Sometimes, no matter how carefully you ride, you may find yourself in an emergency situation. This section describes how to handle emergencies if they develop.
The quickest stops can be made with progressive braking, and with your motorcycle upright and travelling in a straight line.
If you need to make a quick stop, you should:
These things need to happen almost at the same time, but without locking the brakes. Never lock the front wheel, as it will almost certainly result in a fall.
Concentrate your attention on applying the brakes. Change gears only when the emergency is under control.
Remember, braking on a curve requires extra care, because the greater the lean on your motorcycle, the greater the chance your wheels will lose traction when the brakes are applied. This is one of the reasons why you should reduce speed before entering a curve.
If you must brake in a curve for emergency reasons:
When braking downhill, don't forget you need to brake harder.
Skids don't happen without reason. They are usually caused by:
Different kinds of skids require you to take different corrective action. You should know what to do if your motorcycle goes into a skid.
This is caused by the front wheel locking up. Immediately fully release the pressure on the brake lever and let the wheel rotate again. Then re-apply the brake gently and smoothly.
Avoid front-wheel skids by looking well ahead and braking progressively in plenty of time. Apply the front brake first. Be aware that as the weight transfers to the front, the rear wheel becomes lighter and may lock up and skid. If it does, look where you want to go and the motorcycle will go there.
In a rear-wheel skid, the rear of the vehicle swings out.
In this kind of skid, you should:
In any kind of skid, keep both feet up on the footrests. This will give you the greatest control to maintain balance.
If the skid is caused by over-acceleration, ease off the throttle.
If you have a blowout, you will need to react quickly to keep your balance.
A front-wheel blowout is particularly dangerous, as it affects your steering. You need to be able to steer well to keep your balance.
You can't always hear a tyre blow, but you should be able to detect a flat tyre from the way the motorcycle reacts. If the front tyre goes flat, the steering will feel heavy. If the rear tyre goes flat, the back of the motorcycle will tend to weave from side to side.
If you do have a blowout while riding, you should:
Engine seizure means that the engine locks or freezes, and it produces the same result as a locked wheel.
Engine seizure is caused by a lack of lubrication. Without oil, the engine's moving parts can't move smoothly against each other and the engine will overheat.
However, there is usually some advance warning, giving you time to respond. The first symptom may be a loss of engine power. You may also notice a change in the engine's sound.
If your engine starts to seize:
While you may be able to add oil and restart the engine, it should be checked for damage, and repaired if necessary.
If you suddenly find that your throttle is stuck, you will need to react quickly.
Sometimes, to avoid a hazard on the road, you may have to swerve. For example, you may suddenly come across a pothole or a piece of rubbish, or the vehicle in front may stop unexpectedly and the only way to avoid a collision will be to quickly swerve.
Countersteering is the best way to swerve quickly around an object. Learn and practise countersteering so you can use it when you need it.
To make a quick turn to the right:
This process is reversed for a quick turn to the left.
If you have to brake and turn at the same time:
Note: even when swerving, stay in your own lane. The moment you change lanes, you risk being hit by another vehicle. Because of the small size of a motorcycle, you should be able to squeeze past most obstacles without leaving your lane.
Change lanes only if you have enough time to make sure there are no vehicles in the lane that you want to enter.
Countersteering to avoid an obstacle
Sometimes, you may have to ride over an object in your path, if you don't have time to swerve or steer around it.
If you have to ride over an object:
It's a good idea to check your tyres and wheels for damage afterwards.
Sometimes when riding, you may be struck by insects, cigarette butts thrown from windows, or stones kicked up by vehicles ahead.
If you are wearing face protection, it may become smeared or cracked, making it difficult to see. If you aren't wearing face protection, you could be struck in the eye, the face or the mouth.
Whatever happens, don't let it affect your control of the motorcycle. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the handlebars.
If you need to repair any damage, pull off the road when it is safe.
A heavy vehicle coming towards you creates a wave of air. This can affect your stability, so move to the left of the lane where you will be least affected.
Also be prepared for cross winds when emerging from the protection of buildings, trees or banks. Cross winds can affect your balance, especially if your motorcycle is heavily loaded or fitted with a large fairing.
While you should always try to avoid hitting an animal, you shouldn't do anything dangerous, such as swerving into oncoming traffic. You have a better chance of surviving the impact from a small animal than you do a collision with another vehicle.
Motorcycles tend to attract dogs. If a dog rushes at you from the side, don't kick at it - it could cause you to lose control of the motorcycle.
Instead, change down gears and approach the animal slowly. As you reach it, speed up. You will leave the animal behind so quickly that it will generally lose interest.
If your vehicle's brakes fail, it will be an alarming experience.
You can try to avoid this happening by checking your brakes regularly. Always replace worn brake pads immediately and top up the brake fluid levels whenever necessary.
If your brakes do fail while you're riding:
If your headlight fails while you're riding, you should:
On rare occasions, motorcyclists can suddenly lose all vision when on the road, for example, if your visor becomes completely obscured.
If this happens, you should:
Sometimes, when you are riding at a fairly high speed, the front wheel can suddenly begin to wobble or weave from side to side.
If this happens, don't apply the brakes, as this could make the wobble worse. Instead you should:
Things that can cause a wobble or weave are:
If your chain breaks, you'll notice it because you'll instantly lose power to the rear wheel and the engine will speed up. The chain could lock your rear wheel and cause your machine to skid.
If a chain breaks, it's important to respond quickly. You should:
Chain failure is usually caused by a worn chain, a stretched chain (which doesn't fit the sprockets properly) or worn sprockets.
If you have to leave the road to check the motorcycle (or just to rest for a while), follow the tips below.
A head-on crash is probably the most dangerous type of crash you can be involved in. This is because when two vehicles collide head-on the force of the impact is usually twice as much as it is when a vehicle hits a non-moving object.
If you find yourself heading towards a head-on crash, there are some things you can do to try to avoid the crash or limit its damage:
Last updated: 8 November 2012