The following section offers some additional information on special riding situations you may encounter when riding a motorcycle.
A road surface that is higher in the middle than at the sides is a crowned road. Use caution and slow down when cornering on crowned roads because ground clearance is reduced and the lean angle available is less than on a flat road.
Work zones present a hazard to all drivers but even more so for motorcycle riders. Lacking four-wheel stability, the motorcycle rider must reduce speed and be especially mindful of potential hazards.
The following are types of work zone road hazards and what to do if you encounter them:
- Sand or Gravel on Pavement – Slow down, don’t make sudden turns, and brake lightly in a straight line if you need to slow more. If you encounter long stretches of sand or gravel, downshift and keep your speed steady.
- Scored or Grooved Pavement – Keep your head and eyes up. Go slow, don’t fight the handlebars. Keep a steady throttle.
- Oil or Fresh Tar – Avoid if possible. Go slow and avoid sudden moves.
- Rippled and Uneven Temporary Pavement – Scan the pavement and pick the smoothest line. Cross slowly and carefully. Be aware of raised edges between lanes that have been repaved and those awaiting to be paved– crossing a raised edge at high speeds and a narrow angle could cause you to lose control.
- Objects in the Road – Scan well ahead. Go around object if possible. Increase your following distance to allow maneuvering room.
You will seldom hear a tire go flat. You can usually tell from the way the motorcycle reacts. If the motorcycle starts handling differently, it may be a tire failure. This can be dangerous. If one of your tires suddenly loses air, respond quickly to keep your balance. Pull off and check the tires.
If the front tire goes flat, the steering will feel “heavy.” A front-wheel flat is particularly hazardous because it affects your steering. You have to steer well to keep your balance.
If the rear tire goes flat, the back of the motorcycle may jerk or sway from side to side.
If either tire goes flat while riding:
- Hold handgrips firmly, ease off the throttle and keep a straight course.
- If braking is required, gradually apply the brake of the tire that isn’t flat.
- When the motorcycle slows, edge to the side of the road, squeeze the clutch and stop.
Twist the throttle back and forth several times. If the throttle cable is stuck, this may free it. If the throttle stays stuck, immediately use the engine cut-off switch and pull in the clutch at the same time. This will remove power from the rear wheel, though engine noise may not immediately decline. Once the motorcycle is “under control,” pull off the road and stop.
After you have stopped, check the throttle cable carefully to find the source of the trouble. Make certain the throttle works freely before you start to ride again.
A “wobble” occurs when the front wheel and handlebars suddenly start to shake from side to side at any speed. Most wobbles can be traced to improper loading, unsuitable accessories or incorrect tire pressure. If you are carrying a heavy load, lighten it. If you can’t, shift it. Center the weight lower and farther forward on the motorcycle. Make sure tire pressure, spring pre-load, air shocks and dampers are at the settings recommended for that much weight. Make sure windshields and fairings are mounted properly.
Trying to accelerate out of a wobble could make the motorcycle more unstable. Instead:
- • Grip the handlebars firmly, but don’t fight the wobble.
- • Close the throttle gradually to slow down. Do not apply the brakes; braking could make the wobble worse.
- • Move your weight as far forward and down as possible.
- • Pull off the road as soon as you can to fix the problem.
Have the motorcycle checked out thoroughly by a qualified professional.
Dogs sometimes chase motorcycles. Once an approaching dog is spotted, slow down and downshift until the dog is near your motorcycle then accelerate away from the dog as it approaches. Keep control of your motorcycle, and look to where you want to go. Don’t kick at the dog because doing so will make controlling the motorcycle difficult.
Larger animals such as deer or elk present a different problem. These animals are unpredictable, and hitting one can be as harmful as colliding with another vehicle. Use more aggressive SIPDE maneuvers for additional time and space in areas where larger animals may be present. If one of these animals is encountered on or near the roadway, slow down and proceed with caution. Pass the animal carefully at a low speed and continue to check for traffic approaching from behind.
Night Riding/Foggy Conditions
Riding at night or in foggy conditions presents additional risks because a rider’s ability to see and be seen by others is limited. You should adjust your riding behavior to compensate for limited visibility by:
Reducing Your Speed – Ride even slower than you would during the day.
Increasing Distance – Distances are harder to judge at night than during the day.
Using the Car Ahead – Use other vehicles’ headlights to see farther ahead and taillights for clues about curves, bumps or maneuvers. Use your low beam and stay somewhat back.
Using Your High Beam – Get all the light you can. Use your high beam whenever you are not following or approaching a car. Unless in foggy conditions. Only use your low beam in the fog.
Be Visible – Wear retro-reflective materials when riding at night.
Being Flexible About Lane Position – Change to whatever portion of the lane is best able to help you see, be seen and keep a safe space cushion.
Strong, steady winds can affect you and your motorcycle. The effects can occur anywhere and often happen in open areas, mountainous terrain and river gorges.
Wind turbulence can occur when you share the road with large vehicles like trucks, buses and recreational vehicles.
To respond to wind gusts or windblasts:
- Lean into the wind by applying forward pressure on the handgrip.
- Move away from other vehicles as they approach or as you pass.
- Maximize the space cushion around you.
- Find a safe place to park until conditions improve if the wind becomes too dangerous.
Test Your Knowledge
1. What can you do to safely corner on a crowned road?
A. Lean your body to the left side of the road.
B. Ride in the right portion of the lane.
C. Use caution and slow down.
2. When riding in strong wind:
A. Move away from other vehicles as they approach or pass you.
B. Ride close to other vehicles to shield you from the wind.
C. Lean away from the wind and lighten your hold on the handgrip.
3. If a dog approaches your motorcycle, the safest thing to do is:
A. Slow down and downshift, then accelerate away from the dog as it approaches.
B. Speed up to get out of the dog’s reach.
C. Maintain your speed and position your motorcycle as far away from the dog as you can.