Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things That Go Splat On Your Motorcycle Ride

Riding motorcycles means to get hit by bugs and other stuff thrown up by traffic. It's a fact of life. You clean bugs off the windshield of your car and you clean them off the windshield or fairing of your bike, off your visor, off your jacket. It doesn't mean you decide you're not going to ride because you don't want to be hit by stuff in the air, it just means you're going to be spending time on a regular basis making that Suzuki GSX1250FA that you bought shine as nice as when it was new.

Usually it is only bugs. And every now and then a small rock. When one of those things hits you square in the visor you know you made a good choice wearing that helmet. I was going through a construction zone once where they were doing a chip-seal and the truck in front of me tossed a quarter-sized stone right at my face. It glanced harmlessly off my helmet and that was that.

I've seen a lot of other stuff, too, though, and read about some of the things other riders have encountered. My friend Bill has hit a couple birds over the years. One flew in front of him, banged off his mirror, and struck him in the chest before it went its not-so-merry way. The other time, he saw it swoop low in front of his bike and then it just disappeared. Vanished. When we stopped next for gas he took a look and there it was, embedded in the frame of his bike just where the hinge swings out to deploy his kick stand. Suicide by motorcycle, bird style.

Every rider has his own tales of what he has dodged. More than one guy I know tells of riding behind pick-up trucks loaded with stuff, often the household possessions of people who are moving. They may have tied things down but since this is not something they do every day they often misjudge just how much force the wind can apply. You're riding along and all of a sudden a couch cushion or chair or even a mattress is coming your way. If you've been thinking about safety there's a good chance you have expected something like this and already dropped back or moved over. Otherwise it's time for evasive maneuvers, NOW!

Other times you'll come around a blind corner only to find something strange. Maybe, if you're in a national park, it's a bunch of tourist cars stopped in the middle of the road to look at a moose off on the side of the road. Maybe it's a semi that has rolled and spread its cargo all over the highway. Maybe it's a herd of cattle being moved to a new pasture. You never know.

And then there are the times that are totally unpredictable. Once we were riding along on a four-lane highway, me in the lead, and we came up on a semi. Just as I was preparing to pull left to go around him, one of his tires exploded, throwing bits of rubber ranging from tiny bits up to chunks of tread everywhere. They were all around us but fortunately no one got hit by anything big.

Of course, every bit of this kind of thing can happen when you're in a car, too. It's just that on a motorcycle you feel-and you are-a lot more vulnerable. I don't know that car drivers sit around and swap tales of things they've encountered on the road, at least as a regular topic of discussion, but bikers do. It's just a little more personal with us.

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