In the motorcycle world and in motorcycle racing events one often hears that a rider has highsided or lowsided. These two terms have become widely used terminology, however few people truly understand the difference between the two concepts. Therefore today we will be discussing what is the difference between highsiding and lowsiding and the possible causes of each. It should be taken into consideration that highsiding and lowsiding generally occur whilst a rider is leaning in for a corner and one of the two wheels starts to slide.
Highsiding is the worst version of the two concepts, feared by many a rider. In a highside accident the rider loses control of the motorcycle, which then bucks and flings the rider into the air. Highsiding usually occurs when the rear wheel slides, the rider over-corrects, the rear wheel regains grip and the motorcycle then flings the rider to the opposite side. Firstly, this is dangerous because the rider hits the ground with tremendous force, which could lead to injury. Secondly, the rider is most likely flung in front of the motorcycle. This increases the risk of being hit by the sliding motorcycle from behind if the rider hits another immovable object.
The most common causes of highsiding is locking the rear brake, or the rider closing the throttle too quickly in the event of rear wheel spin, causing a sudden increase in grip and the rider being thrown off-balance. In addition to this, loose chains and engine seizures are some examples of the more uncommon causes of highsiding.
Lowsiding is the “more preferable” between the two incidents, as it only involves the motorcycle sliding out from underneath the rider. It is also the more common occurence, especially among new motorcyclist, also caused by oil or sand in mid-corner. It occurs when one or both wheels lose grip and slide from underneath the motorcycle.
Incidents of lowsiding most commonly occur by one of two ways. The first being a rider carrying too much speed into a corner. In such an instance the rider in most cases either forces the motorcycle into the corner, or relies too heavily on the front brake. This causes the amount of grip required to exceed the amount of friction that the surface provides. Thus the front wheel of the motorcycle drifts away causing a fall. Click here to see a video of lowside as a result of too much speed or too much braking in a corner.
The second common cause of lowsiding is a rider applying too much throttle mid corner, or over accelerating. In this instance the rear wheel of the motorcycle looses grip and slides out from underneath the motorcycle, causing the rider to fall. Click here for a video of lowside as a result of too much acceleration.
Tips for avoiding highsides and lowsides
How to possibly avoid lowsiding. A rider should attempt to brake and shift down through gears whilst traveling in a straight line. This is due to the fact that the front wheel is responsible for 70+ percent of the braking force of the entire motorcycle. Reducing speed and selecting the correct gear before a corner can drastically reduce the possibility of loosing grip, because one does not ask the front wheel for more grip than it can provide.
In avoiding highsides the procedure is very counter intuitive. The procedure requires a rider not to react or overreact in the event of the rear wheel losing grip or locking up. This can also be done by completing braking and gearing procedures before entering a corner. Or in the event of a rear wheel slide, allowing the bike to slide out into a lowside would result in less damage to both the motorcycle and rider, compared to closing the throttle and being highsided.
With all of the above in mind, it is important to be prepared for any instance that can possibly occur. Correct rider protective apparel will also assist in reducing injury during a fall. For more info on rider apparel please see our post on Why do bikers dress the way they do?
Ride safe and enjoy the journey.