Daytona Time - Watch Out!

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
Ahh, Daytona Bike Week, that annual bikers’ rite of spring, is almost upon us. For many of us that reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Bike Week is our first opportunity of the year to do any serious riding. As such, it is also a wake-up call for how rusty our riding skills have become over the winter. When I lived in the frozen tundra of Indiana, I was always astonished each spring at how my reaction times and general smoothness of control had deteriorated.

Thankfully, in Tennessee we have occasional days throughout the winter when one can bundle up and go for a ride. That helps me to stay sharp…well, sharp for me anyway.

If the weather in your neck o’ the woods will allow it, try to get in a little riding practice before you head Daytona way. Even if you have to bundle up and only ride for a few miles at a time, do it. There are going to be as many as a half-million of us in the Daytona Beach area the first week of March. Probably a minimum of two-thirds of us are coming from a part of the country where our riding has been severely curtailed or non-existent for three to four months or more. Some of us need to know what in the hell we’re doing!

As we head back into the riding world, there are also some hazards we need to remind ourselves to watch out for. Some of them exist everywhere, while others are more exclusive to Florida and warm weather.

Has anyone but me noticed that road construction season keeps getting longer and longer? No, you cannot blame global warming for this one. Since our interstate highway system was basically built decades ago, it seems that it is all falling apart at the same time. The cure has become the practice of grinding off the top layer of pavement and laying down a new one on the old roadbed. Besides the obvious rough corrugated surface produced, which disagrees terribly with some motorcycle tread patterns, there is a second hazard created. When the fine concrete dust produced by this grinding operation mixes with a little rainwater, it can become extremely slick. If you have to ride through a construction area, and you will, on your way to Daytona, or after you get there, be aware that the stuff is slick when it’s wet.

Another road hazard brought on by warm weather is the use of wet tar to fill cracks in the pavement. These highway snakes can be extremely slippery and some roads have so many of them close together that it is impossible to miss them all. If you find yourself on such a road, try to pick a path that crosses as few of them as possible.

There are a few more road goodies to watch out for. Most of us don’t encounter sand on our roads at home. In Florida, it’s everywhere. They have sand where the rest of us have dirt. A thin sprinkling of sand, say at the edge of a road or at a driveway entrance can put you on the ground before you know what has happened. I speak from experience on this matter. Luckily, when it happened to me, I was going about two miles an hour, pulling out of a restaurant driveway. The bike slid out from under me and I was left standing, straddling my fallen mount.

Diesel fuel is always a personal favorite. You haven’t had a thrill until you’ve started leaning into a turn and hit a patch of diesel fuel. You’ll wind up with new creases in the middle of your seat that you didn’t know you could make with that part of your body, if you catch my drift. Remember, the old-timers sometimes call diesel fuel “diesel oil”. There is a reason they use that term.

One last road hazard to consider is animal guts. Now, I have never seen a survey to determine which flavor of animal guts is the slickest, but I do know, from experience again, that fresh ones are slicker than ones that have been more spread out and have had a chance to dry. So no matter if it’s Pepe LePew, Felix, Benji, Bambi, Pith Possum, Bugs Bunny, Mr.Ed or Foghorn Leghorn, avoid it. You do not want it on you or your tires.

Once you get to Daytona Beach, be aware that we are distracted by things that have not distracted us for months…. or maybe a whole year. Also let it be noted that most of us are really not very skilled riders. Oh, I know you are the greatest rider that ever straddled a mount; I’m talking about those other guys. Add the distractions of Bike Week and Daytona Beach in general and you have the makings of a riding drama… with trauma.

Newbies to Bike Week are likely seeing more motorcycles in one place than they’ve ever seen in their lives. They are experiencing sensory overload and their eyes are going everywhere but on the road in front of them. It’s also the first time many of us have seen a female without a coat and long pants in months. Need I say more?

An amazing amount of alcohol is consumed during Bike Week. Such consumption does nothing to enhance riding abilities or awareness of surroundings. Add that to the tendency of some bikers to ride side-by-side, instead of in a more sensible staggered formation, and you have impaired drivers banging into each other’s bikes and swerving into oncoming lanes. The handlebars on two side-by-side motorcycles are wider than a Ford Taurus, and that doesn’t allow for any space between the bars. No wonder they’re banging off each other!

Last but not least, consider the locals. Some are geezers with slow reactions, overwhelmed by the annual springtime transformation of their sleepy little city. Some simply don’t like you and are not prone to be courteous to your driving space needs.

What I have been saying boils down to this – be careful out there. Daytona Bike Week can be a blast, but you need to watch out for yourself and others. Spring Fever is rampant, there are lots of distractions and gallons of testosterone are flowing. Even in the presence of several thousand sets of life-saving loud pipes, there were twelve motorcycle-related fatalities during Bike Week in 2002. I would like for there to be none this year.
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Sean Alexander
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