How To Keep Your Motorcycle Intact In A Crash

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Motorcycle Crash Protection

Crashing a bike is expensive business. So expensive, in fact, that you could probably “total” most new sportbikes simply by tipping them over in the garage. But, for a few bucks, you can easily add protection parts that should keep it safe even in the event of a fairly significant crash. Here’s how.

Now, all motorcycles are a little different. While a big ADV bike is going to benefit from huge engine bars and aluminum panniers, those parts wouldn’t fit on a Panigale and, even if they did, they’d look pretty stupid. Let’s go through some of the most common add-on protection parts for road-going motorcycles and examine how they safeguard your bike.

Motorcycle Frame Slider
Motorcycle Frame Slider

Frame Sliders
The most common protection part for street bikes, frame sliders attach to a motorcycle’s frame, engine block or both with sturdy bolts. Typically made from nylon, the sliders do what the name suggests — they protrude enough that they’re the first part to touch down in a fall, then they’re designed to slide freely along the road surface. Bikes experience more extreme damage when they grip the road and flip over. Your protection plan should start here if you ride a sportbike, naked, sport tourer, tourer or similar road bike.

Barkbusters
Barkbusters

Barkbusters
Like “Kleenex” is used to describe all brands of facial tissue, “Barkbusters” is a specific brand of lever/hand protection products that ends up denoting all such items. Basically, a sturdy aluminum bar bolts to a new bar end weight on the outside, then clamps to the bar on the inside. This may be supplemented by a plastic plate designed to expand the area of coverage (these are killer wind deflectors for winter riding). The idea is to keep your levers from being broken in a crash. Broken levers equal an unrideable bike, so that’s a good idea. Because they is some give in the bar where it clamps onto the handlebars on the inside, it can absorb energy in a crash, possibly saving your bars from being bent or broken too. These typically fit any motorcycle with flat handlebars, but check the specs of the product against your bike to make sure. As good an idea on the road as they are off.

Motorcycle Rearsets
Motorcycle Rearsets

Rearsets
Aftermarket rearsets allow you to alter the position of your motorcycle’s footpegs. Any stock motorcycle should only be considered an ergonomic starting point, so these help there, but many rearsets also come with strong pegs that don’t fold up. Those work as auxiliary frame sliders, helping to keep the swingarm and bellypan off the ground.

Front Axle Slider
Front Axle Slider

Front Axle Sliders
These pass through the front axle, providing sliders for the front forks and brakes. The added protection isn’t as significant as frame sliders or rearsets or Bark Busters, so start with those first and add these after.

Swingarm Spool
Swingarm Spool

Swingarm Spools/Sliders
Same goes for these, but they double as mounting points for a paddock stand, making it easy to lift your rear wheel to change it or adjust the chain. Added protection is fairly minimal compared to other items on this list.

Billet Motorcycle Engine Cover
Billet Motorcycle Engine Cover

Engine Covers
Aftermarket generator/clutch/crank covers made from billet aluminum or even composite nylon are tougher than stock cast aluminum items, resisting wear. You won’t put a hole through one of these but they’ll do little to protect the rest of your bike.

Read More, Page Two >>

Related Links:
Derp: Learning To Lean With SoCal Supermoto
Protect Your Body: The Best Motorcycle Back Protectors
Take A Risk: How To Go Motorcycle Camping On A Budget

  • Archie

    My old man came off his ’08 blade a couple of days ago at a track day; he had everything fitted in this article except engine covers and hand-guards. Bike went end over end a couple of times in the run-off, headlight cowl is smashed, tank cover is dented, most fairings are damaged, sub-frame has been twisted beyond what you’d think physically possible, but all the critical components of the bike are fine. The primary frame, the engine, the swingarm, both wheels and all suspension/brake components are (cosmetically) undamaged. We’re obviously going to pull the whole thing apart and check it over before firing it up again (suspect the front forks are probably damaged in some way internally).

    TL;DR – this stuff works, people. It’s the difference between replacing your bike and a $1,000 repair job, if that.

    • phoebegoesvroom

      Time to turn that Blade into a streetfighter! :D

      • Archie

        God no! He’s just been waiting for a good excuse to fully convert it into a track bike. Bought him a new lightweight sub-frame to replace the mangled one, he’s been eying up a really awesome set of IoM TT fairings for a while now so I’ll be ordering those as a christmas present. It’s amazing how well it stood up to damage given how nasty a tumble it took. Quite glad all the Ohlins gear is safe.

        • phoebegoesvroom

          Ok, a track bike is acceptable as well. Carry on.

  • Nate Terrill

    Honestly, with most bikes and cars, I would just rather it be a total. They are never really the same after a hard wreck. If it was something rare, I can understand wanting to keep it, but otherwise there is a reason I carry GAP coverage.

    • Archie

      That’s all well and good if you don’t mind paying more and more on insurance every time you wreck one, to the point where insurance companies will just tell you to bugger off when you try and take out a policy on a fresh new one you’ve bought after your last write-off. Never mind that your normal insurance policy doesn’t cover you on a track at all.

      • Piglet2010

        One reason I am using a pre-gen Ninjette as a track bike – if I total it I can find another one in good condition for $2K or so.

      • Nate Terrill

        Well, yes, you can’t go totaling vehicles left and right.

      • runnermatt

        That depends on the insurance company. A guy I know total his Dodge Charger SRT-8 at a SCCA track day at Summit Point. The brakes failed at the end of the straight stretch. His insurance paid for everything because it was considered a “school environment”. I imagine it also depends on the organization you are doing the track day with.

    • Jack Meoph

      Yep, I left the road with my SVT Focus and did some damage to the undercarriage and steering. After getting it back from an authorized SVT shop, the poor car felt completely different. I had them check it again, and it still sucked compared to before the off road experience. I drove it straight from the Ford dealership to a Mazda dealership and traded it in for a Mazda 6 V6. I will never keep a repaired vehicle again.

      • Nate Terrill

        Same here with a GTI. A construction crew left a trench open in the road, but removed the signs. The state DOT has never explained to me why this happened, but the effect was hitting the trench at 45 or so. I was running the H&R cup kit and every strut bent, along with frame damage. The car was repaired and H&R sent me a new suspension for free (great company, great products), but the car never ever drove the same again and was a constant alignment problem.

        • runnermatt

          What year GTI? I have an `09 two-door.

          • Nate Terrill

            02 1.8T I eventually got it into the 12s on the drag strip and fairly competitive at the autocross (thousands of dollars later), but I was never able to overcome the FWD and porcine weight. I spent years doing the watercooled VW/Audi thing and finally gave up and went back to large displacement and rear wheel drive……. WHERE……I……….BELONG

  • therubbersidedown

    Important note on frame sliders is they are to protect your frame first. They may save your plastics if you’re lucky and it’s low speed enough but buying longer ones just increases the leverage on the frame and increase your chances of it catching and flipping.

    • Brian

      in some cases, the under fairing panel support frame sliders actually work better.

  • DaveDawsonAlaska

    Barkbusters aren’t there to stop your handlebars from bending (as multiple sets of Pro-Taper bars in my junk pile can attest), they’re there to stop trees, bushes, rock walls, roots, other riders bikes, and car mirrors from smashing your hands and slapping in your brake or clutch lever while riding trails or in traffic. Also good for deflecting wind/rain/snow/bugs on road, keeping your hands more comfortable.

    Every dual sport should get a good solid skid plate, radiator guards (if liquid cooled), case saver or engine guards, and handguards as their first modifications.

    • HoldenL

      I’ve dropped my Versys with and without Barkbusters.

      Without Barkbusters: Broken clutch lever, handlebars unbent.
      With Barkbusters: Scratched plastic on Barkbuster, handlebars unbent. Once in a drop, once when I lowsided at a track around 50-60 mph.

      Yeah, I rode a Versys on a track, with Barkbusters. Everyone was kind enough not to laugh.

  • Slacker

    On the contrary, I’ve never seen frame sliders work to save a bike in a lowside accident at speed… perhaps in the garage when it just comes off the sidestand or something, sure, it’d be possible, but several times I’ve seen S1000RR’s come into the shop with frame sliders on them, and while the plastic is safe and the engine never dragged, the damage caused to the frame by the sliders pressing in and also being pulled across the ground totaled out the bike. Not gonna say that’s the case in all accidents, but frame sliders aren’t worth saving a few bucks in plastic from a low speed tipover as opposed to having to buy a whole new bike.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Those guys need higher quality sliders. They’re not all made alike.

      • Justin Christenson

        More to Slacker’s point, I’ve been considering adding frame sliders to my track bike as a bit of added protection for the frame and cylinder head. However, most designs available for my bike use the cylinder head engine mount boss as the location for the slider. I am afraid that a crash might tear out that part of the frame and ruin the engine as well. I ride an old ’99 R6, can you suggest a set of frame sliders that might work better?

  • Jack Meoph

    I had never put frame sliders on my bikes until I bought a 2009 ZX-6r. About 6 months after getting it, I was turning around in some dirt, and the bike was out from underneath me in heartbeat. The frame slider took almost the entire hit, just a bit of scratch on the tip of the mirror. Worth every penny I paid for them.

  • Geert Willem van der Horst

    Good to know that there is an extra argument for aftermarket rearsets (being a tall Dutch guy)! But I still consinder them expensive. It would be better if you can change them to your next bike, but I’m not sure if that is the case.

    • Brian

      I know of people that when purchasing certain brands of aftermarket rearsets, they also purchase an extra peg and put them in their toolkit as a “just in case-better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” kind of thinking.

  • eddi

    I have always put engine protectors on my bikes since my second one. The C-70 I had first was wrapped in plastic. They let me ride away from low side falls and even one serious crash. From the sound of the comments, the protective gear has gotten better. And it looks more subtle. No more “it makes the bike look ugly” excuse.

  • ThinkingInImages

    Does anyone make something like Barkbusters for sports motorcycles with factory clip-ons? That would be great for keeping the ice cold wind off your hands during a winter ride.

    • Brian

      Acerbis actually makes a wind deflector for clip ons. They are called “Dual Road” hand deflectors.

      • runnermatt

        Unfortunately their website doesn’t list any for Honda.

        • Brian

          they have a “universal” fit process. regardless of the application, if you choose a similar styled machine of a another brand, you will find they will practically bolt right on. I think the only difference in some of the pt#’s is the amount of sweep out they allow for based on perch type for the levers.

    • metric_G

      Alternative method, handlebar mitts, they are really good against weather and since they are soft, they fit on most bikes:
      http://img15.imageshack.us/img15/1214/tuskhandlebarmitts001.jpg

  • Zanpa

    If you want to install axle sliders, there’s a much cheaper way than to buy $60 aftermarket options. Skateboard wheels and a few minutes of your time.
    Here’s a video describing the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEIZCLF8zj4

    • Joe Bielski

      Hahahaha, that video is awesome… And I’m actually gonna try this tonight pending if I have hollow axles on my POS. God knows I got lots of wheels hanging around.

      • Zanpa

        Be wary of the wheels you use. “Good” skate wheels are actually worse for the job, the best one are the cheapest ones, because they are solid and don’t deform under pressure.

        • Joe Bielski

          I’ve got some old Bones 97A skatepark wheels that are ridiculously hard, I think that might work, but I guess it’s hard to say until I bail again.

          • metric_G

            When I was building my motard I just went to a skate shop and asked for the hardest wheels they had.

            • Joe Bielski

              Of course I just realized that my 89 ninja 500 doesn’t have hollow axles. That would be too simple. Then again, do I really care if I dump it?

              • Jeremy

                I would imagine so! It’s not cosmetic damage you need to worry about, but being able to stand it back up, and ride it home.

                • Joe Bielski

                  That is true….

  • Brian

    In regards to the hand guards, they aren’t just for dual sports anymore. New safety regulations from FIM and a lot of racing bodies ( like MotoGP/WSBK/BSB/AMA) require fitment on the clip on bar of at least a right side lever protector guard. Woodcraft and Rizoma ( just to name a couple off the bat ) actually make for most sportbike fitments a guard for at least the right bar( some even have one available for the left side to match). It is handy to have and easy protection to install, and generally less expensive that most would think.

  • Justin McClintock

    I can attest to some of this equipment working. My SV1000S was spared any major damage when I went down on ice thanks to the frame sliders. Without them I’d probably have been looking for a new bike. My DRZ400SM has been spared any major damage courtesy of axle sliders and hand guards.

    BTW, not all frame sliders are created equal. The ones on my SV run on a common bolt that runs all the way through the frame. That helps to decrease any bending load frame sliders would impart on the frame in a crash. If your frame sliders mount to a short bolt, find some different ones or a better location for them.

  • adam

    I laid down an SV650 at a the Schwantz School at Road Atlanta a few years back. They charged me almost $900 to replace the entire stock exhaust, despite me finding them a brand new, zero mile SV650 stock exhaust on ebay for $60 that I offered to buy them. The told me “Sorry, the replacement has to come from the factory for liability sake so we can sell the bikes at the end of the year. Oh, and by the way, if you would have crashed one of the bikes with the Yoshimura exhaust, it would have only cost you about $100 to replace. We get those real cheap.”
    Thanks for telling me that after the fact.