All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Road surface irregularities impact lane position choice

Nothing takes away the joy of riding a favorite stretch of road like a few poorly-placed surface hazards.  Instead of looking farther up the road and carving a nice, clean arc, our eyes are drawn down to the surface and our cornering line becomes nothing but a series of corrections to avoid surface issues. Like the big, man-made pavement cracks visible in the photo to the left. So what do we do?

Instinct tells us to do all we can to keep our tires from touching the cracks for fear that something bad might happen (“step on a crack/break your mother’s back” flashbacks perhaps?). But is that always the right answer? Would side-stepping that road irregularity successfully keep our tire firmly planted but simultaneously place us dangerously close to oncoming vehicles — especially on a curve? No doubt, there’s going to be a compromise of some sort, but what should it be?

The general rule of thumb we practice in the Stayin’ Safe program (borrowed from our friends in the UK) is to determine lane placement based on the following priorities: First and foremost, “Safety” rules. Provided the desired lane position is the safest option, the second priority is “Stability” — do we have sufficient traction and can we maintain control? Provided that the first two priorities are met, we can pick a lane position that enhances “Sight” (or Vision in the UK). In other words, does our lane position enhance our ability to see and/or be seen.

Rider avoids pavement grooves

Has this rider made the best choice?

So, in the case of our road cracks and based on the pictures here, the first priority is to remain in a safe position. Then, it would pay to determine if the surface irregularity really is likely to be anything more than an unpleasant riding condition. For example, these cracks are most likely more disconcerting than disabling when ridden across — but be sure to recognize that wider, deeper cracks or sudden steep changes in road surface height can be dangerous.  Looking at the picture with the motorcycle, has this rider picked the best lane position based on our established priorities?

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One Response to “All It’s Cracked Up to Be”

  1. Bernie Echt Says:

    I think the rider in picture #2 is way to close to the center line. He is actually scaring the pickup truck driver.
    He should be staying closer to the right side of his lane, until he is clear of the turn.
    As for Picture #1, I think lane position is most important for security. If you are concerned about pavement irregularity, slow down and make certain the pavement is better, then it looks.

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