Free article from 'The MAG Columns'
A TOUCH OF FROST
For most of us in the UK, most years we’ll have to deal with frost and ice.
The best solution to dealing with ice is to try to avoid it in the first place!
First start is the weather forecast. Expect ice early in the morning, late at night. Then check the car windscreens and the lawn. Then if you can, take the car or the bus. Yes, I was a ‘real biker’ for many years and learned the hard way. Bikes and ice don’t mix. Sportsbikes in particular are very difficult to ride on slippery surfaces because so much of your weight is over the bars – motocross bikes, designed for slippery conditions, do not have upright bars by accident.
Sometimes we have no choice. If you know it’s icy, try to anticipate where you might find frozen surfaces. Just because the sun is out and the roads have thawed, it don’t mean that there is no ice about. Back lanes and residential roads are more likely to be icy than well-salted main roads and motorways, but in general anywhere out of town is generally a degree or two colder, and that can make all the difference.
A good indicator of a slippery bit of road is if it is ‘shiny’. Stick to the bits that are not reflecting light and you should be OK. Black ice is usually looks like a wet road - about the only thing that gives it away is that it looks wetter, if that makes sense. It usually occurs when there has been a late evening shower followed by clearing skies and a frost - it’s tough to spot and VERY, VERY slippery.
Anywhere in the shade will be icy longer, so behind buildings, parked high-sided vehicles, under trees. Look for ice anywhere water pools, so on the slopes and bottoms of hills, where springs run off the fields, near car washes in towns. Sunday nights and Monday morning can be bad in residential streets because all the car drivers decide to wash the car on Sunday. Burst water mains nearly always accompany really cold weather, but you can normally spot the problem during the day - but if you see water splashing expect ice. Watch out for all the usual ‘slippery when wet’ places too, like manhole covers - metal cools faster than tarmac and will freeze sooner!
Even if the road appears generally clear, there may be colder frost hollows or exposed areas where it isn’t - bridges are often frosty when the rest of the road is clear because they have two surfaces to cool!
On the road surface itself, the bit of the road that usually clears first is where the car tyres run (tyre friction warms the surface). On the other hand, if the entire surface is icy, the roughest, and hence grippiest, bit of the road is generally in the middle of the lane.Next rule is to keep any steering or acceleration slow and smooth on slippery roads and if you can’t avoid a sheet of ice get the braking, gear changing and steering done as early as possible, and try to cross it upright.
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"Force has no place where there is need of skill" Herodotus 450BC :burnout:
continued / A TOUCH OF FROST part 2
So the answer seems to be find a compromise, maybe a gear higher than normal, but any gear that forces you to use a lot more throttle than your normal gear should be avoided.
If you do think you are about to hit ice, try to stay ‘loose’ on the bike. Sit forward on the seat and grip the tank with your knees to keep your weight off the bars, and brace your back and keep your elbows loose so that you’re not trying to force the bars straight. If the bike does twitch (and quite likely it will) let it get on with it - normally it will sort itself out, trying to fight the wobble will normally make things worse. It’s difficult to do, but it improves your chances of riding it out massively.
Most important thing to do on ice is not to touch the brakes. It’s a very strong instinct to overcome, but if you touch the front you are likely to end up in a big heap before you even know what’s happened. If you must brake, use the rear only. It will probably lock but at least you can perhaps save the slide. Shutting the throttle suddenly is almost as bad as braking. Wherever possible keep the bike upright and at constant speed.
The experts says steer into a slide, but on the couple of occasions I’ve hit ice and crashed, I’ve been on my ear so quickly I’ve had no time even to think about it. Dealing with snow is different as you do get a degree of grip, so you can steer a little but braking is still next to impossible!
The other main problem is other road users. Car drivers and pedestrians will have very little understanding of your problems. Pedestrians will step out in front of you, and car drivers will pull out because you are travelling slowly. I fell foul of the latter years ago when a car driver looked at me for about five minutes as I rode cautiously towards him, waited till I was about ten metres from him, and then pulled out!
The road was so slick the only way I could pick the bike up was to slide it sideways till the wheels were up against the kerb.
From 'The MAG Columns' by Kevin Williams, and based on an article first written in November 2007 for 'The Road', the journal of the Motorcycle Action Group.
If the Earth is the size of a pea in Britain, then the Sun is a beachball 50m away, Pluto is 4km away, and the next nearest star is in Tokyo. Now shrink Pluto's orbit into a coffee cup, then our Milky Way Galaxy fills North America
Given that there's nothing much you can do to improve the grip between ice and bike tyre once you've gone down the route of sport-touring tyres (I'm assuming you're not trying to run sports tyres mid-winter), and that braking and steering on ice really is hit and miss, if you're not going to consider not riding the only real option is avoid that roundabout via an alternative route. Is that feasible? Can you time your journey to allow other traffic to melt the ice?
What about a winter rat? The sit up and beg riding position makes dealing with slippery surfaces a lot easier as does the reduced mass of a trail bike - they're not that shape and size for no reason. It'll make any slides easier to control.
You could also try contacting the local Highways authorities and flagging it up as a particular problem - the magic word "motorcycle" sometimes gets a more positive response than "accident" simply because they don't want a fatal laid at the door of "inadequate treatment"... minor bumps they'll live with.
I'd still avoid the worst weather!
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