Handling a Catastrophic Tire Failure: A Real World Example

TireFail3While I was covering the 2011 Overland Expo for All About Bikes, a story developed that was totally (and terrifyingly) unexpected. While riding to the Expo, my riding companion experienced a catastrophic tire failure at 70 miles per hour.

Matt was riding his BMW F800GS on a new Pirelli rear tire that had been on the bike for only a few hundred miles. The tire had been installed by a reputable shop. He described his experience in blow-by-blow detail.

First, he started to feel a kind of rhythmic loping of the bike. Initially, he though it could be the road. He then took a quick glance down at the tires, but the rear tire was obscured from his vision by his luggage. Moments after he glanced down, the bike started to whip violently. His rear tire had blown.

Tire FailSo how did he handle this situation? Actually, there is a lesson in good riding in what he did. First, he kept both hands firmly on the bars, but he kept his body and arms as relaxed as possible. At the same time, he applied his brakes, but in a controlled way. Almost certainly he was aided by the BMW’s anti-lock brakes.

He moved toward the right margin of the road, but he did not leave the pavement in his maneuver. That would have reduced control of the bike even more. Once he had full control of the vehicle, he pulled to the side to avoid possible danger from vehicles approaching from the rear.

In the end, my friend avoided making mistakes that could have had dire consequences. With that in mind, let’s review what to do in case you have a blowout.

  1. Keep a firm but relaxed grip on the bars
  2. Apply the brakes in a controlled way (it’s usually best to apply both brakes evenly)
  3. Maintain your riding line and remain seated
  4. When possible, pull toward the right margin of the road, but not off the pavement
  5. When control is regained, get out of the flow of traffic

You will be interested to know that there was no indication of a foreign object in the tire, and the disintegration of the tread was severe (as you can see in the photos). My friend is taking the tire back to the dealer for follow-up, both by them and by Pirelli.

A tire failure like this is sudden, violent, dangerous, and thankfully very rare. Your best chance at handling a similar situation safely is to have a plan in place and continually practice your riding skills.

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com

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