By June 9, 2010

Random Motorcycling Tip #15: Beware the Beautiful Days

Ah … motorcycling on beautiful days. The sun is shining, the temperature is warm but not too hot, and the skies are clear. It reminds me of a quote from Conan the Barbarian, when the Khan asks his warriors what is best in life:
The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

WRONG! CONAN!

Beautiful days can be dangerous. Everyone else is enjoying the wind in their hair and a falcon at their wrist instead of paying attention.

Here are some reasons why you need to be extra careful when the weather seems to be co-operating.

  • There are more cars on the road. I think this is because people don’t like to travel when it’s raining or dark, and beautiful summer days encourage people to get outside and do stuff.
  • People are more inclined to crank their music or carry on conversations. A driver who is not scared shitless of sliding off of the road due to rain is a driver that is probably jabber-jawing to their passengers or on a phone. Happy drivers want to sing along to their favorite songs at high volume. This doesn’t sound dangerous, but music can make people drive differently, and singing along and dancing in a car may further reduce driver concentration.
  • Average speeds tend to be higher, and people drive more aggressively. People are more confident behind the wheel when the conditions are beautiful. This can lead to faster travel speed and more “optimistic” lane changes. I notice more lane incursions and people being cut off when the weather is nice than when it is poor.
  • Beautiful days encourage people to drive for extended periods of time. This normally means running more errands, but can include fun / joy rides as well. More cars + higher speeds + longer drive times = more chances for cagers to run you over.

To make things worse, you may be operating in a more relaxed state of mind. You cannot afford to let your guard down when other motorists can be expected to act like idiots. I recommend the same for riding at night, or when traveling on “happy” days like weekends or holidays. Everyone is excited to get somewhere, and they are more concerned about getting there quickly than checking their blind spot for you.

My advice: be extra vigilant on the beautiful days. Don’t relax your “biker-senses.” Expect people to change lanes into you without looking. Expect people to pull out in front of you in an intersection. Be extra careful about being rear-ended at stop signs or lights.

One of the reasons I love motorcycling is because it reduces the artificial feeling of safety we tote around every day. Motorcycling can be dangerous. The stakes can be high. There are no guarantees that you will make it from Point A to Point B. This holds true in every aspect of life, but motorcycling can make you take notice. Riding on a sunny day can really focus your attention on how fickle and random riding — and life — can really be.

Stay sharp out there, and remember to never let your guard down. Even on the beautiful days.

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