One Way to Avoid Dropping Your Bike

How sick and tired can teach you a lesson

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor

One of the most embarrassing times for a motorcyclist is the moment when he or she drops their bike. Since starting to ride a motorcycle in 1990, I can lay claim to this embarrassment twice. I wont bore you with the same old story of how befuddled I was when it happened, the subsequent discombobulation that ensues, and how I had to flag down nearby muscles to help me upright the mass of metal. (This was before I learned the technique on how to pick up the bike myself.) What I will share with you is something I learned to avoid dropping the bike in the future.

In the summer of 2003, my then fiance (now husband) and I secured a couple of press bikes (factory motorcycles made available to members of the media for testing) to embark on a two-week round trip journey from Los Angeles to Montanas Glacier National Park. We switched off riding a Honda Gold Wing and a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic, two of the largest motorcycles available. I was up for the challenge of manhandling a little extra weight day in and day out on whatever road, trail, and parking lot surfaces I encountered.

One Way to Avoid Dropping Bike Harley Davidson Ultra Classic
In southern Oregon before heading south into California.

Id like to report that the trip started out great, but the first night into it as I lay in my tent pitched at a KOA campground in Ely, Nevada, I noticed my throat feeling scratchy and enflamed the way it does when a cold is creeping up. The next morning I awoke with a full-blown sore throat. I thought, no big deal. Im armed with vitamin C and a bottle of Echinacea with Goldenseal drops. Ill be OK. Trudge on. Most colds are bearable.

Long story short, this was the worst cold Id had in years and the sore throat was just the beginning. My head ached and my chest cringed. I monitored my temperature daily to make sure a fever didnt take hold. I managed to ride every day of our trip with only one day of rest. Each day though I grew wearier. My husband was having a hard time offering sympathy since I looked fine; I just rode a little slower as I was suffering through coughing fits in my helmet and wiping nose dribbles under my face shield.

One Way to Avoid Dropping Bike Honda Gold Wing
Trying to muster a smile despite feeling lousy with a bad cold.

Lessons Learned
The lesson learned comes from knowing when to quit. Dropping the Electra Glide was my sign. After 500 miles in the saddle on about the eighth day we pulled into a steep gravel parking lot of a campground near Glacier. Stupid me stopped the bike on an uphill slope waiting for my husband to return from the registration office so he could tell me where to park. I got frustrated hanging there on an incline, brakes engaged, motor running so I attempted a hard downward right turn into a nearby parking lot. Battling exhaustion from being sick (but still trying to muster up enough mental strength to get through the day and not let my partner down), I failed to compensate for the sharpness of the turn and dropped the big, heavy motorcycle. Kerplunk! Actually, it was more like a ker-BLUNK!

If all of my physical energy was available to me and I was not mentally drained, I would have easily negotiated that turn like any experienced motorcyclist. But because I miscalculated my physical and mental abilities, I lost control of the motorcycle for a split second and down it went.

One Way to Avoid Dropping Bike Montana Shields Valley
Taken in the Shields Valley along Route 89 in Montana. Im on the home stretch of my two-week adventure and my nasty cold.

More than being embarrassed, I was mad at myself for not assessing my debilitated condition better. I was trying to be strong and tough and ride it out, as they say. I should have tried to build in a few rest days to our itinerary so I could regain my strength for the rest of the trip. That day, I learned a big lesson on when to put my foot down—both figuratively and literally—so I dont drop a motorcycle again.

Technique To Lift A Downed Bike
Advice for Getting Back on Motorcycle After Dropping It
Trading Up to a Dresser, Plus Comparing Gold Wing to Ultra Classic
More Safe Riding Tips Articles
Genevieve Joins the Bagger Brigade

34 thoughts on One Way to Avoid Dropping Your Bike

  1. I see the takeaway as ”don’t ride when you are not 100 percent.” Dropping your bike is minor compared to having a coughing or sneezing fit while riding or just plain feeling crappy and not seeing that object lying in the middle of the road/ animal running across the road/ vehicle merging into your lane/ person ahead of you slamming on their brakes.

  2. I liked the article since I have dropped my bike several times and can understand how these other riders feel. I just keep riding and learn from my mistakes.

  3. Magda, please don’t get discouraged! The first year I had my BMW R 1200 R I dropped it three times! Boy was I ever embarrassed and mad at myself for scratching it all up. I love this bike and was worried it was too big for me. Now I know I have to constantly watch where I am pulling in to and always being aware of my surroundings. Plus you must learn to pick up your bike by yourself so you are not helpless! It does get easier. I have been riding for more than 30 years but everyone drops their bike sometime. Make it a learning experience.

  4. I just finished course. Got myself a Kawasaki Vulcan S, perfect for my size (I was told). I start practicing around my sub. I felt great, then I dropped it, lost my confidence, but I got back on it, now shaking and worrying, but I was doing good. So a couple days later I went riding the street outside my sub, I stopped on the lights, try to turn left, and I dropped it again. I am so down about it. This is supposed to be my escape from reality; I recently lost my son, my only child and my husband. M to Florida. Maybe I made a mistake thinking I can ride.

    1. Hi Magda,You did not make a mistake. If you want to ride, you can! Don’t be discouraged. Other women have gone down the same path as you, dropping the bike repeatedly. Please head over to our Your Questions Answered section. There are lots of WRN readers who have faced similar situations. You will find answers and encouragement here. One question in particular addresses how to get back on the bike after dropping it. Please check out these highlighted links. All the best to you. Keep us posted on your progress.

  5. After riding 4,000 miles this summer on my new BMW F 650 GS, I dropped it today for the first time at an intersection. Coming to a stop I was looking over at the oncoming traffic instead of straight ahead and over she went.I cannot flat foot my bike so have to stop with only one foot down. I was so embarrassed! I remembered to turn the engine off and luckily two men appeared out of nowhere and helped me pick it up. The only damage was to my ego, so I was back on the road in no time. Going to need to go practice some more to gain my confidence back. Reading your story and all the comments really made me better. Thanks!

  6. Hey Terry from Kansas,You might not read this but I wanted to say thank you. I recently took a riding course (and passed!) and bought myself a Ninja 250. The first time out riding it and trying to practice I dropped the bike trying to stop. I also told myself: why did I buy this bike, motorcycles aren’t for me, I can’t do this, etc. But reading what you said put my thoughts into words, made me realize I am not the only one who has these concerns and problems. So again thank you for helping me try again.

  7. Number one rule for women riding heavy bikes, make sure the bike fits you — as I see with a lot of stories and with my own — it will give you more confidence be in able to touch flat footed and not have to stretch to reach controls! The bike will handle differently too, easier to control. Not saying you can’t ride a bike being on your tip toes, but until you get the experience under your belt, please do what ever it takes to make the bike fit you and not you fit the bike. You will enjoy riding so much more!

  8. M

    Been riding for years. I don’t break my body anymore. I do not hesitate to stop traffic or knock on doors at all hours if I need help with my downed/not running bike. Lesson to be learned early in riding life is to ask for help! Those days of “If you can’t pick up your own bike, you shouldn’t be riding it,” are long gone! Most men could never pick up their own bikes! Don’t worry. There is always someone to help. I do not own a cell phone and travel solo a lot, and have always found help!

  9. I hate to hear from so many women that have dropped their bikes. Makes me feel so not alone. I’ve taken the bike safety course and passed. But just recently I dropped my bike and lost so much confidence in myself. I had so many emotions going on at the same time. Asking myself thousands of questions like why did I buy this bike, what was I thinking, I can’t do this, why can’t I get the hang of this. I’m sure you get my point. As I drive to work (in my truck) I see women riders and say to myself if she can do it, I can do it. I read these stories and hear from all the women out there who have also dropped bikes and get up, dust off and get back on. I go to my garage at look at my beautiful Street Bob Black Beauty and look at the scratches and say to myself those scratches are to remind me to respect this bike and I will not fix these scratches until I have succeeded like all of these beautiful women who got back on. I know I have got to pull up my big girl pants and get back on. Because every day I see women riding and I want to be just like them.

  10. As with the Editor’s response, I too rode a Dyna Low Rider (’02) for seven years and traded up to a ’13 Street Glide. I knew I wanted the comfort the Street Glide had to offer on long trips that we do often, but initially I missed my Dyna Low Rider. Once I “owned it” and told myself that it’s a new bike/new feel, get used to it, it is what it is. I am not sorry, just more aware that I can’t throw the Street Glide around like I did the Low Rider. And as I tell women I ride with: if you are not comfortable moving the bike to get in/out of a situation “holler, we’re here for you.”

  11. Not long after I got my Piaggio MP3 400, I went to the store and took full advantage of the bike’s rear/underseat storage space plus the backrest bag on the passenger seat. A 12-pack of pop in the rear plus several bags, another 12-pack in the backrest bag. The bike was still in its stock set-up and already high off the ground and top-heavy, and I didn’t compensate for the extra weight. Came to a stop sign and down I went. Luckily I landed on the grass on the shoulder so I was fine. A lady behind me got out of her car but we couldn’t lift the bike, but luckily two burly guys in a pickup pulled up behind me and helped.A few months later I dropped it again in a Harley store parking lot and was instantly surrounded by huge tattooed bikers helping to pick it up and telling me it’s okay, “we’ve all done it.” That’s the last thing I remember of that day because I had a concussion.A few days later my husband made me go out to the garage to sit on my bike, and all I could do was sit there and shake. Next day, sit on it and put my hands on the grips. Third day, start the engine for a minute, then shut it off. Then leave the driveway to go around the block. Since then I’ve had the bike lowered and put on a lower profile saddle. Now I’m securely flat-footed and the bike handles much differently. In a couple weeks I’m doing my first weekend trip on it, and looking forward to it – but I’ll probably pack most of my stuff on my husband’s Harley, as he’s accustomed to carrying loads.Thanks for a great post!

  12. I am in the process of getting my license and have bought a Suzuki GSXR-600. It’s beautiful and I’ve been practicing slow maneuvers round our smallish car park. It’s been making me feel so much more confident as the “Gixer” is much smoother and more responsive than the school bikes and I thought I’d mastered setting off, stopping, turning etc. The other day I came to a stop and stalled it and the bike went over to the right. There’s not much damage at all as I managed to stop it going down too hard, but I couldn’t stop it going and I couldn’t lift it. My other half was furious at me and it’s made me wary now. The problem is that I’m 5 foot and can only reach the floor on tiptoes. We have lowered the bike and following the incident the other day, are sending the seat away to be sculpted. I’d just hate to think of that happening again and wondering if I should have bought such a new bike, but it’s the only bike I really wanted.

  13. I just dropped my new 2011 Burgman 650 Exec and thought I was done! Broke my toe and pride, but thankful that two men stopped and lifted the 700 pounds off of me. I have to learn to get off quicker. I was trying to keep it from falling the second time in two days. I have to compete with my husband as he has a Triumph T1000 but he has fallen for my Burgman. We hope to get back in the saddle once the toe heals and learn enough to tour around the hills of Northern Calif. and beyond. Your Web site has saved me from despair.

  14. I am wondering if I made the right choice purchasing my 2010 Street Glide. I’m concerned that it’s to heavy for me to handle. I know one thing for sure, I will not take a passenger again. I stopped at a light behind a pickup truck with my friend hanging on for dear life. It seemed like slow motion as the bike tipped over on us. I was totally befuddled. Thankfully the very big truck driver jumped out and lifted it up. That really messed with my confidence. Glad to hear I’m not alone, but now I wonder if I should get a smaller bike. I’m 5 feet 9 inches and weigh 155 pounds.

    1. Debra,I own a 2008 Street Glide, stand 5 feet 5.6 inches and weigh 118 pounds. I have modified my bike to accommodate my smaller stature. You can read about that here in these two articles on WRN:Lowering A DresserCustomizing a Street GlideI cannot ride with a passenger for the exact same reason you describe. Holding the bike up with the weight of a passenger, no matter how small they are, is just too much for me. I was even worried about putting luggage on the back. I know that I have to be very methodical in my movements when I’m hauling full saddlebags and a backrest bag as one misstep and the bike could tip over. I have no regrets about riding the bigger motorcycle, but I do have to “on” 110 percent when I ride that motorcycle and be careful where I park it so I can get out of situations that involve a slight grade or similar situation. Don’t second guess yourself. The Street Glide provides an amazingly smooth, comfortable ride. You can ride hundreds of miles in a day and not feel beat up. I traded up from a Dyna Low Rider and am very happy. I would recommend two bike jacks for you to look into that you can take with you should you drop your bike. They’re designed for women just like free to email me at my email address in the Contact Us section to respond further about this.

  15. I learned right off the bat in my safety training course last August how dangerous fatigue is for a rider. It was the end of my second day (a long day that went from 9 a.m. to 4p.m.) and I was turning the bike around to go to the rest area recognizing that I was getting tired. Guess I didn't know how tired I actually was as I crashed right into the chain link fence and lay on the ground helpless with the bike resting on my inside thigh.

    We still had to ride our bikes back to the garage but it was only a three minute ride so I wasn't worried. I should have been. I was the last one to get to the end of the driveway and idled my bike while waiting for my turn to park the bike with the group. All I remember was hearing the engine revving really high and heading towards my classmates and their bikes. All I could do was aim for the bikes instead of bodies to avoid killing anyone. After the crash, my bike landed on top of my same leg but my ego was more bruised than my legs.

    Those two incidents in the last 10 minutes of the day were a real confidence sucker. I was nicknamed “Crash.” But I learned that you don't wait UNTIL you're feeling fatigued to take a break. I just bought a new bike and plan to ride at my own pace and stop frequently. And adding engine guards was a given! My friend always tells me that there's two types of bikers – those who have dropped their bike and those who are going to.

  16. I am encouraged to know that I am not alone in dropping a bike when tired. Learned that lesson the hard way the third time I rode my first bike. First time over 60 mph; first time getting caught in rain; first time over 80 miles. I was tired, stopped at friends who wanted to see the bike. Knew they had aggressive dogs so while I spoke to the one I thought would be worst, another dashed in grabbed my left ankle (above the boot of course) and pulled. Down we went and help was there (dogs had announced my arrival) to help me back up.

    But when visit over, still had 23 miles to get home. Started off great, made a perfect stop at a rural stop sign and just tipped over. The best I can figure is was just so tired that I forgot to even put my foot down. Bruised ribs, but that was the only time I ever lifted my bike by myself. Now I have a bigger bike, a Volusia Intruder (think Boulevard C50). I doubt I will ever get this one up by myself, so the lift gear is definitely on my list. Don't ride tired. Doesn't pay; and thank you WRN for continuing to educate us

  17. OK, since you were all kind enough to share your experiences, I will share mine. I had been sick with sinuses for about a week but it was the weekend and a beautiful January day. I thought I'd just take a short ride. My bike backs out of my storage unit rolling down a slight hill and back up a slight hill and at a slant. I have to put him in gear on his stand so he won't roll while I lock up my unit. Not being quite up to par, I didn't let the momentum roll him back far enough. My thought was, “If I don't use my friction zone correctly and cut far enough to the right, I'm gonna hit that door,” because I'd be going to the right, in a tight turn and up an incline.

    Well, what you think is what you do. I got started, popped my clutch and rode right through a storage shed door. It happened in a matter of seconds. And in a matter of seconds I had two young men there, along with the son of the storage unit manager, help me get my baby out of the mess I'd just gotten him into. Damage was minimal to the bike and the door but my pride sure was hurting.

    I learned a very important lesson that day — you don't ride a 700 pound motorcycle when you don't have your strength, even if it is a beautiful winter day! Thanks for sharing your stories. You encourage me through them. And since I ride alone, that jack just might be on my list of “have to buy” for the new year.

  18. I have had two bikes – one a 1992 Honda Nighthawk 750, which I dropped a total of four times on my own very steep, very rutted dirt driveway. I have since had the drive paved and no further problems on that score.

    Before purchasing my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, I rented one to test it out. I had no idea what a throttle lock was (a type of cruise control which sets speed), but it had been turned on resulting in my inability to adequately control speed in the friction zone and down I went in a parking lot in front of 150 Harley riders.

    After purchasing a Fat Boy, I proceeded to drop it twice (it was really more of a gentle laying down than a drop) – both sharp right turns on inclines causing my right foot to have be considerably lower than my left. I have now learned not to get shook up, not to get too embarassed and to realize that no matter what, my physical build is different than a man's. I have a shallower fulcrum point (the point of no return) than a man has, and I frankly don't care. I am passionate about riding and won't give it up just because I might suffer a moment or two of embarassment.

    I have never been able to lift my bike by myself. I have very long legs and to be able to lower my butt to the height of the seat on a downed bike means my legs are stretched out vitrually straight in front of me, taking all traction away. Who cares? If someone isn't there to help, I'll call AAA to come and lift it. One way or another, the bike will get lifted and I will be on my merry way again, with perhaps just a little embarassment. I will, however, invest in that jack. It seems like a great product that can help either a man or a woman.

  19. My husband and I recently participated in a promotional event in New York City for the FX show “Sons of Anarchy.” The day was beautiful, many riders turned out for the event, and it was truly an experience playing road warrior on the streets of Manhattan with 50-plus other bikes. Even though all went according to plan, it was a long, exhausting day. When it was all over, my husband and I headed home, and I knew I was feeling somewhat fatigued, but I felt I was still good to ride.

    Long story short, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway, it was late afternoon, the sun was bright and it had gotten very, very warm. After coming to a stop after a short burst into second gear, I forgot to downshift. When I went to take off, the bike jerked and stalled. I slammed my feet down but shifted my weight to the right to avoid having my right thigh burned from the heat coming off the bike and — before I knew it, I was hopping away from the bike as it was going down.

    My husband turned around and was like, “What happened?” Well, we got the bike up quick, very little damage but for handle bars that needed to be straightened out a little and my ego. Wish we would have stopped and had dinner in the city. Note to self: Know thyself!

  20. I dropped my bike heading to a MS Best Damn Bike Ride. I was volunteering as a Wing Rider for the event. I was sitting at a corner waiting to cross at an intersection. A semi came around the corner too fast. My first instinct was to rev my 750 Ace up and move out of the way. I dropped the bike near a ditch but avoided being hit by the truck. Luckily I had on good motorcycle boots, but my ankle got twisted when I step off the foot rest.

    I remembered the article that you had this summer about lifting the bike. I proceeded to lift the bike easily from those instructions. And the trucker was amazed that this lady calmly lifted her bike, swore at him and waited for the cops to give him a ticket. I was so proud of myself to be able to mentally remembered the steps to lift my bike. I did not have any damage and rode off proudly with a sore ankle, I stood for five hours directing traffic, also. Thanks “Gen” for your great Web site for women riders.

  21. I have dropped my Dyna Low Rider twice in the five years I have been riding. My ego was damaged more than anything else. Both times I was inching along in first gear making a slight turn, once in my driveway and once at an intersection. I must have leaned to far and then it was outta my hands. Luckily I was with great folks who helped get the bike off my leg and they all told me tales of when they dropped theirs so I'd feel better. It happens.

  22. Me and my Sportster ended up in my neighbor's yard early one morning when I decided to practice solo. Well, I had seen the video on how to lift her up but it wasn't working. I was able to get her up partially but I think I was on a slight incline and couldn't get my feet placed in a steady position. It's nice to know there is a jack available for just such occasions and it's nicer to know that I'm not alone with regard to downing my bike.

  23. I had my Sportster only a month and dropped it at busy intersection. It was a combination of stupidity, ignorance and just plain stubbornness. My husband took a right on red and as I rolled up onto an already inclined stop that not only inclined upward but toward the right, I eased too quickly off the clutch and the bike stalled out. The shutter of the stall caused me to lose my balance and the bike went down. The stupid thing was that I just would not accept that it was going down and I tried to hold it up and that is how I got some real nice bruises to my legs and my ego!

    I told my husband that if he takes off, to not expect me to be right behind him and I now always stay in MY comfort zone. I dropped my bike once before that and it was almost for the same reason. I did not recognize it then, but it is important to ride in your zone and to go when you are ready not the other rider(s). I have not dropped it again and it has been more two years.

  24. Having dropped my first Harley six times the first month I had it, I understand the fear of dropping your bike. I only picked it up by myself the very first time because I was riding in my neighborhood in the dark so no one would see me and when we went down (me and my new baby), the adrenaline was pumping so hard, I had no trouble picking up my bike. After that I just learned how to step off and let it go.

    It does still haunt me when I'm riding alone so I'm very careful where I park, etc. but three Harleys, nine years and 80,000 miles later I can say I've only dropped my bike one other time trying to make a turn in a steep parking lot and finding no place to put my foot down when I needed to. Everyone is going to drop their bike. It's a fact of life. Hopefully there will be someone there to help you and you won't be too embarrassed.

  25. I just want to say that I am in awe of these women who can ride these heavy bikes. My husband and I just bought an Electra Glide and there is no way I could ride it and I'm an experienced rider myself. I think you're an inspiration to all women who are afraid to attempt it.

  26. Dropping my Road King has always been a concern for me. The instructor at the MSF riding course showed us how to lift a bike properly, but I could never do it. While in Milwaukee for the 105th celebration, there were lifting demonstrations at the Women's Experience area. Not only could I not lift the Sportster they were demonstrating with, but 75 percent of the women and one courageous (but humbled) man tried and failed.

    After my attempt, a man approached with a business card. It was for a jack that will lift the bike for you. As soon as I got home, I went to the Web site and ordered the jack. I haven't had to use it yet, but just knowing it's in my saddlebag “just in case” makes me feel so much more confident while riding. Also, while at his Web site, I noticed that there was a link to WRN. Sure enough, the jack is advertised in the Mall section of WRN! I guess I should have checked out the WRN Mall sooner.

    1. We are big supporters of the Save Your Back Jack product. We will be posting a blurb about it in our Product News link soon. Glad you found a way to make “lifting a bike” work for you.

  27. Sorry to hear you had your experience on a Gold Wing when you were not feeling 100 percent. I have ridden nothing but Gold Wings and would not trade it for anything. I have had the opportunity to dump it on the ground a few times. Each time I had a full audience ready to applaud first then help get it off the ground. I have learned that when it feels likes it's going over at a slow speed just “gas on it” and let the motor pull it upright. Much easier then picking it off the ground and brushing off my ego.

  28. I have dropped my Electra Glide once. I was on my way back to PA from New Orleans after partying the night before and riding on five hours of sleep. I stopped in Atlanta to get gas, and the gas station was off a road that was severely inclined. On my way out of the gas station, I stopped to look both ways and in my tired state, I must have tried to match the incline of the bike to the incline of the road. There was no way I was going to catch it before it fell. Fortunately, two gentlemen came running out of the gas station to help me.

    Moral of the story, don't ride tired! Stop and get some rest!

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