I am so done with rain! I show rain the finger! Rain, kiss my pipe, you don’t scare me (much)!
I have said that riding in rain has become “nothing but a thing” anymore. People who ask me if I rode into work today, when they’ve obviously seen my bike sitting in the parking lot getting the redneck bike wash treatment, think I’m completely nuts when I nod a “Yes, I did. I have to, I don’t own a car,” in response to their question. I don’t even know why they bother asking anymore. I certainly didn’t push the mother here. How else would it get here? This makes me think that all they are trying to tell me is, via small talk of the stating-the-obvious variety, that they believe me to be completely mental and I should really get a grip and trade the thing in for a car. Please! When hell freezes over; then, maybe, we’ll begin negotiations.
I have gotten the “don’t rely on that” hand-waving dismissive “you-are-soon-dead” reactions from veteran bikers in response to my standard reply of “Rain is just God’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” Yeah, I’m such a squid! Please bury me just like that dude who reaped Internet fame of epic proportions posthumously by his family posing his dead corpse on his sport bike. Yeah. Bury my ass sitting on my Beemer in a race tuck, dragging knee around a… wait. I want to be cremated and turned into a diamond for Mr. Slow to wear as a necklace… on second thought, scratch that.
It came to me the other morning, when I had an incident on the way home from work, that I have pretty much experienced all the major “Holy Hell” categories of Crap Weather Riding 101 and 201. I have lost traction both front and rear; fishtailed; slid it sideways; almost lost it by putting my foot down in an oil-water mixture at an intersection; have slipped on lane markings; slid across a patch of ice on a curved onramp; been cut off while turning right at an intersection and had to get on the brakes so hard while leaned over, I was sure that I couldn’t possibly remain on my contact patches; I have had to fly by instruments alone, it was raining so hard at night, the water couldn’t evacuate fast enough off my face shield, and the lights refracted off the road surface so badly, I was basically blind. One thing I hadn’t experienced yet.
I was on my way home from work, I was tired and it was raining pretty steadily. It had been raining all night and most of the previous day, which meant I had at least clean roads, since most of the junk had already been washed off the road surface. I was passing most everybody, as is my custom when it’s raining. Two reasons I have for this, one of which is that most seem to want to creep along below or right at the speed limit, which is something I really don’t get. Maybe those people need new wiper blades and some new tires? This is a far cry from the 15+ over they usually employ to get to work on time. No bother, this does me just fine. It’s not like I want to hang out around cars and trucks, they spray more dirty water into my path, limit my sight distance even more and make it a generally unpleasant experience. Traffic in crap weather is unpredictable to me, I rather not attempt to read them for fear I might be wrong. I take the “the more distance between us the better” approach when it’s unfavorable in the weather department. But I digress.
I was in the left lane roughly doing my usual standard speed of speed limit +9, traffic was extremely light. I see a bus up ahead and once I get close I decide to speed up, which is also a standard practice of mine. Big vehicle getting passed by small vehicle makes small vehicle go through the danger zone in a hurry. I don’t like to hang out. As I am roughly two-thirds of the way past the bus, I hit standing water in the left wheel track. Using the left wheel track is also standard practice when passing huge vehicles. I recognize the danger at about the same time I feel both of my tires “driving up onto glass.” I really have no other way to describe the feedback I got through my tires. It felt different. Not as “rough”, not as “connected”. Like being picked up? As if my contact patches felt smaller. I don’t really know how to put this in words. At that fraction of a second my heart was in my throat, beating fiercely. I had the bus spraying a fine mist of dirty water all over me, to my immediate left was the concrete barrier separating the westbound lanes from the ones going east. I lose it either way, I’m toast. I was staring down the gauntlet into the possibility of coming out the other side in the World of Pain.
I felt the rear give first. I practically had to scream at my tendons not to move and snap the throttle shut. Boy, did I want to. I’m glad the thought of hitting the brakes never raised its ugly head; kind of proud of that one, if I may take this opportunity and pat my own self on the back. This is the first time I was scared while riding in the rain in a long time. I didn’t like it. I told myself out loud, so I could hear it and believe it: “Keep calm! Easy does it!” and with that I pinned the throttle and rode it out, while looking way ahead into the distance, trying to ignore the kill zones to my left and right. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted much longer than a few seconds, if that long. Time always seems to slow down when stuff happens.
Hydroplaning is only fun on a wakeboard at the beach.
What in the devil is wrong this morning? Traffic is pretty heavy, but moving along at almost the pace of a Georgia Super Speeder, which is highly unusual for a Wednesday on both counts. It’s raining, has been pretty much all night from the looks of things. I’m running late, so I’m pretty much in a hurry. Business as usual on I-20. I’m passing most everybody, a few get to pass me. Yeah, you’ve read right. It’s a privilege, one which can be revoked at any second. 😉
Once I merge onto I-520E it’s a different story, as is evident at the merge point of the two opposing I-20 ramps feeding into I-520E. It takes some seriously creative riding to get in between all the slowasses, the hesitant mergers, the leadfoots, the space holders, the distractedly engaged, and the mobile jabber junkies. Yes, I have categorized the crowd by their default behaviors when driving becomes more complicated and the brain starts running the risk of overloading. Inconveniences such as intersections, on/off ramps, cloverleaf ramps, and merge points are all prime spots to observe the Common Cager (incola communis rotae cavea) in their natural habitat.
I make my way towards another day filled with opportunity of earning Pirate Coin (read: I’m going to work to make the bike payment) through the succession of merge points that is Augusta’s own scaled-down version of Atlanta’s infamous Spaghetti Junction or Columbia’s suicidal Malfunction Junction. After slicing and dicing and duking it out with a cager crowd that is denser, faster, and more aggressive than usual, which makes the situation also more unpredictable than is the norm; I finally find myself some empty-enough asphalt I can settle into and go with the flow of traffic.
My bliss, however, doesn’t last long, and as the wild bunch behind me catches up, I find myself surrounded again. Damn! I hate this. I can’t stand being around this much metal. That goes against my rule of riding as if invisible. I don’t like being caged in (pun intended), it gives me few to no outs and not enough time to react to set an escape in motion if it became necessary. I like to control the situation. And I do that with the throttle.
I have planned my escape and am working my way towards the freedom that is a much airier stretch of asphalt not too far ahead. As I see an opening to escape the imminent clutches of a semi-truck spraying me with grimy rainwater its tires sling off the road surface and a tailgater in an SUV, and risking getting stuck there, I take it and quickly change lanes, squeeze in between two cars, ride the left side of the white line, then gas it a little too enthusiastically to take advantage of the next opening. I slide the rear wheel, it starts stepping out to the right. I don’t even have to think about it; nor is it an event that registers even the slightest twinges of panic in me, nor does it upset the Pirate, as is evident by the DTC light remaining dark. A simple acknowledgement, followed by trained action.
I pin the throttle, then dive left with a quick nudge on the left grip, aiming for the left wheel track of the left lane; as I do, the rear wheel hooks back up. I straighten myself out, pass the semi truck, and after one more set of rolling road blocks (two cars pacing each other slightly offset, taking up both lanes and backing up impatient caffeine-deprived, half-asleep morning commuters for miles) I am finally free. I feel like putting on blue face paint and showing my arse while yelling “Freedom!”.
I was kind of proud of myself. I smiled. It wasn’t too long ago where I would have had to pull over and dig out the emergency pair of replacement panties. And here I was complaining not too long ago that I can’t improve my skills on public roads anymore. That street riding has become mostly mundane, boring and uninspiring. I guess I underestimated the power of constant and conscious repetition of isolated skill practice. I definitely have increased my crap weather riding skills and my confidence must be solidified.
I noticed another thing, I have reached a milestone of sorts in my riding: I haven’t been singing in the rain. That means I am not nervous or anxious anymore and the need for intense concentration has passed. I still sing on occasion when I drag knee though, I’m pretty sure of it. 😉
As a side note: I’m rolling Dunlop Sportmax Q2s, the rear in Hayabusa size (a leftover from some long-ago tire sale): 190/50 as opposed to 190/55. I can reach the ground better in my race boots, but I think I lost 6 mph off the top end… *giggles* and my speedo reads about 5-7 miles slow now. Oh well… it won’t be on there forever. I really do love those tires. I think I might even like them better than the Metzeler Racetec Interact K3 (K3s are medium-hard) that came on the bike; and they are cheaper, too.
I’ve been living in north-eastern Georgia for nine years. To my recollection, it hardly ever gets below freezing and when it does it’s usually in January. We’re kicking this year’s winter off right. First we have temps in the 60s -70s at the end of November. Next thing, it’s 24°F on my ride home from work. The heated vest and gloves are on full blast and I can’t even feel the heat. Luckily, I can’t feel the cold either. I suppose that was an even thermodynamic exchange there. This week the lows are going to be around 17°F with highs in the upper 30s to low 40s. WTF? It’s way too cold way too soon.
I hate winter. Luckily, when it’s below freezing it hardly ever rains around here. No snow to worry about, which is good, because when it snows and it sticks, I’m SOL. I got stuck at work one night last year and had to camp out in the office and then work another 12-hour shift the next day. Yummy! I’m sure I looked and smelled heavenly. Hahahaha. I did, however, have the foresight to anticipate the possibility and had hubby drop off an inflatable mattress, blanket, pillow, PJs, and various toiletries that very afternoon on his way to work.
I don’t even know how I made it through my first winter with all my fingers intact. I was riding on my Harley Sportster wearing a fleece hoodie under a dress leather jacket and knitted fashion gloves under my fingerless Harley pair. I ordered the riding gear when I bought the bike in late September, but it was backordered. Didn’t get the gloves until mid-December and the matching riding jacket to my overpants didn’t get to my door until March or so. Sucked.
My second winter was spent riding my Suzuki Hayabusa. That was a cold-ass ride compared to the Harley, even after the install of a Double Bubble windscreen, but I coped (more or less). After coming home one morning with hubby finding me curled up on the floor in the fetal position, still wearing all my gear sans helmet, and my thawing, screaming bloody murder, achy hands shoved into my crotch, crying in pain; the “rolling it old school” era came to an end. Hubby insisted on buying heated gear for me. I had hooked him up for Christmas with a Gerbing’s heated jacket liner, glove liners and a dual temp controller. He hooked me up for my birthday in return.
My third winter will be spent on the S1000RR. The coldest of all my rides thus far. Must have something to do with the way the fairings guide the air currents around me. I swear, the Hayabusa felt “warmer” overall, except for the ass. For some reason, I always came home with frozen butt cheeks, a problem I don’t seem to have on the Double-R. But it’s all subjective, isn’t it? I am not ready for winter, I hate the gloomy light, the short days, the cold temps, and all that comes with it.
I’ve tucked my front tire more often than I care to admit publicly, my front end feels like a tank in turns until I give the fork oil a workout and my tires never really get up to proper operating temp. The ride is simply not as much fun this time of year. Probably because my traction envelope has shrunk to the size of “responsible adult”. And speaking of the front end tucking, now I get to go out in this crap weather of cold with even colder wind gusts and change my front tire, since it’s well…. past its useful life and has been for quite a few hundred miles now. I just have been too lazy, but now I’ve procrastinated that one way past the point of acceptable risk, considering the addition of “cold” and “hard” to “flat” and “slick”. I am so looking forward to busting my knuckles when I’m partially hypothermic. Yeah, what a hoot! I would like a garage, please.
I really hate winter. Riding becomes perfunctory and purpose driven. All function, no (real) fun.
Still better than taking the car!
I finally made it happen. And it wasn’t as glorious or dramatic as I expected it to be. As a matter of fact, the whole affair left me feeling a little miffed. Left with the thought: “I so could have handled that myself!” I was on my way home from work, the roads were wet, but clean, since it had rained pretty much all day. It was still a little drizzly, but it ain’t nothing but a thing anymore. The light is green and I take the left onto the onramp that leads uphill to dump us working stiffs onto I-520W to make our merry way home at an average rate of about 70 in a 55. The S1000RR’s stock tires, which are Metzeler Racetec K3 Interact (K3 are medium-hard) are confidence inspiring in the rain. I have developed trust in their crap weather performance rather quickly. Not even the Dunlop Sportmax Q2 rear that I rolled on the Hayabusa earned my trust this easily, and I loved them puppies so much, I still have two full sets stacked in my hallway closet. (Anybody want to buy some rubber?) Anyhoo, I was making the left turn a little faster than I normally would in this kind of weather, and decided to throw an upshift in the mix, while still coming out of the lean and accelerating briskly up the ramp. Of course, I miss the shift. Doh! Blip. Click. Rip. Clunk. The rear hops and steps out and the DTC light flashes on, and the hopping and sliding stops immediately and the bike is back online and continues its accelerated journey up the ramp. This happened in a split second. As soon as I realized what was going on it was over. My muscles didn’t even have time to take their accustomed corrective action that would have been necessary on The Fat Lady. Wow. How unceremonious that whole ordeal was. And here I was kind of scared of it and dreading the moment it would come on. Yeah, I screwed up and “Arr! Arr! Matey.” said The Pirate and put things right. I was in ‘Rain’ mode. I think I’m done with ‘Rain’ mode in wet weather. I think I’m going to leave it in ‘Race’ mode from now on. I like it the best of all the modes that don’t require the coded plug, besides, the Hayabusa never saw anything but ‘A’ mode after the break-in. Given, the ‘Busa’s modes only flattened the power curve; the S1000RR’s modes change DTC and RaceABS behavior and only restrict power delivery in ‘Rain’ mode. But for some reason I find it easier to finesse the throttle in ‘Race’ mode, even though the manual says it’s more aggressive (I think they used the word “direct”) than ‘Sport’ in throttle response. *shrugs*
The following message is brought to you by massive doses of Ibuprofen:
After taking pictures of the abuse I put my poor ‘Busa through, Joe took me to the scene of the ‘occurrence’. Rather than trying to talk about it, a few pictures is worth a thousand words, and a video by Mr. Slow is worth disconnecting your Internet for. 😉 I meant to say: a video is worth a thousand pics. Really. I did. No. Honest. Here we go:
After inspection of the damage on my bike, riding gear, and the evidence at the scene of the ‘occurrence’ (I had some training in accident investigation in college) I have to say this: I only walked away from this, with some bruises, a light concussion, and a body that doesn’t seem to want to quit hurting in all sorts of places I didn’t know existed, because I was wearing my gear and have educated myself by reading books on riding technique and practicing these skills on a daily basis (and continue to do so, well… would continue to do so if I had a bike that was in one piece.)
I’m on my way home from work. I’m three miles from the house, but I’m thirsty and to my recollection I’m out of Diet Coke. And it’s the only thing that’ll hit the spot. It’s one of those ‘gotta have it’ moments. In a last-minute decision, I get into the outside lane of the two-lane left turn to make my way into the new Wal-Mart they finished a few months ago at Exit 190 on my home stretch of I-20. Red light. First in line, car to my left, no one behind me. This could only be better if the light hadn’t changed to red. I love this corner. Brand new asphalt, smooth, sweeping 90-degree turn feeding into a nice little stretch of (as of yet) unused road that circles the entire parking lot. I call this the ”Busa Back-Forty’. The light changes to green and off I go. I out-accelerate the car next to me and get my lean on. I’m looking through the turn, have my line visualized, the tires feel solid, and the Fat Lady does as she’s told and feels planted and stable. For some reason I decided before I even turned it in not to hang off. I’m wearing my Harley-Davidson FXRG all-season textiles, not my leathers; but the difference in gear only means that my knee is either tucked in tight against the fairing on the inside of the turn or it’s sticking out. Right before I reach the apex of the turn, I hear a scraping noise. It is a familiar sound, albeit I haven’t experienced it since my Harley days. I dragged peg on my first bike, a Sportster 1200Low, all the time, especially in left turns. Nothing to worry about, really. My tires feel solid, I love that Q2 rear rubber. Next thing I know, my rear steps out and I lose my line going wide. WTF?!? My brain finally analyzes what is happening. I’m dragging hard parts and it’s leveraging the bike’s rear off the ground, shifting weight off the rear tire and causing it to lose traction. Shit! I can see the curb coming at me fast. Something tells me I should NOT, under any circumstances hit that sliding sideways. Something I’ve read in one of the skill books I’ve been devouring since I started on two wheels comes to my mind: “If a collision is imminent, do SOMETHING.” I can only see one out here: I have to jump the curb. I give it all I’ve got to try and wrestle the Fat Lady out of past-maximum lean and straighten up the bike and aim for the curb. Here is where my memory gets hazy: I remember vaguely trying to shift weight to the rear and giving it more gas to help the front wheel climb up on the sidewalk. I think I made it, but at a considerable lean. I could have sworn I was upright again, but later inspection of the ‘crime scene’ seems to tell a different story. So does The Fat Lady’s extensive wounds. Things fade to black here. I remember hearing the nauseating sounds of man-made materials under stress: plastics cracking, glass shattering, metals screeching. My last thought before I blacked out is something along the lines of: “Holy shit, I hope I don’t hit that pole!”
I come to, sitting on my bum, on the sidewalk, next to a street lamp, facing in the direction of travel. I see The Fat Lady about thirty feet further down, laying on her left side, also facing the direction of travel, taking an asphalt nap parallel to the curb in the right wheel track. She is so perfectly aligned, it looks as if someone placed her there for a little ‘how to pick up a dropped bike’ practice. She doesn’t look so bad from here. There are three dudes and a girl standing around me, asking me if I’m ok. I answer, while I’m feeling myself up, that I think I am. I take my gloves, helmet, and backpack off and place them neatly next to the lamp post in the grass. Another person comes around from my right and bends down to my level, also asking me if I’m ok and telling me that help is on the way. I nod and remain sitting in my spot. I slowly turn my head over my left shoulder and see a trail of dirt, grass, plastic bits and scrape marks. I look down on myself. My riding gear is dirty, but seems in good shape. I notice I have grass in my mouth and spit it out. The three dudes, after having assured themselves that I am indeed alright, pick up my bike and place her on her kickstand. They check out my ‘Busa, one of them remarks that he’s never seen anything like it. That this was the best freakin’ riding he’s ever seen on a Hayabusa, or some such thing. Kind of makes a momma proud; I only wish I would have landed that. Yeah, you definitely get extra cred when you’re a girl on a Hayabusa. =D A deputy sheriff arrives not too much later, with the fire department in a big-ass, huge fire truck, sirens blaring and lights flashing. First Responders, I’m assuming. The ambulance is not far behind. OMG! All this hoopla for me?!? Gawd, these people must be bored out of their minds in this town and are jumping on every call with the full-on brunt of their life-saving force. Kinda cool, when you think about it. Kind of embarrassing, too. One of the fire fighters checks me out and asks me the usual questions to ensure I’m with it and not confused. He asks me who the president is, I’m slow to respond, but finally manage an “Obama”. He asks me if I voted for him, I glance at the man sideways and give him an enthusiastic “Hell no!” They laugh and decide I’m pretty much ok in the head. The deputy asks me if I have a preference for a towing service, and I just shake my head and utter: “Whoever is cheapest.” While the wrecker arrives and starts putting my baby on the back of their truck, I’m being given the once-over by the EMTs in the ambulance. They also inspect my helmet, there are no signs of impact on it anywhere. They give me the choice of going to the ER or going home. I don’t feel all that bad, so I opt for going home. I sign some papers and they let me go. I watch the wrecker dude finish up with my bike. At least they seem to know what they’re doing. I’ve heard some horror stories about wreckers and motorcycles. My baby appears to be in good hands, though. We finish up all the official stuff, I sit on the curb and write my police report, and the deputy sheriff gives me a ride home. During the gratis ride in the back of a police cruiser (sans handcuffs) I notice my vision narrowing, greying out, and I’m starting to see those funky multi-colored spirographic images. I feel a little woozy. On my way into the house to get my insurance card for the officer, I almost pass out. I explain to the officer what is going on with me and he suggests that it’s probably for the best to call the ambulance back, but it is my choice. I agree. Several minutes later, Grovetown’s First Responders roll in: noisy, flashy, and in an awesome display of helpfulness. OMG! How embarrassing. The neighbors one by one come trickling out of their houses to watch the show. The officer just smiles and says: “These are First Responders, that’s what they do. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.” Good gawd. They go through the whole spiel again, then stuff me in the back of the ambulance and hook me up to a 10-lead wiring harness and a finger thingy to monitor the whatnots of Miss Busa. My neighbor peeks her head in. “You ok?” I reply, that this is just precautionary, since I’m alone and feel faint, so they’re going to take me to the ER to make sure there’s nothing major wrong with me. She tells me to call her if I need anything. I tell her not to worry and that I’m fine. Off we go…
My wreck happend around 7PM, I am released from the ER around 1:30AM with an Rx for Cyclobenzaprine and Ibuprofen, I refused the heavy artillery they wanted to hook me up with. I hate taking pills. They’ve done extensive X-Rays of my left wrist and pinky and a CAT scan of my upper body and head, but found nothing out of the ordinary. I couldn’t get my phone to work properly since my crash, and now have problems with the built-in GPS. I finally get my radio operational and get a signal and after explaining my situation to a co-worker, he texts me some cab numbers from the phone book. I walk around semi-aimlessly trying to pinpoint my exact location when I spot a bank and a pharmacy. Lucky me. I scope out the area carefully and brave the ATM to get some cash for the cab ride home. I have to be insane doing this in the middle of the night by myself. Oh well, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. I get my cash, then make my way across the street (in somewhat of a hurry) to get my Rx filled. At least I know where I am now and can call myself a cab with the telephone numbers provided by my co-worker. I’m starting to feel worse. I am in agony, feeling like I just got hit and tackled by a line backer for the New Orleans Saints. They warned me about this. I finally admit defeat and call my boss, explain what happened and she gets coverage for my shift and tells me to take care of myself and my business. Good. I sit on the curb in the pharmacy’s parking lot, in the middle of downtown Augusta, and wonder if today is the day I’m also going to get robbed. The cabbie pulls in and I’m finally nearing the end of my (mis)adventure.
Many Thanks Go Out To:
I want to thank my co-workers and my boss for being there for me when I needed them and having my backside. I want to thank all the people who stopped at the scene and made sure I was ok and kept me company until the emergency services arrived. I want to thank the police, fire fighters, EMTs, nurses and doctors for seeing me through this and being so nice to me, even making me laugh, and helping me not feel so embarrassed about my ordeal. I want to thank my neighbors for watching out for me and offering to be there for me, if I needed them. And I also want to thank my husband, Joe, for not giving me grief, but instead being supportive, taking two days off to be with me and making fun of me instead of giving me lectures. I love you, Mr. Slow.