First, take a deep breath. Many riders have crashed and have gotten back on their motorcycles, even after considerable injuries and physical challenges. Realize that these feelings are normal. Second, you don’t have to just ‘suck it up and deal with it/’ You riding friends may tell you to just get over it and ride as soon as possible, and may try to convince you that your confidence will come right back with seat time and practice. But it’s just not that simple.
While many believe that your confidence will magically return once you get on the motorcycle, or that just the act of riding will sweep away the bad experience and that you will be right back with the confidence you had before – that isn’t the case. Specific things need to happen in order for you to ride confidently after a crash. Most important is understanding exactly what went wrong. Why did you crash?
You need to first sort out what happened and take responsibility for it. Don’t blame a situation or someone else without first looking at what you did, how you reacted, how you put yourself there and whether you could have avoided the incident. If you fail to analyze that you may have done wrong, you can’t fully regain your confidence, because there will remain some uncertainty about your riding. And if you don’t know what you did wrong, you won’t be able to make the changes necessary to ensure you don’t make the same mistake again.
Let’s say you tucked the front tire on a slippery wet morning. It was one of the first corners you rounded and the motorcycle simply slid out from underneath you. You may incorrectly think that you hit something slippery, like a patch of oil, and then blame the surface. ‘The road was slippery, so I crashed,’ you may simply say, or ‘The tires were cold.’ But there is still not enough solid understanding here to be able to move forward and learn from your mistake, and also gain back all you confidence. You must have a better understanding of the situation, and you have to take some responsibility.
Try instead: ‘I hadn’t warmed my tires correctly, and when I came around the corner, I coasted through instead or rolling on the throttle. There was too much weight on the cold front tire and I lost traction.’ Now you have all the information; now you have a solid understanding of what happened to cause the crash, and from there you can learn what to do next time. Without taking these steps, the next cold cold morning you ride, you may feel a little bit more nervous than usual. You may anticipate losing traction at every corner and unintentionally tighten your grip on the handlebars, or chop the throttle, or make any number of errors that will actually worsen the situation.
So, to repeat: Make sure you thoroughly understand what happened to cause the crash. If you aren’t certain, seek help elsewhere; enlist the help of a qualified rider, a friend or a coach to help you break it down. You can then figure out what you can do the next time the situation crops up. You need a solid foundation in good riding technique and skills to regain riding confidence.
This is why racers are so good at just jumping back on their motorcycles and riding immediately after crashing. They usually know what they did wrong. They crash and say, ‘Damn, I held the front brake a little too long into that corner and tucked the front.’ And they know what to do to fix it. Without uncertainty, they can proceed right where they left off.
Once you know what you did wrong, check and replace any riding gear that may have been damaged, check and fix your motorcycle, and make sure you’re physically able to operate the motorcycle. Then choose a safe environment, like a trackday, a riding school or your favorite road, and get back on the motorcycle to see how you feel. Work slowly, get help if needed and work through your uncertainties with proper technique and skills. If you are still too nervous, hire someone to help you work through a step-by-step process. Only with a good understanding of the riding technology, a solid foundation of proper skills and a safe plan can you fully regain your confidence after a crash.