Highway Riding

Tips For The Long Road

By  Steve Gettel

I enjoyed the “Ask the MSF” article on highway riding (“Heading for the Highway,” January issue). I came up with my own list of things that riders should know before hitting the “slab.”

The following are just my two cents, but these are tips based on a lot of time in the saddle. I have more than 400,000 miles of riding experience and have ridden in 49 states, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Debris: On ramps and off ramps will usually have areas of sand or gravel that accumulate beside and in the middle of the main lanes of travel. Also, early in the riding season, watch for pea gravel from the winter. This material will be a hazard until there are vacuum crews or some good hard spring rains to help remove it. And let’s not forget leaves, road kill and animals running across the lanes. Scan ahead and be ready.

Slick spots: In hot weather, watch for oil or grease on the exits as well. It can be slippery, especially when there has been a rain shower.

Be seen: Keep out of blind spots of cars and, especially, large trucks. Always be aware of trailers that have poorly secured cargo that could fly off and become a deadly hazard.

Also, closely watch anything tied or strapped carelessly to a car’s roof rack.

Tractor trailer tires: Be aware of the scent of burning rubber or the thump-thump-thump of a tire getting ready to blow. The “gators”—parts of a retread in the travel lane after a blowout or retread coming apart—can cause a crash if you hit it or if it hits you.

Braking: Since motorcycle braking distances can be short, keep one eye on the mirror, so you know whether or not the cager behind you is paying attention.

Buffeting: Wind is another factor. Gusts and the wind change when pulling out from behind a semi and can startle an inexperienced rider. Always be aware of wind gusts when reaching the end of a guardrail or noise wall or when coming from under an overpass or exiting a tunnel. Wind can move you across a lane.

Rough pavement: Always watch for pavement issues. Gashes or cuts in the asphalt can grab a tire and cause a crash. Stay off the paint, and try to keep off the “tar snakes.” Watch for the diamond ground/cut pavement that has been ground down before repaving. Also, rare but still out there, the steel grates of some bridges.

Steve Gettel is an AMA member from Parker, Colo.