May Is Motorcycle Awareness Month – Let’s Be Careful Out There!

May 1 2009

As spring begins to break across the country, the days are getting warmer and the rains are washing off our roads. Both are important acts of Mother Nature for those eager to safely pursue their two-wheeled passion in early spring.

Unfortunately, many riders who get their bikes out in the early spring are unaware of the dangers that lurk around every corner, and every straight section of blacktop for that matter. A paramedic I was recently speaking with commented on how many more riders go down this time of year compared to the rest of the riding season.

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, which is geared toward the awareness of motorcycles to car and truck drivers, but why not review three very important factors for the riders as well.

First and foremost, the dregs of winter are left behind on our roadways well after the snow has disappeared. Most of the country’s Works Departments have laid down tons of sand and salt during the winter months and this mess is still visible in the corners and intersections. Some of it may be invisible to the naked eye, but the plume of dust that follows a big rig, even at slow speeds, gives way to the realization that you don’t want to follow too close with an open face helmet for fear of getting sand-blasted.

That same dust is acting like little ball bearings under the most important part of your motorcycle while it interacts with its surrounding area–your tire’s two little contact patches that are about half the size of your palm. This is where we need at least a couple of hard rains to wash the sand off of the road. Without that rain, cornering and braking can, and will, be affected and the result is a loss of traction.

Secondly, the warm days, or should I say the cold days, of spring are also important. Cold rubber and cold pavement are a bad combination when it comes to traction. The warmer the tires, the more traction they afford. Temperature plays a major role on those two little contact patches and therefore a very important factor in both braking and cornering.

Because both of the above factors can have a detrimental effect on your well-being, take corners smoothly and don’t follow too closely. Be gentle on your tires.

The third and last factor is the same one that is aimed at the car and truck drivers, and since most of us motorcyclists in Canada have also been stuck in a cage for the last few months, this goes for you as well.

Watch out for motorcycles! It doesn’t take long for drivers to forget that motorcycles are once again sharing our roads. Drivers of the four-wheeled kind haven’t had to look for us for a while, and in some cases we are small and sneaky. Please remind your family and friends to pay attention and take that second look. Motorcycles are everywhere!

Because of the time of year, we have a couple of timely safety related articles in this issue. While Clinton usually has a humorous story with some kind of moral ending, he couldn’t mask this one in an amusing way. Diane’s Story is a serious one, but it is one we can all learn from. They say mistakes are the best teacher and I wholeheartedly agree with that, but there is nothing wrong in learning from other’s mistakes.

Seth Schlifer also had a bad experience with a car and he has sent in his account of the incident and how to avoid it the next time. Nighttime riding and car drivers turning left can be two of our worst enemies. Through his knowledge, you can help make yourself a safer and more visible entity on the road, making it easier to stay on two wheels and not become a hood ornament.

There is also the possibility that you have been dormant for the winter and your riding skills are a bit rusty. There are some simple ways to combat that.

Think about taking a refresher course at your local college or rider training centre in your area.

Go to an empty parking lot and get reacquainted with your bike, its weight, how it handles, the feel of the brakes and how hard you should apply them. Try to avoid that imaginary soccer mom in the minivan that just pulled out in front of you with some emergency braking and swerving manoeuvres.

If you are out riding with others, don’t out-ride your abilities by trying to keep up to faster riders. Just ride at your own pace, they’ll wait for you at the next corner.

The bottom line is to pay attention and most of the time common sense will prevail. Enjoy your summer riding season and let’s be careful out there! MMM

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