Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hazards "R" Us.

Today Katie and I rode up to the small graveyard on the hill where my father was laid to rest. For some reason it seemed like I needed to ride. It has to do with the symbolism of the deepest and best things I had to offer. My bride and my bike bring out all the best in me. I wanted to bring that "best" to pay my last respects. If you've been reading this blog you'll understand. Even more so if you ride and feel what I feel.

After a brief visit to Mother's place ( which is very near the graveyard ) Katie and I took a long and leisurely ride on some quiet backroads. Katie wanted to stop at her sister's house for a while so we ended up back in traffic. On a semi-rural road we picked up an entourage. Right behind us was a young man on a Yamaha sport bike. Behind him were two cruisers, then a pickup, with another cruiser bringing up the rear.

My sister-in-law's driveway came into view. Time to turn left. As usual when being followed, I signalled early. I flashed the brake lights to let folks know I was slowing down. That's a critical point, by the way. More and more riders are being rear-ended because they use engine braking to slow. Drivers don't expect that. All they know is that the bike is suddenly so much closer than it was. Light up the brake lights even if you don't need the brakes. It's our responsibility to communicate with others. Gee, isn't that why we have brake and turn signal lights on our bikes?

Ok, off the soap box, Dan. After giving what I thought was plenty of notice, I was surprised to see the Yamaha's front forks severely dive. The rider's rear end must have puckered as he nearly high-sided then recovered. I hope it was a good daydream because he nearly caused a lot of trouble. This isn't an isolated incident. Needless to say, I get nervous being around riders I don't know. Have you ever had a rider try to join in with you as you ride?

I'm seeing it more and more as I ride the freeway. Riders will try to tuck in and ride formation with me. I'm happy to have company but stay wary. More and more the hazards we face aren't limited to car drivers. I know some of you will be up in arms that I could say this about fellow riders but that's just the way it is.

Look at the picture above. If you peer closely you will see the rear end of a Honda sportbike sticking out of the side of the car. This is from a Swedish display. Police say the rider was doing about 155 mph when he impacted the side of the Volkswagon which was moving slowly.

Here's the link for the rest of the story. You can look at it on your own time.

Not all the riders I'm referring to are of the extreme type. There's more and more of these showing up, to be true. They don't represent the sum total of the types of riders out there, though. Take a moment and think of the changing picture of motorcycling today.

Motorcycle sales have jumped dramatically in the last few years. All those newbie riders, combined with more powerful bikes and challenging road conditions have contributed to a large rise in the number of accidents. We've always had to watch out for cars but all the inexperienced riders are becoming a problem. These newbies are easy to spot. I'm trained to evaluate riders and find myself doing it out of habit. You can see the signs yourself if you look for them.

They shake, hesitate in turns, hit the brakes a lot, or ride too closely to other bikes. My favorite is following them through curves and watching them make about a dozen apexes instead of just one. I've even seen a couple of riders forget to put their foot down at stops. Seriously. I wanted to yell "Timber!" as they slowly tipped over. Lately I've been notified of accidents where riders have run into each other.

The squids, the newbies, the celebrities who have high profile stupid moments, and increasingly distracted drivers are combining to expand our hazard list. I'll address this subject more in the next post as this one is getting pretty long.

Miles and smiles,


Anonymous said...

I agree, you have to watch the other riders just as hard as you watch the cages. I've seen frankly bizare behaviour from my two wheeled brethren but it is nice to ride with others when they aren't scary. :D

Dick said...

This is the second one of these I have seen recently. The other one was exactly the same only the car didn't roll. It was a fiat I think and the estimated speed was 155 mph also. Of course the rider and cage occupants were all killed. So far this is happening in Europe.

irondad said...

Well, guys, it's becoming an American thing, too. Watch for part 2.


Anonymous said...

Had to chuckle at your 'timber!' remark... My fiancee is an extremely experienced rider (20+ years, 250K+ miles) and he's done that stunt. In his defense, though, it was spring and he'd just taken the sidecar off, so he was used to having automatic balance. He could have caught it, but he's got bad knees from a near-fatal car accident (a tree went through his knees & half the car sideways).

Anonymous said...

I can see how being used to a sidecar would contribute to something like that.

All I can say about your fiancee's car accident is