May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. While that usually means warmer weather, the month kicked off with an uncharacteristically cool and gloomy day in Southern California. Of course, this being the Golden State warm sunny days are on the horizon, just in time for the weekend.
Given this generally great weather, it’s no surprise to learn that California has the highest number of registered motorcycles in the country. One would think that with all of those motorcycles, California motorists would be much more careful when sharing the road with them. That, unfortunately, is not always the case.
That lack of awareness coupled with unexpectedly slick roads can lead to an uptick in motorcycle accidents. Here are some safe riding tips for different weather conditions:
Riding Your Motorcycle In rain, wind, drizzle and fog:
Jokes about California drivers and rain aside, some rainy-day accidents are due to road conditions themselves. That’s because Southern California roads don’t receive much rain. When they do, all of that motor oil and other vehicles fluids come to the surface making for some very slick roadways.
Roads are slickest when the rain first starts. If you can avoid going out on your motorcycle during the first hour of that rainfall, you should. If you’re out riding and heavy rain starts falling, there’s nothing wrong with taking cover.
It’s always a good idea to slow down in the rain, no matter where you are, but it’s especially important in Southern California.
But Don’t Go Too Slow
Safety first, but common sense is important too. If you’re riding your motorcycle too slowly, impatient motorists can cause an accident attempting to pass you.
Avoid Standing Water
Because Southern California doesn’t get lots of rain, there’s a greater danger of flash flooding and its aftermath, standing water. Avoid standing water as much as possible and always look for higher ground. You don’t want to experience water anywhere near your engine and there can be deep, hidden potholes under that water as well.
Don’t Tense Up in Windy Conditions
Wind is unavoidable if you ride a motorcycle. What can be daunting to any rider, but more so to the novice, are heavy crosswinds. These are more common when crossing a bridge or on winding mountain roads. Many riders tense up and tighten their grips, which makes it harder to steer. Instead, stay loose and continually adjust your steering to continue forward in a straight line. But if wind conditions become too dangerous, again, take cover if you can.
Riding Your Motorcycle in Warm or Hot Conditions:
The beauty of living in California is that you can experience the beaches of Orange County in the morning then be out in Palm Springs in the afternoon. While that can be exhilarating, it’s important to make sure your bike and you make the transition from cool to hot smoothly.
Tire Pressure and Baking Hot Asphalt
Your tires should be inflated to the proper air pressure specifications. Road temperatures can easily soar into triple digits, even on a warm day. Baking hot asphalt and under-inflated tires can result in a blowout. The risk becomes greater if your motorcycle is heavier because of a passenger and/or any gear.
Hot Weather Gear
If you’re riding in the desert, don’t wear leather. Mesh textile clothing is the way to go. As tempting as it may be, don’t go sleeveless or wear shorts. Exposed skin can easily burn in the sun and wind. Also, if you get into an accident, you don’t want your bare skin making contact with the pavement. And don’t forget to cover or put sunscreen on the back of your neck! Many riders forget about this area with painful results.
Ride with a Buddy
A breakdown or accident in the desert can quickly become a dangerous situation. Ideally, don’t ride alone. If that’s unavoidable, make sure you carry extra hydration and some sort of covering. You could end up stranded in an area with no shade. Solo riders should also let those closest to them know their general trip itinerary.
May all of your motorcycle riding be filled with beautiful sunny days. But if they’re not, be ready for it and stay safe!