I was riding on US-77 last week, heading South somewhere in West Virginia where I encountered construction that was creating quite a bad hazard for motorcycles. When you see that “uneven roads” sign, it is time to wake up and be 100% aware of the dangers.
A side-trap is when you have uneven roads, and can be deadly if not handled correctly. Side traps/grooves also exist at railroad crossings, too. Anywhere that can “catch” your front tire and make it hard to move is DANGER!
Riding at night just makes this a bit worse, which is why they say not to be travelling at night on roads you’re not familiar with.
Here’s the bad Side-Trap Scenario Playing Out:
You’re in the right lane on the highway, and you are going too darn slow…so you decide to pass on the left. You start to veer over to the next lane cautiously looking in the rear view mirror to make sure you’re clear… and your tires “stop” at the uneven road. Since you’re slightly leaning left to slowly move over, the bike gets “caught” against the higher-edged road, and you then fall down to the left because you’re leaning and the bike can’t stay balanced under you.
This can happen to the best of riders, and I have gotten lucky once or twice…but it is a scary scenario where there’s only one way out, which is to understand what is happening and get your weight to the right side of the bike to give yourself enough room to steer again and get away from that lip.
How to Change Lanes with Uneven Roads
- Make sure you are not in a gaggle of vehicles all jockeying for position, because you need to have some extra “just in case” room.
- You need to cross into the new lane, or cross train tracks as perpendicular as you can, to minimize the chance of your front tire getting caught. If you picture the letter “X” as the way you normally change lanes, you want to swap it for a “t” – ie. we want to cross it as quickly and with as much angle to the new lane as possible, so the tire just treats it like a bump, rather than a guide on a slot-car track.
- If it is a really tall side trap, then I’ll get off the throttle to compress the front end, then punch it to lighten the front end up as I go over.
- Do NOT look down. Always look at the target of where you want to be. The bike will go there naturally based on your head and eyes. Look down, you go down.
I hope this short article will help you to ride safer. Side traps are a real hazard, and many people are not aware of this until it happens… so make sure you’re watching far down the road, looking at all the signs with enough room to take the proper actions to be safe.
To get more great tips for riding, check out my website https://RideCaptainsAndTailGunners.com
Mark Turkel is the CEO of Palm Beach Software Design, Inc, and Author of “Ride Captains and Tail-Gunners”. He is a former Safety Officer, and currently a Ride Captain for Southern Cruisers Riding Club, Chapter 456 in West Palm Beach, FL. He has been riding for 16 years.