Saying “I Had to Lay-er-Down” Is Misinformed and Ignorant

written by David Mixson

Early in my riding journey, I met a man at a neighborhood dinner party who had just crashed his motorcycle. Bob looked rough. His right arm was broken, his chin was heavily bandaged, and his walk was strained.

Bob was the center of attention as he proudly told his story.

“I was on Highway 72 (a four-lane) traveling east. I was in the left lane, going around two slower cars. Without warning, the second car pulled into my lane right in front of me. To keep from hitting him, I grabbed my rear brake hard.”

With pride, he continued: 

“I had to lay-er-down.”

My Chat with Bob

Later that night, in private, I asked Bob more about his accident. I let him do most of the talking. After listening to part of his story, I asked, “How much front brake did you use?” 

He looked surprised at my question and quickly answered, “None.”

If you’ve read my books or the section on lowside and highside crashes, you know that Bob lowsided because he locked up his rear tire. You also know that if Bob had had ABS, he wouldn’t have lowsided. 

But perhaps the most troubling thing about all this was Bob’s failure to use his front brake—at all.

When confronted with a crash, Bob chose to use his rear brake, something that’s so ineffective at doing what its title suggests that he ended up skidding to a stop on his butt—which is even less effective.

According to Pete

My motorcycle mentor Pete, an experienced rider coach, once told me that the only viable reason he could come up with for laying-er-down would be to slide under a tractor-trailer. Pete was right, but I’ll go even further.

I don’t think Bob purposefully laid-er-down (lowsided) that night. I think he locked up his rear brake, ended up lowsiding, and backfilled the story to suggest he did it on purpose as a skilled maneuver (beat on chest) to keep from getting hurt even worse.

I imagine that’s the case the majority of the time. Misinformed riders overuse their rear brake, trigger a lowside crash, and backfill the story as a badge of honor, saying, “I had to lay-er-down.”

I’m calling B.S.

I’ve always said that being a good rider starts with head knowledge. And the first thing a rider should put in their head about motorcycles is that they stop quicker and safer using the front brake. The second thing you should know is that bad things happen when you lock up (skid) your rear tire.

What It Really Means

When you say, “I had to lay-er-down,” what you’re really saying is (1) I overused my rear brake, (2) my motorcycle doesn’t have ABS, ESC, or Traction Control, and (3) I didn’t know what a lowside was until I did it.

Bob moved away a short time later. I hope he stopped riding.

Bob, I should have been more vocal about telling you all this. But somehow, I didn’t think you wanted to hear what I had to say. You seemed so proud of yourself. For me to say your wounds could have been avoided seemed heartless. But looking back, NOT at least trying was a failure on my part, and I’m sorry. —David

It’s stories like this that have given me the clarity to champion the USE YOUR FRONT BRAKE mantra—here and in my two skills books.

* A portion of this article is an excerpt from my book Motorcycle Hacks.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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