What is a Motorcycle Crash Bar? Do I Need One?

In Motorcycle Accident by Michele Mirman

Motorcycles only comprise a small fraction of the vehicles on NYC roads. Despite this, motorcyclists account for about 14 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities every year. Statistics show that a motorcyclist in NYC is about 38 times more likely to die in an accident than passengers in larger vehicles.

Motorcyclists are vulnerable to catastrophic and fatal injuries because they don’t have a lot to protect themselves in an accident. In a collision, a motorcyclist, who might just have a helmet and some padding, can easily get crushed by their bike or another vehicle or thrown on impact. A helmet and padding will only provide so much protection. 

Is there anything else that can cushion the blow and protect a motorcyclist in an accident? Yes. Many riders install motorcycle crash bars.

What Are Motorcycle Crash Bars?

A motorcycle crash bar is a relatively simple piece of safety equipment. It’s a piece of metal that attaches to the bike’s frame. While the design can vary – it comes in “hoop” and “ mustache” styles, among others – the idea is that the bar sticks out a few inches past the side of the motorcycle.

Are All Motorcycle Crash Bars Steel?

No. Crash bars tend to be made of aluminum, stainless steel, or mild steel. Aluminum is the lightest and adds the least amount of weight to a bike, but isn’t particularly strong. Stainless steel won’t rust, but it also absorbs the least amount of energy in a crash, limiting its effectiveness. Mild steel is strong but can rust if a bike is left out in the elements. Riders have to determine which option is best suited for their riding style.

What Does a Motorcycle Crash Bar Do?

If the motorcycle falls or is involved in a collision, the bar will prevent the bike from falling all the way onto its side. This can stop the motorcycle from crushing the rider and passengers. The bar can also protect the engine, fuel tank, and other components of the vehicle itself. With a motorcycle crash bar installed, a rider can increase the likelihood of avoiding potentially catastrophic injuries and fiery crashes. 

What Injuries Can Motorcycle Crash Bars Prevent?

Motorcycle crash bars won’t stop a rider from getting thrown from their bike in a collision. However, the metal bar can prevent the bike from falling on a rider. This can help to prevent one of the leading causes of debilitating trauma among riders: leg injuries.

Studies suggest that motorcycle crash bars can help to minimize:

  • Ankle injuries, and
  • Lower leg injuries.

Experts have mixed opinions on whether or not crash bars can reduce the risk of injuries to the upper legs.

Motorcycle crash bars can be particularly helpful if riders are involved in low-speed tip-overs. If the bike falls to the side, the crash bar can absorb the impact and prevent the bike from crushing a rider’s or passenger’s leg. The bar itself can also make it easier for the rider to pick the bike back up.

Do Motorcycle Crash Bars Work?

It depends on who you ask. It also depends on the crash bar you buy. One study, conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Center, found that the quality of a crash bar is the most important factor to consider. Researchers said that many crash bars are “too flimsy” or “too poorly designed” to protect riders in an accident. They urged a standardized design to ensure that crash bars were strong enough to work as intended.

Another study, known as The Hurt Report, found that “crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure.” However, researchers did concede that crash bars did reduce injuries to the lower legs. It’s also important to consider that the Hurt Report was published in 1981. Since then, motorcycle crash bar technology and design have evolved. Crash bars today might offer better protection to riders than crash bars developed nearly 40 years ago. 

Would a Motorcycle Crash Bar Help Me in NYC?

Low-speed tip-overs are responsible for a lot of motorcycle accidents and injuries in NYC. Studies reveal that crash bars are probably most helpful in these types of accidents. If you have a strong crash bar installed on your bike, it can stop the weight of the vehicle from crushing you when you tip over. It may not, however, prevent you from sustaining any injuries, at all.

Can a motorcycle crash bar protect you in an accident? Maybe. It depends on the bar you have installed on your bike and the type of accident you’re in. However, any steps to protect yourself are better than none.