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?