Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking Steps to Be Safe

Common sense, exposure to others with greater skill and experience, training, practice and enough humility to be honest about our own ability and limitations. That’s all you need to be a safe rider. Simple. Easy. All but that last part.

I don’t have any simple formula for humility or honesty when it comes to riding and safety. I suppose we each come to it in our own way, some quickly, some not so quickly. I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with several people who have steered me in the right direction – for me. Learning to ask questions related to personal skills, habits and beliefs is a good first step. A healthy measure of suspicion of riding truths and beliefs might be a good second one if you can manage it. There are a lot of sacred cows out there. Some are worth keeping but others need slaughtered. (I heard my boss utter those words in a recent meeting.)

So what am I doing kneeling on the road. That has to be safe right? Consider it an editorial illustration stressing the importance of paying close attention, which in this case is a check of the road surface. Whenever the temperature is near the freezing mark or lower I have a personal ritual of walking out in front of the house and checking for ice. Not on my hands and knees but a quick stroll and some twisting of my boots on the pavement to gauge traction. Not a perfect test or necessarily relevant to what’s over the hill but it does get my brain consciously thinking about why may lie ahead. With so many hills and dales and trees overhead conditions can change suddenly and dramatically. After a day of rain and temperatures dipping into the 20s during the night I knew ice might be a possibility. I was pleased to discover that everything must have evaporated during the night and the road surface was dry and illuminated by bright sun under a clear sky.

It’s just one thing I do to try and make my ride safe.

Sometimes I stop by the local training course used by the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program for their Basic and Advanced Rider courses. All the paint and numbers would be a hopeless jumble had I not already been through the courses.

I’m not sure if the piles of Styrofoam panels are a new obstacle on the course or just being stored there temporarily until classes start in the spring. I was able to avoid hitting the pile and spent some time navigating through the course.

I think I may register again for the Advanced Rider Training to polish my skills. I’m never sure what I may have forgotten.


American Scooterist Blog said...

I know what those big styrofoam things are for:
Your state is preparing to make lane splitting legal.

Wouldn't That be nice! ;)


Steve Williams said...

Lane splitting? Isn't that related to head splitting??

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I checked for ice this afternoon and found plenty of it -- in my drink! The only riding I'll be doing for the next 20 days will be through blogs like yours, Key West Diary, Redlegs Rides, and WetCoastRiding.

My bike is down for cosmetic alteration, which will take that much time. Then I too will be on my knees in the driveway,doing homage to the motorcycle Gods.

I no not ride if there is the slightest inkling of snow or ice. Quite frankly, I'm not too happy with gravel either. But spring is only 19 days off and the road is calling me by my first name.

My goal this year is to take more pictures like yours.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Stacy said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one with an ice-checking ritual. Mine is standing out in the road with a sour look on my face as I grind the ball of my booted foot into the pavement like putting out an imaginary cigarette butt.

Joe said...

"Some are worth keeping but others need slaughtered. (I heard my boss utter those words in a recent meeting.)"

I learned in the past two years that it's a western Pennsylvania thing to use expressions like "need slaughtered" rather than "need to be slaughtered" but I didn't realize it extended all the way to the middle of the commonwealth as well. It still hurts my ears, but I'm getting more used to it.

I use the surface of my deck as my measure of prudence when I'm debating whether the ice factor should keep the bike parked. If the small puddles that form on the deck planking are frozen, I keep the scooter at home and grudgingly take the car.

- Joe at Scootin' da Valley

Torch said...

I think going out to the MSF course and practicing is a great ritual, one that I need to do in the near future. My V-Star 1100 Classic is not quite as nimble as those 250cc bikes we rode in the class. I'm sure with a little practice I could get get through it.

Ride on,

irondad said...

You don't fool me with all this "safety" talk. You're really looking for coins to fuel your pastry and tea habit, aren't you?

Steve Williams said...

Jack: I know spring technically is not far off now. I hope warm weather comes with it's arrival.

Looking forward to following your blog and more pictures!

Stacy: You wrote the perfect description -- like grinding a cigarette butt. That's what I do too. It's like you really want to know what's down there on the road.

Joe: There are a lot of odd sayings around. I was just talking to someone from Scranton and learned new ways to pronounce words. I'm hungry. I am gonna make a samich.

Torch: If I was riding a big cruiser bike like the V-Star I would definitely have to do some practicing. I'm ok with the big bikes in straight lines, curves, turns, etc., as long as things are unfolding normally. But I would want to be far more familiar with all that weight if something unexpected appeared on the road.

Steve Williams said...

irondad: It's a curse. I can't ride by anyplace serving that hard to resist chocolate sweetness I find so intoxicating. There have been more than a few times I scrambled for coins to buy a little something...