By October 7, 2009

Random Motorcycling Tip #03: Backing up

Backing up is one of those things you totally take advantage of in a car. Yeah, you have to be careful, but you don’t have to worry about losing your footing and dropping your car on its side.

I’ve yet to drop a motorcycle while backing up, and I think it’s due to the following:

  • Wear appropriate footwear. I wear Sidi OnRoad motorcycling boots. They have a good sole for traction, and a little bit of ankle support. The “preferred” footwear of squids worldwide — sneakers — is the opposite of what you should wear. No support, little traction, and very flexible.
  • Avoid putting your feet on treacherous ground. Candidates for a “bike nap” include gravel, a patch of oil on the road (particularly at gas stations or intersections), or slick reflective paint on the road.
  • Take baby steps. I probably take a four inch stride when I back up. There have been times I’ve slipped on gravel, oil, or a wet painted surface but my short stride prevented me from losing control. The worst is when you take such a long stride as to end up on your heel. All of your weight is on a very small surface area, and the natural tendency of the leg at that position is to carry momentum away from the body, making the situation even worse.
  • Keep the bike upright. Try not to tilt the bike when you are backing up, especially if you have the handlebars turned. The natural tendency is to lean on the handlebars are you turn them, so be careful. For example, if the handlebars are locked at full right, avoid pushing on the right grip. This will tilt the bike to the right, increasing your chances of dropping the bike as you unintentionally manipulate the center of gravity.
  • Go easy on the brakes. If something does go wrong, resist the urge to grab a handful of front brake. This will lock the front wheel. The only time I’ve come close to having an “incident” while backing up was when I had the front fully turned and started to slip. I panicked and clamped down on the front brake. It caused the bike to jerk, momentum to stop, and all of the sudden I had a 600+ pound bike to support with one leg. P90 came to the rescue and I kept it up, but I was stupid. Don’t be like me.
  • Look down.. If you are backing straight up, look straight down at the gas tank. Looking over your shoulder may make your body lean and/or turn, and next thing you know you are going in a direction you did not intend.

In most things involving a motorcycle, the key is to take it easy. Don’t be in a rush. Don’t push it — if you feel uncomfortable, take a second. Rest, get your bearings, stop sweating, whatever. And when you’re ready again, take baby steps. It’ll work.

Posted in: motorcycling

3 Comments on "Random Motorcycling Tip #03: Backing up"

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  1. Ric says:

    A useful trick if you’re backing uphill BTW is to apply front brake, push forwards to compress the forks, and then pull back as the forks extend while releasing the brake.

    The rebound from the forks gives you a little more oomph, although it takes a few tries to learn the co-ordination of bounce and releasing the brake.

  2. drfaulken says:

    That’s a really good idea!! I am going to give it a try.

  3. Bawma says:

    I am a female under 110 lbs.. ride a Harley Heritage Classic about 775 lbs…I was trying to back it out of my garage and I thought it was flat but NO… it slants up a little…. I was so upset that I couldn’t move it no matter how long or hard I tried…. came in to my trusty computer and yelled HELP, found your post
    here and tried it…. and now I am ready to RIDE today….thank you thank you thank you