Outside Edge March 2017

Early season concerns

by George Tranos

Spring is just about here and the new riding season is upon us. If you’re like most, your bike has been safely tucked away in a garage hibernating during the colder months. As winter wanes, the days begin getting warmer and the itch to ride gets stronger. As the first flowers burst through the melting snow, you make preparation for taking your initial ride of the season. Beware of a mistake that can cost you days or weeks of misery!

While the daytime high temperature may exceed sixty degrees, it will still be cold in the morning. If you plan to ride then, take some precautions to both keep you warm and make your trip a safe one. After a long winter’s nap, your motorcycle needs some tender loving care to get going again. Do a thorough pre-ride check before your first outing. Be especially mindful of the tire pressure and condition before venturing out. Colder temperatures will lower your tire pressure. Tires need to warm up thorough to provide good grip. Avoid any sudden acceleration or cornering during the first part of your ride until this happens.

 

Cooler weather also means that your body will try to keep itself warm by shutting off the blood supply to its extremities. Dress warmly, take more breaks to warm up and drink fluids. Hydration is just as important in the wintertime as it is in hotter weather. If you feel your hands or feet getting cold, this may be the beginning of frostbite or the start of hypothermia. With either condition, you will have a harder time with fine movements of your limbs. You may become less coordinated and your mind may have a harder time focusing. Stop and warm up immediately!

Another concern is the surface and condition of the roadways early in the season. There may still be some sand and salt in some areas. Many times, the sand is pushed to the outer edge of the street and you will have to be careful if your tires touch it. Avoid this area and don’t make any sudden movements if you happen to cross it. With the freeze / thaw cycle, there will also be potholes. Give yourself enough room so that you can see the road far enough in front of you so you can take evasive action to avoid them.

Other roadway hazards are bridges and ponding of water on the roadway. During cooler mornings, if the temperature is near freezing, black ice can form in these areas. Try to stay out of the shadows if possible and cross any slick spots with your motorcycle as upright as possible.

Many car drivers are even less aware of motorcyclists early in the season. They have gone many months without seeing any bikes on the road and don’t anticipate them at all. Drive like you’re invisible and assume that drivers do not see you because they probably don’t. Remember, you are most vulnerable at intersections where drivers frequently turn left in front of bikes and violate their right of way. This should be your primary area of concern when riding. Search far in advance to identify that possible left turning driver that will present a hazard to you.

Early season rides are eagerly anticipated. We look forward to that first ride of the year and can be euphoric when it arrives. Don’t let the enjoyment of the moment cloud your judgment or lessen your “rider radar” of the hazards that exist. With appropriate caution, you will relish your initial foray and be ready for many more. The season is just beginning. Warmer weather will be soon upon us and we will be ready. Let’s go meet the nicest people and let the good times roll!

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