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Behind the Bars with the Road Toad: 10 – 12 Critical Seconds!

By Ron Kubicki

This is not a long period of time generally. Heck most of us can probably still hold our breaths for 10–12 seconds. But, it is probably a long time to hold your hand on your hot pipes, though, so mostly time is relevant.

Relevant? How about “critical.” The 10-12 seconds I am talking about can be critical seconds on the road. I’m talking about looking into the future when you are on the road on your “scoot.” No one should have more interest in what is going to happen, on what is likely to happen or what bizarre unlikely thing could possibly happen, than you. We are obliged to be an active and participatory rider. Watch all the intersections and traffic conditions in front of you — look 10 -12 seconds ahead of you.

Why that far? It keeps your head and posture upright and gives you a broad field of vision. You have clear depth perception as well as large peripheral awareness, and it keeps you engaged in your environment.

Why 10-12 seconds? Well, at 30 mph you are traveling 44 feet per second! In 10 seconds you almost cover one and half football fields. At 45 mph you cover 66 feet per second. At 60 mph it is 88 feet per second! You throw reaction time into that, weather, road conditions, traffic and whether you are two up or not and you see how easily you can run out of room!

Let’s face it, man, you are always at a disadvantage in traffic, especially if you are just in the “I’m so cool” mode. You know “that guy,” the guy who catches his reflection in the window of every car dealership he rides by, making sure “the look” is cool!

It always reminds me of what an uncle said, who rode in WWII and all his life after, “There is no such thing as an old, bad motorcycle rider.”

So you need to use your head when you ride and to use it for more than a place to keep your helmet. You need to see what is and what isn’t — but could be — there.

There are some of the circumstances where you should be on high alert:

Intersections: This is where you can instantly encounter cross-traffic. If it is multiple lanes, there can easily be a smaller vehicle on the right hand side of an SUV or pickup at a crossing street who is waiting at a stop sign or a “turn on red” light who may pull out because they did not “see” you.

At intersections it is a good practice to “cover” your front brake. Just extend all four fingers over your front brake lever. This will eliminate any fumbling looking for it in a sudden need or emergency situation. Over 70 percent of your stopping power is in the front brake. NOTE: If you lock up the front brake IMMEDIATELY RELEASE AND REAPPLY PROPERLY. Do not lock it up!

On the vehicles you can see, take notice of their front wheels. You will more quickly see movement in the tires and wheels if they are “creeping” ahead, rather than watching the whole vehicle.

Shopping Malls, Public Events or Tourist Areas: These places are often filled with drivers who are “looking for something” and are a little confused by congestion, just in a hurry, have a car full of kids or excited people anxious to get where they are going. Cover your brakes. Do not be a “rubbernecker” yourself. Look around once you put the kickstand down.

Construction or road work sites: Traffic maybe stopped or moving slowly. Expect equipment to move suddenly. There is often loose debris on the road, rough or “ground pavement”, large trucks backing in or out of position. Be extra cautious with braking here. At slow speeds you do not want to use your front brake. If you are traveling slowly and are turning around objects or hazards in the road and you use your front brake, there is good chance you will dump your ride. Ride slowly in a low gear using engine, clutch and rear brake to control your scoot.

Emergency Vehicle Approaching or on Side of Road: People will do the most unexpected things if a trooper has a car pulled over, so always cover your front brake and expect anything.

All the Time: No explanation needed!

So, remember, it is on you to be aware and always engaged in operating your motor. No one else is more important than you are when it comes to safely “putting fists in the wind.”

Have a ball, enjoy the road. Watch out all the time, for everything!

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