Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part V

"Chase me!"

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Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part V

In order to safely operate a motorcycle in traffic, the rider must gain certain knowledge and skills. The information on these pages will, hopefully, help to keep novice motorcycle riders safe and reduce the risk of them being involved in accidents.

Danger – Slippery When Wet!

Slippery surfaces can cause problems for all sorts of motor vehicles, but motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable, if they get into a slide or a skid there’s a very good chance that they’ll fall off or crash into something and hurt themselves quite badly. For this reason, it’s important that you take even more care when riding your motorcycle over a slippery or other difficult surfaces. You have an increased chance of falling whenever you ride over:

  • Uneven surfaces (potholes, bumps, debris etc) or obstacles
  • Slippery surfaces (wet roads, oil spills, wet leaves etc)
  • Railroad tracks (getting in the groove is often easier than getting out again)
  • Grooves and gratings

Whenever you have no option to go around these obstacles, you have to go over them:

  • Slow down as much as possible before you reach the obstacle
  • Point your motorcycle at a 90 degree angle towards the object, making sure that it’s straight
  • Rise off the seat a little and put your weight into the footrests, this way your knees and elbows will act as shock absorbers and you have less chance of being thrown off
  • Check your tires for damage immediately afterwards 

Slippery surfaces aren’t only the wet ones either, watch out for:

  • newly wet roads where oil residue might not have been washed away
  • roads where there might be gravel or sand on the surface
  • steel plates and manhole (sorry, people-hole) covers
  • white line markings
  • patchy ice and snow (ice doesn’t always melt at the same rate over a road width, watch out for sections shaded by trees etc)

Whenever you are riding on a slippery surface:

  • slow down, even to walking pace if necessary, especially in ice and snow (or better still, leave your motorcycle at home and walk)
  • avoid sudden movements – stopping, starting, changes of direction
  • keep your distance (it will take longer to stop)

Dealing with Mechanical Problems

The chances are, that at some point in time you will have to deal with a mechanical problem while you are out riding your motorcycle, you might even find yourself having to deal with an emergency.

  • Tires – if your motorcycle suddenly starts to handle differently, the most likely culprit is the tires. If one of the tires loses air suddenly then it may be difficult for you to handle your motorcycle.  Pull off the road immediately and check them out.  If it’s the front tire which has gone flat it’s pretty dangerous because that will affect the steering, it will become heavy and very difficult to control. If it’s the back tire which is affected the motorcycle might start to sway from side to side, or jerk away from you. Either way, it’s important to hold on tight and get off the road as quickly as you can:- 1. hold firmly onto the hand grips but ease off the throttle, trying to maintain a straight course. 2. If you have to brake, do so gradually to the tire which doesn’t have the problem (if you know which one that is of course). 3. As your motorcycle is slowing down, gradually pull over towards the edge of the road and stop.
  • Throttle – a sticking throttle can also be a pretty scary prospect to motorcyclists, especially inexperienced ones. If the throttle cable is stuck try twisting it backwards and forwards a few times to release it, if this doesn’t work use the engine cut-off switch (you should know where that is easily, from part I remember) and pull in the clutch – this will take the power away from the back wheel but the engine will gradually die down.
  • Wobbles – motorcycle wobbles can be pretty scary and can happen for a number of different reasons. A wobble is when the handlebars and front wheel start to shake at any speed. Wobbles are very often due to incorrect tire pressures, improper or unsuitable accessories or an uneven load.  If your motorcycle starts to wobble you might be tempted to try and accelerate out of it, but this can simply make matters worse.  The right thing to do is to, 1. grip firmly but don’t fight the wobble, 2. gradually close down the throttle but don’t brake, that will probably make the wobble even wobblier, 3. try to move your weight down and forwards, 4. get off the road as soon as is safely possible.
  • Drive Train Problems – different motorcycles are driven in different ways – either by chain, a belt or a drive shaft to transfer the power of the engine to the wheels. Chains or belts need to be checked regularly that they are working properly, if yours breaks or slips while you are riding your motorcycle this can lock the rear wheel and cause skidding. If, however, the chain or belt breaks, you will notice an instant loss of power to the rear wheel. Simply close the throttle and make your way to the side of the road. Drive shaft models of motorcycles might lock the rear wheel due to loss of oil, so skidding might be inevitable.

Animal Antics

Dealing with animals while you are riding your motorcycle can be a bit tricky. Your natural instinct is to try to take avoiding action if an animal is in your path, but this might not be the safest thing to do. Nobody wants to hit an animal, but if you are in traffic it’s important that you stay in your own lane, veering into another lane can potentially cause more bother than hitting a small animal, which would you rather hit – a small cat or a big car. I know it’s an awful thought, but you have to take every one’s safety into account.

Some dogs just love chasing bicycles, and motorcycles are even more of a challenge – don’t ask me why, it just happens. So what should you do if you’re being chased by a dog?  If you are approaching a dog which is taking an unhealthy interest in you and your motorcycle, slow down as you approach, then accelerate away leaving the dog far behind. Remember to look where you are going and to keep control of your motorcycle. If you are approaching a larger animal – say a deer, elk or cattle, then it’s safest to stop – they can be unpredictable and are big enough to cause real damage.

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