Shiny side down ( not mine )
What a day! It began with a ride to Olympia, Washington. I had an appointment that might lead to working full time in motorcycle safety. That's all I'll say for now. I figure it's perfectly acceptable to ride in those circumstances.
The rain's back for a few days. I mentally pull the "operating on dry pavement" program card out of my internal computer. Time to insert the "operating on wet pavement" program card. It really does take a conscious effort to adjust for the different conditions. After months of riding on dry pavement in warm weather response habits can become subconsciously ingrained. In other words, you're likely to react based on recent but not current parameters. If the road's wet and our response is based on dry weather traction it can be very bad! Riders in general and commuters specifically need to always reprogram our brains based on the actual conditions at the time.
Just to drift slightly for a minute, it's kind of like ABS on a bike. Using ABS in a straight line versus in a corner are two different animals. ABS doesn't shut off when the bike's leaned. There's no switch that measures lean angle and turns off the computer. Just be aware that the computer assumes that full traction is available for braking. It just thinks you're straight up and down. It's up to the rider to realize that leaning takes traction. Traction in our leaning budget means there's less in our braking budget. We need to discern the true situation and adjust reactions accordingly.
Having reprogrammed my mental computer I set forth. It's going to be about three and a half hours and two hundred miles of riding in the rain. The area up there always seems to be wetter than here. Plus, no matter which way I look at it, I'm going to hit Portland right during the morning rush hour. As expected in a city of over half a million, it takes me 45 minutes to get through the traffic.
Before I even leave my home town, though, I brush up against another rider's misfortune. As I roll along a four lane street that takes me out of town I'm finding the need to pull off to one side. Two city police cars are coming up behind me with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Hey, I'm only five miles per hour over the limit, that's pretty severe, isn't it? They're not after me, of course. A quarter mile later I come upon the cause for their being dispatched.
There's an intersection where four major thoroughfares converge. Can you say "mega busy"? Part of the intersection's blocked off which makes me go the longer way to the freeway. Passing slowly through I can't resist the natural human urge to look over. What I see is the bottom of a motorcycle on it's side. That's not a view we're really supposed to see. Later on I'm able to ascertain that the bike is a '89 Honda. Not sure what model. My impression was a 'Wing. Given the time of day I presume the man is commuting. My contact tells me the name but I don't recognize it. Our commuter was passing through the intersection on a green light. A man in a Ford Escort ran the light and hit the bike on the right side. The rider's treated for minor injuries and released from the local hospital. I'm relieved it's not worse.
I don't know what evasive actions or mental strategies the commuter was using. The police report will clearly lay blame on the cager.
In an opposite case, here's what happened later that afternoon.
Having made the long trip, why not check out some of the local bike shops? Why on earth a bike nut would do such a thing is beyond me, but there I was. A man who looked to be about 60 years old and weighing around 300 pounds was mounting up his BMW K1200LT. The bike had been fitted with new tires. Rain was still drizzling down. Temperatures in the low 60's are about 15 degrees cooler than normal for this time of year. Can you see the pending outcome?
In front of the shop is a two lane street. If you're standing with your back to the building the street is a one-way running from right to left. I heard the mechanic remind Mr. BMW about new tires. Our soon-to-crash rider pulls into traffic using the near lane. Trouble is, the oncoming car seems to be closer than he realized. I'm a helpless spectator as the rider moves for the right lane while whacking on some throttle. This particular street is crowned more than usual for a city street. Just over the centerline the pavement is off-camber as it curves downward toward the gutter. Camber, rain, and new tires combine into a treacherous brew. Mr. BMW spins about 270 degrees around and crashes hard to the blacktop. The good news is that nobody runs into him from behind.
Weirdly enough, there's an off duty motor officer in the shop. I'm pressed into traffic control. An ambulance arrives. The paramedics think there's a broken shoulder and pelvis. Shop guys and a salesman get the bike upright. Pieces of bodywork tinkle down as the bike's pushed back into the lot. Sad ending that could have easily been written another way by using common sense. There's an oxymoron for you. Not much common about sense any more.
Sophie and I arrive home safely. I'm confident in my skills and in my bike. I'm aware that as a two-wheeled commuter I voluntarily expose myself to greater risks. I also take responsibility to develop and sharpen skills and strategies to help even out the odds. Still, I find myself wanting to tread gingerly on the wet ride home. Especially coming back through the Big City. I'm hyper alert and have to fight the urge to tense up whenever it looks like I might have to stop quickly or take some other evasive action. I just chalk it up to the day's experiences.
Somewhere in the rain I have a horrible thought. God, I hope I'm not some sort of catalyst that makes people crash when I'm in the area. That would be totally ironic, wouldn't it? A rider who's passion is teaching people to ride skillfully and stay alive becoming a lightning rod for disaster? No, I'm not even going there. Must have been the fact that I was totally water-logged by then.
Miles and smiles,