In the Groove

It’s me! The princess of biker blogging.

I’ll never forget my first experience with grooved pavement:

A few years ago when I was first learning to ride, I took my little Sporty out for a spin after school one day.  I took some back roads down around and through the reservior and over to Finksburg where I hooked up with a friend who had taken me on my very first ride ever.  After riding around for a bit and stopping at Twin Kiss for a casual dinner, we realized that not only was it the heart of rush hour but it was beginning to get dark.  I had 2 options for getting home:

  1. Go back the way I came — This would take about 40 minutes, I’d be riding with no streetlights or anything to illuminate my way other than my own little headlight, and the deer would be jumping out in front of me in droves as I rode through the woods.
  2. Take the main strip — This would only take about 10 minutes, and would be well lit.  But did I mention the six lanes of 60 mph rush hour traffic?

OMG, I just got up to sixty for the first time an hour ago!  And with all of those lanes and all of that traffic?  I’m thinking hell no!  But my friend convinced me that all of the traffic was coming towards Finksburg and I would have multiple travel lanes the other way practically to myself.  I grudgingly admitted he was right, and off I went.

I was doing fine for about a half a mile, until I saw the signs that said Road Work Ahead and Caution-Grooved Pavement!  AAaaaarrrgh!  Good grief, if I knew about this I would have taken my chances with the deer!!!

After freaking out for a few seconds, I collected myself, moved to the you’re-too-slow-to-make-it-up-this-huge-hill lane, and concentrated on what I remembered reading in my Motorcycle Operator Manual from the DMV:

Riding over rain grooves or bridge gratings may cause a motorcycle to weave.  The uneasy, wandering feeling is generally not dangerous.  Relax, maintain a steady speed, and ride straight across.

My steady speed was about 35 mph (well below the speed limit)…but then again, that’s what that slow lane was built for, wasn’t it?  After less than 5 minutes (which seemed like an hour), I was turning into my neighborhood and I began to breathe once again.

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Over this past summer, DelDOT was quite busy repaving many roads around us.  One day I came to the main intersection a few blocks from home to discover that they had grooved up the pavement for resurfacing.  I travel through this intersection practically every time I leave my house.  It was nice that the big piles of gutter grit and road debrit had been cleaned out of the intersection, but now I was going to have to face grooved pavement again.  🙁

Relax, I told myself.  Keep a light grip on the handlebars, and glide straight across.  It worked fine the first time, and it worked fine again now.  Sure it felt like my bike was doing an involuntary cone weave underneath of me, but supposedly that’s what it should feel like.

It has been about six monthd, and the intersection still has not been repaved.  Riding on the grooved pavement has become routine.  I just can’t wait for spring to come so I can get back out there, and back in the groove….

13 Responses to “In the Groove”

  1. I remember back in the 1980s there were plenty of freeways in SoCal made with grooved concrete. Back then, my 400cc Kawi would track the grooves and made for some hairy riding. I think they’ve finally replaced all that with asphalt or smooth concrete.

  2. I’ve never had a problem with it, but I agree the feeling is hard to take at first. It just takes getting used to and focusing on your fundamentals, as you did. This is kind of like pilots who have to deal with bad air turbulence or wind-shear for the first time. It’s when they actually have to fly the plane using skill and instinct, tempered by training and experience. It doesn’t matter how good you are at something, or how long you’ve been doing it. What counts is how you handle what used to be routine, under conditions that have suddenly become extreme.

    That’s why only so many of us can ride motorcycles, and even fewer of us can fly planes.

  3. The biggest hazard grooved pavement presents to new riders is that it freaks them out. Just remember that the bike’s not wriggling because of a lack of traction. It’s just the tire treads hunting in the grooves.

    Bridge gratings will feel the same way. These, however, can present traction problems. Handle them the same way but make adjustments before you get there as much as possible. If you have to adjust on the gratings, do so gently. Head and eyes up!

    It’s been neat to see your confidence level grow as you conquer new situations.

  4. Great post. Grooves do feel weird. No matter how much you get used to them, even after 23 years of riding, I’d have to say that they still make your bike feel like it’s got a mind of it’s own.

  5. My first experience with grooved pavement was for 8 miles of road construction we failed to avoid. Like Irondad said, when it happens the first time, it kind of freaks you out. I realized pretty quickly, I was going to be fine. Stay the course and ride smartly, you just have to get used to a new “feel”. After you experience this a few more times, you notice the squirlyness is not that scary. (unless it’s raining, UGH!)

  6. I hate grooved pavement on the highway when it’s raining. That freaked me out on our Labor Day weekend trip in Connecticut on Rt 84.

  7. I think I freaked out more from the warning signs than the actual grooved pavement back then. And now since that stupid local intersection is still grooved after so many months, I barely even notice it any more. Of course if it were a longer strip of road (it’s barely 1/10 of a mile) I might be a little more nervous.

    Thanks for the comments everybody!

  8. Yup. My first encounter with the groove was in the 80’s on a GPZ550. I was tight on the grips for the first few weeks.

    My glide doesn’t really have a problem with the groove so I don’t notice them. Now that I understand physics a bit, I don’t really think about it. I know the bike wants to stay upright. Forget about the groove on the road and ride your own…watching out for the real killers…the potholes! (especially around Denver. That places is pothole central in my opinion.)

    good post that I think everyone can relate to.

  9. Oi, to this very day I still hate riding on grooved pavement! And grated bridges too! Very cool post.

  10. Groovy man! 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’m not really excited about grooves either, but I’m like you, sometimes just seeing the signs is enough to freak me out, then once I get going I’m fine.

  11. I’ve been riding for 10 days now and have had to ride on grooved payment for a stretch of 5 miles 4 times. I have a new Yamaha Venture and I get in the far right lane, put my emergency lights on and take my sweet time. I am so tense while on it and it takes a while to loosen up when I get off….I’ll be glad when they get this roadwork done…..

  12. Had my first experience last night. Only the third time on the expressway and isn’t it grooved. I didn’t notice at first but when I did I think I did a death grip on the bars and the wheel felt like it was a snake. After a minute I relaxed and remembered to keep it straight and I was fine. Yahoo. I’m a highway rider.

  13. If some biker was doing 35 in front of me when speed limit is 55 I’d blare the horn at the idiot. Many should stay off the road and motorcycles should not be legal anyway.

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