Afraid of Dropping your 950-lb Motorcycle?
Afraid of Dropping your 950-lb. Motorcycle?
Well, you should be. Especially if you can’t pick it up and you happen to drop your bike where there’s no one around to help you pick it back up. The good news, it’s rare that a person drops their bike on some deserted road. The drop generally happens when trying to maneuver through a crowded parking lot on a bike night or when attempting to make a U-turn on a side street.
If you drop the bike at bike night, a half dozen people will run over to help you get it back up. Of course, you’ll be very embarrassed, as you should be, but that’s the worst that will happen. If you drop your bike on a side street, eventually, someone will stop and help you.
But, there’s something you should know. First, if your 950 lb. Harley Ultra tips over, 99% of the time, the bike will not be damaged in any way as the crash bars will do their job and protect the bike. The 1% where the bike can get some minor damage is if the bike turtles all the way over to where the grip touches the ground. This happens if the drop occurs on an incline. In that case, you may wind up with a scratch on the top of the saddlebags or the tip of the fairing. If your bike has front and rear crash-bars, this kind of damage usually won’t happen.
If your bike doesn’t have rear crash-bars as on the very popular Street Glide, get yourself a set. The real question is, why did the tip over happen? Well, rider error, plain and simple.
The error could be that you hit the front brake with the handlebars turned. That’s almost a guarantee drop; or, you don’t quite know how to coordinate the clutch and throttle well enough to use the friction zone. The friction zone is the gray area between where releasing the clutch and the bike starts to move, and, fully engaged, where you’ve let the clutch out all the way. Getting familiar and comfortable with the friction zone will prevent you from ever dropping your motorcycle.
How can you tell if your proficient at using the friction zone? That’s easy. Try riding in a straight line at a slow walking pace. Have someone walk along side you very slowly. If you must put one or both feet down while trying this, you have NOT mastered the friction zone and you’re a drop looking for a place to happen. The only way to get the hang of this is to practice over and over until you can ride at a slow walking pace without putting a foot down. Keep your head and eyes UP! NEVER look down. Keep your rpm’s at between 1500 and 1800. Idle is not enough. If you try this just using idle, you will either stall the bike or let the clutch out too far, thereby, you’ll be going too fast.
Once you’re pretty good at riding at a slow walking pace using the friction zone, try bringing the revs up a bit and dragging the rear brake. Dragging the rear brake means putting a little pressure on the rear brake while in the friction zone. You should then realize you can go even slower with complete control. Once you feel you’re in complete control, try making a 30’ circle at a slow walking pace. At that slow a pace, you won’t be able to lean the bike. But, if you can make that circle at that speed with confidence, you have a good handle on the friction zone and your chances of dropping the bike just went down and your confidence way up.
Your fear of dropping your 950-lb. bike is all but eliminated and this should take about an hour’s worth of practice.
Till next month, get out there and practice!
Jerry “Motorman” Palladino