By The Road Toad
Well, we are “full on” in the motor scootin’ season. I had a 200-plus mile ride last Saturday that covered a good chunk of the Southern Tier. What a beautiful part of the country we live and ride in. I hope you get out and about.
Don’t just ride the 219 corridor — you miss too much of where we are. Just because you are where there are a couple hundred other bikes, does not make that the best place to be. Get out “in the wind”!
My ride included a conversation with another guy — over an ice cream cone — about a wreck he saw caused by a blowout. Man, those are rare these days. With tire technology, tubeless tires and quality of production, you just don’t see those very often. When you do, in most cases, it is caused by poor tire maintenance or knowledge. You need to realize the most important “connection” you have is not the dude you know who does powder coating, but is what connects you to the blacktop.
I talk a lot about looking: Look where you are going, look for hazards, look out for DDs (Dumb Drivers). Well, you gotta “look” at your tires, too!
The biggest cause of blowouts is under inflation. This time of year, with hot temps, blistering hot asphalt and an under inflated tire, you are looking to get yourself on the 6 o’clock news: “Biker injured after losing control of his motorcycle after a blowout.”
A soft tire is a hot tire. Check your tire pressure frequently (I do once a week — or more). Your owner’s manual will have that information. If you have replaced your tires, you should go by the pressure indicated by the manufacturer, which is molded on the sidewall of every tire.
The next cause of blowouts is tire wear. Wet riding conditions require tread depth to channel water away from your tire so you stick to the road. Take a quarter to check the tread. If the tread extends past the top of Washington’s head, your tread is legal. But, I have to tell you, I am changing rubber way before then.
You may have “wear bars” built into your tire. They are often marked by an arrow on your sidewall close to the tread, if you are down to your wear bars — change your tires!
Next look at your tires for abrasions and sidewall wear or damage. With the conditions of roads these days, you never know what that last pothole did to your tire.
There are many things to be aware of when riding and what may cause tire damage. Watch for road hazards, debris in the road, rocks — anything that may cause you grief.
What if it Happens Anyway?
What if you have done all this and you are still unfortunate enough to have a blowout? Well, this will immediately get your undivided attention as you get a full-on adrenaline spike!
Keep a firm, two-handed grip on your bars. Try not to “lock” your arms — you need to control the bike.
Steer smoothly and gently ease off the throttle. No sudden actions or you might fall down!
Do not downshift or brake. Doing either of these suddenly may cause a weight shift. Now add that to an already unstable chassis and you are asking for things to escalate dramatically — and you might fall down!
As traffic permits, slow down and move to the side of the road. Be sure you are under control and slow to a stop. Do not ride onto an unpaved shoulder at speed — or you might fall down.
If you must brake, limit your braking to the good tire. Braking on the blown tire may cause the tire to separate from the rim — and you will fall down!
Once you have stopped, address your personal hygiene issue.
Biking demands you are expecting, and are always prepared for the unexpected. You are never not “in harm’s way.” Biking is exciting and an adventure, and it comes with responsibility and accountability.
Practice swerving and braking skills often, and in a safe area.
Be constantly alert. Just because “it” never happened to you, doesn’t mean it ain’t gonna happen to you — right now!
You need to consider how prepared you are and how aware you are when you ride. And if you go “two up,” you better be on top of your game; you have someone behind you that you are 100 percent accountable for and this is no light load to shoulder!