Riding in a High Wind

Nothing new here! If your upper body is relaxed and your arms are bend and loose, the blasting wind will not be able to transfer movement via your arms to the handlebars. Allow your lower body to grip and lean the bike slightly into the wind while your upper body moves about in a fluid-like motion as the wind buffets you this way and that.

While the throttle is open it keeps the bike punching through the air. If however you are hit by a blast of air your natural reaction is to snap the throttle off . . . don’t do it! React by gripping the bike even harder with your inner thighs and relaxing your upper body. Perhaps even feather the throttle closed slightly but do not shut it off. If you do, the wind will push you across the road. It is like a rugby scrum – the wind is pushing you, the open throttle is pushing back. If you stop pushing, the wind will get its way.

Also pay careful attention to the trees, grass etc at the side of the road. If they are waving about wildly but you cannot feel the blast, then this is a signal to grip the bike tightly with your inner thighs and relax your upper body in anticipation.

In a wild wind ensure that you ride in the middle of your lane. This give you real estate to work with as your line will naturally wander from side to side as the wind increases and decreases. Be aware that you have your limitations and know when to throw in the towel, pull to the side of the road and wait for the wind storm to pass.

Riding in the Wet

“For me the wet road surface is less of an issue than the fact than I cannot see a damn thing in a downpour!!

My visor mists up inside and the raindrops on the outside flare the lights of the oncoming cars.”

Enter the household aerosol anti static cleaner called ‘Mr Min’ (available in Europe as well). Treating your visor with this product once a month retards misting and ‘fills’ the tiny scratches on the outside of your visor that causes flare. NB Do not spray it directly onto the helmet as the propellant (usually butane) causes severe damage over time to parts of the inner lining and visor. Instead stand away from the helmet and spray it onto a clean dry cloth and then apply.

The most dangerous time during a rainstorm is the first ten minutes, particularly if you live in a country like South African where rain is not part of our popular culture. This allows a layer of brake fluid, oil, dust, diesel and other crud to build up on the road. When it starts to rain this mixes with the water and forms a deadly mixture just waiting for the unsuspecting biker or motorist. The good news is that after a good few minutes of hard rain this wicked cocktail ends up in the gutters leaving the road surface rather more grippy than you may imagine.

I enjoy riding in the rain as long as I have the right riding gear. For the most part I arrive at my destination dry and in high spirits.

Their are five guidelines when riding in the rain.

1) You are most likely to dump your bike on the tarmac when braking. Many bikers loose their fear of riding close the vehicles as they get more experienced. During a rainstorm the driver brakes a bit harder than usual – you snap the front brake and down you go!

Check yourself. If you ride a certain road at 80km in the dry, should you not slow down in the wet? Reduce your speed by 20%. You do not have enough traction to brake hard.

Ride behind one of the vehicles brake lights (not in the middle behind his number plate). If the car should stop suddenly you can slip your bike past him and therefore earn a few more meters to stop your motorcycle.

Brake with your rear brake first and then progressively pile on the pressure on the front brake. If the rear wheel should lock up, LOOK UP, LOOK AHEAD, GO STRAIGHT. Yes, the bike will fish-tail around but it should remain controllable and upright.

2) Keep your bike more upright when cornering. This is not the time to countersteer and knee scrape.

3) Keeping your tyres on good surface. Avoid puddles and places where the tar has risen to the surface and covered the embedded pebbles forming a shiny-smooth surface. Never ride on the painted surface of a road (even in the dry – make this a riding habit!) . Avoid manhole covers and large steel plates near roadwork. Go very slowly when turning through intersections as there is more oil here due to slow moving traffic than anywhere else. Lean forward and keep lots of weight over that front wheel.

4) Only stress your tyre traction moderately and then only in one direction at a time e.g.

  • Brake in a straight line and then turn,
  • Complete the sweeping bend and then pile on the power.
  • Release the clutch fully and then lean the motorbike over into the turn (especially true for single and twin cylinder motorcycles).
  • Apply the rear brake first (and more than usual) and then brake progressively on the front.

5) If you are going to ride in the wet for an hour or more, decrease your tyre pressure by 25%. A wet road is a slippery surface – fact! But! A tyre grips the road surface because the rubber ‘flows’ into the dimples of the road surface. A slightly deflated tyre warms up more, is more flexible and is therefore able to fill these dimples more easily. (click here for more . . . )

6) Do not ride through puddles where nails and other sharp objects can accumulate. A wet nail penetrates a tyre more easily than a dry one!!

7) Know your limitations. When the rain, hail, lightening etc becomes a danger, pull off and wait for it to pass. Ted Simon on his round the world trip took an umbrella with him. That way he could stop and keep the rain off his bike as well!

Leading a Group Ride Safely

Leading a ride of five other bikes is not easy and should only be undertaken when you are an experience rider. Here are some guide lines . . . and Yes, just one other motorbike and the points below apply, although to a lesser extent

  1. Know your route.  The bigger the group, the more critical this becomes. This includes distances between petrol stations, places to eat, turn offs, intersections, road signs, road works etc
  2. Start the ride outside the town’s limits i.e. no robots! A petrol station with an ATM and a fast food outlet is an excellent venue to meet.
  3. The group joining the ride must be fully informed of the route, distances, duration, type of roads, petrol stops and restaurant stops. Ascertain that everybody is in agreement with the planned ride.
  4. The most important element of leading a ride pertains to the first three minutes after you pull away and the last three before you pull off the road. This period must be done smoothly and slowly to avoid a ‘concertina-type ripple-action’ running down to line of bikes.
  5. Only pull away when everybody in the group is kitted up, pillion passengers are seated and bikes running. Find a big gap in the traffic and smoothly pull away. Remain under 80kph until everybody has their positions. Slowly and smoothly gas it until you reach cruising speed. You have to think like a train driver with a string of clumsy and unresponsive carriages.
  6. Minutes before you approach a rest or gas stop, begin to ease off the gas. Do not pass any other vehicles. If there is a vehicle in front of you, tuck in behind it. Allow the gaps between the riders to compact. Slow down a little more. The riders begin to catch-on that a stop is imminent. Indicate your intention to turn off early but by this time our flashing indicator light should be a mere formality.
  7. Never do anything quickly, unexpectantly or that is unpredictable. The riders do not share one brain and communication ripples down very slowely as each rider catches on that something is about to happen. Example.If you miss a turn off, indicate that you are pulling off, ease off the gas and begin to look for a long, clear space where everybody can safely pull off and turn around with ample view of the road in both directions.
  8. There are hand signals that are used by biking clubs which can make communication more instant
  9. You have to collect all your riders together after you clear the limits of a small town because some may have been delayed. Therefore you have to travel slowly until the group is compacted again before beginning to gas it for cruising speed once more.
  10. As the leader, passing a slow moving vehicle is very different because you have to continue to gas it for at least three hundred meters beyond the vehicle. This allows enough space for all the other bikers to use once they clear the vehicle themselves.
  11. Many groups use the system of ‘keep up with the rider in front of you’. This is potentially fatal as the entire ride is dictated by the fastest and most talented motorcyclist. A better system is ‘keep the rider behind you in your rear view mirror’. This way the entire convoy of motorcycles keeps together at a speed dictated by riders of average ability. Should a motorcycle break down, the group with quickly know that something is amiss.
  12. If you have any ‘wonnabe Rossis’ in your group tell them to ride ahead . . . on their own. Your intimate knowledge of the route will allow you to agree on a common meeting place up ahead.

Riding in a Group Safely

A ride always has a leader / point / captain. In bigger or more organised rides there is also someone appointed to ride last in the group

Before the ride:

There are a few things that you must know and do before joining a group ride.

The most important thing is to contact the ride captain and ask him/her the maximum speed the ride is going to be to ensure that you will be riding within your capabilities. Also ensure that your bike is more or less equal in performance to the majority of the other bikes going along.

Ascertain the distance of the ride, the type of roads you will be travelling and the type of restaurants you may stop off at. This will also ensure that you take sufficient money with you.

There could be a thousand reasons why you may get separated from the group. This could be a problem if you do not know the area and therefore take a road map along with you.

Arrive at the rendezvous point with a full tank of petrol, oil and tyres checked (or simply meet at a petrol station)

Introduce yourself to the captain and find out where and when he intends stopping for fuel along the route. This is important if your bike has a smaller tank which is information he needs to know.

During the ride:

Do not fiddle with your helmet, gloves, mirrors etc until the group is moving smoothly through straight unobstructed roadside. Accidents happen during the first few minutes before all the riders have settled.

Make sure that you are no further than three bikes from the front of the group. If the captain himself is inexperienced there could be a lot of ‘concertina-type’ action at the end of the group which you do not want to be part of.

In a country that rides on the left hand side of the road the group should ride in the following formation in towns and when travelling under 100kph. This keeps the group together but maintains safe following distances. The captain (point) naturally rides up front while the last biker probably has special duties that vary from ride to ride, club to club.

 

Over 100kph and on twisty roads the formation must become a straight line with one bike directly behind the other with the usual 2 sec following distance.
A lot of accidents occur at robots when one rider stops suddenly while the rider behind him wants to go through the intersection. Ask the ride captain what the robot policy for the ride is

If the rider in front of you pulls off, do not follow suit. Stick with the captain and allow the more experienced riders to follow the predetermined procedures (if any)

Watch your following distance especially at intersections. Do not go through an intersection until you are sure that the rider in front of you is not going to stop. If you have a crazy rider behind you consider going through the (almost) red robot rather than have him slam into the back of you when you try to stop.
Accelerate through and beyond a slow moving vehicle (or red robot) – do not ease off the gas once through as the guy behind you may still be gassing it and needs the space your speed is creating.

If the ride becomes more stressful than fun, gracefully drop out. These are your bones that are at stake!