This post is going to be about motorcycles.
If you talk to a motorcycle rider long enough, it’s possible you’ve heard the phrase “laying the bike down” or some variation thereof. It generally refers to a situation where a rider is faced with a difficult choice: crash into some sort of obstacle or vehicle, or ditch the bike and intentionally crash to avoid the impact. It communicates a certainly steeliness that exists within the rider. It’s a willingness to make hard choices and to think quickly under pressure.
It’s an incredibly stupid phrase and I despise it.
I’ve dropped my motorcycle once. I’ve also fallen off my motorcycle once. I didn’t “lay it down” either time. I dropped it and I fell off it. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing and tried to turn far too slowly and sharply. The bike tipped and gravity took hold of 400+ pounds of metal and did the rest. It was tremendously embarrassing, especially since I hadn’t actually bought the bike yet. At least it was a used bike and the owner was my brother, instead of some stranger.
When I fell off my bike, it was exactly as it sounds: I was riding, I was inexperienced, and I tried to pull onto a shoulder and rode through a deep patch of gravel. The only thing I remember was having just enough time to think “well, shit” and then I was lying flat on my back on the side of the road. The only injuries were some bruises on my leg and my pride.
I didn’t lay the bike down, though. Let’s be clear on that.
The reason I dislike the phrase is that it implies that leaping off your motorcycle is some sort of valid defensive strategy, when really, it’s not. If you’re off your motorcycle when it’s moving, it’s a crash. Maybe it’s a small crash and does indeed avoid a bigger crash, but it’s still a crash.
The idea that you would have the time to see a dangerous situation oncoming, assess the situation, realize there was no time to swerve, brake, or otherwise evade the situation, steel your reserve, and then push yourself off the bike . . . does that seem realistic?
You know what’s easier and faster than jumping off a motorcycle while it’s moving? Hitting the brakes. You know what’s better than jumping off a motorcycle at 60 miles an hour and possibly getting crushed under your bike or run over by a car behind you or slide along the ground for a while? Braking first, so that even if you do hit something, you’ve cut your speed by 15 or 30 miles per hour.
It’s true, older bikes had inferior brakes to what’s available today. Maybe there was a time and a place when “laying it down” was the only viable strategy. But that’s come and gone and to suggest that it’s still a good idea is just ridiculous.
The fact is, most riders are too proud to admit that they fell off or that they braked incorrectly and locked the wheels. We need to start admitting that. Yeah, it’s embarrassing to say “I fell off my motorcycle” or “I crashed my motorcycle.” You know what’s not embarrassing, though? Following that up with: “even though I fell off my motorcycle, when I was physically able to do so, I got back on.”