Need Advice: Strong Rider Still Skittish After Accident

Help her move past the fear

Editors Note: This comment was posted to our article, Getting Back in the Saddle After an Accident.We are re-posting it here so you, our readers, can respond and help her out.
strong rider skittish after accident triumph america
This is a Triumph America LT,
the same motorcycle Karen owns.

Dear WRN,

After six months of riding on my Honda Rebel 250, I got a brand new Triumph America LT. I love it and feel good on it. On my first longish ride out with my husband we were stopped at a light. We stagger when riding and never ride right next to one another. The light turned green, he went and I waited a split second for my place. Before I could even hit the throttle, the woman behind me sideswiped me. Broken bones in my leg, ankle, and foot and cosmetic damage to my brand-new-less-than-100-miles-on-him-motorcycle.

That day I wanted nothing more than to get back on Blue and start riding again. Now, a few weeks later, I get so nervous thinking about riding and being in traffic. The more I think about it, the more scared I get. “Is my bike too big?” “Can I get away from another car?” “Maybe I shouldnt ride anymore.”

I dont understand why I am more scared now than right after it happened. I cant think of anything I couldve done except not been there. I have a great riding support system, but I feel myself withdrawing. I dont want to be scared. Im usually so strong and independent.

Tampa, Florida

Readers: please provide Karen with some advice in the comments below to help her move through these feelings so she can get back on the motorcycle.

(Mobile users: you will need to post your comment from the tablet or desktop version of our site.)

Related Articles
Your Questions: Rider Needs Advice on Getting Back on Bike After Accident
Getting Back in the Saddle After an Accident

23 thoughts on Need Advice: Strong Rider Still Skittish After Accident

  1. Oh boy! Barbara Holton’s comment sounds like I wrote it. Barbara I would love to hear from you. I started learning to ride at 62. I brought a 883 and have fallen four times. Last time I broke my ankle. Thinking I had to give up my dream. Just in the last week I thought about getting a Harley Freewheeler?

  2. I’m the person about whom this was written. I got back on my bike and rode. I just woke up a couple of days ago and thought, “I can do this now,” I’ve read every answer on here many times, learning and digesting the lessons, and as I was tooling down the road this morning I thought, “Thanks, WRN!” because I know there are ladies out there who cared enough to read and respond. I hope this question and the responses will help others who need it, too.

    1. So great to hear back from you Karen! Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad this was helpful to you. With you asking this question and allowing us to post it your experience is definitely helping others. All the best to you!

  3. I started learning to ride at age 61 on a Harley 883 Sportster. Well, the two of us were not a good match. Three times down; last one broke my ankle. I decided I needed to go three wheels. I was just too scared after that ankle incident and the arthritis in my knees is just too bad anyway. I bought a 2015 Harley Freewheeler and am having the time of my life! I know that’s not what most people want to do but it was certainly the right choice for me.

  4. Karen, I can relate! Just last month, I experienced my own doubts after a really minor drop. Granted, it happened on an isolated mountain road where I was riding alone, and I had to wait for help because I couldn’t right the bike by myself. But still, the only damages were a few scrapes on the engine guard and a wounded ego, so the fact that, two days later, I suddenly felt totally incompetent to ride mystified me. I was mid-tour, hundreds of miles from home, so my feelings were more than a little inconvenient. They were also frightening in and of themselves; like you, I’m an independent woman and I rarely buckle under pressure.Thankfully, my training as a life coach came in handy that day. I understand that, if you’ll let yourself experience whatever fears you’re trying to suppress, your body will let go of them. And if you don’t, it won’t. So find a safe place (and perhaps a good friend) and let yourself relive every single, scary moment of your accident. Feel, fully, whatever wants to come up. It may be damned uncomfortable, but the fear will pass a whole lot more quickly than you might think, and who cares if your mascara runs or you need to howl in the process! Afterwards, when you are ready, replace your mental pictures of the accident with an image of a euphoric moment on your bike (I’m sure you have many to choose from), feel that moment fully, and remind yourself, out loud, why you love riding.I followed my own advice after standing, for about 15 minutes, in a parking lot beside my bike, frozen to the spot by a sense of vulnerability and my fear of what might happen during the 200 miles I needed to ride that day. I was able to get back on just minutes later and to laugh heartily (rather than take it as proof that I shouldn’t be riding) when I made a wrong turn a few miles down the road. That day, I successfully made my most difficult ride to date and it was FABULOUS! And two days ago, when I again felt some hesitation before straddling the saddle, remembering that ride got me going.One more thing. Your last paragraph suggests to me that you’ve spent time blaming yourself for the accident. Let it go, friend. Bad stuff can and does happen when we’re doing what we love, even when we do it competently and correctly. Of course we need to learn from mistakes if we make them, but we also need to remember that there is simply nothing we can do to guarantee our complete safety when we ride. So I’ll say it again: Let it go!

  5. I too understand your fear. I did the “target fixation” thing when making a left turn onto a highway, looked to turn, looked at my friend stopped across the street to let our group know that was where we were turning and rode straight into him. Knocked him up and off his bike. I went face first over the handlebars of my Suzuki SV650, and damaged both bikes and bodies. We are still friends and it’s all good but still have not gotten back on a street bike. I keep telling myself I am, but I go through what everyone else here has talked about. One day…

  6. Karen,I sure can feel your fear. I went down after my bike went into a high speed wobble at about 60. I hated it, but got back on as soon as I got healed up. I hated it the next few times out. I left the new bike in the garage more than I rode it. I hated everyone who had “advice” for me. I was just not happy at all. Finally I got back on when I felt like it and took a long trip, (about 700 miles) by myself and at my speed. That was the start. Then I started riding more often. I kept that bike four to five years, got a new one that I loved and kept for 26 years before getting the Harley that I have now. Bottom line, you have to be the one to decide. Just take your time and get healed up inside and outside. Then go riding. Praying for you. God bless.

  7. I was getting ready to back out my Sportster from my garage onto the road. There is a hill going down the driveway and I backed out my motorcycle the same way I have been doing for years. Except this day I made a mistake by leaning the motorcycle too much and it went down. At that moment I was worried only about the damage to my bike. My husband stood it up there was a cracked rear light and a chip on my mirror and tank. It was cosmetic. We had a ride planned that day so he fixed the light and we went on the ride. It wasn’t until the days that followed that I started to replay the event in my mind and the fear set in. What did I do wrong? Why did I do that? Months later I kept feeling that anxiety when I would pull my bike out. And I felt mad that a little spill in the driveway has made me feel so frustrated. I know I have to just get over it because I love to ride and I’m not ready to give it up.

  8. My situation was different in that I was riding behind my ex-husband (we stayed friends) on my own motorcycle, when he hit a patch of gravel and somehow went down. Everything after that went into slow motion. I remember every single tiny detail. Years later it is still in my head. It was awful being on the ground next to him thinking he was going to die and I would have to tell our daughters. It took me a very long time to recover from that experience. And all the while I had people push me and try to force me to ride when I was not ready. I’m not trying to go “new age-y” on anybody and to be respectful of all beliefs but meditation helped. A silly little mantra I told myself every morning helped. I just said, “I am a strong and competent woman who does what is best for herself.” It sounds so corny, even to me, but you say it until one day you believe it and then you do it. There are so many great pieces of advise here!I didn’t have anybody, especially any women, just men poking and prodding at me to get back on. That doesn’t help. It has to come from inside of you. I hope you recover and regain your passion. The one truest thing I learned from that experience is that this is my passion. It is actually a piece of who I am and I am not giving up on something that makes me happy. It may be a little more dangerous than knitting but it’s a lot more fun! May the force be with you.BTW…my ex recovered and rides all the time with his new wife. I am so thankful he didn’t give up either.

  9. I think the old adage that you have to get “right back up on the horse” is true. Part of your hesitance comes from having to wait so long to heal before getting back in the saddle.A couple years ago I made a dumb mistake and fell over at a dead stop, giving myself a concussion (with a helmet on – that’s how hard I hit the concrete). The bike was fine, but I was not. About a week later I heard my husband start it up just to keep the battery from dying, and he called me out to the garage. He urged me to just sit on the bike. I refused, staring at the bike and shaking. He turned the engine off and tried to get me to sit on it. Nope. Finally he said if I wasn’t going to get back on, he was selling the bike tomorrow. I forced myself to sit on the bike, where I stayed for about a minute, shaking like a leaf, then got off. The next day I did it again. And the next day. It got easier every time. Then came the day I sat on it and started the engine. Had a panic attack and turned it off, but by this time I knew this was not going to beat me. It took another week or two, but finally I started her up, rode her around the block, and never looked back.Baby steps. Take your time. You’ll get there!

  10. I was cut off by a car in rush hour traffic on 13 April 2012, high side crash and ended up in the hospital with a broken thumb and nerve damage to my left hand. I kept telling myself that this will not stop me from riding again. I bought a new to me bike in June 2012 even though I was still not able to use my left hand. It took a whole year before I was able to use my left hand well enough to ride and by then I had lost my heart. I would get sick to my stomach at the thought of riding and actually thought of selling my new bike. What I decided to do was take the beginners riders course again to work the nerves out convince myself that I could still ride. A month after the course on a Tuesday afternoon, I got up enough nerve to get on my bike and ride in my neighborhood. I taped a sign on the back of my jacket that said nervous rider and I was nervous as heck and never got out of second gear. I live in busy midtown Atlanta and the streets were crowded with cars but everyone was nice and would give me a thumbs up when going around me. I did the neighborhood rides for a couple of months until I was ready to ride the expressway again. People who don’t ride think I’m crazy for riding again (I will never have full use of my left hand) but I had to do it. I love riding and i wasn’t going to let fear keep me down. You can do it!

  11. I’ve wrecked two motorcycles, and sent them off to heaven. One time was my fault, the other time not. Each time, I walked away with little more than scrapes, even though I wasn’t fully geared up. As a kid, I was taught if the horse throws you, if you can still walk, get back on it and conquer that beast. (And I have been thrown from plenty of horses.) It is the same thing with a motorcycle. If you can walk, you can ride. Terrible drivers aside, we all know we take a risk when we choose to ride on two wheels. You want to ride again? Take a breath, get back on it and ride. Maybe just a mile or two. Eventually, your confidence will come back and you will be back on the road in no time.

  12. The more I think about it, the more scared I get. Is my bike too big?” “Can I get away from another car?” “Maybe I shouldn’t ride anymore.” We are sometimes our worst enemies! We overthink. It seems to be more of a trait of women than the men I talk to.I was injured in an accident Memorial Day 2014 (by another motorcycle hitting me) so I do understand. Broken collar bone and ribs. Here is my perk for riding gear. Without full face helmet – I would not be writing this. Without riding pants and jacket with CE armor I would have been scarred from road rash as well. CE armor took the major impact and did its job.If you love riding get back on. The longer you wait the harder it will be.

  13. No one can tell you to ride or not, only you. Being shaky after a wreck means your smart, not just apprehensive. Take your sweet time. It’s not a race. I have my faith, God loves me. If I wreck I fly into the arms of Jesus. That’s what keeps me safe. If you still want to ride, just review what when wrong in your first wreck; evaluate what you could have done differently, if anything. Review your basic riding skills and then just take it easy.I love motorcycles but one thing is undeniable: life is still very good even if you decide not to ride anymore. I started riding when 12 years old. No one taught me nothing. Finally took a class at 22 because I could not get on base without it. So I’m here to tell ya any ne who loves people knows it’s ok if you decide to stop and it’s ok if you decide to keep riding. All that really matters is that you are enjoying the life you are given. We love ya either way you decide to go and you’ll always be one of us. It’s like being pregnant — once you’re a mother, you’re a mother for life, even if you never have another child. We will always see the tribe in your eyes. God bless, and good luck.

  14. I’ve fallen face first off my bike into a ditch, which left me feeling foolish because it was my fault and thanks to my helmet I didn’t get hurt. I’ve had drivers encroach on my space and pass me way too close for comfort. Never had one hit me, but it scared me enough that I do not ride on the right side of a lane anymore. I may stagger when in a group of bikes but I don’t let a car behind me even think they have room to join me in my lane. Fear of cars and hyper awareness of them is critical for bike riders. Take it easy getting back out there, but watch those cars and don’t let them push you around or steal your pleasure in riding.

  15. I too was in an accident in May of last year. A lady pulled out in front of me, I had zero reaction time except “noooo!” Next thing contact with her car; next thing flat on my back in the road. Lots of stuff in between. Broke my right thumb, messed up right leg, tailbone. And thank God for my helmet. I still ended up with eight staples in my head. And thankfully riding gear saved my bacon. Totaled my bike – that hurt more than anything as I loved my bike.Needless to say I was off my bike for more than a year. I too have a war going off in my head. I hate it. I love riding my bike more than anything. I have found the worst part is second guessing myself about my skills. Jeez you can scare the crap out of yourself. What I’ve learned is that after riding for more than 20 years, no matter that my body knows what to do, it’s like second nature and you could just slap yourself in the head and tell the evil mind to shut the hell up. Anyway I’m where you are but I refuse to give up on what I love. Well-used advice given to me is to take baby steps. The rest will take care of itself. Before you know it, you are back. I hope it helps. Don’t give up if you love it.

  16. Post traumatic stress disorder. I thought I would get right back on too. But as time went by and reality sank in I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I only had my license for three months when I wrecked my Harley Sportster. I had a badly broken leg which required surgery to fix. I was 10 weeks in a soft cast with no weight bearing so pretty much wheelchair bound, then six weeks of physical therapy before I could walk without a walker. By then it was October and too cold to ride. When summer rolled around again I kept saying I should ride and kept finding reasons not to. My leg was still not strong. And I was scared. On the anniversary of my wreck I got my bike out. I sat on it in my driveway. I nearly put it back in the garage. But I told myself either ride it or sell it because it wasn’t doing any good sitting in the garage. So I rode it. Not very far, just a few miles away and then back home. Yes, I was nervous. I rode it a couple more times and was pretty shaky when I got back. But each time was better. I still don’t ride much. I still have fear. But I will conquer it eventually. My husband doesn’t ride and I’ve no friends that ride so I’m on my own. I know I need to just start over from the beginning and get my confidence back. You have people supporting you so I think you will be able to get back on sooner. But don’t let them push you. It’s on your terms. It could take a while and that’s OK.

  17. Karen — we all know ‘it’ can happen but when ‘it’ does it gives us cause to wonder. I missed a hard curve (new rider, gravel, too much speed) went down an embankment. At that time if I had thought there was no damage to the bike, I would have gotten right back on, right then. But, the longer it was in the shop – the longer I had to question everything … my ability, was the bike too big, was I crazy to be riding at 50, anything and everything our mind could think of. I got back on with a bit of hesitation but lots of encouragement from my husband. Left turns were a bitch as that is how I went down but I continued to work through it slowly and finally rode through the spot it happened. My passion to ride was greater than allowing my fear to take over. Your situation is a bit different but the waiting allows us to start questioning anything. Just wanted to share the process I went through and hope that there is something that helps.

  18. I have been riding for eight years and I recently had an accident. I too was afraid when I got back on my bike after six weeks of healing. I just keep telling myself I can do this, I can do this! My fear has always been some dingdong behind me would hit me, sorry to hear that happened to you! Don’t let her ignorance stop you from enjoying what you love to do. You can do this! My husband and I ride together but at stop lights we are side by side but I have been hit from behind when I was alone. I was stopped at a light and the woman behind me didn’t stop when she came up to the light. I think I must have scared her when I got off my bike and was inspecting it because she never came out of her car. Too many people are in a big hurry I don’t pay attention anymore so you have to watch for them. Don’t stop riding and watch out for everyone, they aren’t watching for us. Safe riding!

  19. Karen, my only advice is to get back in the saddle and go at your own pace. I had been riding less than a year when turning right at a stop sign I toppled over. My husband and I still can’t figure out what happened (he was just behind me on his bike). Did my foot slip in the sand? Did I not give it enough throttle? Did I turn too sharp? A combination? Anyway, the result was a broken shoulder, a torn bicep tendon and torn rotator cuff. After six months of waiting for surgery, and another four recovering from that, I finally got the nerve to get back on my bike. I was so uneasy. I did it when nobody else was around and took it very slowly around the side streets in my neighborhood. It was very nerve wracking … but I did it! No amount of pushing from my husband could’ve made me do it. I had to be ready and ride again on my time. Something tells me if I had had more experience under my belt prior to my fall I wouldn’t have been so apprehensive about getting back on my bike. I even thought about selling “Crush” so I wouldn’t have to see him every day, as if he were glaring at me in disappointment. I’m sure all sorts of wild things have run through your mind as well. I don’t ride as much as I’d like but hope to gain more confidence behind the bars as the months go on. Riding on your own is such a rush so I won’t let fear get the best of me. Good luck with getting back in the saddle. You can do it girl!

  20. First analyze. You already have a good start. Yes, the only thing you could have done was not be there, so time to figure out where or how else you could have been. Questions to ask yourself:Was I aware of the woman and all traffic behind me before I came to the stop? Did I consider worst case in relation to her possible distraction? Did I have a plan to avoid encroachment? Since I was there, what might I have done differently to escape?Every one of us has had experiences that challenge our confidence. For long-time riders they often happen due to complacency or momentary loss of focus and are followed by a period of hyper-vigilance before settling back into good habits.As to your questions:Is your bike too big? I sincerely doubt it, but it is new-to-you and a big step up from the Rebel. Parking lot practice builds confidence and will help you “bond.” Taking the MSF BRCII is another confidence builder, strengthens technique, and reinforces the mental strategies necessary to ride in traffic. Only you will be able to determine whether or not to ride again but it would be a shame to allow fear to take away something you truly enjoy.Give yourself time to heal, analyze the incident, visualize yourself riding safely and well. Talk to experienced trained riders and racers. Most of us have had to face the fear at one time and most of us are happy to be a sounding board.Safe journeys to you.

  21. Buy a Harley. Be sure it has loud pipes!

Scroll to Top