I may have touched a nerve with a few folks. When I wrote about riding on snow and ice there were some who seemed offended I would even talk about such a thing. That part's okay. We all have different opinions and comfort levels. What worries me is that someone may get the wrong idea. As a motorcycle safety professional I don't want anyone to think I'm urging them to go out and ride in bad conditions. Particularly in snow and ice.
To that end I'm adding this clarification to put closure to the subject.
In no way, shape, or form am I advocating riding on snow or ice. For that matter, you could include any number of other things that seriously affect traction. The truly wise thing to do is to avoid riding anywhere that traction could be compromised. That being said, there's a couple of other factors that come into play. Those are the things behind the post.
We do not ride in a perfect world. Unless we only ride in certain places and at certain times, there's a chance we're going to encounter things like ice or snow. To those two things you can add oil, antifreeze, fuel spills, moss, wet leaves, and any number of other traction hazards. Even if we start out in favorable conditions, the end of a day can be the polar opposite of the start of a day. Pun wasn't intended but I'm going to let it ride.
Here's a recent example.
This was taken on Sunday. Two hours previously the temperature was in the upper thirties ( f ) with a light rain. Polar air moved down the valley and covered everything with snow. This might be a slightly extreme example, granted. But stuff like this happens as has been pointed out in comments here and other places.
Again, the first rule is to avoid low traction situations. Check out the current conditions and forecast. Even if it's not Winter, scan the roadway to detect possible hazards as early possible. My experience, though, has been that once in a while we're going to find ourselves riding on low traction surfaces. Some things like black ice can be where we least expect it to be. It's also extremely difficult to catch early. Especially in the dark.
Since there's a good chance we're going to be faced with this kind of challenge, why wait until we're in it to prepare? That's why I shared the advice I did. There's not a real safe way to practice ahead of time. You might find yourself in Stacy's situation. I'm going to quote her comment.
Still, it's good to know how to handle hitting a patch of black ice, even if the knowledge is "on paper"!
That's a good start. My hope would be that a rider would hear my words in their head.
"Eyes up! Hold the handlebars steady. Be smooth and gentle."
There's a second factor that creeps into my writings. You have to understand where I'm coming from. Again, I go back to Stacy. Thank you, girl, your words are wiser than you know!
"I just don't have the skills for ice riding. I think I'd need to have more street miles and a lot more dirt miles before I'd even consider taking a ride during freezing temps."
Don't let the unassuming words fool you. Stacy's a good rider in her own right. She has the wisdom to lay a solid foundation where she is before moving on to the next level. Her comment on experience and dirt miles is the lead in to my next point.
I've been riding since I was 8 years old. That's well over four decades. Riders who've spent a lot of time on dirt become more comfortable with low traction situations. Notice I said more comfortable. I'm not saying that they're safer. Street riding takes a whole different set of attitudes and skills. Dirt riding can transfer in both good and bad ways. I've been riding on the street since high school. I've also been a motorcycle safety professional for a long time. I've pursued professional training for longer than I've been an instructor myself.
Combining my dirt riding and street riding with my Warrior attitude puts me where I am now. I'm comfortable riding in situations that most folks aren't. I'm not reckless, though. I ride where a lot of people won't because I have the experience, comfort level, and skills to do so. Notice the mention of skills. Some of these skills can only be developed by thousands upon thousands of miles in the seat and encountering every possible situation. Daily commuting over long distances is one arena that provides oppurtunity to gain experience and skills. Nothing like the nitty gritty of real world riding. I'm aware of the risk. It's a highly person decision. It's also not something I would encourage anyone else to do.
I hope this helps clarify where I was coming from. Ride smart. Stay safe. If anyone gives you a hard time about where you've set your limits, too bad. Personal limits are just that: personal. If you've been riding a long time and decided there's certain things you're not going to do anymore, great. You've nothing to prove to anyone else. If you're newer and still working on expanding limits a little at a time, I'm proud of you. You're wise enough to honestly assess where you are right now and ride accordingly. The one thing I might say that applies to everyone is
"Don't forget to have fun!"
Miles and smiles,