Life Saver or Head Check

Before changing lanes do a head check. Using your mirrors is a must but just before executing a lane change turn your head to make sure no one is in your blind spot. This one technique can save your life. That is why it is sometimes called a life saver. Whatever you decide to call it, make sure to do it.

Crash… and Walk Away With a Bruised Ego

Dress for the crash. That means you should always wear a DOT helmet, protective jacket, good pants, gloves and sturdy boots.

A friend who wishes to remain anonymous recently went down. One moment he looked away and next thing you know the car in front of him stopped short. My friend laid the bike down and slid across the pavement… bike slid too and came to rest under the car. Thanks to my friend’s helmet and leather jacket the worst bruise was to the ego. He got up and spent the rest of the weekend riding his scuffed motorcycle. As far as crashes go, this is a happy ending!

Keep a safe following distance, practice your emergency swerving and braking, wear your protective gear.

Come to a Complete Stop

This week on Tuesday’s Tip: The benefits of coming to a complete stop at Stop signs.

This is specifically a tip for Road Captains leading medium to large groups. I am not instructing you to come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign, I am merely pointing out some of the advantages of doing so.

Coming to a complete stop and waiting for everyone to catch up and put their feet down is a good Road Captain habit. If you roll through intersections the tail end of the pack may have to run stop signs in an unsafe manner or stop and then exceed a safe speed in order to catch up with the pack. The tail may always be playing catch up like a slinky. By stopping and waiting for everyone to come to a complete rest you keep everyone together and can check to make sure you have the whole group. It also puts everyone at ease; no one will feel rushed. I think the best benefit is that everyone expects the bike in front of them to stop. When you have a group where most of the riders roll through the stop signs you have a dangerous situation because eventually someone is going to come to a complete stop and the guy behind him isn’t going to expect it. You may have a collision or a close call.

On Ramps and the Dummy Lane

Last week on Tuesday’s Tip we talked about the safety hazzards of approaching an off ramp on the highway. This week we follow up with the dreaded on ramp hazzard.

Lane selection is a key element in safe motorcycling; especially on the highway. The middle lane offers the most escape options but often times you are going to find yourself on a two lane expressway. When traveling the two lane expressway you have to choose between the hammer lane and the merge lane. In the hammer lane some jerk is going to come up on you like there is no tomorrow. Technically the left lane is for passing only and you shouldn’t be cruising in it. It feels uncomfortable for some people to travel in this lane. In the slow lane, or the merge lane, you have people getting on and off the highway. One of our most experienced Road Captains calls this the “Dummy Lane” due to the hazzard of merging traffic. You have to decide for yourself which is the worse of two evils.

It’s quite obvious a vehicle could come charging down the on ramp and merge at the least opportune time. I hope you are all checking the on ramp as you pass to make sure no one is coming. Better yet I hope you aren’t in the right hand lane when passing the on ramp (assuming the on ramps are on the right).

When leading a large group lane selection becomes even more important as multiple lives are at stake. The larger the group, the longer it takes to clear the off and on ramps. No one may be coming down the on ramp as the lead riders in the group are passing, but by the time the end of your pack is passing… a car may have entered the ramp. The left lane may be the better place to be if there are only two lanes. If you are leading a group in the slow lane and you see a car merging you have four options:

  1. Slow down so the car enters in front of you.
  2. Speed up so the whole pack can clear the car before it merges.
  3. Change lanes to avoid the car.
  4. If options one through three are not available, then pray that your group is versatile enough to create space for the car to slide in.

I have seen some nice folks in cars ride up the shoulder of the road rather than break up the pack. I have also pulled out of formation to shift to the left lane and then pulled back into the pack after clearing a car trying to merge. It is times like these when communication devices like CB radio really help out in managing a group ride.

Dan, aka Irondad, brought up the overpass issue last week. Due to going under an overpass or some other obstruction such as tree’s you will not have a clear view of the on ramp. In these cases I often times change over to the middle or hammer lane knowing that there is an on ramp that I can not see. After passing the on ramp and checking to see if the right lane is clear I return to the right lane if that is where I was. I have done this riding with two bikes and riding with twenty bikes. It’s the safe thing to do. You don’t know what could be coming down that on ramp.

Be Extra Vigilant at Exit Ramps

This week on Tuesdays Tips: Be extra careful when approaching and passing an exit ramp on the highway.

This tip falls under the philosophies that “everyone is trying to kill you” and “ride like you are invisible”.

1) If a car is in the exit only lane or the beginning of an off ramp do not drop your guard. Assume he will change his mind and veer back into your lane. Do not ride parallel to a car that appears to be exiting. Either pass the car or leave room for him to get back in front of you. Better yet; move over one lane leaving a big cushion of space between you and the potential lane changer.

2) Assume the cars that appear to be passing the exit are going to change their mind at the last minute. Assume they are going to cut across to the exit ramp. They could be four lanes over in the hammer lane doing eighty and all of a sudden decide they want to catch this exit. Do not ride parallel to any cars if you are near an exit ramp. Leave room for them to cut across in front of you or pass them.

On the highway this is the closest thing to an intersection and we all know intersections are death traps for us bikers. Also, not all car owners have chosen to compare car insurance, thus leading to further complications in case of an accident.

Watch those wheels!

This week on Tuesday’s Tip: “Watch those wheels!”

I believe that I read this tip either on Dave’s blog or in one of his comments. For those of you who don’t know Dave, he is the biker blogger at the Road Gritz Cafe in California. 

If you a see a car or truck on a side street or driveway that could potentially pull out in front of you, keep your eyes on the front wheels. If you see the front wheels start to roll then you know the car’s on the move and could potentially pull out in front of you.

I don’t understand why so many bikers who have had a car pull out in front of them claim to have made eye contact with the driver and are in shock that the driver pulled out. I hardly see the drivers face because I’m watching those wheels as if my life depends on it. Maybe once you make eye contact with the dreaded cager, he holds you in a trance as he trys to kill you… it’s that old vampire trick!

I call those cars poking their nose out in traffic “nosers”. Gotta watch the front wheels on those nasty nosers.