Occasionally, I like to look up things on Youtube. Ever once in a while, I’ll stumble on a few motorcycle videos.
After watching hours of motorcyclists running into stuff, falling over, failing spectacularly at popping wheelies, etc, I realized a few things I hadn’t thought of in a while:
- The majority of accidents I saw were bikes running into the back of cars.
- External video shows these riders focusing on the street right in front of their front wheel. Which reminded me of one Cardinal Rule of Riding; always look ahead and up the road, not at your front fender.
What really triggered this realization was watching an obviously new motorcycle owner in my neighborhood nearly drop his bike as he wobbled around the curve while staring at his fender. He almost ran right into a car coming up the hill from the west.
You might spot some interesting stuff by staring at the road but here’s what you won’t see: anything slow or stopped in front of you. You won’t see large items like couches or boats or mattresses. And if you don’t see them in time, you can’t stop for them!
So, with the awareness that running into the back of slow things is common on a motorcycle, you should keep it in mind on the road. If you don’t, you might come back as a bulldog. You know why bulldogs have flat noses, right?
It’s from chasing parked cars.
Below are a few tips for being safer on the road.
This is the hard and harsh truth about riding at night on your motorcycle: the motorways are reduced to a sea of headlight and taillights, and this, my motorcycling friend, is simply bad news to us motorcyclists.
The real difference in riding disciplines between riding in the day and riding in the night can be summed up as follows: Whereas we still have to ride like we are invisible even in daylight, at night, we are invisible. There’s no pretending on our end anymore for the sake of defensive riding; defensive riding becomes even more mandatory.
Oh sure, we’re still substantially visible to the motorists behind us, but to the motorists ahead of us that we’re coming up on – those that matter more to a rider as far as being seen – all we are to their rearview mirrors is the projection of our headlamps. To those sneaking glances back at us occasionally, all the colors or reflectors of our motorcycle gear or the shape of our motorcycles and ourselves are reduced at most a backlit silhouette, or to virtually nothing at worse.
A long time ago, I sought to diminish the stress of riding in a sea of lights by simply getting out of the water.
It’s a tad ironic that I feel safer away from the uniformity of headlights in motorways.
As much and as soon as I can, I get out of the main motorways in my commutes, instead of taking the longer routes through cities and towns, where the lack of motorists that go through the very same streets serve only to highlight me and my motorcycle. When there’s little to no competition for me and my headlight, then the likelihood of me disappearing entirely from another motorists fleeting attention is lessened
Riding in the Rain
Now, most people know that San Diego drivers don’t know how to drive in the rain. When the oil and dirt pile up, the roads are not easy to navigate. All this causes accidents and disasters for motorcycle riders. However, I love riding my motorcycle all the time, and I won’t let a little water bring me down. Here are a few ways I prepare to ride in the rain in San Diego.
When it rains in San Diego, I know that most people are going to make mistakes, drive too slow and wreak havoc. To combat this, I take my time to ride to work, so I leave a few minutes early. That way, I don’t cringe my teeth when every SUV slows down for no good reason. Not only that, I won’t try to do anything crazy as I won’t have a reason to speed up.
While I am a huge fan of lane splitting, I don’t do it while riding in the rain. No, while it’s fun to lane split on a dry day, I take my time on a wet day. Otherwise, one false move by me or another driver will result in a nasty fall. If I leave early for work, I won’t cave in to the temptation to split lanes.
Without a doubt, when you are riding on a motorcycle, you can’t follow closely. This is especially true when you ride in the rain. In San Diego, at the sight of rain, most people will slam on their brakes as they think it will cause them to spin suddenly out of control.
Leave extra room between you and whoever is in front of you. Wet streets mean longer braking distances, and you’ll also need to modify your braking technique.
Use both brakes in wet conditions, but use less pressure on the front brake than you usually do under dry conditions. Rely more on your rear brake. Sliding with the front wheel usually means wiping out, but sliding with the rear wheel is usually correctable.
Don’t slam down on your brakes; it’s never a great idea to stop short, but in wet conditions, that’s much more dangerous. Smooth, controlled movements and easing into a stop keep you from locking up the front wheel when the tires and roads are wet. Gripping that front brake hard on a wet road almost always means hitting the pavement.
350 days a year, I look at my box of rain gear and laugh, and so do my friends. But, when the water starts falling, I love to pull out my Gore-Tex equipment and put it on. I also check my helmet and make sure there are no leaks. Otherwise, when I fly down the freeway without rain gear, I will notice quickly and regret it. Luckily, over the years, I have gotten smarter, and at the site of any drizzle, I quickly put on my rain gear, even if I look like a huge dork.
You should aim for fabric that is waterproof, yet breathable. Choose high visibility clothing all the time, but especially when it’s raining, because the weather will make it even harder for car drivers to see you.
Keep your face covered, ideally with a full face helmet, because speeds above 30 mph in the rain cause those droplets to hurt your face. Use Rain-X or something similar on your visor to improve your visibility.
You should already be braking more cautiously, but when it comes to cornering, give yourself more distance so you have a chance to slow down. Brake well before you go into the corners and turn deliberately. Remember, all of that traction that keeps you going on dry land is mostly gone in the rain, so don’t ride aggressively.
Watch the road
Yeah, always watch the road, but pay extra attention to a rain-soaked road. Painted lines can freeze easily and are very slick when wet. Manhole covers are now a hazard. Avoid puddles, because you just can’t tell in advance how deep they are. When you see rainbows, realize they’re oil on the road and you need to avoid those areas. Roads are slipperiest within the first hour or two of rain since that’s when the water mixes with all of the oil on the road, so if you can, wait for a few hours to go.
Inspect the Bike
If it’s been a long time since I have enjoyed a ride in the rain, I will inspect the bike thoroughly. First, and most importantly, I check the tires and ensure they are not bald. If the tires have little tread, I won’t take a chance, though I usually plan well in advance.
If they’re too worn or not inflated enough, you can end your ride fast, in the hospital. Big, fat rear tires can hydroplane easily; if you start to fishtail, stay calm and don’t make any sudden moves with your direction or braking. Instead, calmly ride it off as you back off the throttle. Remember, don’t go out riding in the rain with slick tires as you will regret it quickly.
If you keep calm and relaxed, you probably won’t have any trouble on a rainy road. Just keep these safety tips for riding in the rain in mind. And remember, if there is lighting, flash flooding, or a serious storm, you should not be riding.
Listening to Music
I think the main reason I don’t have music while I ride is that I have found my hearing to be so important a part of my overall situational awareness. A car might move into the blind spot next to me, without music I’m able to hear their presence through a change in wind noise or maybe the tires and then turn my head.
I hear someone’s tires skid as they stop or turn quickly and then I look around to assess if there is any threat to me. I hear a truck alongside. They might be the threat but often it isn’t the truck but the Audi driver who thinks he can pass the truck while ignoring the physics. That truck is 75 feet long and weighs 40 tons. Did the Audi driver see me as he swings in front of the truck planning to cross the truck’s lane into the lane I am using?
Driving In California
If you’ve ridden your motorcycle on just about any road in California, we should not have to convince you that there are plenty of terrible drivers out there. Half the people driving through Orange County on the 405 seem to be more focused on texting than they are on driving.
Dangers are out there. We see them here every day. Stay alert. Expect cagers to cut you off, turn left in front of you, run stop signs, and of course, not look at their blind spot before changing lanes. What can you do about it? Stay out of cars’ blind spots. Approach intersections with caution. And if you’ll pardon the cliche, expect the unexpected. Eventually, after you’ve been riding long enough, you really will start to see a lot of those “unexpected” things before they happen. You’ll develop a kind of “spidey-sense.” But it takes years and years of riding. So stay safe and (we’ll say it one more time) stay alert!
If you are an off-road rider or go trekking on trails in the woods, you should be careful when you hit the trails. The American Motorcycle Association, or AMA, has warned riders in three states that booby traps have been placed along trails, which has endangered motorcyclists, cyclists, hikers, and horse riders. In New Hampshire, Idaho and Massachusetts, riders have discovered booby traps, and there are likely more in other states.
A motorcyclist who runs into a trap can end up in the hospital or even die if they are going fast enough. This is no laughing matter as one tumble deep in the backcountry can be disastrous. If you are a rider or just someone out on a hike, you should report anything suspicious you find immediately by calling local law enforcement.
In Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Environmental Police and the State Department of Conservation, off-highway riders found cables strung across trails in four state parks, which would obviously endanger a rider on a motorized bike or mountain bike. Meanwhile, In rural Custer County, Idaho, motorcycle riders encountered barbed wire strung across a trail, about four feet from the ground. It was discovered before anyone crashed, which is the only fortunate thing to come out of this event. Less serious, but still scary, near Warren, New Hampshire, members of the Mount Moosilauke ATC Club found boards full of nails placed throughout the multi-use trail system. Luckily, nobody was injured, and the club members took out the boards, scattered nails, and fragments of broken glass.
In response, the ATV club is offering a sizable reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of these criminals. Currently, the reward is $1,350, but it could grow if donors come forward. While the AMA has specific information and alerts in these three areas, it does not mean that a rider or anyone else who enjoys trekking into nature should have a false sense of security, as this surely happens in other states.
If you ride off the road sometimes, or if you enjoy going hiking in the woods, you should always be vigilant. To avoid any problems, riders should always be on the lookout for anything out of order, and if you are riding in a new area, don’t be afraid to ask around and consult online message boards or even contact local associations. If you encounter anything suspicious, don’t be afraid to report it to the park ranger or local police.
Motorcycle Riding While Injured
Each time I’m injured, it takes me longer to prepare for my rides. It also makes me more cautious while on the road and results in me avoiding leisurely stops. My main objective is to minimize the risks I take while on my motorcycle.
Riding a motorcycle is a very physical activity, and riding while in pain takes a toll. If I had to give advice about riding while injured, I’d say give yourself plenty of time for your commutes. Don’t rush yourself as you’re already compensating for the injuries you have. Also, if you don’t have to, don’t ride. It’s a drag not being able to ride, but rest is truly the best medicine for injuries.
Stay safe in these streets!