Spring is a particularly exciting time for motorcyclists who live in parts of the world like Canada, where we must put away our beloved bikes for nearly half the year. After months of yearning to riding again, it’s only natural to want to throw a leg over our trusty steed and charge out of the garage the instant the roads are clear of snow.
As you get ready to head out for that much anticipated first ride of the season, there are a few things to keep in mind according to longtime, passionate rider and instructor, Clinton Smout. In addition to 40 years of street riding experience and countless Adventure Bike Tours in remote regions across the world, Clinton has spent decades teaching both novice and experienced riders the fundamentals of safe driving and how to get the most out of their riding experience.
Clinton has a few early season riding tips for sharing the road and navigating less-than-ideal road conditions. Of course, these are good to keep in mind while out exploring at any time of the year but are even more essential at the start of the season.
Ask any experienced rider what they consider the greatest risk on the roads and you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t cite other motorists.
Depending on the country, motorcyclists only account for approximately one to three percent of vehicle traffic. This means most drivers are not actively thinking about or checking their blind spots for motorcycles. When passing through intersections or changing lanes, they naturally look for other cars or trucks but not small, nimble bikes that easily move in and out of their blind spots and can become “invisible.” This is even more likely in the spring, as drivers have not seen bikes out on the road all winter.
Always assume drivers of vehicles near you are not aware of your presence. Maintain a defensive driving mindset – be proactive and think ahead – constantly anticipating the potential actions of the vehicles around you then adjusting your speed and spacing accordingly.
Potholes are the bane of all Canadian motorists at the start of spring, but they are significantly more jarring if you strike one on a bike. Salt and/or sand spread out on roadways throughout the winter and not fully cleared yet are another spring road hazard for motorcyclists, as it may not be easily visible until you’re right in the middle of it.
Driving through a patch of sand or gravel on a straightaway may not be too alarming, except for those riders with limited off-road experience. However, that is likely not the case on a tight corner when you’ve committed to an entry speed and have your bike fully leaned over before you see the hazard.
In the video below, Clinton has laid out a few traction loss scenarios that may occur when on a sandy corner and walks through how to adjust your riding to best navigate.