Ten Attacks on your Comfort and Safety

Here is a list of ten unexpected attacks on the comfort and safety of your next ride.

Slow attack. Beware the vehicle up ahead that is travelling very slowly. They are going that speed for a reason! They may be able to see something that you cannot. The driver could also be lost and be on the verge of doing something totally unpredictable, like turning across your path. Blasting past very slow vehicles is a significant cause of critical and fatal accidents for both bikers and drivers.

Bug Attack. No matter how careful one is, getting a bug in the eye or neck happens. The first react of panic is not a good choice! Forcing your eye to stay open while the bug does retina breast stroke is akin to holding a Gold Wing upright on an ice rink – but you have to do it while you look for a place to pull off (or the bug disappears behind your eye to reemerge later out your nose!). On longer tours taking an antihistamine cream or tablets along in your first aid box is a good idea for stinging insect attacks in the vulnerable neck area.

Mechanic Attack. Your mechanic is not always your best friend as your bike is more likely to break down directly after a service. If your bike does not have a petrel gauge and you use your odometer to keep track of your fuel you could be in for a surprise. After a service you should ignore your odometer and fill up regardless.

Heat Attack. We are being constantly bombarded with new and better protective clothing options – most of which are designed for countries where 10°C is a hot day! In Africa where 40° can happen, dehydration while riding is a very real problem – especially if you then stop for a few ice cold beers (which dehydrate you even more). The latest generation of ‘airflow’ biking gear could just be the best investment you could make this year!

Rider Attack. Unfortunately it is not always the drivers of vehicles that can cause your ride to come to an ugly end. Other riders can be an even greater threat either by forcing you to ride beyond your capabilities or causing an accident by their poor judgment. Remember it is your bike, your skin and your life. Choose your riding companions with care.

Road Attack. Riding is all about traction and when you don’t have it you find yourself traveling down the road on your butt. Strange colours on the road surface are a big no-no. Keep your rubber on the good stuff. Predict possible poor surfaces by taking in the environment. Construction, trucks and chemical smells are an indication to slow down. The roads after a heavy rainstorm become covered with leaves, mud and loose sand in unexpected places.

Taxi Attack. It is no good condemning South African taxi drivers from the discomfort of your hospital bed. Give them a wide berth. Do not blast past them from nowhere. Do not assume that they can see you. Do not hope that they use their rear view mirror or turn indicators. Expect the worst. Many of these drivers are tired and irritable. Many are driving unroadworthy vehicles. What is the point in watching for stoplights and indicators that do not work?! Watch their front wheels like a hawk. They begin to turn moments before the vehicle crosses your path! I do not think I have ever seen a taxi driver wearing spectacles. Think about it!

Service Station Attack. In the rural areas, service and gas stations are not the same as in the city e.g. air compressors and tyres gauges may not work. The only gas station on a long stretch of country road could close at sundown or early on a Sunday evening. Top up early and never depend on one town for gas.

Night Attack. Do not ride in rural Africa at night. Besides animals and potholes, labourers use the roads when walking home at night. Over the weekends many of them are drunk and become a danger both to themselves and to motorists.

Temperament Attack.  Riding requires 100% of your attention. This is especially true of city or fast country riding. It has been said that only a tight rope walker makes as many small body adjustments as an accomplished rider at speed. Being upset, angry or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an accident waiting to happen. Riding to work and preparing for an important meeting in your head is a distraction you should avoid.

Become aware of these ten factors. They should be second nature to you and your ride will be all the safer.

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