Riding Skills Series: Getting Back On After The Crash

Overcoming the difficulties of getting back on the horse

MotoGP racers getting back on motorcycles
While MotoGP racers seem to be able to hop on their backup bikes after a crash and go just as fast, for many riders it can be a long, bumpy road to get back in the saddle.Photo By Gold & Goose

How do the top racers do it? We've often watched a MotoGP rider have a huge crash midway through a practice or qualifying session, only to run back to the pits, jump on his second machine, and go even quicker not more than five minutes after crashing. For us mere mortals it can be a difficult and drawn-out ordeal to get back to riding like our usual selves after a big crash, but with some work these obstacles can be overcome, and we can be back out and enjoying riding again.

Before you start thinking about riding again after a crash, make sure that you have fully recovered physically from any injuries sustained and that your bike and gear are 100 percent ready to go. You don’t need to be distracted by aches and pains or something like a bent clip-on when you’re trying to get your mojo back. This might not be possible for some racers locked in a championship battle, but unless you’ve got some big money or points at stake, it’s best to wait rather than risk aggravating an injury or worsening an already stressful situation.

One of the main stumbling blocks to getting back on the bike again is fear. It may be fear that you’ll crash again, fear that you won’t be as quick as you were before, or fear that you just won’t enjoy riding anymore. This fear takes away all your confidence, and it can make you anxious about riding and your abilities to the point of distraction. And some are so overcome by fear that they simply avoid the issue altogether and their bike sits in the garage gathering dust. Now is the time to find out what’s causing that fear, address the issue, and put it behind you so you can focus on your riding.

This requires you to analyze the crash as best you can and determine the chain of events that led to it happening. If it was a single-bike crash and you “ran out of talent,” own up to the mistake, determine what you did wrong, and how/why that was different from how you usually ride. For example, an easy answer here is, “I locked the front brake in a decreasing-radius turn.” But what you really want to know is if you were you going faster than usual into the turn and braking harder. Were you off line and hit a bump? Was your front tire past its best? The object here is to find out exactly what happened and why so that you can prevent a similar thing from happening in the future.

In an accident with another vehicle, whether it’s on the street or track, the same procedure applies: Analyze everything that happened leading up to the accident and how you got into that situation. Even if it wasn’t your fault, did you do something differently from usual that put you in that particular spot at that particular time? The idea here is that you will be better prepared to deal with a similar situation if it arises again or, better yet, find a way to avoid it altogether. That settled, your mind will be much more at ease when you saddle up again. (And even if you’ve never crashed, it doesn’t hurt to run these types of analyses on near-misses or any situations where you’ve gotten into trouble.)

The crashes that often pose the most difficulty getting past are those that were completely unavoidable, such as a deer collision or hitting dropped oil on the racetrack. This can cause a lot of stress because the circumstances were completely out of your control, and any analysis of the crash yields few answers. Another issue may be that you don’t remember the accident nor the event leading up to it. Getting past this is a matter of being honest with yourself about doing everything you can to prevent a reoccurrence based on what you do know about what happened and accepting the fact that—despite all your hard work—a similar accident could occur again.

Sometimes it can help to take a break from all the worry and focus on something else that will help relax you. That can be exercise, a weekend away from home, watching your favorite movie…anything that takes your mind off riding and what you’re going through. It can also help to use visualization to get you motivated to ride again, perhaps remembering how it felt to be faster than your buddies at the last trackday or how much fun you had on your last road trip.

When it does come time for that first ride, make it as stress-free and as relaxing as you can and plan something that you know you would enjoy under normal circumstances. Attend a local trackday rather than making your first ride a big race weekend, or take a relaxing solo street ride on your favorite roads rather than a group ride. Remember, most of us ride for the enjoyment of it. After a crash, it may take some time and effort, but eventually you should be able to get back to your old self and find the fun side of riding again.