Dropping your bike sucks. There are a lot of reasons it sucks. Embarrassment, broken mirrors or turn signals, scuffs on the bike, having to ask for help…but ultimately? It’s not that big of a deal. EVERYONE who rides has dropped a bike. Everyone who rides has a story about learning to ride and dumping the bike. It happens. They’re heavy machines and they’re tricky to learn to operate at low speeds.
My most embarrassing time dropping my bike was almost 3 years ago. I had been riding my Triumph Street Triple for about a year (I think it had 6,000ish miles on the odometer) without incident when I got a new job. It was my first day taking the bike to work, and I didn’t think through my parking garage strategy very well. I was pulling up to the security gate and I misjudged my ability to get my badge out of my pocket before I needed to pull in the clutch, so my left hand was stuck in my pocket when I hit the brakes. The bike lurched and died (because I didn’t use the clutch) and tipped over with me on it. There were security cameras watching, but no one else was around. I quickly got up and hauled the bike back onto its wheels. I shamefully parked it and scurried into the office hoping none of my new coworkers had seen me. I was lucky and the only damage was a broken turn signal lens ($6) and a scuffed mirror (that I never replaced).
So what do you do if you drop your bike?
Pick it Back up
If you’re lucky enough to drop it in front of a group of riders, you’ll be twice as ashamed and your bike will be back upright before you even have a chance to get yourself composed. If you’re by yourself, you have a couple of options.
Picking it Up By Yourself
Here is a great video showing you how to pick a bike back up. When I’ve dropped my bike, I’ve been so fueled by adrenaline and humiliation that I’ve been able to get my bike back up myself easy peasy. I’m pretty average in height (5’6”) and I didn’t really get into working out until after my latest bike dumping, so if you’re in relatively good shape and your bike is on the lighter side, I believe in you!
Ask For Help
Sometimes, you just can’t get the bike back up. Maybe it fell in a weird spot, maybe it’s just too heavy – but you need help. Don’t feel bad asking for it – again, it’s a big heavy machine. Look around and ask the person nearest to you. Unless it’s a big strong person with experience lifting bikes, you’re going to have to help. And unless it’s a fellow rider, you’re going to have to tell them how to help you.
Either way – get a good grip, keep your back straight, and remember to lift with your legs.
Assess the Damages
Give it a once over and make sure it’s still safe to ride. Check the fluid levels, even if you don’t see anything under where the bike tipped. Sometimes coolant can splash out of the reservoir or the lid on the brake fluid reservoir could have been knocked loose. If you see any air getting into the brake fluid reservoir or the fluid is low or seeping out, don’t ride the bike. Air in the brake lines is no joke and you could find yourself in a worse accident than just dropping the bike.
Look at all your handlebar controls and make sure the clutch and brake cables didn’t bend or break in a way that makes the bike unsafe. Do the same with the foot controls and make sure the shifter isn’t stuck and the rear brake pedal moves freely.
Start the bike
Make sure the bike starts! Some modern bikes have tip over sensors and they won’t turn back on right away after they’ve been horizontal. Turning the key off and back on usually clears this up. If you have a carbureted bike, the fuel may have spilled out of the carbs and you need to give it a few cranks to get gas back into the system.
If you’re still on your first bike, good news! It’s probably already scuffed and dented. Replace anything you feel like replacing and move on.
If you dropped your baby, it’s going to hurt a little more. You can replace fairings, mirrors, turn signals and most body work on the bike. Some things (like turn signal lenses) are cheap and easy, while other things (like tanks) are expensive and you might decide to keep the dent. This is a good time to consider getting something like engine guards or frame sliders to protect the expensive pieces in the future.
And that’s it! Dropping a bike is practically a rite of passage, and even long-time riders still can find themselves in scenarios where the bike hits the ground. It’s a bummer, but you’ll be ok!