HEAD TO TOES: Being Safe Even After COVID

During this near Nation-wide lockdown, you can still go out as long as you continue to practice your “social distancing”. After being off the bike for nearly an eternity (ok, it has only been five days…), I decided to go out for “lunch”. I knew where I was going to ride and stay with the usual lunch hour: some local back roads that I would take if I were going to Brunswick. Figured it would also be a good time to work out the basics – shifting, turning, leaning, etc.

I still come back to the acronym ATGATT. Always protect the head, hands, and feet (to include the ankles). I did wear a long sleeve T-shirt and realized what my Ride Captain had said about dressing in layers. The leather jacket is way to heavy for the current weather so I did not wear it on the ride. However, as I was riding along, every now and then I felt like I was being pelted by fine sand in the chest. No real harm, it just felt weird. That’s when I remember the sage advise about layers and why he always wore a leather vest. It’s not necessarily that you are protecting your arms (you are somewhat), but that you want to protect the chest! That’s why you see most seasoned bikers wear “colors” in the form of a leather vest: they are protecting their chest from flying debris. Funny the things you think about while you ride.

Anyway, the ride was about a 35-mile loop with local traffic turning off and on to the road, and lots of scenery. Now, as I think back to what the instructors were saying about line-of-sight while wearing the helmet, I’m finding I have to disagree about one’s vision being restricted while wearing a helmet. Quite the opposite. While driving a car (ok, cage), you have blind spots created by the door posts and roof supports. We normally don’t think about these because our brains “fill in” details as we drive. But on a bike, we don’t have those “blind spots”, but we still have to be aware of them on the CARS! On the motorcycle, you “fit” in those blind spots every time you approach and pass. Another reason why most bikers change out the pipes for something that intentionally make noise and get a better horn than the stock buzzer (could barely hear it while wearing the helmet). The main point the instructor was trying to make is that you have to ride like you are invisible. In other words, you ARE invisible to most drivers, so you have to make yourself KNOWN. Unfortunately, there are several bikers that take this to mean they have to become A-holes on the road. Bad move because it ticks of other drivers and leaves a stigma on ALL rider.

To combat the afore mentioned stigma, you have to ride more defensively than ever before. I have found that I signal farther out than I would in car (if at all – working to correct that) and think more about what the other person may or may not do. For instance, just because a pickup has a turn signal on and appears to be slowing down for a turn, I will not move UNTIL that person is in the turn and the traffic behind then is clear for me to go. It still amazes me that even while becoming more comfortable riding, I still find my mind goes back to what would Bruce or Vance say? Maintain good riding posture and “squeeze” the brakes together (front and rear as in hand and foot). It just hit me what they meant by riding can be a real workout…. The whole body is involved, from your head down to your toes!

7 April 2020

Jeff Allmond

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