Dec 21, 2007

Riding slower: scary stuff!

So we're riding along on the Blaze, when suddenly, I feel The Wife stiffen in her seat slightly. Very unlike her to do something like that. 'My stomach's beginning to hurt. Ditto the back. Avoid bumps, please?'

Sounded simple enough. After confirming that she didn't want to switch to a cab, we rode on.

At first it seemed simple enough. Cut pace by about 30 per cent, raise attention to the road surface 10 per cent, focus on smoother on-off throttle transitions (very easy on variomatics with lots of slack – like the Blaze) and Uncle Bob's a chocolate smoothie.

How wrong was I!

It was horrible. At my usual pace, my concentration is nearly absolute. Nothing will distract me. No numb bum, rudimentary suspension setup, throttle grip that actually rotates around the throttle... nothing gets in the way. Work around the problems, maximise opportunities and safety. Blow'em away and get home in a stonkingly fast time. And The Wife loves this mode of commuting. Hell, just that morning we took one right hand corner allowing the center stand to scrape firmly all the way around, two up. No sweat. She didn't even blink. When I asked her later if she felt and heard it, she said, 'Yeah, so?'

Just fourteen hours later, I was nearly screwed. One overbridge, where the expansion joints are particularly painful, I was down to 6 kph, leftmost lane, indicator going (no hazards available), hand up in warning to traffic buzzing past at at least ten times that speed. I was four-inches from the edge of the road. And I was scared shitless. This kind of speed differential will give me instant diarrhoea. One of the primary reasons I am scared slightly, by the idea of riding electric two-wheelers on big, public roads in their current (ahem) state.

About halfway down the other side, she spoke again. 'You're freaking me out. Speed up please, and never mind the bumps.' I didn't, of course, but it was clear that I wasn't the only one filled with unease. In any case, she's a bit speed-mad. When she rode a moped back in college, she says, she was not the lady-rider-hanging-around type. She couldn't hack riding like that. Not much has changed, then.

Out the other side, worst of the road behind us, I sped up to within 70 per cent of normal pace. But man, it still sucked. One of the safest things you can do in traffic is ride about ten-fifteen per cent faster. I was about that much slower. Getting overtaken sucks. Not for ego reasons, but because it requires you to relinquish control over the situation. To a complete stranger of unknown attitude, taste and skill. I shudder just thinking about that.

When we parked, The Wife was relieved more than anything else. It was over.

On a cool night, I was sweating more or less like I would on one of my harder rides. The amount of concentration and effort it took to maintain an unnatural pace on a familiar road was a huge big surprise. As was the realisation that car drivers won't hesitate to tailgate or cut you off, especially if you're scooter-mounted. Phew! That was a scare.

What I learnt about going slower than normal

  • Avoid it like the plague. It is a huge hazard

  • Head for the lane that offers the least speed differential between you and the rest

  • If that's the left-most lane, ride in the left tyre track of the car ahead. The chap behind should see this tail lamp, and yours. Check the left side mirror often and try, somehow, to not leave enough space for annoyed motorcyclists to squeeze ahead from the left. Force them to use the space on your right. Gives you more control over the situation

  • Aggressive looking motorcyclists who are getting held up will sometimes retaliate, be prepared. If you're the aggressive sort, brake hard when you're cut off. Aggression at that moment will cause an impact. If you hit his rear wheel – he will usually lose most of his gyroscopic stability, you will usually only lose directional control momentarily – he is far more likely to fall than you. Which is gratifying, but you will be singled out later as the cause of the fracas, because you will still be on your bike, rubber side down. That's my theory of it. Haven't tried it. Don't intend to

  • Focus. Everytime you stop, remember to tell yourself to focus, that helps

  • Breathe

  • Use your hands. The slower you go, the more people will accede to your hand gestures rather than a blinking indicator

  • Think about whether an alternate route will allow you to go slower but will not have as much traffic, that might be the solution to all of the above problems

  • Check you mirrors twice as often. Things appear in them at a phenomenal pace when you're slow


Sankoobaba said...

when speed goes down...
we become relaxed...
so more risk...
as we are less alert..
slicing open a heavy traffic road is a tough art to master...
you encounter the biggies(buses and trucks)....the smarties(big cars)....master traffic cutters...newbie riders....and the painful category of rickshaw and lady riders.....there are some like me who are not experts but have graduated from being newcomers....
so in this melancholy of chaos...where pedestrians practice jaywalking reguarly...
you will always find a logic or say, a rhythm....its always that may seem mayhem...but look closer you will see that somethings always happen at the same the same the same time...
of course you have this enigmatic factor to this chaos...
so its always better to expect the worse..and be prepared for it...and end up similing coz nothing worse happend.. happy riding.....

Prasanna said...

Riding/Driving slower always screws up the concentration - unless you are cruising.

If you gotta slow - slow to a cruise - cruising at 20, 40 or 100 shouldn't change much - and shouldn't scare you much either, even in traffic.

Also, that will keep your concentration pretty much on the ball.

gr said...

The Hindu, Hyderabad, 20 Dec 2007

"The Central Motor Vehicle Act (CMV) has already specified the maximum speed limit for two wheelers at 50 kmph and for transport vehicles, including lorries, RTC buses, maxicabs, school buses etc. 65 kmph in city conditions. We are enforcing the same rules." said Mr Venkateswarulu.

No the figures are not typos.

They now have these fancy interceptor vehicles with laser speed guns, long range cameras and GOK what to enforce it.

Should you get a mug shot in one of them, you get penalised under Sec 183, 184 and 189 of the MV act, a fine of 300/- and prosecuted in a court of law.

I am absolutely gutted by this supreme display of wisdom, and also the total lack of comment in the press, or reaction by the general public.

Hopefully the authorities wake up and realize this is an absurd situation where buses can legally run you down !, oh and will some one please tell them that headlight reflectors blind you from the bottom

for the moment am trying hard to keep that speedo at 50 and finding my commute sucks even more than it used to :((


Revhard said...

Riding slower than one's usual pace me it feels like I'm walking , not riding.

Prasanna said...


About time we started getting radar guns eh?
Unfortunately, this is *always* the direction the government/babus are gonna take because it builds up their money chests - and they care for little else anyways.

Among the thousand different iterations I have seen frm Bangalore's Tughlaq's, er, Traffic Police, the only one that has been seemingly close to good sense is the one about dedicated auto/bus lanes - one instance in the 10 years I've been riding/driving.

It is interesting that lorries get to go at 65kmph - I have rarely seen any sign which gives them leeway for more than 50kmph.

Arpan said...

Ever felt this way:-
You are on a road where you generally rip at three digit speeds. even with little traffic you land up doing 90ish. and you are comfortable in stop-go-stop-stop traffic on same road at speeds of 5/10kmph..but some day you find yourself riding in flowing traffic..dense but moving at 60kmph..and it gets onto your nervers.I stick to the right lane(where avergage speed is 60kmph ) dont even think about changing lanes and overtaking in gaps etc..just ride in that lane checking my brakes every 30-40seconds..
Been there done that??
reason? pointers?

the_joker said...

the only way to commute? get a turbo hayabusa, pin the throttle in each gear all the way through...

pity I only have a 150cc bike then. sob!

Prabul said...

"The probablity of an accident occuring is directly propotional to the amount of time you spend between Point A and point B"