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Rinacath
12-31-2011, 12:49 AM
I have a character that was in a rather bad motorcycle accident. Lucky for him, he was actually thrown free of the wreckage and managed to escape with a few months of rehabilitation.

As I know absolutely nothing about motorcycles other than the fact that they go from point A to point B in some fashion, I was wondering if anyone could help by telling me what, exactly, the physical requirements of riding a motorcycle entail? As I mentioned, he was pretty dinged up the first time around, what might prevent him from getting back on a bike?

As well as that, my character isn't exactly an expert on motorcycles, so what basic information does one need to ride? I assume the baseline is something like 'how to make it go' and 'how to refill the gas tank'.

ironmikezero
12-31-2011, 01:22 AM
This is a huge topic. Seriously, there is more to this than you have anticipated. If you plan to write about this, do yourself the favor of learning how to ride. Sample some of these links...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi_c0__ory8

http://motorcycles.about.com/od/howtostartridin1/ss/How_To_Ride.htm

http://www.monkeysee.com/play/10146-how-to-ride-a-motorcycle

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdySkge4aKM

Depending on the location of your story, the laws and regulations relating to licensing, registration, and operation will differ to some degree. Any physical limitation may impact lawful operation - you'll need to research the appropriate DMV.

Any reader who is also a motorcyclist will immediately know if what you write is accurate - and they typically do suffer fools gladly. Your credibility as a writer may be at risk.

Do the research - better yet, acquire the skill and experience. It will change your life.

Best of Luck!

agentpaper
12-31-2011, 01:30 AM
I'm a motorcycle rider and I'd like to ditto what ironmikezero said.
That being said, though, I know someone who was (stupidly) going 130mph on his bike and was hit by a car and thrown from the bike. He ended up skidding over 100 feet on his back and was lucky enough not to get run over by a car. He now has metal rods in both legs and scars that are scary to look at. He wasn't wearing a helmet and had to have some of his skull replaced with some more of that lovely medical grade metal. He was in rehab for months re-learning how to walk and talk and all that. But now, several years later, (like 15) he's able to ride (at a much safer speed) without issues. So...there is that.

Puma
12-31-2011, 03:49 AM
My husband is a rider. After he'd had a mild stroke he had to give up his big bike and get a smaller one because he couldn't physically handle the large bike anymore. So that's one possibility for you - physical limitations. Puma

veinglory
12-31-2011, 03:57 AM
To ride an unmodified bike you need a left foot to change gears, both hands and some sense of balance. You need to be able to get your leg over the bike and pick it up if it falls over. Other than that you don't need to know a lot to just 'make it go'.

jclarkdawe
12-31-2011, 05:29 AM
I saw a double amputee (both legs) heading out to Sturgis one year on a trike. The wheelchair was in a holder on the side. Big question in my mind when he went by me was whether he lost the legs in a bike accident or war (Viet Nam vet logo on his jacket). And yes, he was wearing shorts.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Captcha
12-31-2011, 05:38 AM
I only have limited experience messing around on friends' and brothers' bikes, but the thing that's always stuck out for me is how HEAVY they are. I guess because I'm used to cars and horses, both of which are free-standing, I'm always surprised by the strength required just to hold a bike up. This doesn't apply when you're riding, mostly, because you have propulsion, but when you're stopped, or when you're getting on the bike or wheeling it around, you need to be REALLY careful to keep it vertical, because even a slight lean can turn into a big lean can turn into the bike toppling right over, smashing itself up and making its owners pretty irritated. So maybe that could be a factor for him to at least keep in mind.

(This depends on the size/type of bike, of course.)

Rinacath
01-01-2012, 03:41 AM
I didn’t even think of the legal aspects to it, that’s a good point. It’s set in Colorado, I’ll have to look into their laws regarding motorcycle licenses.
My character is really being a bit defiant by riding a motorcycle with little to no knowledge of them, but I will definitely look up the finer aspects to it, if only to use the correct terminology.
I figured weight might factor into it. And balance. Both might be a problem, but that just makes for better drama, doesn’t it?
If he were to, say, get on a bike before he was completely recovered, would he be able to handle it at slower speeds, and if he couldn’t, would it be an imminent crash or just a lack of control (aka: crash waiting to happen)?

WriteKnight
01-01-2012, 03:54 AM
Slower speeds are more critical when it comes to balance. Think about riding a bicycle. How hard is it to keep upright, if you ... are... barely... moving. Motorcycles are bigger and heavier.

Steering also changes at speed. High speed steering can be counter-intuitive. 'push left to go right' for instance. What you are using is the angular momentum of the two huge gyroscopes underneath you.

So, figure out how 'big' and strong your main character is, and what sort of bike you're dealing with. A small dirt bike, or a full-dressed cruiser?

And the rules of the road DO vary from state to state. I was licensed in Texas, and when I came out to California, I told them I needed a motorcycle endorsement on my license as well - since I had one in Texas. They said "Oh, you'll have to take the written, here..." I took it and immediately failed. She smiled and handed me the rules of the road book. "You can sit down, and take it again in two hours, but if you fail that, you'll have to take a practical and a written." A lot of differences in the laws that caught me up.

veinglory
01-01-2012, 03:54 AM
It really depends on his injuries, and the bike. I could pick a small 100cc bike up off the ground with one arm.

chevbrock
01-01-2012, 08:58 AM
I think your character would need to have balance, so no head injuries, or only mild.

Having said that, there are modifications and styles of bikes these days that make the ridership a lot wider these days.

If you want your character to smash an arm or leg beyond repair (quite a possibility on a public road) you could see if large bike models have a centrifigual clutch. I know kid's bikes do, but I'm not sure if your character's mates would laugh at him riding a bike with a centrifugal clutch!

debirlfan
01-01-2012, 10:12 PM
I saw a double amputee (both legs) heading out to Sturgis one year on a trike. The wheelchair was in a holder on the side. Big question in my mind when he went by me was whether he lost the legs in a bike accident or war (Viet Nam vet logo on his jacket). And yes, he was wearing shorts.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

There is (or at least was, within the last couple years) a double amputee (both lower legs) who drag raced NHRA motorcycles.

Rinacath
01-03-2012, 01:32 AM
Thanks you guys, this has been super helpful. So far I've established that his new bike is rather heavy, which is giving him some problems, but his balance and grip is functional to the point that he can ride.

Probably last question - I do have a scene in which, while somewhat drunk and distracted (he's not a smart guy, sometimes), he's going maybe 10-20 mph and his hands slip from the handlebars. As of right now, he isn't wearing any protective gear (helmet, jacket, ect, he's not much worried about the legal aspects of it), but I might change that later. Is it possible for him to walk away from that with minor injuries (ie: scraped and dinged up, but nothing broken)? My initial thought would be that he'd just fall off the back and have a sore rib cage for a while.

I suppose I should also ask what might happen to a motorcycle if someone were to fall off...

ironmikezero
01-03-2012, 01:46 AM
At 10-20mph the bike will tend to stay up and go straight (inertia) until the road surface/crown gently redirects it - encountering a pothole would be a more violent redirection. The operator (without hands on the bars) would merely be along for the ride. The faster the speed, the more inherent stability (gyroscopic forces). Even if he falls off, the bike would continue on until it hits something or slows to the point of gravity overcoming the diminishing gyroscopic forces.

Your fallen rider would suffer wounded pride to augment any bruises, road rash, or broken bones. OTOH, he might be drunk, suffer no appreciable injuries, and have no memory of the incident... it happens.

mirandashell
01-03-2012, 01:48 AM
People do tend to bounce more when they're drunk.

Rinacath
01-03-2012, 02:10 AM
People do tend to bounce more when they're drunk.

XD well that's true.


At 10-20mph the bike will tend to stay up and go straight (inertia) until the road surface/crown gently redirects it - encountering a pothole would be a more violent redirection. The operator (without hands on the bars) would merely be along for the ride. The faster the speed, the more inherent stability (gyroscopic forces). Even if he falls off, the bike would continue on until it hits something or slows to the point of gravity overcoming the diminishing gyroscopic forces.

Your fallen rider would suffer wounded pride to augment any bruises, road rash, or broken bones. OTOH, he might be drunk, suffer no appreciable injuries, and have no memory of the incident... it happens.

That's good to know. I'll have to work in a convenient pothole or something. As of right now he's definitely a little worse for wear, but nothing that won't heal in a week or two.

debirlfan
01-03-2012, 07:41 AM
Some years back, I had just left work around midnight and was approaching an intersection. About that time, a motorcycle on it's side slides across in front of me, with the (former) rider sliding along behind it.

I'm thinking "oh crud, he's probably hurt" and trying to figure out where I can get help (this was pre-cell phones). About that time, the guy jumped up, retrieved the bike, jumped on and took off again.

Apparently you can lay a bike down without hurting yourself too badly, although I don't remember if the guy was wearing leathers/helmet. And I think I remember the road being wet at the time.

Puma
01-03-2012, 08:26 AM
debirlfan - I saw the same thing. Weird!

Hubby, who as I mentioned had a stroke and isn't quite a physically able as he used to be, was trying to load his motor scooter (Helix) onto a "kneeling" trailer to go to a get together. He mis-estimated and he and the bike went off the side - at maybe 2-5mph. The bike was scratched up pretty well and there were a couple chinks in the fiberglass. Hubby hurt for a day or so but went to his get together anyway (think his pride hurt as much as anything). Puma

The Grift
01-05-2012, 08:35 PM
You need all four extremities in working order to ride an unmodified manual transmission motorcycle. Left hand needs to be strong enough to work the clutch, right hand needs enough strength to work the front brake and enough range of movement in the wrist to work the throttle; you need range of motion in your left ankle and feeling in your left toes (at least a little) to properly work the shifting lever; and even though most braking power comes from the front brake, you need to be able to operate the rear brake with your right foot. As mentioned, you need to be strong enough to handle the bike, and you need to be able to balance.

Helmets aren't for your forward speed (e.g., coming off the bike at 10mph vs. 60mph); they are for your downward/falling speed. You can crack your skull open pretty well just falling over from a standing position. If you slide across the concrete without leathers, you're going to get some pretty nasty road rash, even at low speeds. That's unpleasant to clean out. Doctors use what seems to be a steel wool brush to get all the dirt, gravel, and grime out of there, and it leaves nasty scars.

That being said, 10-20mph wouldn't be the worst crash in the world, if he was also lucky. But on the other hand, as an EMT, some of the worst/bloodiest injuries I've deal with have come from BICYCLE crashes, so ask yourself how fast those things could have been going. To be fair, I've only been to one motorcycle crash, and it was fairly low speed, and I have heard absolute horror stories of maiming and death from other members of the squad about various motorcycle wrecks they've been to. Gear (helmets, leathers, gloves) makes a huge difference. I never ride without at least a helmet, boots, armored leather jacket, and usually gloves. But even jeans aren't enough, as denim will tear within a couple of feet of impact.

Don't forget about momentum: one of the dangers of motorcycle crashes people don't think about is that if you go over the bike (highside crash), or get "thrown free," whatever momentum caused you to go that direction will also cause the bike to "follow you." It's just physics. Getting chased by a 600 pound bike is no fun, especially when it catches you. Generally it's better to lay the bike down (lowside) and follow IT than the other way around.

ironmikezero
01-06-2012, 12:22 AM
Don't forget about momentum: one of the dangers of motorcycle crashes people don't think about is that if you go over the bike (highside crash), or get "thrown free," whatever momentum caused you to go that direction will also cause the bike to "follow you." It's just physics. Getting chased by a 600 pound bike is no fun, especially when it catches you. Generally it's better to lay the bike down (lowside) and follow IT than the other way around.

Grift, I realize the point you're trying to make re: the position of the sliding bike in relation to the unfortunate rider... and you make a valid point.

But, I have a slight problem with your last sentence.

As a motorcyclist you know that advising someone to "lay the bike down" is not good at all. Rather, the operator should do his/her best to brake and steer out of trouble. Without getting into the physics, it's better to maintain some control and endeavor to minimize the hazard rather than abandoning all control and submitting one's fate to inertia.

Chase
01-06-2012, 12:58 AM
Some years back, I had just left work around midnight and was approaching an intersection. About that time, a motorcycle on it's side slides across in front of me, with the (former) rider sliding along behind it.

Just like Puma, I saw the same thing at an icy underpass on a Billings, Montana, street. The rider had a long slide in leather jacket and chaps, remounted, and was off again.

Less road-rash on wet pavement or ice, but it's the reason for wearing a good set of leathers, footwear included.

Another meaning of limitations (restrictions) is on my driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement: I'm deaf, so the license specifies I can only operate a vehicle with a functioning rear view mirror on both sides. Most cars and bikes have 'em, but I can't drive either without 'em.

The Grift
01-06-2012, 02:05 AM
As a motorcyclist you know that advising someone to "lay the bike down" is not good at all. Rather, the operator should do his/her best to brake and steer out of trouble. Without getting into the physics, it's better to maintain some control and endeavor to minimize the hazard rather than abandoning all control and submitting one's fate to inertia.

But then there wouldn't be a crash at all, which is something that happens in the OP's story.

And when I said "it's better to lay it down," I didn't mean deliberately; I meant that if you were in a crash, you should hope it was a lowside rather than a highside. Looking back at it, "lay it down" implies deliberate action on the part of the rider which I did not intend to convey. More like "if you're in a car crash, it's better if the other guy has a smaller, lighter car than you."

Mark G
01-06-2012, 02:08 AM
I rode a mini-bike when I was a kid, and then rode motorcycles on the street from 1990-2010 or so. The wife didn't like the last spill I took and begged me to stop. It was a stupid 5mph thing where I leaned over too far on wet pavement and the bike slipped out from under me. That wouldn't have been too bad (I was wearing leather and kevlar-lined jeans), except that my foot caught on the pavement and torqued my knee out sideways. Bye-bye PCL ligament. Six months healing an MCL ligament.

Riding a motorcycle is not rocket science. All you need to ride a motorcycle is the ability to ride a bicycle where you don't need to pedal. In place of pedalling, you twist your right wrist to go faster, and use your right foot to shift gears while your left hand uses a clutch lever. You have to be able to get the motorcycle upright from a tiny angle when it's on a kickstand, and maybe be able to walk it backward if it's in a parking spot.

Driving a motorcycle safely requires about triple the concentration of driving a car. You have to be able to imagine yourself as being invisible; because you are. You develop strategies for avoiding collisions.

The Class M1 designation on a Cali driver's license requires an extra written test that's about half the size of the auto test. The "driving test" consists of getting on the bike, starting it, driving around the DMV parking lot (on your own), and stopping in front of the instructor. Scary.

Mark G
01-06-2012, 02:15 AM
But then there wouldn't be a crash at all, which is something that happens in the OP's story.

And when I said "it's better to lay it down," I didn't mean deliberately; I meant that if you were in a crash, you should hope it was a lowside rather than a highside. Looking back at it, "lay it down" implies deliberate action on the part of the rider which I did not intend to convey. More like "if you're in a car crash, it's better if the other guy has a smaller, lighter car than you."

I deliberately laid my bike down once on a mountain road, after braking from 55 (skid, let up), then 30-ish (skidding, let up), navigating through a bunch of idiots standing in the middle of the road watching a helicopter take off, and seeing a wall of rock coming at me.

Missed the wall by inches, but the wheels would have hit it first.

Managed to miss everyone, get up, dust off (full leathers, but still had scrapes under them), bend the clutch lever and rear brake levers back to operational, and ride home 50 miles.

Had to get a new plastic fairing and levers, but the bike was good as new after that.

The Grift
01-06-2012, 02:46 AM
Managed to miss everyone, get up, dust off (full leathers, but still had scrapes under them), bend the clutch lever and rear brake levers back to operational, and ride home 50 miles.


One of the motorcycle accidents I wasn't at but my EMT squad was involved two bikes on the freeway; one rider had gear, the other didn't. One left on a stretcher with reportedly minor injuries, the other in a bag. Guess who was who?

ATGATT*, folks. It's why you see those supersport guys come off their liter bikes, slide 100 feet into the hay bales off the track, get up, and throw their hands up in frustration instead of watching them get airlifted off the racetrack. (That, and they know how to take a fall.)

*All The Gear All The Time

Back to the OP's question about the SECOND crash... what is the scenario where people are "falling off?" Like they let go and the wind just sweeps them off the back? Because that's not terribly likely. Or did you have some other mechanism/scenario in mind? But, as confirmed by IronMikeZero, debrilfan, Puma, Chase and MarkG, low speed crashes are possible to walk away from with bumps and bruises. They can also kill you.