How To Ride A Motorcycle Again After Your First Crash

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How To Ride A Motorcycle Again After Your First Crash

So you fell off. Happens to everyone, don’t be embarrassed and, most importantly, don’t get scared. Get back on as soon as you can, doing so will work wonders for your confidence and save your months or years of mental anguish and decaying self-confidence. Here’s how to ride a motorcycle again after your first crash.

Photo by Stefán Freyr Margrétarson

Step One: Your Gear

Did your helmet touch down in your crash? If you harbor any sort of doubt that it might have, you have to get a new one. Like the crumple zone on a car, they’re one-impact only, sacrificing themselves to save your life.

Jackets, armor, boots and all that shebang are more forgiving, but be honest with yourself — if that equipment has been damaged, will it still work to protect you? It’s not worth saving a little cash only to ride in damaged gear.

Step Two: Your Bike

Did you damage your bike? Even in a mild drop, it can incur unseen, but critical damage. Things like tweaked forks or crimped fork tubes or even a bent chassis can be difficult to detect, but could make your motorcycle an accident waiting to happen. For peace of mind, ask a mechanic to check it out before you climb back on.

This isn’t to say that you need to return your bike to showroom condition — doing so is prohibitively expensive — but you need to make sure it’s not dynamically compromised in any crucial way.

If you’ve suffered significant injuries that impair your physical ability or comfort, you may find it helpful to buy a small, light, cheap bike to ride until you’re fully recovered. I wasn’t able to ride a full-on sportbike for several months following my last crash, doing so was just too much contortion for my damaged knee and placed too much pressure on my fractured coccyx.

Step Three: Your First Ride
You’re going to be nervous, there’s just no getting around that. To offset your nerves, plan a short, manageable ride at a time and place where traffic is light or, ideally, non-existent. And don’t try to return to the scene of the crime; if you crashed on a highway, do your first ride back on surface streets. If you crashed in the rain, make sure you ride on a sunny day. Just getting back on your bike will be enough of a demon to tackle, don’t make it worse than you have to. Pick ideal conditions, don’t try to get back out when it’s too cold for Chicago polar bears.

Full gear will also be a confidence booster. There’s nothing better than knowing that, even if you do go down, chances are you won’t be hurt.

It’s also a good idea to tackle this particular obstacle on your own. That way there’s no pressure to perform in front of friends.

And, just take it easy. Go for a nice little ride, feel the wind on your face, see some sights, smell some smells and go home with a sense of accomplishment.

Step Four: Practice

You won’t be back up to speed right away. Depending on your experience, the severity of the injuries you suffered, your physical recovery and your mental state, it will likely be some time before you regain all your riding skill. After my last crash, it took me six months or more before I was truly comfortable again and I was a bit of a nervous wreck for the entirety of the first month.

Just invest the time to re-learn and practice all the important riding skills, consult our How To section for guidance.

Step Five: Confront Your Demons

Was the crash predicated on a certain set of conditions — heavy traffic, poor weather, a bad attempt at a wheelie? Once you’re ready, you’re going to need to face that challenge again and prove to yourself that you can beat it. If you don’t, you’ll be saddled with nagging doubts in the back of your brain.

Work up to it. If you crashed on a motocross track, spend some time on dual sports then, when you’re ready, try the veteran’s track. Don’t try a full-on moto until you feel up to it, but do try another race when you do. If you wiped out on The Snake, in front of the cameras, you’ll need to work back up to elbow-down, but getting it right, finally, is going to feel better than ever. Tackling the thing that hurt you is what will finally clear your head of the self doubt and return your full riding ability.

How did you get back on the horse after your first crash?

  • William Connor

    My first crash was easy to get back on the horse. Bad weather, wet leaves, and a sharp curve were mentally less of an issue to deal with than my second wreck. That one was a group ride with some people I barely knew on a road that most were unfamiliar with. We stopped for a break the order got shuffled, less experienced riders leap frogged to the front. We came to a beautiful decreasing radius turn that dumps onto a dam overpass. The riders in front of me had issues and I was following too closely focused on that perfect line and had to try to go around them when they abruptly stopped mid corner after they panicked. I tried to dodge three bikes in the road and when I crossed the center line to go wide around them the back end slipped, caught, straightened me up and I hit the guardrail. Broke my ankle, was on crutches for several months and that took some time to recover from. I was not comfortable on a bike until I went abroad that exact turn again on my new bike and nailed the line I wanted the time I crashed. After that I was fine again.

    • Bad Kev

      Thanks for sharing. Decreasing radius turns are dangerous if you’re not familiar with them. I was going around one that I didn’t know well when I was a noob and took the bike off the road. Thankfully, I didn’t dump it but it sure was a scary experience and I learned from it.

  • Chris Reedy

    First wreck was a target fixation on my Ninja 250 that left me in a ditch with a broken tib/fib and a bent Ninja. This was November 4, 2008. After a tibial surgery to add some Titanium go fast part on me and some fork repairs for the Ninja I took my first after crash ride on December 13, 2008. With snow on the side of the road. With a walking boot on my right leg. Glad to say it was a bad decision that worked out well and I haven’t had another major getoff since.

  • Scott Otte

    I also think you don’t want to wait to long. The mind has a habit of building things up the longer you wait. You don’t have to be like me and get back on the bike while you’re still walking with a cane, but just getting out for a ride around the block following the above suggestions as soon as you can is probably a good idea. Just to kick the demons out as soon as possible.
    My first ride after my really big crash was hard to do, but once I was back on the bike it was amazing.

  • Michael Howard

    After my first street crash, I looked the bike over for damage then hopped on for a “gotta see if the bike’s OK” ride. I concentrated on looking for changes in the handling of the bike and didn’t let myself think about the crash or my feelings of apprehension or fear. I told myself the bike was more important than anything I was feeling personally.

  • Mugget

    This method seems like it won’t really get to the cause. The “confront your demons/face the challenge” type of outlook – I just don’t see that as a particularly positive thing. I would say it’s much better to keep emotions out of it, after all it’s likely that is why the crash happened. (“I felt that I couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t…”) Making emotional decisions on a motorcycle – I’ve never seen it end well.

    My method is much more simple and cuts to the chase:
    1. Identify the mistake that was made.
    2. Don’t repeat the mistake.

    If you know what you did to cause the crash, then it’s pretty simple to avoid doing the same thing again! If you do keep making the same mistakes over and over, maybe motorcycling is not for you… Or maybe you just need to get some good coaching/tuition and learn how to ride.

    Of all the crashes I’ve had, they’ve been low speed (under 40km/h) on the streets. Twice in the rain, twice in the dry. I picked the bike up and rode home after all of them. Then later at home I thought about it and identified my mistake. I’ve never repeated the same mistake twice.

    • Loren Andrews

      I agree completely. The first time a crashed was like a month after I got my bike. I made way too wide of a U-turn and hit the curb and fell. So embarrassing, but I remembered how important the box was in the msf class and how I simply ignored it, and now i paid for it. So I looked online for hours and watched videos how to make better u-turns. and I went out and practiced for like 4 hours until I could do almost a one lane u-turn. Now I do it on streets and parking garages like its clock work. Im so glad I fell that day.

      • Piglet2010

        I was horrible at low speed riding – took a class where the instructor figured out what I was doing wrong, and now I am acceptable.

    • Jeffrey Behiels

      From a psychologists point of view, I would recommend the whole ‘ confront your demons’. Fear is a basic human respons to events that happen (or have happened in this case) that could instill damage or even death to oneself. Fear leads to avoidance, e.g. not getting back on the motorcycle, which in turn makes it even harder to get on the bike in the future. (This does not apply to all people offcourse but exceptions prove the rule). I’ve seen badass Hell’s Angels tremble in fear after they sat on the bike after a crash that occured 10 years ago. Their problem was, they never got back on. These people got so locked up due to their emotions of fear.
      Getting back on the back in the first place, and second,going back to the place you crashed is imperative because the brain is now wired to recognize that place as dangerous and this has the tendency to generalize itself to broader aspects, e.g. motorcycling in general.

      Therefore I think point step 5 is actually the most important, because in not avoiding what made your crash happen or where your crash happened, you ARE getting to the cause. For more on this topic, just google fearconditioning, of two-factor-theory.

      That all is not to say I don’t consider your point valid, it’s offcourse crucial that you identify your mistake and practice not repeating it.

      • Mugget

        I understand what you’re saying, but confronting your demons while actually on the motorcycle may not be the best idea? Oftentimes fear is irrational, so confronting and dealing with that is definitely important!

        I’m reminded of the Twist of the Wrist book, to summarize – the point is made that we don’t need to like crashing (obviously!) but we do need to accept that it can happen. That is to say that after accepting that we can crash, we don’t dwell on it anymore, certainly not while actually riding. Otherwise it becomes like a target fixation – if a person is constantly worried and thinking about crashing, guess what’s likely to happen? I guess if a person really is struggling with those kinds of feelings, then they need to do some serious thinking before they get back on the bike.

        I would say that fear when riding seems to come down to two main causes – a warped view of reality (for example believing that the bike can’t lean any further, or that it’s not possible to take a corner any faster) or doubt about their skill level and competence (and perhaps the latter can cause the former). In the first instance I suppose that feelings of doubt or fear are only beneficial if they are used as a trigger to honestly examine the situation. The trick is to ensure that our subjective observations match as closely as possible the objective reality. If a person has a realistic outlook, there shouldn’t be anything to fear. In the second instance, good training is needed so the person can gain the needed skills and become a competent rider. I’m sure that many people don’t understand the importance of this point – nobody can be a “natural” at motorcycling, it’s completely unnatural and counter-intuitive. It does take training. If more people received good training very early in their personal motorcycling adventure there would be no need for them to crash, they could completely avoid lots of pain and expensive repair bills.

        Once those two areas are covered there shouldn’t be any reason for fear. Because there is nothing to fear. And it won’t help anyway. A motorcycle is just a machine and there’s a correct way to operate that machine safely – this should be the prime concern when riding.

        Basically, if a person has a fear of riding they need to confront that before they get back on a bike.

  • atomicalex

    Crashed at an unfamiliar track on an unfamiliar bike. Opened up a finger nicely. Got back home (to Germany from the US) a day or two later, got it splinted and bandaged, and bought a pair of bigger gloves. Put them on, then went out and looked at my bike, tried the levers, sat on it for a few minutes. Slept on the idea. Got ready the next morning, went back out, pushed the bike out of the garage, and rode to work. Came home and did PLP for a while. Kept putting on my gear every morning and getting back on until it seemed like normal again. I’m not sure when that happened, but it did. Haven’t had the chance to do another track day, but did hit the Nürburgring on my GS. It was very nice to be “back on track”. One of these days, I’ll go back to Mid-Ohio. But next time on my own bike!!

  • Khali

    After my first real crash (with 2 fractures) I grew a big amount of respect to my motorcycle (’91 Suzuki GSX600F “katana”). Had some money around so I decided to switch to “a more moderate bike with an engine that didn ask me to rev it high”. I bought a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom. One week later, I travelled to Jerez to watch MotoGP with some friends, someone did a bad manoeuver, I had to emergency brake and used to the amount of brake pressure on the old Kat, I locked the front wheel and went down again. This time I was lucky and unharmed. Did some emergency repairs on a local worshop and kept riding it.
    Back home I bought new tires, new fairing, new pegs, new handlebar and restored the bike to “showroom condition”. I couldnt stand having all those scars on a bike that I had for just a week.
    Also, I didnt tell my family about this second crash, so it was important that it didnt look like crashed.
    I continued commuting by motorcycle, going out to have fun and even did my first real motorcycle trip this summer. This is just a beginning.

  • Naccache

    By manning up, simple as that

    • octodad

      so simple, just “man up”. how many bone grafts have you had? how about dental implants? do you walk with a limp? feel wearing gear reinforces confidence, I am more safe in proper clothing. had a couple instances of ” cannot survive another one”. just rap your helmet and smile. still have one good eye, I will look out for you…

      • Naccache

        Well, I broke my leg in three places after a car hit my left leg in a crossroad. The footpeg entered the right side of my lower leg and hit the bone. My leg looked like a banana and now has a 40cm long titanium rod through it. It took 4 months before I was walking without a limp. Does this make my qualified to make my statement?

        It’s mostly about manning up, yes.

  • Piglet2010

    “And don’t try to return to the scene of the crime; if you crashed on a
    highway, do your first ride back on surface streets. If you crashed in
    the rain, make sure you ride on a sunny day.”

    Last time I crashed was in the rain at the track.

    Found the hose to wash the mud off, dropped tire pressures by 5 psi, and went back out next session.

  • The Blue Rider

    Getting over bad emotions after my first couple of crashes wasn’t that hard, because frankly my first year of riding was filled with them (uptight emotions, not crashes). I found riding in general to be a nervous, heavily demanding affair until I had pushed all my personal envelopes into most every area of street riding: Sunday morning rides with no traffic, commuting in the early morning, heavy city traffic, high speeds, low speeds, long distance days, riding at night and in the wet, etc. The whole affair of first learning the basics of everyday riding was a continuous exercise in demon-conquering for me. That’s half of why I did it (the other half being fun).

    I’ve been down five times in four years – two low speed “FCFB” (Failure to Control the Fucking Bike) in my first year, both involving running too wide in turns at back road intersections; two drops at zero speed (a botched U-turn on a sloped country path and a kickstand sinking into sandy soil); and I was once hit from behind and knocked over by another rider in our travelling group. The most important thing for me in all of these was to identify what went wrong, and how to never, ever do it again. I also had a recent very close call where I came within a foot of colliding with a car doing a random 3-pointer on a dark back road, from which I learned that when somebody is being stupid, steer clear and let them finish being stupid. That one kept me off the road for a week while I checked my head and did some risk re-assessment.

    So far I’ve found that I can get over just about anything if I think it through and look at the big picture. I hope to never put this to a severe test.

  • Bad Kev

    My first and only crash *knock on wood* happened when I turned through an intersection that I’ve done a million times. I was making a yellow light so I was going a little faster than normal and my front tire went over a crack in the pavement between two lanes and immediately lowsided the bike. Sparks were flying and I went tumbling down the road as I stupidly didn’t have my jacket or gloves on. Got some road rash on my arm and was bleeding decently in other places. Some stranger helped my get the bike back up, I chilled out for a second, then road back to my house bleeding and all. The bike sat for a couple months as I was trying to figure out if I was going to continue riding but I’m glad I decided to fix it and get back on the horse. I have taken that turn countless other times and I am now much more aware of pavement quality and I learned a lot from it.