“Motorcycle season” in the Chicago area can vary as to when it begins, due largely to the weather. Last year (2014) the season began late, in large part because of cold and rainy conditions. This year, motorcyclists are appearing on the roads relatively early – in mid-March – due to dry conditions and relatively mild temperatures.
Motorcyclists should be extra-careful during early-season motorcycle riding due to a number of factors. Many of these factors have been discussed elsewhere throughout this site.
Of course, safe riding is contingent on a wide range of factors, and can vary significantly at any given moment. However, here are a few general factors that are especially notable with regard to early-season riding:
- There may be road salt and gravel (from snowplowing) still on roads, streets and expressways. This may significantly impact stopping distances during braking.
- Along these same lines, roads, streets, and expressways likely have new or worsened potholes and other road deformities that motorcyclists may not be aware of. Often, these potholes and other road deformities may not be (fully) addressed until later in the spring, or perhaps the summer. As such, these newly-presented road hazards are something to be aware of.
- For the first ride of the season, motorcyclists may want to be extra careful, as they have likely not ridden for a while and as such they may be somewhat “rusty” with regard to bike handling as well as the dynamics of riding in traffic.
- Be sure that the motorcycle is in proper working order and has been properly maintained. Since the motorcycle likely has not been ridden for a number of months, it is important to make sure that no maintenance issues have developed during (or due to) the inactivity.
- Motorist awareness: In the early motorcycle season, motorists may not be fully aware of motorcyclists, as they haven’t been active on streets for a number of months. Research (as discussed in the February 22, 2014 post titled “Research As To Why Motorists Fail To See Motorcyclists“) indicates that awareness of motorcyclists often hinges on the frequency of motorcycle riders on streets. While it is unknown as to whether the Chicago motorcycle “off-season” contributes to motorists’ lack of awareness of motorcyclists, it would appear as if extra caution in the early motorcycle riding season would be warranted for this reason.
Of course, other general motorcycle riding safety tips should also be considered, such as not riding after drinking alcohol, as well as the benefits of wearing approved helmets, are discussed in the “Illinois Motorcycle Riding After Drinking” and “Illinois Motorcyclist Safety And Helmet Use” pages.
[Additional commentary regarding riding safety is seen in posts in the “Motorcycle Rider Safety” category.]