Thursday, April 12, 2007

Patience

The weather is finally turning here in central Minnesota. We're into the forties now. Snow is now found only in the shadows. By this weekend I can imagine everyone will be out sightseeing whether by car or bike.

This presents a new issue. As each spring arrives there is a kind of relaxation in the air. Driving habits change. There is a new batch of youngsters who waited out the winter months, their parents having limited the family sedan's use to minimalist levels during the snowy months. Now the snow is gone and the roads appear safer.

Relaxation.

Kids with a new lease on life are travelling to friends' houses, cell phones surgically implanted into the sides of their heads. In years past, a relatively quiet motorcycle still allowed the rider to hear high decibel amplification coming from juggernauts piloted by the young. (I have to admit I was one of those kids with the loud stereos.) Today its different. Can't hear the person on the other end of the signal if the radio is too loud. And they aren't watching the roads any closer than their parents who they most likely emulate.

Don't worry about them noticing you, they won't. Its your job to be aware they're just around the corner. Or right beside you. They may even slide into your lane and then flip you off for being in their way. We've all seen them. We've all wanted to deal with them in less than cordial ways.

The thing to remember is it isn't personal. Their driving "habits" aren't purposely focused on scaring the bejeezus out of motorcycle enthusiasts. They're just notoriously bad drivers and may never change. The best thing we can do is try our best to predict and avoid putting ourselves in harm's way.

I have a few simple rules which have saved my life. They're basic enough that any skill level rider can apply them.

Ride as if you were invisible.

No one can hear or see you. Ever. You're simply not there. Riding in this frame of mind, you will be less apt to roll along in someones blind spot. Intersections won't make you wonder if anyone sees you because any time you feel like you were noticed will feel like a nice surprise. Another important point; if you're waiting for the green at the front of the line and there are two lanes of traffic (same direction), ride in the right lane. The reason is the car in the left will act as a potential blocker for people running the light to cross the intersection. Also, if you can't see through or over the car to your left beside you, don't pass it until its blocked for you across the intersection. Staying beside a car makes you blend with the car but people will see the car meaning you're more safe riding inside its silhouette even when you and the car cross half the intersection.

Two exits besides brakes.

Somehow we train ourselves to think only of the brakes in a dire situation We forget we can accelerate to safety if we need to. Always remember, when it gets bad, the best riders never stop riding until they're out of harm's way. The shoulder is a viable option just as squirting between cars can be, if necessary.

The point is once you stop riding, or stop trying to ride your way out of a bad situation, in most cases you've given up. You're not done with the ride until the bike and more importantly you, stop moving. Take advantages wherever you can. Predict as much as possible. Choosing lane positions which provide more and better options can save our lives.

And keep an eye out for the weaving cell phone users. They win every time. Even when they lose.

Roadbum