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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them

5 Ways to Avoid Crashing Your Motorcycle

Reminders on how to stay upright at all times

By Nick Ienatsch

Editor's Note: This story, originally written for motorcyclists who practice their skills on a race track, was adapted for the street riders who read Women Riders Now (WRN). Our thanks to Nick Ienatsch, chief instructor at Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS), for outlining five reasons why riders crash—whether on a track or the street—and what lessons we need to learn to avoid that.

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1. Mental lack or loss of focus. Motorcycle instructors often talk about “what’s next,” whether it’s an intersection, cold tires, a brake zone on the track, or a downshift. Keeping your mind thinking ahead is a great way to keep your focus on the subject at hand.

5 reasons why we crash rider
The Lesson: When your mind strays from the actual riding of the motorcycle, which can happen when you're looking away from the road like this rider on her Harley-Davidson Sportster is doing here—or even when your eyes are on the road—you lose focus, which could lead to a momentary lapse in judgment, which could lead to a mishap. Get focused, stay focused.

2. Abruptness. You are going to “grab a handful,” “throw the bike into the corner,” “slam on the brakes.” Um … not for long. Understand that “grabbing, throwing, slamming, flicking, or flopping” works just fine until you have more lean angle or the grip is reduced due to weather, new tires, old tires, slick cement, new asphalt, gravel, dirt, mud ... go ahead and pick your excuse.

5 reasons why we crash cornering
The Lesson: If you feel your throttle snap on, your brakes grab, or your steering inputs upsetting the bike, you will eventually be hurt. These initial applications of brakes, throttle, and steering should be so delicate that you can’t sense them.

3. Rushing into the corner. Rushing simply means you enter the corner with too much speed for the radius of the corner. A too fast entry speed ruins your exit, pushes you wide, and scares you. You’re rushing because you’re too late to the brakes, you jump off the brakes too early, you never touch the brakes, you stab the throttle when you pick it up, or your body position isn’t allowing the bike to turn. Pick one, and fix it. Remember, there is no penalty for entering a corner too slowly.

5 reasons why we crash corner
The Lesson: Rushing into a corner’s entry, to the point where the rest of the corner is ruined, will eventually hurt you.

4. Making the same mistake and trying to add speed to it. You know the mistakes you are making, whether it’s getting caught in blind spots, poor emergency-braking performance, missing apexes, jumping around and upsetting the bike ... they are the moments you feel scared or uncomfortable. And they are the very things you must work on the hardest.

5 reasons why we crash cornering twisties
The Lesson: Get tough on yourself regarding your riding weaknesses. Slow your pace and fix the problem;
don’t try to just add speed. Mistakes + More Speed = Crash.

5. Cold tires. Yep, it’s that simple. Cold tires. Rubber tires are designed to work within a certain temperature range and they simply have no grip under that range. You already know this, but I’m telling you that cold tires continue to catch out riders who know better but aren’t focused on the problem at the right moment! And that makes all the difference in this sport: having your mind on the next problem at the right moment. How about thinking "COLD TIRES" every time you turn on your motorcycle. Maybe put a little reminder sticker on your triple clamp or tach?

5 reasons why we crash Honda CTX
The Lesson: Tires need heat; heat comes from use. Don’t ask them to do too much when they’re cold.
This woman is riding a Honda CTX 700.

Crashes can provide a tremendous lesson, but usually at a high price. The smooth, linear inputs the instructors preach at YCRS allow the bike to communicate to you well before grip becomes an issue (except cold tires, which offer no hint of letting go until you’re skating along on your elbow). This article is an attempt to get your mind focused on the messages from the bike and recognize impending disaster. It’s a skill the best in the world have mastered and it’s a must-do for you too.

5 reasons why we crash cornering Nick Ienatsch
Nick teaching at XCEL women's clinic in Phoenix
in 2014. Image courtesy of XCEL Trackdays.

About the Author
Nick Ienatsch is the chief instructor at Yamaha Champions Riding School and leader of this standout team of coaches. The Nevada resident has more than 18 years of world-leading motorcycle instruction, heading the Freddie Spencer school and the FastTrack school before that. His teaching techniques are rooted in a successful professional racing career which includes two AMA SuperTeams national championships, four top-three annual finishes in AMA 250 GP competition, two number 1 plates from Willow Springs, three WERA Grand National Championships, and top-three finishes in AMA 600 SuperSport. Nick has been a motojournalist since 1984 and currently writes for Cycle World magazine. Nick's book, Sport Riding Techniques, explains all that he's learned over his years of riding. 

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