Goodbye Winter Hello Spring Riding
by Jeff Fox
As old man winter slowly begins to release his icy grip on the Mid Ohio Valley, many area residents are looking forward to outdoor spring activities. One of the most exhilarating ways for some to spend a warm spring afternoon is by touring an area scenic highway on an old faithful iron pony or maybe creating a two-lane rollercoaster in the West Virginia hills.
No matter which riding style one may prefer the exhilaration of the ride needs to be tempered by some common sense motorcycle safety tips. These tips apply to both the beginning rider, the seasoned veteran, and those with whom they share the road.
In the state of West Virginia, motorcyclists are required to complete a motorcycle-training course and maintain the proper driver's license endorsement. The accepted training courses are based upon the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) cirriculum and taught by MSF certified instructors. All riders are also urged to review and update these lessons over time. More information on the MSF course can be found at www.wv-msp.org or by calling (866) 355-9399.
After several months of inactivity, a rider must make sure that their bike is mechanically sound for the riding season. This should include proper inflation of the tires and checking them for signs of wear. All the controls should be properly lubricated and functioning as intended. Make sure that all the lights and signals are working properly and that the battery is properly holding a charge. Verify that all fluids are at their proper levels. Also inspect the chassis, drive train, and suspension for any signs of damage, wear or missing parts.
The rider must also be properly prepared for the upcoming riding season. A rider’s selection of protective gear is often largely based upon personal comfort, but there is no disputing that proper safety equipment can help prevent more serious injuries in the event of an accident. Helmet and eye protection, protective outerwear including long sleeves and pants, boots and gloves are all important pieces for rider safety.
At this point the rider has taken the proper precautions for two variables, which are under his or her direct control. Much of the exhilaration derived from motorcycling is exploring new routes and seeing new places, as well as enjoying old favorites. Whether it is a new stretch of winding road or a scenic route that the rider has enjoyed for many years, riding conditions are constantly changing.
Think invisible and be seen. One of the biggest uncontrollable and ever-changing variables is the other driver. Riders must assume that other motorists, who have grown used to winter roads without motorcyclists, are not going to see a motorcyclist let alone be watching for them. Riders can enhance their visibility by wearing high visibility clothing, being aware of drivers blind spots, maintaining a safe lane position, riding with lights always on, flashing the brake light before an intended stop, and obeying the posted speed limits.
The goal of many great rides is finding a deserted stretch of road and calling it one's own. This scenario allows motorcycling to be stripped to its most basic fundamentals … riding skills and understanding road conditions. For the first ride of the year, it is important that riders reacquaint themselves with the handling characteristics of their bike before blasting down the open road. Cornering and braking are of extra concern, as many a rider have felt that special feeling as they enter a turn at the less than ideal angle and tap their sneaky-touchy brakes to allow their mind to catch up with the motorcycle.
Road conditions may have changed dramatically after a harsh winter. Sand, cinders and other materials used on snowy roads pose a direct threat to riders, especially when they settle in low spots often found in the interior of a turn. Recent heavy spring rains have helped to wash some of the debris off the roads, but caution is still needed.
Possibly the most dangerous aspect of road condition are the numerous potholes, which seem to pop up like dandelions. Generally, potholes fall into two categories: round and longitudinal. The round ones are ever present and growing, and riders may have to serve to miss them, or actually fly over small ones with a little bump. The longitudinal potholes provide more of a threat for riders. Longitudinal potholes generally occur in the road seams, which often times put the defect in the middle of the riders lane. What starts out as a crack, easily becomes capable of swallowing a motorcycle tire. Road crews will soon begin fixing these potholes, but until that time ride alert.
While freedom, excitement and the open road are all legendary reasons to jump on a motorcycle, WVU Parkersburg student Dail Harper offered another good reason to get on his 1995 Harley Softail Custom. “Because of the price of gas, I'm gonna have to put on the helmet and start riding to school,” Harper said.
One thing is for certain, the hills of West Virginia and the surrounding areas are perfect for motorcycling, and being prepared with the proper safety training will only enhance the ride