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As you ride, the road changes, and so the road conditions change. Examples include jolts, slips, ruts, ice and gravel.
Jolts are pot-holes or bumps in the road that jolt the bike. A jolt can come from hitting a large object, like an animal lying in the road. The problem with jolts is the bike can be twisted and fall, or you can be thrown off the bike. If you see a jolt coming, first slow down and try to avoid it. If you cant, then hit it straight on. This avoids the twist and fall problem. Its usually better to hit a jolt straight on. Just before you hit, raise yourself slightly with your legs to absorb the shock. Your legs act as suspension struts when you hit the jolt, and your legs absorb some of the shock. Use the bendable iron arm to absorb forward shock from the handlebars. If a jolt lifts you off the seat a bit, don’t panic. The law of gravity will return you to the bike, as long as it is straight.
If you are cornering and meet a jolt, the first thing to do is to slow down and straighten up, then it is as above.
If your front tire hits a rut, it will tend to follow the rut
Ruts are ridges or channels in the road that take control of the bike, and move it in the direction of the rut. A rut could be a split it the road, caused by rain, or it could be tramlines. On unpaved roads ruts were common, caused by weather and wheels. On modern roads they are not common, except they can occur when lanes on highways are laid down separately, and split apart over time. If your front tire gets in a rut, it will tend to follow the rut, and often there is not much you can do about it. The response is to follow the rut until you regain control. Either the rut disappears, or you pull out of it. Dont try to fight it.
The way to cross a rut is to maximize the angle across it
If you are turning a corner and hit a rut it can be disastrous. If the rut sends the wheels one way, and your forward motion sends the bike another, it can flip to the ground. If you see a rut on a turn, slow and stop the turn immediately. If you are riding where there are ruts, be aware of how dangerous they are. The way to cross a rut is to maximize the angle across it. So if there is rut between two lanes on a highway, and you want to change lanes, turn into the other lane at a greater angle than you normally would.
You feel the grill ridges controlling your tires in the direction of the grill
Grills are a form of minor rut. They can occur on bridges, where the engineers put down steel ridges instead of asphalt, for service reasons. In this case, as you cross the bridge you feel the grill ridges controlling your tires in the direction of the grill. Slow down, and try to drive straight in the direction of the grill. Don’t try to fight it. If you point the bike in the same direction as the grill, you will feel some wobble, but not much. It is disconcerting, but not dangerous. Another type of grill is a cattle grill that stops cows from walking over it. In this case you cross the grille at right angles to it, so it is just a bumpety-bump. There is nothing to worry about riding across a cattle grille - it will just bump the bike up and down a bit, thats all.
Slips are parts of the road that have less friction. They include oil, ice and white lines. If you are riding straight ahead at a constant speed, a slip is not a problem, as you just slide on over it. However if you are turning, stopping or accelerating, slips are a problem. If a turning bike hits a wet manhole cover, it may slip. If the slip is brief, the bike will recover and finish the turn. But if you are pushing the envelope, or overreact to the slip, you can fall. Manholes are small enough not to usually bother riders. Much worse are the large metal panels sometimes used to cover road repair holes. If you hit one of those on a turn, then Houston has a problem. Like all things, if you see it coming, it isnt a problem at all. You can take the turn slower, or straighten up over the slip. The main thing is to see the plate coming and avoid turning on it.
At stop signs or traffic lights, there is often an oil slick front and centre
Oil patches are just another type of slip. They are harder to see, so you have to know where they are likely to be. Oil comes from cars leaking it. So it is especially iin the middle of the road, and especially where cars often wait. For example at toll booths, keep to the side, and the centre can be an oil slick so slippery you could not even stand there. Likewise at stop signs or traffic lights, there is often an oil slick front and centre. This position is not where you want to accelerate off from.
You have to go straight across a slip
The solution to every case of turning on a slippery surface is to straighten the bike over the slip point. You have to go straight across a slip. If anyone has a better solution, let me know. After the slip, you can turn again. If you feel a slip rather than see it, the response is the same – straighten up immediately. Of course since you are usually turning for a reason, after straightening you have to brake or turn again. Such is life. Bringing the bike upright in a slip usually restores stability, and then you have other choices. If you dont, well maybe you shouldnt be going so fast.
White lines, or any kind of road marking, are a special case of road slip. When you ride over road markings, especially in the rain, your friction is much less. If you apply the brakes, you may slip. In general keep your bike off road markings for this reason. Definitely don’t brake heavily while on the white lane direction arrows. If overtaking, keep off the lines separating the lanes. If stopped, keep your back tire off the stop line. This advice applies double in the wet. If your back tire is on a white line at a traffic light, and you accelerate off when the light turns green, there is a good chance you will skid. Every time the bike is on a painted road marking, you are in “slip alley”.
If there is ice on the road, I take the train
When travelling over ice, you have no control at all. You had better believe it. Ice is “the perfect slip”. The effect of ice is no friction. This means you cannot turn, accelerate or stop. So if you hit ice, try to keep straight and steady. My advice regarding ice is DON’T RIDE. I ride in snow, rain, wind and storm, but in ice, I stay home. Clear day with snow on the ground - no problem! Pouring rain - no problem! Thunder and lightening - I have rubber wheels. But if there is ice on the road, I take the train.
Even though I dont ride on ice, I have sometimes ridden on icy roads. Usually there was salt on the roads, so the ice was patchy, or I set off when it was fine, but later it was not. What I know is to stick to the most used lane on the highway, as the cars using it melt the ice. Where they salt the roads, take the main roads and avoid side roads that are salted less frequently. Take the most traveled route , then remember not to go out on ice again.
Gravel is anace that moves if pressured in any way
Gravel and dirt are not really slips, but they behave the same. Gravel is an unstable surface that moves if pressured in any way. If you try to turn in gravel the front wheel will slip away and the bike will go down. Hence the same principle applies as with slips, keep straight until you can slow down. Some people can handle gravel, but most of us avoid it. This means knowing where it is. Most gravel sits on the side of the road. If you pull off a highway for any reason, beware of gravel, and keep straight and stop slowly. Sometimes gravel appears where you might not expect it. Car tires push gravel from the main traffic flows, so it can build up at the points between the flows. So there can be gravel right in the center of an intersection, if that is where most cars dont go. Watch out for these "gravel accumulation points".
The only thing I know to do is to duck
Debris can sit on the road or fly through the air. It usually falls off the back of a truck. Then cars ride over it until it disappears. If you see debris in the road there is not a lot you can do except prepare for a jolt, i.e. keep straight and let your legs absorb the jolt. But what if it flies through the air? The only thing I know to do is to duck, or drop your head forward. If something iscoming your way, this presents a smaller profile. It also hits your helmet top rather than your face.
|© Brian Whitworth, 2004, 2005|