Online Motorcycle Videos
You can learn a lot from the mistakes of others. One such demonstration of that fact is my recent tour of online motorcycle action videos.
The videos I refer to are those that show some hair-raising, tragic, stupid, preventable, dangerous, uncalled-for moments in the lives of motorcyclists from around the world. Some are comical, but many are anything but funny.
As I sat in front of my screen, there was in inescapable sense of dread for these poor, hapless riders knowing that the only reason the video is there is because something bad was about to happen—or come very close to it.
But, taken in the right frame of mind, these videos also serve a higher purpose than mere voyeuristic curiosity to see what kind of calamity overtakes their respective subjects. They are very instructive.
Watch them closely and you will often see clearly what caused their travails. I felt that it would be a service to my readers, as well as those with whom we all share the roads, if we would provide a listing of the top five lessons that can be learned from said videos.
In the interest of the avoidance of appearing to glorify any conduct shown in those types of videos, or trying to take advantage of the misfortunes of others, this article will not link to any of the videos. We wish not to affix blame, heap insult upon injury, or lend credence to some of the astoundingly dangerous and stupid antics of some riders or their cager counterparts committed on public roads. You can seek out these types of videos on your own and be the judge.
We are, in any event, glad to be able to say that in a surprisingly large number of these videos, despite the violence of some of the mishaps, the riders involved are up, talking, and moving around, apparently not too much the worse for wear after the crash.
That is not to say they have not suffered serious injury; from my years in ambulance work as an EMT/paramedic, I can say that it is not uncommon for people having suffered serious internal injuries to be unaware of the gravity of their injury until later.
We hope that all those riders, even those who were down and not able to get up immediately, pick up their bike and remount, were indeed not seriously injured.
It is regrettable that in so many of these videos, the close call or crash is largely or totally the fault of the motorcyclist. Not all, to be sure, but a surprising number of the videos show riders traveling at extreme speed, riding aggressively, losing control because of childish, amateurish antics and stunts in traffic on public roads.
The lesson of videos depicting that kind of foolish conduct is simple—those who ride like that should be sure to pack their medical advance directive, blood type and organ donor card with their riding gear. Sooner or later, they, or medical personnel, are going to need them.
It is also with our thanks to these riders from around the world who have posted these videos that we present this piece. Without their willingness to share what in many instances may be embarrassing, and quite painful incidents through their videos, the world would be less wise about the top five things we can learn from them.
1. High speed + low skill = UGH!
No small number of the clips out there depict riders riding far outside the limits of their skills, with resulting crashes that prove the point. In some videos, the posted speed limit signs flash by and the bike’s speedometer is visible if one watches closely.
Bearing in mind the speedometer may be calibrated to display kilometers instead of miles per hour, it is apparent that the bike is traveling well in excess of the speed limit in either case.
That perception is backed up by the furious rate the motorcycle is overtaking traffic. These poor souls often then commit other major errors such as weaving helter-skelter through traffic, passing outside the fog line, or passing insanely between trucks and cars and a concrete or steel guard rail. The crashes depicted in this scenario tend to be particularly grievous.
LESSON: Riders inclined to take a chance on their skill being able to match the speed potential of that hyperbike of theirs should take it to a track day or closed course someplace.
They’ll have more fun with much less risk and when they find out the hard way that the combination of their bike’s street tires and totally average riding skill really are overmatched by the bike’s power and brakes, and prove it to themselves with a couple of course run-offs and a high-side, they can at least live to improve and seek treatment. Plus, a track day allows them to learn from the mistakes of others and there’s no chance that they’ll be smeared on the pavement by a car or semi that can’t stop.
2. Wheelies look easy.
It’s true. A lot of the unfortunates shown in online videos appear to think they really have mastered the art of the wheelie. From the butt-plants, lane departures, shimmy-flops, and other bad outcomes that result from their wheelie attempts, it is clear they have not. Wheelies are not that impressive anyway; I have yet to see anybody do one as cool as the kid on the Schwinn Stingray at the beginning of Bruce Brown’s “On Any Sunday.”
Fortunately, the majority of wheelie fails I’ve seen don’t appear to result in serious injury to the rider. More embarrassment than physical injury, we hope. The bikes generally don’t seem to come out all that badly, either, though in some cases it is apparent the resale value may take a hit.
Perhaps the larger issue is how badly high-speed wheelies in traffic reflects on all the rest of us, even if no crash results. In some of the videos, you can practically hear the cagers pointing at the riders streaking down the freeway, front wheel aloft and saying, “Look at that moron. I wonder what they’re trying to prove?” In the instances where a crash does ensue, we know what the rider has proven—and it isn’t good.
LESSON: Those who want to prove that they can do a wheelie, just shouldn’t do it out on public roads in traffic. They should take it to a vacant parking lot or someplace where finding out the hard way that they are really not as good at it as they imagined doesn’t expose them and others on the road to a collision.
The wheelie wannabe may incur some injuries and bike damage in the process, but at least they won’t get run over for their trouble and won’t be casting a shadow over the rest of us.
3. The finger never works.
Some videos show infuriatingly stupid, obnoxious, careless or even willfully dangerous, aggressive drivers in cars and trucks doing things that cause the motorcyclist catastrophic crashes or terrifying close calls.
While most would agree these idiots deserve an angry, even profane, dressing down, in a good number of clips such tactics are used and don’t appear to result in a satisfactory outcome. Indeed, in some, things escalate and the stupid becomes yet more stupid, the aggressive yet more aggressive. In those clips that continue on to confrontation, there is seldom one where the motorcyclist, no matter how skilled or well-intentioned, comes out the better for it.
LESSON: Know this—a moron in an offending vehicle remains a moron; they don’t wise up in response to an angry gesture, revved engine, honked horn, or shouted insult. An angry reaction on your part will most likely make them an angry moron in return. An angry moron in a truck or car, feeling invulnerable in a clash with a motorcyclist is exceptionally dangerous to the motorcyclist and potentially to others, as well.
Best strategy—break off contact, achieve maximum separation safely and be on your way. I will admit to having had my own bad days in this regard and have been fortunate to find the disengagement strategy to be effective.
Remember, too, that there are times when something that at first blush seems deliberately stupid, careless or aggressive, on further review may prove to be an honest mistake, misjudgment, or failure to see the motorcyclist.
For example, last summer, I had a car pull out in front of me while I was out on a late afternoon ride. At first, I wanted to blister that cager—until I looked in my own rear-view mirror couldn’t see a thing. I realized the elderly lady driver had to look directly into the sun when checking traffic in my direction. That fact wouldn’t have made me feel any better had it ended in a crash, but at least I understood she didn’t pull out into my lane out of rank carelessness and screaming at her would have been to no purpose.
4. Watch your corners.
Quite a few online videos depict riders who come to grief due to mismanaged cornering. Entering a corner at too high a speed, failing to account for poor road surface conditions, and applying too much throttle on exit appear to be the most common cornering errors.
Any of these can result in departing the road altogether, causing nasty encounters with roadside obstacles, sudden low-side front-end washout crashes, or horrible high-sides. When these put the rider and machine crossing the centerline into the oncoming lane of traffic, the result can be particularly hideous.
LESSON: With the exception of a closed course on a track day, take every corner at or below the posted speed limit. Those limits are there for a reason and they could prevent a lousy end to an otherwise great day of riding.
Sand, gravel, water or other liquids on the pavement can make cornering even at the posted speed limit hazardous. Nobody cares how fast or how leaned-over a motorcycle is in the corners, but they will remember how foolish the motorcyclist looked sliding down the blacktop when they failed to make a corner that was just successfully negotiated by a kid on a Vespa.
5. Keep your eyes open and think ahead.
If there is one thing common to a great many online videos it is that the motorcyclist all too often brings calamity on themselves. Several I’ve seen show the motorcyclist try to race ahead of merging traffic, resulting in preventable close-calls—or worse. What possible benefit is there in such a witless maneuver?
In others, the motorcyclist is cruising along and a vehicle up ahead has its turn signal on. Too late, the biker tries to stop and either hits the other vehicle or takes evasive action, leaving the road and coming to grief against a culvert, in the ditch, or hitting a roadside obstruction.
In a number of such videos, it is apparent that the camera sees what the rider didn’t, but should have. In others, the rider rear-ends cars or other bikes simply by over-driving their brakes or failing to see the brake lights illuminated on vehicles ahead.
A common disaster also shows up—that where an on-coming car turns in front of the motorcyclist. In many of these, it is evident that the motorcyclist is not traveling at excessive speed, doing wheelies or anything else that invites the pending disaster.
Those are deadly and can happen to even the most defensive, aware rider. When faced with a car preparing to turn across your path take off some speed, cover your brake and be ready to brake and evade. Assume all other drivers are blind, drunk and stupid. They aren’t of course, but your life may depend on not giving the other guy too much credit. Remember the old highway safety promotional slogan: “Watch out for the other guy.”
LESSON: The road is full of enough lousy drivers—don’t be one. A good lesson for all of us. On public roads, we should take a little speed off, keep our heads on a swivel, wear all the gear all the time and try to keep as much space between us and other vehicles, including other bikes, as possible.
Show a little courtesy; when somebody’s trying to join the flow of traffic, we should give them some room and let them in. What’s the harm?
It is clear from many videos that urban riders, in particular, face a lot of hazards. Heavy traffic loaded with distracted, incompetent, stressed out, hyped-up, needlessly aggressive drivers put them at tremendous risk.
Sadly, the risk is magnified if the rider makes the mistakes shown in some of the online videos. Still, using some of the things we can all learn from those online videos can improve our chances to have a great ride and arrive in one piece.