There is no doubt to the fact that one day, while out riding your motorcycle or scooter, you’ll spot something unavoidable in your path on the road ahead. You know you’re going to hit it. It may be an item of wood or something which has fallen off the vehicle in front of you. It could be a small animal or a roadside curb after you’ve swerved to avoid a collision. The motorcycle is very capable, more than you might imagine (in most cases), of maneuvering over large items. To prepare yourself for the task, below is the process – including tips – on how to ride your motorcycle over stuff – and keep on going.
When I first trained for my motorcycle license, I had to ride over an old car tire, and a two by four plank of wood. It’s not part of most motorcycle training curriculum’s any longer. But I know then, I found it useful and actually really fun to do on a motorcycle!
Steps To How To Ride Your Motorcycle Over Stuff
- IDENTIFY: Once you’ve sited the object, you then IDENTIFY the hazard. Next you’ll slow by rolling off the throttle and perhaps braking. You’ll do this based on time and traffic in your situation. *Read below on why not to opt for hard braking in this situation.
- APPROACH: Try to line your motorcycle up at a 90° angle (straight on) so that the front wheel hits the object directly, mid tire, full centre contact patch of the tire. If you hit the object with the front wheel on an angle it’s likely the wheel will twist and be jolted off course by the object. This will usually result in loss of control.
- UP ON THE PEGS; Lower the centre of gravity. As you approach the hazard, slightly lift yourself out of the motorcycle seat by standing on the foot pegs. This puts the centre of gravity of the bike lower producing stability while allowing your knees to absorb some of the shock of the object. If you ride a cruiser with ‘forwards’ for foot pegs, this will be more difficult, however you can prepare your body by stiffen at the lower body for impact and grip the tank with your knees.
- GRIP THE HANDGRIPS: Prior to impact hang on to the hand-grips firmly. Wrap all of your fingers around your grips – do not ‘cover’ any levers.This will ensure you control and stabilize the handlebars (aiming for straight) while keeping control on the bike. There’s no braking or clutching needed. Stay away from the levers.
- ROLL ON THROTTLE: Just before the motorcycle’s front tire reaches the object, slightly roll on your throttle. This acceleration causes weight to shift toward the rear of the motorcycle, allowing the front wheel to lift and cross the obstacle smoothly. Instead of you doing the lifting, you want the bike to lift itself by transferring its weight from the front to the rear wheel. This as you know, occurs naturally as a result of acceleration.
- THROTTLE ROLL OFF: Directly after the front tire surmounts the obstacle, shift your weight to the front which will make the rear lighter and lengthens the rear shocks. This further helps the rear wheel coast over the object. If you stay on the throttle, the rear driven wheel – can slip because of the bump or it can throw the object and potentially cause damage or injury.
- STOP: (if you want to) after BOTH tires return to the ground. If you do this over an object and there may be a need to inspect your motorcycle to ensure no damages have occurred. Don’t panic, focus on the road ahead and pull over safely to the side of the road.
More Key Points
- Make sure the motorcycle has time to stabilize before sitting back down on the motorcycle’s seat.
- Throughout the process try to avoid fixating on the object in the road.
- Generally if the object is not higher than your mid motorcycle wheel, you can ride over it.
- Continue to scan the road ahead watching for changes in traffic and for other potential hazards. Keeps your eyes ahead – where you look is where you go.
Practise Riding Over Stuff in a Parking Lot
To better prepare yourself for this occurrence, arrange with a friend to bring a two by four (squared not rounded) plank and an old tire to a vacant parking lot. Set this out and use the technique above to hone your skills. Be sure the first time you try this use an object which is not too tall and then work up to the two by four.
- When comfortable an advance technique used is compressing the front forks just before hitting the object, which creates some ‘spring back’ in the front suspension. This done with timing, and slight throttle will add more height to the front end while going over the object. This will result in a weight shift from front to rear, and allows the springs in your shock absorber system to extend. Thus, as you hit the object you have the greatest shock absorbing capacity, just when you need it. (Don’t forget to shift your weight to your pegs and get that butt off the seat when you do this since when the rear tire hits the obstacle it will receive a severe vertical bounce.)
- Try going over the same objects sitting in your seat but using all the methods mentioned Item: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Why Not Just Brake Hard?
Panic reflexes are often, for most riders, the first reactionary instinct. This is especially the case when it seems you’re going to collide or have impact with something on the road. Braking is your furthermost option in this case and truly not helpful.
But if you did decided to brake hard, your motorcycle shock absorber system will compress almost as far as it will go during hard braking. That means, essentially there is no more travel left to absorb the bump. That means you will FEEL and be affected by that bump and most likely will result in loss of control and mishap.
Another equally important reason you do not want to have your brakes maximally applied at the time you hit the object is because there’s a chance you’ll skid. It takes only a second of front tire skid to totally lose control of your motorcycle. If you are going in a straight line when you start a skid, your chance of recovering and not going down is pretty good. But if the skid is the result of your front-end being lifted off the ground because of hitting something, the odds that it the front wheel will return to the ground pointing straight ahead is unlikely. And lastly, another reason not to reach for the brakes when you hit an object, particularly in the case of animals, which may be alive – is that your tires will act like erasers as they go over it, gripping it and taking substance with it, but sliding.
MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic and advanced motorcycle instructor – certified for over 30 years. She is a motorcycle licensing examiner and has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European and North American road racing schools.