There have been a few occasions on which I failed to do a quick “walk around” before setting off on a ride. It’s easy to forget sometimes, we get in a hurry and want to hit the road and, honestly, how often do things just stop working on today’s modern bikes? It does happen on occasion, though, and (more…)
When I started riding I had no idea what the term “rut” meant. I knew there were a lot of deer in my home state of Pennsylvania but had no idea that they fought and mated primarily from Mid-October until December. It’s at these times of the year when deer are (more…)
My bike disappearing from beneath me remains the strangest sensation I’ve ever experienced. You get used to the sound and vibration of the engine and wind noise, which ordinarily only ends when the ride does, and you shut the bike down. This time, in an instant, there was complete silence as I flew through the air. Next came a dull smack of plastic from my helmet and the armor in my jacket and pants impacting the road, followed by some tumbling sounds, and then no sound at all until some passersby stopped to help me.
I’d been struck in the side by a deer at about 45 miles per hour. After a few minutes of body inventory I stood up, brushed myself off, and realized I was fine. I did find out later that I’d broken my collarbone. It’s a testament to the quality of today’s protective gear that, except for my helmet, the same jacket and over-pants I wore that day lasted another two years.
The worst part of crashing is having to tell those close to you what happened. You know what most reactions will be. The majority of people who don’t ride have preconceived notions about how dangerous motorcycle riding can be, and crash stories only reinforce their beliefs. Being able to say, “Yes, I’ve crashed and walked away,” makes it easier to allay some of their fears, and wearing proper gear increases the likelihood of this should the unthinkable happen.
I’ve always been safety conscious and still wear a light jacket all summer, along with a helmet, boots and gloves. My reasons are many, primarily my own safety of course; but it’s equally important that the people we leave at home when we set out for a ride know that we are aware of the risks and are serious about riding safely. It’s important for me that they have that small peace of mind. Let’s face it, there are dangers involved in motorcycling; but as a former rock climber, I’ve always said that just because something involves some element of risk doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued. It means it should be pursued seriously and with an eye towards being as safe as possible.
To that end, I’ve taken the safety courses available locally, wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT), read what I can about proper technique, and let my loved ones see me suit up. It’s the least I can do for myself, and certainly the best thing I can do for those who care about me.
The end of summer signals the start of the rut for the Pennsylvania whitetail deer in late September. Now, the whitetail isn’t a particularly bright animal but the rut reduces him to among the dumbest in the animal kingdom. The rut is the time of year when instinct reminds deer that they need to propagate the species by making more little whitetail deer. This of course means that deer will begin to lose their minds, much like the male human is prone to doing when similarly motivated. However, while the male human’s stupid behavior may be limited to wearing too much cologne or claiming to like Michal Bolton music or country line dancing, the Whitetail deer is known to run headlong into oncoming traffic. I’ve never understood such behavior but as a motorcyclist I know to be on the lookout for it come fall.
During my commute I see deer at all times of the year, if not daily, then at least every 2nd or 3rd day. There is a large herd of 12 – 20 or more within 1/2 mile of my home. What I’ve read about deer, and it’s been somewhat validated by my own personal experience, is that they live their lives within a mile or so of where they are born and that they travel the same route daily to a water source. So, having ridden the same commute nearly 2000 times I’ve become familiar with the places I’m likely to see deer and where they may be crossing the road.
I also pay closer attention to my lane choices as the rut approaches. On a 2-lane country road, if there is no traffic coming toward me, I’ll stay on the left side of my lane. I believe this gives me better reaction time should a deer cross from either side. Once I see traffic coming toward me I’ll move to the right side of my lane. My thinking is that, were a deer to appear from my right, I would have more room to maneuver. Also, if one were to hit me (and I’ve been hit before) it’s less likely I’ll be pushed into oncoming traffic. I also have to be concerned with drivers coming toward me panicking and swerving into my lane should they see a deer enter the roadway. I also practice panic stops at least weekly.
It’s not a perfect system but one that’s worked for me through 10+ years of commuting in deer country. It pays to consider your riding methods as the rut approaches in your area and the deer become dumber.