Safe Riding

Spring Riding: Preparing the Bike and Rider

Written by  February 29, 2004

Many of us are familiar with the rhyme “April showers bring May flowers.” The rhyme originated in the northeastern United States and reflects more accurately their weather pattern. Here in the Midwest, ours showers begin in March, along with strong west coast and southern prevailing jet streams pushing back the northern cold fronts. This environmental combination ignites our natural urges to fire up our rides and roar down the road, showing off new bikes or new parts, chrome and paint we’ve added to our rides over the cold winter months. To help ward off any serious problems, you need to begin preparing yourself and your bike for the upcoming riding season.

In last month’s column I wrote about why you should sign up for a riders training course. Now is the time to take the class you signed up for, which will help you get your skills back quickly or improve them. If you’re a new rider, take the basic course!

To get your bike ready for your first outing, review the last paragraph of my January Tech Tips article on how to prepare your bike for winter, “Motorcycle Winterization and Storage.” If you scroll down to the bottom of the article, you will find the section on how to de-winterize your bike. Taking the bike out of storage and properly preparing it is a must for all riders; no exceptions!

Our spring riding season is arriving a bit early this year. It's amazing how quickly many of us forget our spring defensive riding skills. Some things you want to consider are:

Always approach every intersection cautiously.
See and be seen. If you can't see, you probably can't be seen.
If your headlights don’t come on automatically, turn them on. It's the smart thing to do, which is especially helpful if you ride a gray- or silver-colored bike, which are even harder to see in fog and rain.
If you wait out a cloudburst or other bad weather, use a rest stop, parking lot or other protected area. If you can't do that, pull over as far right as possible and keep your headlights and emergency flashers on and step away from the bike. Drivers have a tendency to gawk at anything pulled off the road and can inadvertently turn their steering wheel in that same direction.

Always pay attention to the road conditions. Roadways may appear clear, but in those early morning cool spots, light ice or wet slick spots may still be lurking. Rain can turn pavement slippery, especially at its onset. Fog patches and heavy showers can hide stopped vehicles and road hazards ahead. Watch out for mud, sand, gravel, trash, toys and tree branches which are forced onto the roadways by heavy rains and strong winds. Also, spring brings out the worst in roadway potholes and uneven pavement, which in turn, brings out the road construction crews and the millions of orange cones rolling in the street.

When riding at highway speeds, allow at least a six to eight second interval between you and the vehicle in front of you in clear weather, more if it turns rainy or foggy. Start counting seconds when the car in front of you passes a fixed landmark on the road. You're too close if you reach the landmark in less than a five-count. When riding in a group, make sure your road captain tells everyone the formation style, distance between bikes and travel speeds. You may be comfortable riding close to another rider, but the other person might not be.

Higher speeds and standing water of any depth on the road can lead to hydroplaning. That is, your tires literally rise off the road and ride like skates on ice. Your best defense is to slow down and avoid the problem. Your only defense after it’s too late is to regain control by easing off the throttle and leave the brake alone!

By following these spring riding tips, you will start off the new riding season well prepared with a higher confidence in your bike’s readiness and your safe riding skills enhanced.


Ride Free