Go Ahead, Accelerate! Live A Little! … Please?Posted: December 24, 2009
What part of merging do people not understand? It’s called an acceleration lane for a reason. Here is how it works: We get on it, we step on the accelerator and by the time we reach the dashed white line, we should be travelling at approximately the same speed as freeway traffic, all we have to do now is turn on our directional signal, find a hole, fine-tune our speed to align and nicely fade into it. If done properly, nobody has to get on the brakes, and traffic remains moving smoothly. What is so difficult about this? You usually have and unobstructed view of the freeway for the whole length of the lane to judge speed and traffic density and form your plan of attack.
The 4-Wheeled Slow Race?
So why is it that I find myself creeping along behind two cars, going 22-23mph down a straight with medium-light traffic? This shouldn’t be a problem. No apparent reason for it that I can discern. By the time we get on the freeway, car #2 immediately moves over one lane and starts pacing car #1. What in the name of all that’s holy? I’m behind them; car #2 has executed the maneuver I was planning on resorting to as soon as I go to the dashed white line. I actually had to abort my lane change and stay behind slowpoke #1. They are still… wait for it…. wait for it… going 30 and pacing each other! What is this? The cager version of the Slow Race? They must be accelerating by cruise control alone. Look Mom, no feet! Since they are in no real hurry to get their move on, the cars from behind us are approaching fast. And I’m in the rear, with a car on my tail (the one that followed me and the slow-moving caravan down the acceleration lane). He’s biding his time, it seems, probably unsure of what to do after witnessing my aborted lane change. I need to do something. I have a bad feeling about this. In a few more seconds I’m going to be surrounded by cagers dodging right and left – in a reverse version of Moses splitting the sea – to get around these rolling speed bumps. I have to act. I extract myself with a quick lane change to the left across two lanes, pass the offending motorists, then back over one lane, dodge two more cars and I’m in the free and clear. There’s something about hard acceleration while leaned over, throw in a shift from 2nd to 3rd gear, and Miss Busa’s inner squid rejoices. Yeah, separate the actions… who cares, sometimes you just have to, because it feels good. But I can’t do a wheelie (on purpose) to save my life. Go figure. I give it some more hell, just for the fun of it, find myself a nice airy spot between the packs and settle back down into speed limit +9, because that’s the going rate on I-520E this evening. I’m still wondering if that front tire saw any sunlight… it sure felt like it. And speaking of tires… I sure do love my Dunlop Sportmax Q2! I can’t wait until I get my front rubber on, which currently calls the Ottoman in my living room its home.
Look What You Made Me Do…
Some would argue that I should have stayed behind the slowpokes and went with the ‘flow’. I disagree. ‘Flow Actual’ was about to catch up. In the car I would have, but I gave up “riding it like a car” a while ago. What I mean by that is that I used conduct myself on my motorcycle like I did in my car. I selected the proper lane early on, stayed in it, went with the flow of traffic, and rode defensively. The catalyst for change came with almost being run off the road by some dude in a car who suddenly decided he needed my lane more than me so he could make the upcoming left turn into the gas station. I had nowhere to go but forward. I was in the right lane, with cars to the rear and no shoulder, just the edge of the road dropping off into grassy dirt. The car came over, I immediately dodged right and with no other option but to go forward, I gripped it and ripped it. When right-turn lane started I was able to move further right, which I wasted no time doing and thus barely got out of his way. I took the time to turn in the saddle to fly the double-breasted eagle. Yes, I will let go of grips and face rearward to let them know with both hands how deeply my dissatisfaction runs. I really should quit the single-digit sign language. But damn, sometimes it’s just too freaking intense. I don’t give the finger lightly; and the flying the double-breasted eagle is reserved for those extra special occasions. This was another one of the times where I was grateful for that notorious over-the-top power the Hayabusa is known for. I barely made it on the ‘Busa. On my H-D Sporty I would have been a heap in the ditch, I’m almost sure of it. I believe this to be the incident that changed my riding style from ‘cautious defensive’ to ‘aggressive evasion’. Three degrees of separation. I believe distance between them and me is VERY important. I can outaccelerate and outmaneuver any car out there and I’m using that to my advantage to stay out of their way. Ride it like you’re invisible and be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Always. Don’t assume. Stay alert. Read the pattern. Look ahead. Keep your wits about you and be sure of your skill set and the capabilities of your machine.
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