Dropping a motorcycle is part of the learning process.
There’s no doubt that balancing a two-wheel vehicle is among the most intimidating learning curves involved in the early days of riding a motorcycle, especially while you’re still mastering the inverted shifting mechanics and eye-hand-foot coordination.
Practicing and mastering proper riding techniques is the safest and most secure way to stop dropping your bike; this article lists some tips that will help you keep the bike upright in the meantime.
Table of Contents
1. Rear-Brake-Dominant Stopping
One quick tip to prevent you from dropping your motorcycle is to favor your rear brake over your front brake when slowing and stopping.
Most bikes are set up to have abrupt front brakes that are strong enough to slow the bike to a stop in a short amount of time, even if the motorcycle is racing at highway speeds.
In the case of an emergency, front brakes need to be powerful enough to stop the bike from colliding with a person or another vehicle, even if that means locking up the wheels and falling sideways.
But at slow speeds, when the brakes aren’t combating intense front-end velocity, applying the grabby front brake can stop the motorcycle instantly before you’ve had a chance to straighten it and brace it for stopping.
Use engine braking with the clutch and rear braking to slow and steady the motorcycle, especially when braking while riding slow.
In addition to slow-speed riding, refrain from using the front brake when leaning sideways, in a turn, or curve. Heavy front brake input on a leaning or rolling tire can impact the balance, trip up the wheel’s momentum, and cause you to drop your motorcycle.
Finally, reserve the front brake for any last-minute stopping power required to safely but gradually bring the bike to a halt without tipping the motorcycle over.
2. Be Prudent About Placing Your Footing
One of the riding mistakes that cause even experienced riders to drop their motorcycle is when the rider puts their foot down on the sand, oil, water-slicked roads, or loose gravel.
When you’re riding on unstable road surfaces, the traction on your motorcycle tires is already reduced.
When stopping or attempting to stabilize the motorcycle, riders quickly realize that the soles of their shoes have even less traction on loose surfaces than their tires do.
Places where cars tend to idle for extended periods, like drive-thru windows, parking lots, and intersections, can be littered with slick puddles of auto fluids. Putting your foot down onto an oil puddle for stability can cause you to lose footing and drop your motorcycle.
One pro tip that can prevent you from dropping your bike is to be selective about where you put your feet down, placing them slowly on slick roads, sand, or loose gravel. Also, wear riding shoes with heat-and-oil-resistant, slip-proof soles.
Make sure to also read our article about whether trikes are easier to ride than motorcycles.
3. Walk Your Motorcycle Instead of Creeping Along
Whether you’re in a crowded parking lot, an unchartered driveway, or looking for a place to pull over and relieve yourself on the side of the road, it’s often easier to keep the motorcycle upright at slow speeds while walking it instead of attempting to balance a heavy machine at 5 MPH.
Taller riders may “power walk” their motorcycle, releasing the clutch ever-so-slightly without applying any throttle, waddling their bike with both feet on the ground to keep it stable. Shorter riders may have more luck walking alongside their moto and pushing it.
- If pushing while walking alongside the motorcycle, ensure you hold both grips and keep the handlebars stable while you lean into the bike with your thigh for extra support.
- When powerwalking your motorcycle, it’s essential to keep the previous section’s advice: place your feet on the dry, stable ground while walking your machine at slow speeds.
4. Extend, Retract, and Place Your Side Stand Correctly
One of the most common situations causing riders to drop their motorcycle is failing to fully extend the side stand before parking the bike.
In some cases, the side stand appears to be extended, but since it hasn’t been lowered to the extent that it’s locked into place, the kickstand retracts as soon as it touches the pavement, and the bike tips over.
- Ensure the kickstand is fully extended before you lean the motorcycle’s weight onto the stand for parking to prevent your bike from dropping.
- Furthermore, be sure you’re not setting the side stand down on soft pavement or hot asphalt that will crumble or sink in once the weight of the motorcycle shifts onto the stand.
- Finally, you can ensure your bike won’t fall by flicking your motorcycle’s side stand up before you take off, as an extended kickstand can grab onto road debris or scrape the ground while you’re riding.
5. Remove the Disk Locks and Unlock Your
Front Fork Before Riding
Many modern motorcycles equip anti-theft devices like integrated locks that keep your front wheel leaned all the left while the bike is parked.
That way, even if someone does get your motorcycle started while you are not around, the vehicle can only ride in circles until it finally falls.
Some riders forget to unlock their locks; as soon as they take off, the motorcycle leans to the left and falls over.
Furthermore, other motorcyclists use disk locks that fasten to the brake caliper to prevent the wheel from moving more than an inch in either direction.
Again, some riders hop excitedly into the bike saddle and hit the throttle, only to realize they forgot to remove the disc locks when the bike comes to an abrupt stop and falls over.
We suggest leaving yourself a rubber band or flag reminder somewhere on the throttle, clutch, or brake lever, so you don’t forget to unlock the forks.
Furthermore, some of the more modern, high-end motorcycle disc locks come equipped with a motion alarm that beeps when someone hops in the saddle.
This helpful warning sound can either detour a potential theft or remind you to unlock the brakes before you take off, preventing you from dropping your motorcycle.
Please also read our article about why motorcycle steering won’t lock.
6. Employ Proper Clutch Work; Stop Stalling Out
Motorcycles use manually operated sequential gearboxes, which take a while for some new riders to master, especially as they’re also learning the physics of balancing a two-wheeled vehicle.
One of the most common reasons motorcycles tip over is low-speed stall outs, either from failing to feather the clutch properly and navigating the friction zone between the throttle or from failing to shift into neutral before releasing the clutch lever.
The feel of the clutch lever varies from bike to bike; even experienced riders stall out when adjusting to the feel of a clutch on a new bike.
That said, experienced riders will tell you that it’s easier to stall out at full speed when your bike is rolling, and you can hit the starter button, give it some juice and try the shift again.
However, when you stall a motorcycle out at slow speeds, the engine bucking is more abrupt, and the weight is less manageable, causing the bike to tip over.
Here are some common rider-input failures that result in a motorcycle falling while riding slowly:
- Popping the clutch lever out of your hand too quickly, especially while in the middle of shifting.
- Failing to give the motorcycle an adequate amount of throttle when engaging the clutch.
- Failing to boost your RPMs before upshifting.
- Shifting into inappropriate gear.
- Incomplete shifting.
- Failing to feather the clutch during low-speed riding and powerwalking.
- Failing to find Neutral before releasing the clutch while parking.
7. Install Crash Bars on Your Motorcycle
Crash bars are the most effective way to stop your motorcycle from dropping to the ground, preventing damage and making it easier to pick the bike back up.
Crash bars are often installed by the rider’s or passengers’ foot pegs, acting like a secondary side that holds your motorcycle up far enough to keep the engine and exhaust from scraping.
Depending on your bike’s design, the handlebars and luggage bags may still incur road scrapes if the motorcycle keeps falling down.
You should also read our article about reasons a motorcycle’s front wheels wobble.
8. Pick Up Your Motorcycle Properly
Another common mistake causing riders to drop their motorcycle is when they’ve already dropped it once and picked it up incorrectly, so they lose control and slip a second time.
In other cases, riders fail to extend the kickstand before they pick up the motorcycle, so it falls back over.
How to Properly Pick Up Your Motorcycle:
Follow these steps when picking up your motorcycles to avoid dropping it repeatedly:
- Assess your physical condition, ensuring you didn’t pull a muscle or injure yourself while the motorcycle fell.
- Don’t attempt to pick up the motorcycle if you’re in danger.
- Turn off the ignition and, if on a vintage moto, kill the fuel supply as well (fuel-injected motorcycles have automatic fuel-shut offs that will resume once the bike is corrected).
- Lower the side stand so the bike stands up on its own once you have it upright.
- Place your footing, so you have plenty of traction, avoiding oil spills, moisture, and loose gravel or sand.
- Position yourself, so your back is against the seat, and you grab the handgrip closest to the ground.
- Turn the front wheel toward the ground but turn the grip towards the fuel tank, using your backhand to grab something solid-mounted and cool enough to touch, like a luggage rack or fender rail.
- With your knees bent, lock your arms and take a step back towards the bike, lifting with your leg muscles until you can set the motorcycle on its side stand.