home safe. The details might change from ride to ride; a trackday will have an ambulance on site, but a twisty road at twilight certainly won't. And a vacant parking lot can be just as dangerous as a packed freeway because of the extreme riding style involved. When the venue changes so should the safety strategy.
Will other riders be present? Will your cell phone have service in a remote area? There's a lot to consider, and only the foolish disregard the potential for disaster.
SSB spoke with the police to get by-the-book post-crash protocol, but there are always gray areas. Ultimately, common sense must prevail, but clear thinking can be tricky in the heat of the moment.
Crash Scene 1: Solo
Sometimes it's hard to resist going out for a quick rip alone, but even your favorite corner will eventually bite back, forcing you off the road and into the weeds.
Provided your bike is ridable, get back on the road and head home-slowly. The chances are high, however, that an important part like a brake lever or clip-on will have snapped, leaving you stranded. In this likely scenario put your bike in the safest, most secluded spot possible and call a friend with a pickup truck to come fetch you. Someone will probably pull over to offer help, but assure them you're fine and that you've already called the police. Otherwise these meddling motorists will, and you'll be facing tickets for losing control and/or riding recklessly.
According to our LA law enforcement officer: "As long as there aren't drugs or alcohol involved I wouldn't issue a ticket. There isn't really a crime involved, and accidents happen."
This officer seems to be a bit more lenient than others we've dealt with in the past.
Crash Scene 2: Taken Out
Unfortunately for motorcyclists, there are four-wheeled vehicles on the road with some shockingly inept pilots behind the wheel. Cars frequently hit motorcycles, despite our loud exhausts and flashy, brightly colored gear. If you're the victim, first perform the wiggle check as you lie on the ground-if your body seems to be moving properly immediately call 911.
According to our policeman, calling 911 is imperative in order to obtain a police report for financial and insurance purposes later on: "The first thing you should do is call 911. Once notified, the dispatcher will get a cruiser out as well as an ambulance if needed. If nobody's hurt and the vehicles are functioning, the parties should move the vehicles from the road, but only after you've taken as many pictures as possible. This will help the officers determine who was at fault.
Be sure to snap some pics of the license plate as well, because in certain situations we've seen motorists leave the scene after determining that nobody was hurt. This isn't technically illegal, but you could get burned later on if they gave you bogus info and you can't track them down.
"While you wait for the police to arrive do not speak with the other motorist about who was at fault. This could lead to complications or even arguments that can cloud the situation.
"One of the most important things to keep in mind is to maintain your cool. Obviously the adrenaline will be pumping and people can get really upset. If you're yelling and screaming when an officer arrives you'll bring more negative attention on you-and that's never good. Keep your cool and use common sense."
Crash Scene 3: Hit and Run
When somebody decides to play a little bump and run it's the motorcycle that always comes out worse for wear. By the time you scoop yourself up and get your bike started the offender could be in the next time zone. If you can gather any immediate info (make/model/color/plate number) and a location, a call to 911 could nab them.
The best-case scenario is that one of your riding partners is able to follow them-at a safe distance-for just enough time to gather the exact license plate number and vehicle description, then pull over and call 911.
The official advice differs from ours: "Get the 911 call put out with as much info as you can provide. Don't chase the car. If they crash and hurt themselves (or someone else) you could be liable!"
Crash Scene 4: Parking Lot
These are the embarrassing situations-the sort of stuff you try to keep a secret from your friends and family. Silly, low speed tip overs are part of the bike ownership experience, and unfortunately there isn't a lot we can do. It's called learning the hard way.
The fluorescent band that's attached to most disc locks is there to remind you to remove the lock before riding off, so use it. It's also a good theft deterrent.
Be aware that new tires have a slimy film that slowly wears off as it's scrubbed in. After fitting new tires give yourself some miles before getting hard on the gas or brakes or you'll be picking your bike up off the ground.
An unfortunate disadvantage that parked bikes have is that they seem to act as a magnet for clumsy drivers who bump and knock them over. The only thing we can do is pick our parking spots wisely; don't squeeze in between two bumpers or park in an open space. Find one partially protected by a parking block, curb or sidewalk.
Falling off or finding your bike on the ground in a parking lot is more of an ego hit than anything criminal. Because of high rates and deductibles, it's usually better not to involve police and simply pay the damage out of pocket.
Have a chat with your riding crew about these various scenarios and how you'll react as a team. If one goes down he doesn't need the entire group to hover over him, but rather help direct traffic, deal with the other motorists involved or even follow a hit and run suspect. There's no shame in talking about crashing-it might just help save your life.
Storage space is tight on sportbikes of course, but with some clever bundling you can easily take along some of the essentials. Locate your bike's tool pouch and look for areas (including the pouch itself) where there are small pockets of free space.
On a copy machine, size down your registration and insurance cards and make a double sized photocopy. A cheap way to laminate it is to clear tape one side completely to a table, then flip it and tape the other side, trimming off the edges. Wrapped inside this new waterproof card you should have a small pen or pencil, paper and a flash drive with all of your vital stats: name, address, blood type, emergency contact info, etc.
Wear Your Gear
Not only does a rider in shorts, T-shirt and sandals look foolish, he's also asking for trouble. What would be a simple "walk away" for a properly geared-up rider could mean a trip to the hospital for someone ill-prepared.
If the simple concepts of pain and recovery aren't enough motivation to wear safety gear try this: look down at your expensive arm or leg tattoo and imagine it a bloody, roadrashed mess.
• Let your adrenaline take over. Crashing is scary, no doubt. And immediately after the dust settles you'll be angry that your bike is destroyed. You're vulnerable because you may do or say things you shouldn't to the other party involved. Try to keep your cool and follow the aforementioned steps.
• Assume your body is OK.While your safety gear may have prevented roadrash you can still break a wrist or snap an ankle in the tumble. Take your time getting up, and if there's pain (even mild) stay down until your blood pressure lowers.
• Say too much. Keep mouth shut until the cops arrive, no matter how strong the urge is to scream at the other motorist.
Stories From The Street
John: "After being hit by a car on the freeway, I have a new perspective on the post accident process. The main lesson that I learned is from the moment you hit the pavement it's solely up to you to protect your own interests. Everyone from the police officers, emergency personnel, insurance agents and billing departments will only provide as much help as they need to get their job done.
Keep a journal with times, dates and phone numbers of any person you speak with for any reason regarding the accident. A good lawyer can only help if you are honest and patient. Bones and bruises will heal, but police reports, insurance claims and medical bills can stay with you (and your credit score) forever. Accidents are the basis of a billion- dollar business, making all the he-said/she-said worthless if it can't be supported with paperwork, photos, patience and persistence."
"Years ago, I thought I was a hot shot and went blasting up one of my favorite twisty Ohio roads. By the third corner I was sliding along on my side, watching my beautiful CBR900RR catapult end-over-end. The bike was in a thousand pieces and scattered a debris trail through an old lady's front yard. Before the bike even stopped tumbling she was already yelling at me about paying for her lawn.
"I got on the cell phone and had my buddy hustle out to fetch me. When he arrived we threw what was left of the bike in his truck and headed home, passing a cop car (likely headed to the scene) in the process. I didn't feel guilty about the marks on the grass, particularly as the grumpy old bag didn't even bother to ask if I was OK. Without my friend's quick response I would have been facing tickets for losing control as well as an unmerited landscaping bill."
_"I crashed my Ninja 250 after only six months of owning it. I was new to commuting on a motorcycle and I was pretty excited about it. My excitement turned into panic when I rear-ended an SUV. _
My clutch lever clipped the SUV's brake light, causing my bike to ricochet off of the SUV and tip over. I was launched off and landed in the next lane over.
Fortunately, I was wearing the appropriate gear and walked away with only bruises. When the police arrived, I explained to them that I was a new rider and I acknowledged that the accident was my fault. One of the motorcycle cops was really sympathetic. He commended me for wearing my gear. The driver in the SUV was also very nice and helped me lift my bike up.
I feel very grateful that I was able to walk away from the accident, unharmed, and I now keep a safe distance from the car in front of me."