Fall is typically a beautiful time of year. In many areas of the United States including my home state of Tennessee, changing leaf colors leads to some very nice scenery along the highways and back roads where I often ride. This is all well and good while the leaves are still attached to their branches. When they start falling to the ground, however, they can pose a threat to the motorcycle rider.
Hazards from falling leaves come in two major flavors. For starters, leaves can obscure a damaged piece of pavement or debris in the roadway. This type of hazard isn’t that prevalent or as dangerous as the second scenario which is wet leaves.
A thin layer of wet leaves on a road surface can be very slick. Not only is the upward facing surface of those leaves slick when wet but the downward, road-facing side adds to the overall reduction in friction. All in all this is not the ideal surface for the small contact patch of a motorcycle tire to deal with.
What is really dangerous is that while one is typically already being cautious when riding in the rain, a patch of leaves may stay wet for some time after the precipitation has ended. It’s not unusual to have the sun shining down on a deceptively innocent patch of leaves on the road the morning after a rainy night. Those leaves can still be quite wet underneath and can easily ruin one’s day if ridden over at even modest lean angels.
It’s easy to get caught up in the scenery and colors that come with a crisp Autumn morning ride so be vigilant when you’re out riding during this time of year. Make sure you are staying aware of what is on the road surface up ahead and never assume those leaves on the road are completely dry. In fact, I would say just avoid riding over any leaves on the road if it can be done safely.
So yeah, the title doesn’t make much sense but I have to hand it to the boffins at Bosch. They have developed a system that can mitigate lateral loss of traction and prevent a low-side crash from occurring. This report and video from CNet.com lays out the details and a demo of this system and it’s pretty slick (pun intended).
When sensors indicate the motorcycle is starting to slide laterally, the system fires off a blast of highly compressed gas. The thrust from the blast counteracts the slide and allows the rider to move past the debris causing the traction loss and remain upright. You can see this demonstrated in the video below. (Keep watching the video until the very end and you’ll see the bike make the pass without the rig to hold it up)
It’s an interesting idea and seeing it work even in this “setup” demonstration definitely proves the concept has potential. Of course one has to consider the cost in both dollars and weight in order to get motorcyclists to buy into it. I think the same thing was said about ABS when it was first brought to motorcycles by BMW.
One downside that the CNet article mentions is that it is likely a one-time use countermeasure that is depleted after the single use and must be recharged or resupplied with compressed gas. Maybe a replaceable cylinder could be purchased or could be recharged at a dealership for a nominal fee? That may be putting the cart before the horse but I don’t think it is something that should hold back this concept.
Being a bit of a riding gear “nerd”, I recently started following some discussions on ADVrider.com regarding neck braces. These aren’t the kind one gets put in after an accident but rather the opposite. These are the kind that attempt to prevent the need of the “post-crash” ones.
Off-road riders have been using the collars and braces for years but there hasn’t been much on the consumer market for the street rider. Over the past fifteen years or so, there have been a lot technological strides in the neck brace area due on no small part to Christopher Leatt, who patented his design for the Leatt neck brace back in 2003.
Where once there were just padded collars (or “donuts”) the Leatt Brace had a framework of flexible and rigid parts designed to keep a rider’s head from flexing to the point of causing injury. This design requires that the rider be wearing a full-face helmet and it works by presenting a surface around the rider’s neck that physically stops the helmet from moving beyond a certain point. Continue reading
Risky Business is a series of articles about mitigating risk for the motorcycle rider. I started this series years ago for Nashvilleriders.com but since I closed up that site I wanted to bring this content to Motorcycle Words.
The first in this series is Being Vigilant.
Vigilant is defined as “keenly watchful to detect danger; wary”. Sounds like something every motorcycle rider should be doing, but as there are so many potential dangers out there, where to begin?
Forget “The Force”
Despite Luke Skywalker’s success destroying a death star while keeping his eyes closed, your best way to spot and be aware of potential threats is to use your vision. This sounds a bit basic but I’m always surprised at how many drivers (and riders) out there seem to be using “The Force” to guide their vehicles down the road and not very well I might add. As a motorcycle rider one typically has an unobstructed view of the surroundings. In fact sitting on most sportbikes, sport-tourers, and standards can give riders a height advantage over most car drivers.
Rider education courses point out it’s very important to be watching what’s happening down the road as far as you can. Being able to see farther ahead will help you prepare for sudden stops, debris, and other road hazards you might encounter. You can make it much easier to have a good vantage point by doing a few things such as:
Not all windows will be easy to see through.
Don’t ride behind large trucks and tractor trailers that block your view of the road ahead. Sure you can stop quicker than most trucks but if they crash into something you may find yourself out of stopping room real fast.
Look through and past the front and rear windows of the vehicle(s) ahead of you. While it may not be that easy to see a lot of details you will most likely be able to see the brake lights of several of the cars in front of you through each vehicle’s front and rear glass.
Don’t tailgate. Sounds like a no-brainer to me but you really want to provide enough space between you and the car ahead of you to see and avoid an object such as a piece of tire carcass that wasn’t visible until after the car in front of you passed over it.
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