Many of us want to get out on our bikes as soon as conditions permit in the spring. There’s something special about that first ride of the year! Let’s all make sure that we stay safe.
It’s always important to follow sound safety rules when riding a motorcycle, but potential dangers are amplified in the spring. It can take some time before drivers become accustomed to seeing motorcycles again after the winter. The spring also brings a few extra road hazards with it. Here are a few tips and reminders for those first rides of the year:
First, be sure to check your bike over. It’s a good idea to complete a comprehensive checklist after you bike has been idle all winter. You want to be sure you at least check the fundamentals such as tire condition and pressure, and ensure your lights are all working.
Increase your visibility to other drivers:
• Wear brighter colours if possible. Consider wearing your rain jacket over your regular jacket if it’s the brightest jacket you have. Also consider getting an orange vest.
• Ride with your spotlights on if you have them.
• When stopped in traffic, if you don’t have a flashing brake light, watch your rear view and tap your brake a few times to make your brake light blink when a vehicle comes up from behind. A flashing light is an attention-getter.
Also, when stopped in traffic, stop in a position where you have an escape path. Don’t stop so close to the car ahead that you can’t make an evasive maneuver if the car coming behind you looks like it won’t stop in time.
Take extra care when cars are poised to pull out in front of you or cut across your path. Slow down and pay attention. Don’t be reluctant to sound your horn a couple of times as you approach an intersection if you are uncertain about another driver’s intentions. Whenever possible, try and make eye contact with the other driver. The same holds true when encountering pedestrians who may step of in front of you.
Spring brings with it road hazards in greater abundance than other times of the year. Keep a constant eye out for them and allow plenty of space between you and the car ahead to give you more reaction time. In particular, watch for:
• Loose gravel. There can be lots of it before the streets get cleaned up.
• Other road debris. Plenty of things end up in those roadside snow banks (hubcaps, broken tree branches, etc.) over the winter and some make their way onto the roads when the snows melt.
• Potholes and cracks in the road. Some winters are harder on the roads than others. Try and avoid these hazards but if you can’t do so safely then don’t try. Slow down at least in those circumstances.
• Pools of water and slick roads. The melting snow sometimes causes unexpected slick roads or pools of water to develop, and some of these puddles can be large and deep. You don’t know what kind of hazard may be hidden within. Slow down and proceed cautiously. It’s also a good idea to wear your waterproof boots or gators when riding in the spring.
• Generally speaking, expect the unexpected!
Dress warmly. Wear or carry your heated gear if you have it. Temperatures can cool down quickly this time of year. When you are cold your response time can be expected to decrease.
Watch the weather. Rain can be particularly cold this time of year and it’s been a while since we rode on two wheels on slippery roads. Bring your rain gear. Stay dry, warm and alert.
Consider keeping those early spring rides closer to home so you can return home more easily if conditions deteriorate.
Your skills may become rusty over the winter so slow down…and have an enjoyable safe ride!
HOG Safety Officer
– Jeff P