Learning Curves: A Life of Anticipation
March is upon us and as you receive this letter we are once again blessed to be hosting a great group of Smiles for Life volunteers in the Dominican Republic. As we left Utah, the snow was still waist deep at our home in the mountains above Provo. Living at 7000 feet above sea level in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains means spring comes late for us. As soon as we return home, we will then make our preparations to host our first Smiles for Life Team into the Alto Plano of Bolivia. Being at 12,000 feet there and it being fall on that end of the world, I am sure we are leaving winter cold here and heading to fall cold there. The new adventure there serving in the Andes Mountains has me filled with great anticipation.
Speaking of anticipation, if you have not already put one of our rides on your calendar, then just do it. We would love to have the joy and blessing of serving you and we would love to have you begin the joy of anticipation for your 2015 ride.
I enjoy putting my thoughts into words each month and it is my hope that the tips I bring to you provide meaningful insight into your riding experiences.
Be safe and keep the rubber side down,
Drive to Survive
I am constantly on the lookout for insight into the subject of motorcycle safety. I have taken many of these tips from an article by Ken Condon in Motorcycle News from November 2014. After riding for many years, we may tend to downplay what seem like small mistakes. What may seem like small mistakes are probably a sign that we may be riding on the edge of our abilities. Here are some strategies that can increase your enjoyment and keep you safer.
- Be seen. We need to do all we can to help drivers see us.
- Increase your following distance. Following too close is a sure-fire way to get into trouble. It increases your likelihood of running into the back of a car that stops suddenly. You can be surprised by road debris and you are hidden from oncoming traffic. By increasing your following distance, your personal field of view is wider and you can spot other vehicles and hazards farther up the road.
- Be aware of your lane position and how it affects your ability to be seen and to see and to avoid hazards. Be aware and change your lane position based on changing circumstances.
- Motion camouflage is a term used to describe how an object can appear to be stationary to the observer even though the object is approaching. If we ride directly toward a driver waiting at an intersection, we may appear to be stationery because we are being compared to a fixed object. You can avoid this by gently moving from one side of your lane to the other.
- Every vehicle has blind spots, including motorcycles. If you will remember this you will avoid a lot of risky situations. You, as a rider, need to do a head check. The Brits call this a “lifesaver.” A head check takes a split second and is used in conjunction with a mirror check.
- We need to be aware of the blind spots of other vehicles on the road around us. Make a habit of riding through blind spots, not in them. Large trucks have the largest blind areas. Recognize a truck “No Zone” and avoid lingering in this area. If you cannot see the driver in their rear view mirror, they cannot see you.
- Ride at the expected speed for the road you are on. The driver can now see you, but they may not correctly judge your approaching speed and think it is safe to cross in your path. Riding at expected speeds help minimize the likelihood that a driver will misjudge and think it is okay to go.
- Loud pipes may help drivers to know you are in the area, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the sound will help a driver locate where you are in traffic. Just do all you can to be seen and don’t fool yourself into relying on your loud pipes.
There are several more thoughts to consider for survival that I will continue to bring to focus in next month’s letter. For now, keep the rubber side down and enjoy your every curve.
I remember well a situation I encountered in West Yellowstone, Montana several years ago. I pulled up behind a mini-van at a stoplight. It was loaded with luggage and people. There was no path of vision for the driver through the rear window and I was too close to the back of the van to be seen in the rearview mirror. The driver had stopped in the crosswalk and felt the need to back up out of the crosswalk so pedestrians could have a better path. It took all I could do to move my feet fast enough in my efforts to reverse the bike loaded with my wife and I and all our luggage and avoid being taken down. I stopped too close to the back of the minivan.
Now consider this scenario. You are in the habit of scanning your mirrors when slowing and while stopped. But, what if you have done this in your typical manner, but you have stopped too close to the car ahead of you? You now see a minivan coming up behind a little too fast. You are trapped. No space to move forward or slip by one side of the car ahead in case the vehicle approaching from behind fails to stop in time.