What To Watch Out For On Your First Spring Motorcycle Ride

How To -


First Spring Motorcycle Ride

As we hope to emerge soon from the Polar Vortex, it’s nearing the time to put your bike back on the road. But, when you do, that first ride of the year can be one of the most dangerous. This is what to watch out for on your first spring motorcycle ride.

Over the winter, the roads will have been covered in traction-aiding substances like these. They tend to stick around for the first few weeks after the snow melts and gather in corners and intersections. We all know what the consequences of hitting this stuff in a corner or while braking is, so keep any eye out for it.

These are formed as water expands and contracts with freezing; they’re created over the winter. There’ll be more of these in the spring than there were last fall. Small ones aren’t a huge concern so long as you don’t hit one while cornering or braking, but in the Northeast, potholes can get big enough to swallow a Bentley, let alone your bike.

With heavy rains and snowmelt, erosion can occur, undermining the footing of roads, especially in the mountains and out in the boonies where there’s little road maintenance. Pay special attention to the edges of the asphalt and the verges, where previously firm ground can crumble away.

Spring means babies and animals migrating in search of food. Pay particular attention near bodies of water during dawn and dusk hours. You wouldn’t want to kill a duckling, would you?

Flowing Water
Snowmelt or busted water pipes can create streams of water running across roads in unexpected places. Even if water is not currently present, its previous flow could have swept sand and other debris across the road.

Cold Temperatures
You’re eager to start riding again, we get that, but doing so in just-above-freezing temps requires a little extra caution. Even if all other hazards are nonexistent, your sportbike tires aren’t designed to work at temps below about 50 degrees and you’ll need to account for the cold’s effect on your body and dress accordingly.

Other Riders
It’s not just you who’s skills are rusty. Other riders are already a major hazard on the best of days, but on their first ride back in the spring? Watch out, particularly on popular riding roads.

What You Can Do About It
In town and on the highway, leave extra following distance behind other vehicles; they can obscure potholes, gravel and other hazards until it’s too late.

Ride with extra caution, leaving more room than usual to slow down, change line or avoid hazards. Your skills will be rusty too, so leave some extra speed in your pocket to account for that too.

Heading to your favorite riding road for the first time in a while? Run a reconnaissance lap looking for hazards before you try and take it at your normal pace.

Even if the day starts warm, the sun still sets early. Make sure you pack a clear visor and stuff a silk balaclava and glove liners under your seat in case temperatures drop unexpectedly.

Looking forward to your first ride of the year? What hazards are you planning to look out for?

  • CB

    Where I live, you need to add snow to the list. People, including me, will get out pretty much as soon as the road is dry. But you need to stick to spots you know are dry and clean. As the weather warms up the radius around you that is rideable grows. Shadowy areas and lesser used roads can still be a little snowy. This is all moot if you’re okay riding in a little snow, of course.

  • http://www.tulipride.org/ Jeff Henshaw

    The top danger for all motorcyclists remains unaware drivers. As we come out of the winter season when it’s darker and there have been fewer motorcycles on the road, remember to add reflective clothing or reflective tape to your arsenal of protective gear. Be seen and be safe, especially as the season starts.

    • tbowdre


      The most dangerous thing for motorcyclist to watch for are CARS. Particularly cars turning in front of them… car drivers haven’t seen a bike for a few months, we are totally off their radar and are moving way faster than they think.

      • Jay Stevens

        And drivers using cell phones – texters are the worst.

  • Joseph Brassard

    Can’t say enough about pothole awareness up here in New England. I’ve had to increase my following distance to a good 4 seconds or so, because some of these monsters are enough to toss you right off if you don’t swerve. And you all know how well cagers react to a suddenly swerving motorcycle in traffic.

    • KeithB

      We have crazy potholes here in Toronto.
      Some with some very sharp edges too!

    • Fava d’Aronne

      Representing Chicago. This city has more potholes than corrupt politicians. And it has A LOT of corrupt politicians.

      • Mr. White

        Agreed. The side streets in my ‘hood look more like the surface of the moon than a street.

    • Lee Scuppers

      The potholes I’ve been seeing around Portland (the real one, not OR) are scary enough in a car, never mind on a bike. Rt 1 in Falmouth looks like Passchendaele. I keep expecting Robert Graves to loom up out of the damn things. Two more months of this and we’ll be travelling on foot.

    • ThruTheDunes

      Something else besides potholes is frost heaves. That nice flowing corner from last fall? Its all humpy and bumpy with frost heaves. Sure, it’ll smooth back out eventually, but until then, beware.

      And don’t get me started on the people who dump their sump pump outlet in their driveway so it flows right into the road.

      Lastly, our town paints the crosswalks solid, not striped, and boy, howdy, are they slippery when wet. And we get a lot of wet, especially before the ground is completely thawed.

      Just a few things that Angelenos might not have to put up with. Honestly, at this point, I’ve been wondering if I should have bought a snowmobile, instead. But opening day at Fenway is less than 45 days away, so I think I’ll make it…

    • Luke

      After this winter with stretches of record setting cold in the East, I fear the potholes are going to be epic this year.

  • Nick

    when I saw it was from Wes I thought it was going to say move to SoCal…

    • Hugo

      Its an option. But then you’ll never have the opportunity to fall into one of the Northeast’s ridiculous potholes this winter and never be seen again.

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        Potholes into Morlock territory.

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    I washed the front end out (and caught it again, thankfully) on Saturday. Cold rubber, cold roads and a touch of sand almost made for an asphalt sandwich. Glad I went out, though. They’re predicting another snow storm Wednesday into Thursday in Massachusetts.

    • Joseph Brassard

      These occasional 50 degree days are enough for me to break out the bike. I have heated gear, but you can only deal with so much with snow and slush piled up everywhere. Luckily I’ve caught a few warranty repair items on these trips, and have been able to get into the dealer during their slow season. Would hate to lose the bike for a week in the summer.

  • eric

    Move to California?

    • Justin McClintock

      But then you’d have to live in California.

      • Mykola

        Oh California, so much to love, so much to hate…

  • Jack Meoph

    The one thing about not being on a motorcycle for a while is that your skill level drops, like a rock. Even where I’m at (sunny SoCal) there are stretches where I don’t ride for a couple of weeks, and if that becomes a pattern, then my riding abilities take a holiday. During the winter, when I don’t ride every weekend or even more during the week, I just concentrate on the basics; control input, body position, lines, brake points, turn in, scanning, keeping my vision up. To think you can lay off riding for any amount of time, and then hop on your bike and be up to speed, is delusional. Dreaming about riding doesn’t count as actual saddle time. I ride year round, and don’t feel like I’m up to speed until around Aug. By then I’ve been on the bike a lot, in different riding situations, on plenty of different roads, and feel comfortable. For the next 3 months (Aug. Sept. Oct.) I’m in the groove, and then winter comes round and I don’t ride as much, the roads get rained on, debris collects in the corners, etc etc. and I start the backwards slide of my riding skills. I was out Sunday, on a 120 mile loop, and I rode it like a tourist, but that was where I was at. Right now I’m riding maybe once a week, and it shows, so I’m sloooooooooooow.

  • KC

    I chipped away a path through the ice from the garage to the street on Saturday for a quick ride on Sunday. The roads were a sandy, salty, pot holed, mess. I enjoyed every careful moment of it.

    • BryonCLewis

      same here, hour with a sledge hammer and shovel just to ride on sandy, salty roads

  • Davidabl2

    Wes, are you really experiencing the “polar express vortex ” or whatever it is ..in L.A.?
    If so, relocate to the S.f. Bay for awhile we’re experiencing wonderful, warm dry weather here.
    Or get some winter gear.. like skinny jeans with flannel liners. Heh,heh,heh.

  • Zandit75

    Or move to Australia!!

    • Reece Bannister

      And spend 5 months of the year drenched in sweat every time you ride. In Perth at least the best riding is in winter IMO

      • Ben Mcghie

        Move to the West Coast. More rain, but my bike has been on the road several times a week all “winter.”

    • Campisi

      Your spiders frighten us.

  • Russell P

    We have the occasional pothole here in Florida.
    I think the Snowbirds bring them down.

    • Justin McClintock

      My recollection of my time in Florida is that potholes are rare and decent riding roads are rarer. At least in S. Florida anyway. N. Florida had a few, but they were a haul from WPB.

  • Conrad

    Excellent. Was looking forward to an article just like this.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Or “What to Watch Out for on Every Motorcycle Ride”

  • Jeff Heilman

    Love the article! Here, in Utah, we love our mountain road curves! Even in early Summer a few of these apply.
    Many of the other replys, are correct on the biggest threat. IMHO if you ride with the belief,that ALL 4+ wheeled vehicle operators, are trying to kill you? You’ve taken one of the best steps for your safety. Sounds silly, but after a while, you see it in the stupidity on the road.
    Shiny side up folks!