Updated from: March 12, 2013
As eager as we are to get out for the first ride of the season, it’s important to prepare for unique spring motorcycle hazards.
Trudy and I went for our first ride last week. It was an early start but she needed routine maintenance beyond my repertoire. We’ve got travel plans for later this month so the work had to happen. We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day (sandwiched between two snow days) for the ninety-minute cross-country ride to my local Triumph dealer.
I wasn’t as ready as I would have preferred so I stayed away from traffic and rode more deliberately, aware of what I was dealing with.
10 Spring Motorcycle Hazards
- Automobile drivers. They haven’t had to share the road with motorcycles for four months. Add in their general inattentiveness and distractions and it’s a recipe for trouble. Give yourself plenty of space, watch other road users closely, and make yourself as visible as possible. Assume they don’t see you.
- Spring fever. Last week’s sunshine and above-freezing temps brought out many other riders eager to get out after a long winter. I hadn’t warmed up my skills (like I recommend) and I’m sure most of them hadn’t either. You have the whole season ahead of you. Take your time, take it easy, and get used to riding again.
- Sand, salt, grit. Road crews clean up as soon as possible but watch for sand, especially on corners and at intersections. You don’t want to discover it when you’re leaned over in a curve or trying to stop at an intersection.
- Rusty skills. You likely haven’t done much riding since late autumn. Muscle memory fades with inactivity and you may not have the same instinctual reactions, even if you’ve been riding for many years. Practice in a parking lot before heading out into traffic.
- Motorcycle. Make sure it’s ready to go. If you’ve done the proper winter maintenance, it should be in good shape. Before you take it out, check cables, fluid levels, tire condition, tire pressure, loose parts.
- Weather. Early spring can mean unpredictable weather that can change and cool significantly in a short time. Wear appropriate gear and layers. Stay alert to the effects of cold. Fatigue comes on insidiously, reducing your reaction time and ability to respond to unexpected situations.
- Frost heaves, potholes. Winter in northern climes is brutal on roads. Watch for heaves, holes, and crumbling edges of pavement.
- Physical fitness. As wonderful as it feels to be out in the wind, riding is taxing. Starting out rested and fit offers a more enjoyable and safer ride.
- Animals. They start moving in spring too and appear out of nowhere – often with young in tow. Watch the roadsides for signs of movement, especially in rural areas.
- Other motorcyclists. Whether they’re experienced or not, they too have spring fever, rusty skills and face the same hazards you do. This is even more important when you’re riding with a group – i.e. any more than one person.
Plan and book a skills refresher course under the guidance of experienced instructors. It’s wise to refresh your skills every year, whether it’s at an off-road course, at the track or at another recognized course. I t can save your life. And it’s fun!
What other hazards do you watch for? Leave them in the comments.