Spring Back on the Bike
By Richard Flynn, Road Captain
Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping and the roars of motorcycles make the noises of the new season. But don’t forget that there are dangers with the approach of motorcycle season. Proper preparedness for the bike and gear, your skills may be a little rusty even if you have been riding forever, four wheeled motorists forget to look for their two wheeled counter parts, snow may be still melting; or falling and re-melting as weather is forever changing, animals awaken from their winter slumbers, and the start of the dreaded road construction season.
Just as you have had a winter vacation from all things warmer (unless you took a trip somewhere other than Illinois), your motorcycle has also taken a vacation from being used. A safety checklist will help you get your bike back into riding condition. All about Bikes recommends checking tire tread and pressure, all fluid levels, all lights for function and illumination, controls to ensure no leaks or rusts, the throttle and clutch, brakes, horn, mirrors, and your personal gear. Just because the weather is nice, it does not mean you yourself should ride unprotected. Inspect your helmet, jackets, gloves, and chaps for any damage and for all proper safety features.
According to Senior Airman Tong Duong of the 17th Training Wing Public Affairs claim that studies show it requires 2,500 individual skills to operate a motorcycle. Taking a season off, as we are forced to in our part of the country may require you to brush up on your own basic riding skills. Taking a class may help you brush up those rusty gear shifters!
Curtis Carper a Yahoo Contributor Network says “The dreaded four wheeler, people driving cars have forgotten all about motorcycles over the past few months.” During the winter months, there are little, if any motorcycles on the road. It is hard enough for motorists to see the smaller bikes. Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that when following a car it is best to choose the portion of the lane that would make you most visible in the rearview mirror.
Even though we may feel that spring has sprung, Mother Nature may have another plan in store for us. As we have seen lately, the weather changes from warmer to snow to cool rain, to warmer again. However, the Farmers Almanac temperatures from April through June plan to increase to an average of 57*F to 73*F. Hopefully the weather gods will cooperate with great riding weather from here on out!
As we have awakened out of our peaceful comatose winter, so have the wildlife and with that comes more road hazards. Now that the animals have woken from their winter slumber, they are more likely to cross into traffic and become a hazard as well as a hazard to us bikers. Although squirrels and rabbits pose a slight threat to bikers, Motorcycle Assistant recommends that if given the choice between hitting a small animal or swerving into a larger hazard, chose the animal and steer straight. The biggest difference is when a motorcyclist is faced with a larger animal such as a deer. These animals tend to be unpredictable and it is most likely best to swerve. DMV suggests that if you find that an animal like a dog is chasing your bike, it is best to slow down as you approach the dog and speed up as you pass.
The worst part of new spring riding has to be the road conditions. From months of salt and sand, there tends to be a bigger buildup of debris and gravel on the roads, in turns and intersections, as well as uneven road conditions, potholes and the dreaded road construction. The center of the lane tends to have a buildup of oil and car fluids, which could cause some slippery conditions. Yet, the sides of the road and the center of the road collect debris, trash, sand and gravel. With the road being scrapped down with plows and such, the road gets uneven, cracked and creates potholes. Motorcyclecompensation.com claims that potholes are a nuisance to the four wheeled drivers, yet can be deadly for bikers not because of the fall, but because other motorists not stopping in time. Due to the potholes, road construction crews will be out and about repairing the road for spring, summer, and fall months. This creates a great attraction for more accidents to happen.
It goes to show that no matter what the season or conditions, we as motorcycle enthusiasts and riders need to stay on top of our game and keep vigil of all the dangers that are around us. The start of the season is upon us and we need to awaken our senses back up before and during all of our riding in every type of weather and condition. It is up to the motorcycle rider to be aware of our surroundings and not just of the motorists around us. It is possible to avoid dangers and accidents if we stay aware. Go out, have fun, and be safe!