How to ride again after a serious crash

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Getting back on the “steel horse” again after a serious crash is considered either brave, stupid or too difficult for some.

Maybe I’m one of the “stupid” ones who got back on, despite one major life-threatening crash in which I was run over – check out the helmet at the top of this article!

And maybe I’m also stupid because I’ve crashed so many times yet I’m still riding.

But getting back on the bike again has never been easy.

Often it is physically challenging because of the injury you have sustained. However, that usually goes away as you recover.

For some it doesn’t and they have to adapt their bike. For example, five-time world champion Mick Doohan had to use a thumb-operated foot brake to continue racing after badly injuring his leg.

But this article is about the psychological difficulties of returning to riding, not the physical, so we have enlisted the help of psychologist and reborn rider Sharon Ledger.

Sharon Ledger
Sharon Ledger

We’ve broken down the barriers into categories and provided you with ways to conquer these and return to your beloved two wheels.

THE BOSS

Your wife/husband/partner may decide that you are no longer allowed to ride. Or maybe your work boss decides to ban you from riding.

Thankfully, both my wife and work boss have been very supportive of me.

Sharon advises that you need to have open communication with your partner.

“Never say to your partner ‘Don’t be stupid’,” she says.  “Tell them that riding is your passion, your outlet and without it, you won’t be the same.

“Ask your partner how they would feel if they couldn’t do their passion any more.

“Acknowledge that they are upset and worried and ask what you can do to make them feel more comfortable with your return to riding.

“Perhaps you could make some suggestions of your own such as downloading some of these emergency apps, taking a rider training course or a first-aid course.”

(Motorbike Writer recommends the First Aid for Motorcyclists course.)

First aid water

Sharon suggests that you may also need to make some changes to placate your “boss”.

“Maybe you should buy a different type of bike and a different colour so they don’t associate it with your old bike.

“You may also have to change your riding pattern.

“If the accident happened on the way to work, tell your boss you’ll take the train and only ride for leisure.

“If you crashed at night, perhaps suggest to your partner that you will only ride in the daylight.

“Remind them that accidents happen infrequently and that’s why they’re called accidents.”

PEER PRESSURE

If your friends give you a hard time, get new friends. Why should you surround yourself with negativity?

“Tell your friends that you will ride again, whether they agree or not, but you would prefer to do it with their support,” Sharon says.

“Tell them you need to ride again for your mental health, but you also need their support. Ask them to be part of the process of getting back on the ‘horse’.

“A true friend will back you up. If they aren’t supportive, they’re not really a friend.”

Sharon Ledger
Sharon likes to ride all types of bikes

ANXIETY

Letting fear prevent you from riding again can be bad for your mental health, Sharon says.

“If you feed fear, it can spiral out of control and lead to other fears, phobias and a general sense of anxiety.

“But if you conquer those fears, it is very empowering.”

She advises you take small steps to returning to riding.

“Go for a short, safe, but fun ride first time,” she says.  “You need to ride so there is no fear of crashing again.

“Being worried you will crash will only make you a bad rider.”

She advises that you gradually build up to longer distances and more challenging roads.

Riders are born not made

WHY YOU SHOULD RIDE AGAIN

You want to ride again because it’s in your genes, says Sharon.

“Don’t fight it and suppress it as that’s bad for your mental health.

“Your first ride after a crash will release those familiar endorphins and make you feel happy.

“Once you experience that, you will be on the road to full mental health recovery.”

15 Comments

  1. I’ve just left the hospital after a 30mph head on with a turning truck. I’ve only been riding 2 years. Punctured lung, smashed hip, broken femur, knee, tibia and foot. 2 rounds of surgery. My partner has and continues to be amazing around my convalescence. I was doing my first ‘tour’, a fantastic return 250 mile route after a few days away. She’s adamant I should never ride again, though 2 wheels is my commute as well, a car would take an additional hour a day with that traffic. As for myself I’m undecided, though I have no idea how to brooch the topic

  2. I was in a bad accident a about half a year ago, spent two weeks in the hospital, and had a minor surgery. However, I did sustain some permanent damage to my knee. After getting out of the hospital, I knew that I would be ready to get back on my bike as soon as I was healed. My wife, however, seems to be dead set on my not ever riding again. I feel a bit lost, because biking is such a huge part of my life. On the other hand, I understand how my wife feels, as she was super supportive when I was in the hospital, and, I understand generally that she doesn’t want to see me hurt, or killed in the future. On the other, like I said biking is part of my identity, and the though of permanently losing it is making me feel seriously depressed. Any advice on how to deal with this situation?

    1. Your in a tough position that’s for sure. As stated, in my previous post, my wife is in the same feeling of me going back to the motorcycle as is yours. It’s a very understood response from a loved one and something to consider in returning to riding for sure. But I also feel to be supportive comes compromise and acceptance from your spouse on who you are and what makes you…you, even with a risk such as motorcycling will have.

      In this day there are so many functions you do in life that have the same risks or greater and are excepted as part of life; which doesn’t make much sense or logic either.

      The general public view of motorcycle riding is a high risk adventure that your gonna get killed doing. Thus the question follows immediately in their mind: Why risk life or limb for that? Non-riders don’t comprehend the motorcyclists who are pure riders who do not ride for the “rush” but for the enjoyment, the stress release or the peace-of-mind, believe it or not. The general public see some of the fools “flying” down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic for their “adrenaline rush”. And that does plant a bad opinion on the danger and risk a motorcyclist does take but that to me is not the majority of true riders. Add living in a high volume traffic area then there’s gonna be the natural reaction to the danger of other vehicles causing a motorcyclist harm? So hence, the publics “perception” that riding a motorcycle is to “dangerous” and why risk you life just for that…

      Well as in life there are factors and risks you can’t control but do you stop living or stop someone from being who they are if you don’t agree on what makes a person happy? No two people are alike and this is the question both of you have to come to an accord on? And not an easy one at that…but still attainable it’s how you both compromise it, “give and take”. Your spouse is not wrong and your not wrong…compromise the hardest factor to get around! I wish both of you all the best…

  3. In general, Ive had several minor spills ..but usually away from traffic. Things like front wheel wash outs on roundabout covered in roadwork gravel at 15-20kmh.. A couple of minors drops amongst traffic but nothing life endangering and at low speed. I rode many dirt bikes when younger so not too worried as on the dirt you fall over a lot… u get used to it in a way. Thats in the context of slow drops of course. I havent dropped a bike for 20 years or so now. The biggest danger is other vehicles of course. Never had any issues on the open road without traffic. Even in kangaroo infested outback. I dont ride stupidly at very high speeds. Riding at 290kmh is asking for trouble.
    I have had 2 major accidents both caused by cars hitting me while i was doing less than the speed limit. One when just starting riding (inexperienced) and while I wasn’t in the wrong either time.. it didnt count for much. Lesson learned.. defensive riding is my first priority.
    I’ve ridden 300,000+ kms over 35 years all up. Inc some long rides of 13K and 7K. Partners have been supportive but concerned. Current boss rides as well so no problems with work 🙂

  4. I am 13 and love to ride dirt bike and do that crazy stuff I see on TV, however I rode on wet grass and although I was going slow around 5 mph cause the grass I mistaken the rear brake for the clutch and it started to slide, it startled me so I flinched and lacked up the fuel so I was going 15 mph on an angle roughly, and When It hit the ground right before I may have went 25mph. Only to my surprise I rolled it 3 times, and got a second degree burn on my lower right thy right before the knee, and a laceration 4 inches long by 1 inch wide by 1and a half inches deep. Because of the foot peg, when I rolled it it hit in my upper groin area around the upper / inner thigh It hit some nerves and I couldn’t walk right for 2 months the worst part was I have a rather large back yard and was at the farthest spot from the house, and no one was home and was all alone, so I had to crawl up to the house and thank go my parents work across the street I called my dad and he came within 2 minutes eventually so did the ambulance and they took me to the hospital where I got eleven stitches. however I was lucky because I even seen my artery the emt showed me and we both knew if that got punctured I was dead. I still am uneasy about it and i have a hard time talking about it, but i plan to buy another one soon and ride again.

  5. Had an accident (first one) two years ago in August. Was making a simple turn by my home and the throttle opened up completely; in two seconds it was over and I suffered severe injuries to both arm and shoulder that have required six operations. Wasn’t gonna return to riding and just sell my Harley. Recently though started to get the “itch” to ride again but my wife is totally against it. In fact everyone around me talks more about their own spills or motorcycle accidents in general than anything else. What to do…

    1. I had almost the same thing happen to me in my neighborhood. I was hospitalized for 2 weeks with bronken ribs. Punctured lung , lacerated liver and sheared all the fat an muscle of my shoulder down to my elbow under the skin. My husband is against me riding again. And I have had some ptsd about it when I think about riding again. That was in August, now I am starting to feel the need to ride again, but have lost my confidence. I was a very new rider and just purchsed my first harley. The 2nd day of owning it, had my accident and totaled the bike. Don’t know how to curb my urge to ride or try riding again.

      1. I know the feeling as the weather is getting nicer now and everytime I see a Harley go by me the urge to ride starts. The problem is two fold for me as my Harley is repairable, in fact I’m still in the process of completing the repairs as getting the time has been my biggest enemy. Secondly I really have the urge to ride again as I don’t feel nervous at all about getting back on it almost more relaxed maybe in a strange way because of the accident. Yeah I was a newbie too…still love my Harley but because of my wife I’m gonna have to sell it…such a shame.

  6. You can die from anything at anytime, you just have to pray that it’s not your time, my son was very lucky and I thank God for that.

  7. I was in a 100mph / 170kmh an hour accident Sunday morning 01 November 2015. My helmet flung off on impact and after I landed face first a car drove over me. As a result of the accident I have a bad knee and they amputated half of my foot. Getting back up has been challenging but I finally kicked fear in the ass this morning and decided to just go for it. A very stupid thing to do. I almost lost her at 290kmh because anxiety took over when I saw a car change lanes. Don’t force yourself into racing again. A cruise is all the brain and heart really needs.

  8. I was at an orthopedic clinic with a damaged shoulder after a simple low-speed ‘off’. Follow-up visit. Back on the bike as well.

    One of the doctors saw my helmet and remarked “on the bike again eh?”, with “stupid prick” written all over his face.

    I asked if he’d have made the same comment had I been a lycra cyclist who had had the same simple fall? Sort of mumbled and wandered off. As it happens, cyclists experience a high rate of shoulder injuries. And gravel rash. ):-]

  9. Great post. Been there done that. The physical is a big issue because it hurt a lot and took some time to heal. The mental side is another story. Being retired, I didn’t have a work boss. I love my wife and I would have given up riding if she had not given me her blessing. It took time to heal physical and mentally. It’s not something I ever want to repeat… Here is the rest of the story.

    http://www.thetexasrambler.com/2012/05/23/yes-motorcycling-is-dangerous/

  10. A woman was killed taking a quiet stroll along a scenic bush walk when a huge tree broke at the trunk and fell on her.
    Motor cycling is seen as dangerous but as the tragic story of the woman tells us if your number is up it doesn’t matter what you are doing. In fact most people die in bed so should beds be seen as dangerous?
    As for getting back in the saddle. Pain and mobility are an issue with riding safely so be sure you are fit first.
    To psych yourself up you can ride in a convertible or sidecar as they are fun and similar so they will get you back in the right frame of mind next is pillion riding then you can do dirt or track riding before hitting the road

  11. I had a huge off when I hit a kangaroo at 110 on the interstate. Took a few months before I could physically get on the bike again, but the desire was always there. The boss lay down a rule that I wasn’t to travel long distance at night in the bike (to be honest I wasn’t too keen myself, but had no choice).

    The other difference is that I am totally ATGATT now when before I was happy wearing all the gear except occasionally I’d wear work pants not bike pants. Can’t do that anymore – feels naked.

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