Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: When the rest of Ohio thaws out the motorcycles...

3.25.2012

When the rest of Ohio thaws out the motorcycles...

This has been a very unusual March in central Ohio. Last week, we were surprised with summer-like sunny days with temps over 80 degrees. Of course, with the first arrival of warm weather comes the itch of the seasonal riders to get the motorcycles out for the first time in 2012.

God help us all. Err...I mean, about time you guys showed up!?

Of course, this whole "wait for nice weather" thing has never been an issue for both me and Matt as we have ridden this entire winter. Matt has traversed icy conditions on his 2008 Piaggio BV250 scooter outfitted with tungsten-carbide studded dual-sport tires (legal in OH from Nov.-March), and I've been traversing on Eleanor for as long as there has been no ice on the road. As Californians, we live on the idea that you ride a motorcycle every day in all acceptable road conditions, and if the weather doesn't cooperate there's riding gear to respond to it. Unfortunately, living in a state where motorcycles are regarded, for the most part, as recreational vehicles instead of legit forms of transportation single us out as oddities.

But...for those who do rely on the calendar to determine if it's okay to ride again, I have several suggestions/tips to ensure that your return to the road is as smooth and as trouble-free as possible.


Get your motorcycle checked for safety. If your ride has been sitting for a while, I encourage you to take it to a local dealer for a once-over. A professional motorcycle tech can advise you of the condition of your tires, brakes, and other important components. If you're a gear head (or have been riding for a while), a pre-flight check of your motorcycle is several minutes you can take in the garage/parking lot now to potentially save you hours of headache down the road. Local motorcycle shops such as Independent Motorsports in South Columbus provide these services as well as general repairs.

When the bike goes into hibernation, so do your riding skills. With all the motorcycles out, it's not unusual for me to hear of motorcycle accidents on some of the most normally ridden (and very non-technical) areas, such as freeway interchanges, normal streets, and highway exits/off-ramps. Admit it, three to four months off your bike is a long time. Motorcycling relies on a lot of feel and muscle memory for effective riding, and skill atrophy can happen if you haven't had your hands on the controls for a significant period of time.
  • Take it easy. You have quite a few months for opportunities open the throttle. Get used to that bike's idiosyncrasies. Use discretion when going into turns with speed until you have retrained your brain to recognize turning lines. Being conservative at the beginning of the "season" can greatly reduce your chances of meeting a ditch. The hard way.
  • If it's really been a while since you've been on a bike, or if you're just looking to improve yourself, consider an enrichment riding course. For example, the state of Ohio offers the Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC-2) and the Advanced Rider Course (ARC) for experienced riders who want to improve their skills on their own personal machines. For more information about these classes, please visit http://motorcycle.ohio.gov. Check your state's programs for similar courses. 

Ride like you're invisible.
Now that motorcycles are now normal place on the road, cars won't care if you're there. When it was 28°F in the middle of January, I was one of only two motorcycles on I-270 in Columbus, OH riding to work. Drivers in cars stared at us intently because we were crazy anomalies and the only two-wheeled vehicles on the road.

Alternatively, it was 70°F on March 14. Everyone and their mother who owns a bike was riding that day because it was finally a "perfect day to ride." To the cars out there, start noticing the rest of us! Motorcycles are normal to see on the roads again, and we riders do not become invisible because of that.

Wear your riding gear.  There's never a reason why you shouldn't as there is protective equipment for every situation and weather condition. Don't be lazy and do your research on the vast selection of riding apparel that is available in the market. Studies have shown that proper riding gear is much cheaper than skin grafts. I don't know that for a fact, but I sure as hell don't want to find out the hard way.

That is all for now. As you get on your motorcycles and enjoy this wonderful sport, be aware of your surroundings and have fun!