Mar 14, 2007

Motorcycle-Animal situations

Kangaroo SignRecently, a dog who escaped with no injuries let to the birth of this post. As is rapidly becoming a trend, I decided to turn that into a post of my own. Not mooching it, of course, but expanding on the seed of inspiration. etc. The following is a collection of animals, and what I know about how they mix with motorcycles. I can say with confidence that since I have never actually intersected the time-space plane with an animal, I've no idea if any of these are true, they work, or are just old wives tales (they ride bikes too?). But for what its worth, here goes...

Squirrels: The little buggers are cute as buttons, change direction seventy five times a second and are nearly impossible to run over with the mobike. Ignore and continue. 99.95 per cent, you won't even come close to hitting them. Girlfriend who screams, 'but you didn't even roll off the throttle!' needs to be told to shut up.

Dogs: These are deadly. When you're cuddling one at someone's house, or its humping your leg or drooling all over you gazillion buck Armani/Alpinestars, they range from cuddly-bear to annoyance. But when they dart across the road, they're killers. If you hit a dog, you're going down. No question. If you're lucky (remember, relative term), it'll just bounce off your shin or something and give you a hell of a – hopefully temporary – limp. Hit it square, and you're kissing it today, bub. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Brake, swerve... whatever... don't hit it. Oh, the bast**ds rarely ever get damaged in crashes, so save those tears.

Cats: I find it hard to believe that you could potentially run over something as fast, agile and situationally aware as a cat. But most animals of that size (the house dog size of thereabouts) will and can cause a heap big crash. See dogs for strategy.

Sheep/Goats: Not only do they travel in herds most of the time, they also tend to follow each other almost blindly. You're safest at ultra-low speed or stopped. Stop, look, go. Again, since they're only marginally larger than dogs, if you hit one, you're going down.

Cows: These are complete idiots. They won't move and are usually oblivious to both the motorcycle bearing down at them at top speed and injury. But they hurt. Best best? Lay it (your shiny pride and joy, that is) down if you're wearing kit. Or avoid by swerving. Sometimes the horn will get a movement out of the cow. From what I've heard, cows rarely turn around and bolt, so they're likely to move forward. Aim to avoid from the rear. Bulls, as an aside, are known to attack RD350s without provocation. I have been chased once, and I remember a chap in the Bahamas/Caribbean who was also also chased by a Bull (met him on the old two-stroke forum).

Buffalos: Same as cows, but they can turn around and bolt. So you need to be real careful. Also, they're usually black in colour, so spotting them after dark can be tough.

Chicken: They're usually easy enough to kill without falling off the bike. Don't hit one while on the brakes though, it might tip you over. On the throttle is usually much better. If the chicken survives, pull over, walk back and ask it why it decided to cross the road.

Snakes: Yes, snakes. I've seen them cross roads, and I've also seen basking snakes crawl across the road when surprised. Slipper buggers, if you're on the throttle throughout (and very lucky) you should get nothing more than a wobble. If the insides get smeared on the tyre, slow to a stop gently and look for leaves/stick to unglue the muck. In most cases, slowing down and passing on a closed throttle will allow the snake and you to get by without incident.

Asses: They never use zebra crossings and are liable to jump into your path without any warning. Even if you make eye contact. Usually live in settlements called towns, they're everywhere. Be very careful. The horn is known to work on them, and if all else fails, hurl abuse. They're far from endangered (actually there's too many of them around), but hitting one, even if you don't get injured will mean that you will get surrounded by more asses and eventually the cops will also take the ass's side. Best avoided by riding more carefully through ass populations.

Donkeys: Are a bit unpredictable so you need to be on your guard. They're large enough to cause serious crashes also. They are usually slow moving and almost never without the owner so you shouldn't have too much trouble with these. Personally, I've never heard of anyone crashing with a donkey.

Deer: Quite common as a motorcycle hazard abroad, and endangered almost everywhere else. Camouflage colours work and the buggers are hard to spot. They also happen to travel in herds. Be very, very careful. Hitting one with a bike is gonna lay you up in traction for a while.

Kangaroos: These are a real danger. But are restricted to zoos around the world and Australia. Their skin makes excellent riding gear. Again, these are large, fast animals and your best defense is to avoid contact.

Elk/Moose: Another set of completely invisible animals. They also cause innumerable crashes, especially in the areas they inhabit. Like Canada. I think. Strategies are the same as with all large animals, avoid contact.

Camels: You'll never come up on a camel and get surprised. They're too big for that. If you do suddenly notice that a camel has materialised in the middle in the road some twenty feet away, stop. Then slowly turn around, stick it in first and ride to your eye doctor.

Elephants: Wait for them to pass. If they come towards you, turn around and ride as hard as you can. After dark, Elephants are very hard to spot. So you're better off not riding through areas where you know/have been warned that Pachyderms roam.

Dinosaurs: Get back in the time machine and press fast forward. Do not stop to get DNA sample so someone can clone them later. If it's really big and looks creepy, do everything quietly. Dinos are known to eat motorcyclists, even those who haven't actually crashed into them. Will chase if they spot you running, but are usually too large to fit into the time vortex in the wake of the time machine.

Summary: Animals smaller than dogs can usually be hit without causing a fall. Dogs upwards, if there is contact, a crash will usually follow. Animals larger than dogs cause big, bone-breaking crashes, so your strategy has to be to avoid contact at all costs. Still larger animals might even chase you down...

General tips:
  • If you don't have traffic around you, do everything you can to avoid contact

  • If you see an animal in the road ahead (and it's alive), downshift, slow down and approach slowly. If it's dead, do not compound its misery by running over it. Its disrespectful, and you could fall... and that'd be just dumb.

  • You should be looking for a place to safely swerve around the animal already.

  • If its a small animal, speeding up as you pass it helps. If they do chase, they'll give up sooner.

  • If you have a dog chasing you, don't attempt to kick it, you could fall off. Instead, vary the speed, it confuses the dog and in most cases, it will give up.
  • If you are in traffic, swerving may not be an option. Ditto for stopping. In which case, you have to... er...
Links on this subject: MSGroup | eHow | MotorcycleCruiser


first_synn said...

Ei rearset...

Awesome article as usual, but that's stating the usual, ain't it?

BTW, i have hit cats. twice. One was black too.. :D

point number one: Hit a cat head on, if you can't avoid it. Don't worry about the cat. NOTHING happens to them. I can vouch for that.

Point number two: the worst that can happen is a pretty nasty wobble. The quick draw-McGraws amongst us will make through it. UNLESS, the cat gets entangled in the wheel spokes. In that case, god save ye.

Point Number three: While riding, a black cat crossing doesn't bring you bad luck. He IS the bad luck.

Keep up the good work.

Rock on and ride safely. \M/

-The synner.

Jackfruit said...

This was a good one .. :-) :-)

Well said about Asses, after effects are dreaded in this case and their babies are worse.

Anonymous said...

Lovely article, as usual. This is sorta becoming a daily fix for me.

About hitting dogs:

For the most part, I agree that a fall is inevitable after a dog gets snagged.

But then again, a lot of that could be blamed on rider anxiety that actually causes the fall - and not so much the dog itself.

Still with dogs, I differ with you on this one count - I'd say avoidance may not be the best technique.

Sure, if you think you'd give the poor critter a miss, then do it by all means.

But, in a situation where avoidance is futile (and this unfortunately is the case most of the time)...
Keep control of the bike, slow down the best you can and continue on your previously chosen path. This could possibly see you through with less bodily harm than avoidance.

I've known of people dying in the pursuit of avoidance, and not many dogs on the street are Great-Dane-sized!

rearset said...

Thanks for the quick flow of comments. Don't even think the post has stopped steaming...

As I said, the collection is of thoughts, surmises, old wives' tales so I could be wrong...

Hrishikesh said...

Hehehehehe.. Real funny :) as usual :)

GR said...

My menagerie
(apologies, S)

snake hiss story
rat snake. BSA mach1, IISc campus. slid over on locked wheels, I swear nothing happened to him/her

myna Murder most fowl got one while returning from the kundapur ride somewhere around penukonda and another a little later that thought front spokes were a bridge or sthg. hurts chest (former) and fingers (latter) like hell through jacket/ gloves.bounces of helmet too.

you look like your pillow talk ruffles feathers and some.

have also got radiator grille and radiator !! smashed by a low flying vulture (dad's premier padmini, sunki ghat)

apparently you have a matrix moment when you spot them on a zma (or so a certain diablo told me)

Buffalo Beef beef
someone collected these black holes of the night with amazing regularity. To his/bikes detriment ofc. BTW same chappie also hit an owl while riding three up. It blinked, waddled around and flew softly into the night (if you must know we have also jumped over the ulsoor lake "road divider" together ;P )

a certain highway man on a bull was charged by a herd of these critters as we hurried to catch a lonar sunset between jintur to mantha. they were not too bothered by a silver pulsar though

squelch. numerous.

crunch. numerous

Dog God yelp ya
the one i got was flat and not hot when front wheel went over and twitched. Was returning from Chakan-I. Did not spot mess while riding against retina burners on some truck.

Wasp Pain in the neck
ran into me. left stinger behind. extracted 400 km later. with Old Monk and a tweezer.

Varanus Tyre grip
encountered at Kutch. Was a PITA to get him off cinderella's rear wheel. nearly paid with his life for that. Had him on my monitor for a while ...


Hrishikesh said...

Hey GR, u seem to attract all types of species !!

And who has heard of a bird hit, while riding :D

(Pssst, last i heard, the PETA guys are looking for u...)

vibhu said...

apparently you have a matrix moment when you spot them on a zma (or so a certain diablo told me)

Ahh.. yes. that would be me :-D. Not as dangerous as dawgs though.

sac said...

i count cyclists as similar to bovines.. hard to tell which one was less avoidable, hitting a cow on the highway to Dehradun or a milk-toting cyclist in AP farmland..

appu said...

And then there are luna-tics, aka asses on wheels. Ask Biju (or Ashok).

Srikeerthi said...

If the chicken survives, pull over, walk back and ask it why it decided to cross the road.

Thats precious! :)

Have faced most of these situations (dogs, cows, sheeps, goats, snake, elephant, humans :P) and most of what you said holds well.

Irrespective of the animals agility I've always found it best to approach the situation with slowing down and unless the animal is just starting to cross the road aim to go around it rear.

Animals (and humans) would make a dash rather than turn around in most cases.

Glifford said...

@ PIG : Remember when returning alone from a ride with Sameer, Bijesh and others (they went on). I hit a pig at some 10 kmph somewhere in the middle of nowhere in rural Karnataka (200 km from Bangalore)! (Those piglets were moving in a herd, crossing the road and I honk to move them out). They all move away and give me place. But one piglet of them all changes his mind and turns back (on my last honk), coming straight in front of my front wheel. Felt him hit the wheel and then come between my front wheel and silencer and roll a little in there. Was dead slow.. some 10 kmph when happened.

While that thick skinned pig ran away unharmed (squealing like a dog), I managed to avoid a fall! He was so hard/thick skinned that I felt I hit a stone! But stopped and recollected my senses and see how much I had hurt my big right toe(big mistake).

I was kinda ambushed by a unruly villager who claimed to be the owner of that dumb pig. He kept abusing me in Kannada and I couldn't get a word of what he was saying! He was standing there with a stick trying to block my path and trying to snatch the bike keys.

It sure was the middle of nowhere (no cell signal too). I was really scared that I may be ambushed by several villagers demanding money for a pig that was not even hurt. Luckily I had a good Samaritan who came on a CD 100 and spoke to that villager and let me off! He later warned me never to stop in such a case, no matter how heartless it may seem. I thanked him and went off. Stopping some 20 KM later to check if there was any damage (there was none!).

That evening as I returned to Bangalore, I took my share of revenge from the pig! Went down to a Chinese Restaurant and had some pork! (veggies please excuse)