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TWO WHEELED FEVER


March 31, 2015
By Andy Hertel

Well here we go again! The melting snow and warming temperatures signal the return of motorcyclists. Some are prepared and equipped to deal with the uncertainties they will encounter on the roads but others are not.

Riders eager to start where they left off in the fall all too often neglect to give their bikes a once over before answering the call of the open road. After months of inactivity, motorcycles can develop a bit of a flat spot on the tire, air pressure has a tendency to drop and levers can become tight and difficult to operate.

The other uncontrollable variable in this equation is the rider, who is a year older and likely to have slightly slower reflexes.

Spring is not kind to ill-equipped bikes and unprepared riders. Roads are likely to still be covered with salt or sand and there’s often cracks and potholes due to the beating by snowplows and harsh weather.

Fluctuating temperatures in early spring can hide treacherous layers of black ice. Temperatures can range from very cold to almost warm over just a few hours. Add in the effects of wind chill and spring can be the perfect storm.

Riders need to be aware and prepare proactively. Reactive maintenance or “wish I had” ride planning may be living (hopefully) proof of the effects of bad decisions and judgment.

Bikes offer only a single track for stability and control and even this is done on just two very small pieces of rubber making contact with the road. Think like a commercial vehicle operator. Their livelihood depends on safe, road worthy vehicles and circle checks are just part of their everyday routine.

Motorcyclists should follow their example. Do a quick pre-ride check of your bike before each ride and continuously monitor key needs. Find an acronym or some kind of “Zen” to help engrain safety as second nature. T-Clocs is just one example.

T – Tires need to be inspected for air pressure, cracks on sidewalls, flat spots and uneven wear.

C – Cables, hoses and throttle should be visually inspected for cracking and smooth operation.

L – Lights. Check high and low beam, turn signals, brake lights and, while you’re at it, hit the horn.

O – Oil and fuel. Also check the other liquids such as brake fluid, coolant and differential oil.

C – Chassis, including suspension and drive components (chain, belt or shaft).

S – Stands. Make sure the side and/or centre stands won’t let your bike down.

Note and plan for anything that looks like it will need attention. Don’t wait until a tire blows or the drive chain comes off (or worse, breaks).

A general inspection of the bike should include making sure the steering operates smoothly and a check for anything that doesn’t look right. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution and get it checked out. Your life may depend on it.

{Bad signs}

Police tend to regard a bike as unsafe when they see only one wheel on the ground or when the operator is not seated (forward!) with their feet on the pegs and hands on the handlebars. A bike may also appear unsafe if it’s moving faster than the rest of the traffic. To the average citizen, anything that just doesn’t look right may appear to be unsafe. It’s quite simple. If in doubt, don’t do it.

“Loud pipes save lives,” claims the old adage about motorcycles. The idea is that car drivers will, without question, hear a motorcycle approach, move over and, as a gesture of thanks, give the rider a “Queen’s wave” as they move safely past.

The reality is that loud pipes accomplish only one thing; they make a loud noise. Unfortunately they don’t warn drivers that a motorcycle is approaching because they are most audible AFTER a rider passes a car. No study has conclusively shown that loud pipes reduce accidents.

Loud pipes do upset neighbours in the early morning or late evenings. They are also very effective at attracting the attention of local police officers who are itching to try out their new sound measuring devices. They’re also popular (and profitable) with aftermarket parts dealers.

Motorcycling relies on a combination of skills and coordination – and that comes with practice and experience. A rider develops muscle memory only through repetition, the same way one learns to play the guitar or properly hit a golf ball.

We can read about it, watch self-help videos and talk to friends but until we get out there, strumming the chords, hitting a ball or safely avoiding that car that just turned out in front of you is really just theory.

The best advice is get some training, take some time to learn and ride safe!

BIO BOX >>>

Andy Hertel is the chief instructor and manager of the Humber College Motorcycle Rider Training Program. He has been riding street bikes since 1982 and training motorcyclists since 1994. Contact: andy.hertel@humber.ca.


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