Motorcycle Safety Awareness Problem 4: Riders and Sudden Stops

The Problem – On multi-lane roads and highways, sudden slowdowns can be a problem for motorcyclists. Unprepared or unskilled riders end up plowing into stopped traffic from behind, or laying the bike down and then sliding into stopped traffic. Both results are bad news.

Highway traffic doesn’t “suddenly” stop. There are always clues.

The Problem Behavior – While we can’t prevent traffic slowdowns, we can change our behavior. Most riders, in a sudden slowdown situation, will at least try to stop the bike. Unfortunately, many lack the skills to do so effectively from high speed. Worse, they often ignore the front brake and lock up the rear brake, sending their bike into a skid.

Riders also fail to identify an escape path – a gap big enough for a motorcycle, even if it means using the space between other vehicles to avoid a crash.

Act, Don’t React – While many riders get caught in this situation, a rider with a good space cushion and braking skills should be able to stop safely. Roll off and immediately apply maximum straight-line braking, using both brakes to get your speed down. Most of the stopping power comes from the front brake. Use it smoothly with increasing pressure, squeezing the front brake progressively harder as the front end compresses and the bike slows.

Using both brakes to stop is more effective than just one.

Keep your head and eyes up and try to identify a gap between vehicles you can use if you need to. If you can’t get the bike stopped in time (or if you do get it stopped safely, but are in danger of being rear-ended yourself), deploy your escape route: Release the brakes, guide the motorcycle into the gap and stop again.

The Strategy – A big space cushion buys you time and space to slow or stop quickly. And looking and thinking farther ahead can prevent this situation from developing in the first place. Highway traffic rarely just “suddenly stops” without warning. Slowdowns are predictable and rather easy to spot – if you have a good visual lead. Get your eyes up and be aware of what’s happening 10-20 seconds up the road, not just what’s right in front of you.

A good space cushion and visual lead reduces the need to stop suddenly.

If the idea of maximum braking from highway speeds scares you a little … it should. Most of us have never practiced quick stops at more than 15 or 20 mph, if at all. Getting stopped from high speed is a whole different ballgame. It requires skill and confidence – whether you have ABS or not. Get some advanced training and you’ll see what we mean: http://team-oregon.org/advanced/

For more safety tips go to http://team-oregon.org/resources/tips/

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