Breakdown But Not Broke Down!

Occasionally an accident will occur between a moving vehicle and a stationary vehicle that has had mechanical problems and has caused it to breakdown.

One of the most dangerous situations is one whereby a vehicle breaks down and pulls onto the hard shoulder (breakdown or emergency lane) or pulls over to the side of the road and the driver or rider and passengers remain within/on or near the vehicle.

Many accidents, serious injuries and fatalities have occurred and continue to occur when other vehicles collide with these stationary vehicles at high speed. Sometimes due to poor weather, or tiredness or sometimes because the broken down vehicle was parked on a blind bend and the driver did not have time to react.

The general advice is to:

  1. Never stay within/on the vehicle.
  2. Move clear away and certainly never stand/sit behind or immediately in front of the vehicle. 
  3. Never attempt to perform a repair, e.g. change a tyre on an active carriageway or on a blind bend and if possible instruct an adult passenger to position themselves so they are able to warn oncoming vehicles of a broken down vehicle obstructing the road.
  1. Always activate hazard warning lights and place any warning signs or triangles on the road to warn     

    other drivers.

  1. In some countries or areas, High Visibility Vests are required to be worn.

Although a motorcycle is generally smaller in size than other road vehicles, the same principles still apply, whereby the rider and/or pillion should remain well clear of the bike, in the event, of a breakdown. Many would advise to wear a high visibility vest, especially in the dark and avoid trying to make repairs on the active carriageway. 

The great advantage of motorcycles over other larger vehicles is that, in the event, of a breakdown, the motorcycle is still relatively easy to be moved/pushed off the active carriageway, and this would be the general advice; move the motorcycle clear off the carriageway. Only once this has been done, then attempt to perform any repairs, always being mindful of any oncoming vehicles that may have difficulty in seeing and avoiding you and your motorcycle. It really is about self preservation here!

Over recent years, more riders have started to carry repair tools, puncture repair kits and first aid kits either on their person or on the bike itself.

The basic principle to follow for any form of rescue or medical kit is that it should be fit for purpose, and in the case of motorcycles, the kits need to be small and lightweight. There is no point in investing in any equipment that is too big or heavy to be carried on the person or on the bike. 

There are many first aid kits that are ultra compact and would suit a motorcyclists needs, either attached to trouser belts or kept in the jacket pocket. However, you can also make up your own first aid kit or add bits to one purchased. A tactic I have employed when trying to buy any additional equipment for motorcycle use is to search in other applications for something that would be ideal or could be adapted for motorcycle riding. Many times I have looked in camping shops, sports and cycling shops, etc. Sometimes I have found items in the unlikeliest of places just by constantly being on the lookout for something that might work. There is no hard and fast rule for the perfect first aid kit but some items I tend to carry are:

Latex Surgical Gloves

Medium Bandage

Dressing

Plasters & Plaster Tape

Foil Blanket

Small Scissors & Safety Pins & Tweezers

Paracetamol & Ibuprofen

Small Bottles of Water (Alcohol Miniatures Size) for rinsing or flushing wounds or eyes

Alcohol/Cleansing Wipes

If I’m going on a longer journey, I will tend to take extra items that are suitable for the weather conditions. E.g. If it is forecast to be a hot day, then I will take extra bottles of water and sugary drinks. If on a colder day I will take snack/energy bars etc.

The idea is to take equipment that you would be able to use in the event of an incident. However, there is no point in taking any equipment if you don’t know how to use it or are not confident about its use. You may wish to alter the contents of your first aid kit to suit your own knowledge and proficiency or seek some first aid training.

Tools and repair equipment may also be carried on the motorcycle and the choice is purely subjective. Try not to carry any tools on your person as they may cause extra penetrating injuries in the event, of an accident.

Most new motorcycles come with a very basic tool kit, but if yours did not or if you have purchased a used motorcycle without a tool kit, then they are straight forward to put together. Before purchasing any tools however, first ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have space on the motorcycle to store tools or is there a place where I can attach a tool roll etc?
  1. Do I know how to use the tools and equipment?
  2. What items on the motorcycle am I most likely to need to adjust or repair?

Many purists would argue that you need to be able to repair or perform roadside maintenance on your motorcycle and if not then there is either no point in carrying any tools or you should not even be riding. That argument may have been somewhat valid in years past when many motorcycles were prone to mechanical failures, however more modern machines are much more reliable, sophisticated and technologically advanced and in many circumstances special tools are required that would not be able to be carried in any case. 

It is certainly a good idea to have a basic understanding of how the motorcycle functions and how to perform some basic maintenance, however it is in no way a requirement…and that is why we have friends who can or have roadside recovery. There is also a case that even if you don’t know how to use the tools, then maybe another bystander or riding companion does, so they might be able to help instead.

As with other equipment, I tend to take and seek tools that I ‘could’ use in the event of an incident that might enable me to perform some kind of repair or adjustment. The toolkit is made up of ‘small’ tools and multipurpose items. Again the following is by no means the definitive list, but it is something that you may wish to consider or even change to suit your needs.

  1. MultiTool (Gerber/Swiss Army Knife type tool)
  2. Multi Allen Key/Small Socket Set (Usually found in bicycle accessories)
  3. Small Set of Spanners
  4. Small Adjustable Wrench
  5. Cable Ties – Various Sizes
  6. Puncture Repair & Inflation Kit (Be sure you know how to use this properly)
  7. Electrical Tape
  1. Multipurpose Tape
  2. Fuses, Light Bulbs

The contents of each kit can be changed also to suit the type and length of journey and there may even be a tool that is specific to model of motorcycle that you may wish to carry. When travelling in a group of motorcycles, it may be an option to ‘share’ tools over all of the bikes. This way more tools are carried without any duplication and each technical problem is then solved as a group activity.

The idea is not to be broke down in a breakdown; have a plan or some method of either helping yourself or seeking the assistance of others. If possible always carry a mobile phone and try to let someone know your route, especially if it is a new route or long journey and at what time you expect to arrive at your destination. When carrying a mobile phone, try to avoid placing it in the trouser leg pockets, hip pockets or in any pocket without any kind of padding, as they tend to get damaged, in the event, of an accident and limits your ability to ring for assistance. 

Also, if you have pockets like mine which sometimes leak in the rain, it might be worth placing your mobile in a plastic bag to keep it dry.

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