Fall is typically a beautiful time of year. In many areas of the United States including my home state of Tennessee, changing leaf colors leads to some very nice scenery along the highways and back roads where I often ride. This is all well and good while the leaves are still attached to their branches. When they start falling to the ground, however, they can pose a threat to the motorcycle rider.
Hazards from falling leaves come in two major flavors. For starters, leaves can obscure a damaged piece of pavement or debris in the roadway. This type of hazard isn’t that prevalent or as dangerous as the second scenario which is wet leaves.
A thin layer of wet leaves on a road surface can be very slick. Not only is the upward facing surface of those leaves slick when wet but the downward, road-facing side adds to the overall reduction in friction. All in all this is not the ideal surface for the small contact patch of a motorcycle tire to deal with.
What is really dangerous is that while one is typically already being cautious when riding in the rain, a patch of leaves may stay wet for some time after the precipitation has ended. It’s not unusual to have the sun shining down on a deceptively innocent patch of leaves on the road the morning after a rainy night. Those leaves can still be quite wet underneath and can easily ruin one’s day if ridden over at even modest lean angels.
It’s easy to get caught up in the scenery and colors that come with a crisp Autumn morning ride so be vigilant when you’re out riding during this time of year. Make sure you are staying aware of what is on the road surface up ahead and never assume those leaves on the road are completely dry. In fact, I would say just avoid riding over any leaves on the road if it can be done safely.
A great little strip of asphalt called Fairview-Kingston Springs Rd. Short but sweet!
I just realized how badly MotorcycleWords.com has been neglected by me over the past couple of months. Seeing as the weather has been less than “motorcycle-friendly” in my part of the country it is likely not surprising. Still, that’s no excuse for the emptiness and quiet that has descended on my humble little blog. So to get things warmed back up I thought I’d share some info on upcoming products I have in for review for webBikeWorld.com as well as some teasers for things on the way.
First up, I have one of the new Elipsol Air jackets from Pilot Motosport in house for review. This addition to Pilot’s lineup is a mashup of adventure styling and mesh airflow. I really like the styling of this jacket and in addition to light grey, dark grey, and Hi-Viz colors, they have a new “Sand” color which I totally dig. I’ve managed two short rides with it during the brief periods when it was warm enough but Spring is on the way and this review will be hitting wBW soon.
Sitting on the shelf waiting for warmer temps is a pair of riding jeans from Trilobite out of the Czech Republic. Their TON-UP riding jeans take a different approach than other riding jeans I’ve reviewed in the past as they do not have a separate lining for abrasion resistance. Instead, the denim used in the jeans is made from UHMWPE (ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) thread making it not only very durable but also much lighter than typical motorcycle specific jeans. The material is also very cool against the skin so I’ve been patiently waiting for Spring to show up so I can give these a full test.
In news not related to my wBW reviews, I’ve got a more installments of my “Risky Business” series of riding skills articles coming for 2018. I also am looking forward to announcing a new riding skills course that will (hopefully) be available later this year from a highly skilled motorcycle riding coach/instructor I’m lucky to be friends with. I’ll be posting up news about that as it gets closer to launch. If this is something you might be interested in attending please let em know so I can let you know when this is available.
I often find that many people have a fear of riding in the rain. What would you do if you are caught out in the rain while riding or are forced to ride through rain for one reason or another? Are you ready? Can you handle it? How can you prepare for when that happens?
This may sound funny, but if you want to be ready for a given situation you need to practice. I find when teaching that riding in the rain is one of a rider’s biggest fears many of my students face. One of the reasons I don’t mind teaching the basic level or really any rider training in the rain is that it can be very beneficial. The students will end up learning so much more than when learning in clear and sunny weather. They learn right from the beginning that riding in the rain is possible and that they can control the bike.
Most motorcycle riders will tell you that riding is great experience. Words like “blast”, “exhilarating” and yes, “fun” are terms often used to describe the joy that is motorcycle riding. So why is it many new riders will confess that riding a motorcycle can be a scary and intense activity?
One reason that comes to mind is experience or, in the case of the new rider, lack thereof. Let’s look at why.
In my previous installment of Risky Business, I looked at being vigilant and acutely aware of the hazards when riding on the street. This time let’s take a look from the other perspective, making yourself visible to other vehicles on the streets with you.
How often have you heard someone involved in an crash say “I never saw the other driver, rider, etc”. More often that you would think, this is actually a true statement. The driver may have actually been looking right at motorcycle and their brain never registered the bike as an object to avoid or be concerned with.
Drivers can get used to just looking for cars and other hazards on the road. Let’s face it, motorcycles just aren’t as plentiful on the roads as cars and trucks. It’s hard for some motorcyclists to understand this but as riders, we often take note of other bikes. Being on a bike seems to make us “tuned in” to see other bikes where drivers of cars simply aren’t.
So what can one do as a rider to mitigate this phenomenon? Let’s learn how to be seen. The following are some ways to improve your visibility on the road.
Former AMA Pro racer Elena Myers published a great article on mental preparation and racing over on the McGraw Powersports blog. Even if you’re not a racer or have aspirations as such, it is still a good read. It also makes a good point about how being prepared mentally for riding (on the track or anywhere) is an important part of creating the best riding experience.
Here’s a short teaser…
When you’re swapping paint with your competition at over 180 miles per hour on the straights, with 50+ degree lean angle in the corners, there’s a lot that needs to be right. Split second decisions have to be made not just to win, but to stay upright. In the blink of an eye, you could be off the track or crashing into another rider. There’s no room for error. This is why being mentally prepared is crucial for professional motorcycle racing.
I’m very saddened to report that I cannot no longer support Lee Parks’ programs. As good as the program is I, cannot support Lee Parks and how he has treated some people who work for him. It is unfortunate that it has come to this.
Please continue to search out education on improving your riding skills. It is important to always to keep learning but I cannot recommend anyone participate in the Total Control Advanced Riding clinics.
I’m very pleased to announce that the Lee Park’s Total Control Advanced Riding Clinics are coming back to Nashville this summer. In partnership with Music City Motorcycle Training, David Beyer will be returning to Nashville this July to teach Level 1 clinics on Saturday, July 8th and Sunday, July 9th.
The classes will be hosted at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway at 625 Smith Ave. Nashville TN 37203. These classes are limited to 12 spots each day so don’t wait too long to register. You can register by clicking here or by going to totalcontroltraining.net .
How typical is this of Nashville weather. Yesterday it was 68 degrees outside. Overnight the temperature dropped 40 degrees and turned the light rain into snow and ice leaving rooftops with a snowy sheen (see the photo at the right). Many motorcyclists will let their bikes hibernate for the winter, quietly napping under a cover with a tank full of fuel and stabilizer with the glow of a battery tender keeping it company.
Personally I don’t winterize my bikes and will get out and ride when the temperatures reach above 30 degrees (F) for at least short rides and to commute. I know facing the cold of winter riding isn’t for everyone but if you’re interested in extending your riding season further hit the Continue Reading button below for a story written my my friend Kevin Anderson over at TDC Cycle.
Risky Business is a series of articles about mitigating risk for the motorcycle rider. I started this series years ago for Nashvilleriders.com but since I closed up that site I wanted to bring this content to Motorcycle Words.
The first in this series is Being Vigilant.
Vigilant is defined as “keenly watchful to detect danger; wary”. Sounds like something every motorcycle rider should be doing, but as there are so many potential dangers out there, where to begin?
Forget “The Force”
Despite Luke Skywalker’s success destroying a death star while keeping his eyes closed, your best way to spot and be aware of potential threats is to use your vision. This sounds a bit basic but I’m always surprised at how many drivers (and riders) out there seem to be using “The Force” to guide their vehicles down the road and not very well I might add. As a motorcycle rider one typically has an unobstructed view of the surroundings. In fact sitting on most sportbikes, sport-tourers, and standards can give riders a height advantage over most car drivers.
Rider education courses point out it’s very important to be watching what’s happening down the road as far as you can. Being able to see farther ahead will help you prepare for sudden stops, debris, and other road hazards you might encounter. You can make it much easier to have a good vantage point by doing a few things such as:
Not all windows will be easy to see through.
Don’t ride behind large trucks and tractor trailers that block your view of the road ahead. Sure you can stop quicker than most trucks but if they crash into something you may find yourself out of stopping room real fast.
Look through and past the front and rear windows of the vehicle(s) ahead of you. While it may not be that easy to see a lot of details you will most likely be able to see the brake lights of several of the cars in front of you through each vehicle’s front and rear glass.
Don’t tailgate. Sounds like a no-brainer to me but you really want to provide enough space between you and the car ahead of you to see and avoid an object such as a piece of tire carcass that wasn’t visible until after the car in front of you passed over it.
I’m sure this has happened to you. You’re out for a ride on a hot Sunday afternoon. The back-roads offered up plenty of fantastic twisty asphalt for your pleasure and you’re beat. You’re now plodding down the secondary roads and you come to a quiet intersection with a traffic light. As you sit there feeling the heat from your engine flow up around your legs, your mind starts mulling over the idea of just running the light.
I have found a very reliable method for triggering the sensors on traffic lights so that running through the red isn’t necessary. If you can spot the inductive loop sensor on the ground (a thin rubber strip making a box on the street) try to position your bike so that you can put your kickstand down right on the strip. Putting a steel kickstand down right on top of the inductive loop sensor is often enough to “trip” it to let the lights know you are there.
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