WINTER HAZARD REMINDER
We all ride throughout the year here so “winterizing” our rides consists of dusting them off and putting on some leather and a heavy jacket before we ride. We are fortunate to be able to ride all year round but we often forget those little winter hazards that can crop up at a moment’s notice. Here’s a little reminder for us all in regards to those nasty little road hazards…
CROSSWALKS AND OTHER PAINTED LINES
ANY painted surface on a roadway can be extremely slick during the winter. A small amount of moisture can turn these lines into an experience you won’t soon forget! Be very cautious when it’s foggy as the moisture collects on the painted surfaces and is not visible to the rider. Watch those lines on the curvy roads because you won’t have time to react if you happen to cut a corner a little and get that front wheel on the wet line!
It’s not like you haven’t seen these before. These can catch you front wheel and dump your bike. Pay attention to the angle the tracks cross the road. Use as much of the road as necessary to get a safe attack angle. Be aware that occasionally tracks cross roads at a weird angle (Highway 43 near Poso) and this can ruin an otherwise great day of riding. Also watch the crossing areas as some have metal or wood instead of asphalt between the tracks. If you’re crossing one of these in a turn, you’re in for a surprise.
We have a few of these in our area. Always try to cross these at a 90 degree angle and be very cautious if they might be wet.
OIL, ANTI-FREEZE, GREASE, DIESEL FUEL
If you encounter any of these on the road, chances are you’ll have an issue before you can react. Always scan the road ahead for spots that look wet or different from the rest of the pavement. I once hit diesel fuel as I was approaching a stop sign. The bike slid through the stop sign and across 2 lanes of traffic onto road side. This happened at Lerdo Hwy and Porterville Hwy. Yeah, I know, it wasn’t my time.
RAIN AFTER A LONG DRY SPELL
This can turn the roads into a skating rink. Let the rain wash the roads clear before you ride them. A half hour can make a huge difference.
GRAVEL ON PAVEMENT
This can be deadly. Gravel is more common as the road becomes twisties. It seems cars have a hard time staying on the pavement when there are corners. Gravel problems tend to be worse in spring due to winter rains. A little bit of gravel should be avoidable if you’re not riding too fast. Unavoidable gravel covering the entire corner can be taken in stride if there is plenty of asphalt showing and you are prepared to let the bike slide around a bit. The key is to relax, don’t over-react and keep steering towards the exit line. Bikes are surprisingly stable and will usually ride it out. The real problem is a heavy gravel patch in a corner. Surviving that is mainly luck given you were already going too fast to stop or go around it…my best advice is to treat it like light gravel and hope the bike rides it out. If the back-end washes out, steer like a dirt bike and hope the rear tire doesn’t suddenly get traction!
Having said all that, most “gravel crashes” were unnecessary. Usually the rider is lacking in fundamental skills. Common physical errors are not looking far enough into a corner so not picking up the gravel soon enough, not being able to brake at the bike’s capabilities, not being able to turn at the bike’s capabilities and over-reacting when hitting the gravel (a one inch slide feels like a mile so people panic). Common mental errors are missing signs of probable gravel (tight corners, earlier history, gravel shoulders or embankments, hills that might have been washed out etc) and riding without regard for suitable error margins.
They look innocent but are worse than gravel…ESPECIALLY IF WET!
Don’t just charge through water like you would in a car. Depending on tires you can hydroplane which will make the bike feel like it’s on ice. If you are unlucky enough to experience this, make no steering inputs and ride straight through.
REMEMBER, WHEN YOU EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED, THE UNEXPECTED IS EXPECTED SO IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!!