TOTW: A side stand won’t hold a bike facing downhill

The riding tips on these pages are my personal opinion about matters related to motorcycle riding. They are not the official position of any organization, and are for your consideration only. They are not hard and fast rules, they should not necessarily be applied in all circumstances, and they should not be applied without thinking. Always use your judgement and take all current safety factors into account while riding. You are responsible for your riding, not anyone else (especially me). These tips were originally published by a motorcycle riding course, called “Tip of the Week” (the reason for the TOTW in the titles).

The context

I was inspired to write this tip after embarrassing myself near the end of a recent group ride. Nine of my riding friends went for an autumn ride West of Ottawa, in the Calabogie-Bancroft-Eganville area. We were nearing the end of the ride, which had been great but somewhat tiring, on a cold day in late autumn.

The event

We stopped for a rest at a restaurant on a slight hill, and lined the bikes up, side by side, facing slightly downhill. Mine was on the end of the row of nine. I carefully did the C-ENIF shutdown procedure, as we teach.

As I walked away my bike rolled forward, downhill, off the side stand, and tipped over into the line of bikes. About four instructors rushed in, laughing, to catch the bike and prevent a chain reaction.

There was no damage other than knocking my mirror out of alignment, but there could have been. The bike could have fallen further, damaging either itself or the next bike in line. It could have caused a “falling dominoes” reaction and knocked several more over. And it could have rolled further down the hill and out into traffic.

I saved face slightly by saying “I must write a tip of the week about this” to general laughter and name-calling.

The error

The side stand on a bike is designed to withstand downward pressure and reverse motion, but it is designed to flip up easily as a bike rolls forward. So, a side stand is stable and safe for a bike sitting on level ground or facing up a slight hill, but it is not stable for a bike facing downhill, able to roll forward. I should have recognised this situation and taken preventative action.

The solution

Don’t repeat this mistake.

  • Avoid parking your bike while facing downhill, (both because you can’t trust the side stand in this situation and because you may have difficulty backing out of some situations).
  • If you must park facing downhill, put the bike in gear after your shutdown procedure, so it can’t roll forward. (This is what all the other riders did, and why my bike was the only one to attempt escape.)

There is also an important secondary lesson here: cold and fatigue make you stupid. Many errors happen at the end of a long ride that would never happen while you are fresh and alert. Take extra care with your technique after you have been riding a long time.

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