Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Did I Run Off the Road?

Irondad over at has written two great articles in the past week. Riding is an ART! and Capping off Motorcycle Awareness Month. The greatest thing about this blog is it gives information that causes me to think about my skills as a motorcycle rider. It challenges me to think about what I know and compare it to what I practice.

Case in point. Back in March, during a Spring Break ride in the back roads of California, I had the experience of coming around a sweeping left hander and finding a cage well into my lane. I swerved, throttled down, and very gently hit the brakes. I missed the cage, but did put Petunia and Piggy off the road into a ditch. She somehow managed to pull herself out and after stopping to check for damage I was on my merry way. Then last week I checked out Piggy to prepare for this summers ride and found a crack and hole underneath in the right rear corner. The side that went into the mountain. The memory about the incident came back to me.

Then Irondad wrote about cornering skills. I ran off the road in a corner and it made me think. Not about the cage, but about what I was doing that allowed me to get off the road. Looking through the corner - yep. Traveling within the posted speed limit - yep. Kept looking where I hoped to end up and not at the mountain - yep. Then why did I run out of room? This made me stop and replay in my mind what I did wrong to see if I can prevent it from happening again.

What I found surprised me a bit. I connected the trailer to the bike on my driveway to check out the lights. It struck me that lean angle is important to a bike successfully making a corner. I leaned the bike over and well before the floorboards hit there was a binding between the bike and trailer. The bike wanted to lift the trailer wheel off the ground. I leaned it the other way with the same result.

I don't have a swivel hitch on this trailer and in my research on the topic many claim to not need one in this configuration. The truth is up to that point I didn't need to worry about lean angle. But, what happens when you must get to max lean to make a corner? If the bike stops leaning it stops turning. If it can't lean what are the options? I can't think of many other options and running off the road isn't appealing. So, I have ordered a swivel trailer ball that should allow Petunia to lean without binding.

Knowledge is power when it is put to use. I find that reading motorcycle rider blogs allows me to tap into the knowledge base of some pretty smart folks. Musings of an Intrepid Commuter is at the top of my list of blogs that offers sound advise without being preachy. Thanks Dan for writing articles that make me think and help keep me safe out on the open road. It's not just the students in Oregon that benefit from your wisdom.

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