There is something pretty disconcerting about being hit full in the face at 50mph by a glob of previously enjoyed chewing gum that has just been spat out of a passing car window.
First of all it felt like I’d been hit by a small rock. I had been riding in town and had left my helmet visor slightly open, but there was evidently a large enough gap for the lump of gum to fly in, hit me on the cheekbone and then roll down my face before becoming firmly lodged in my beard.
Secondly, someone else’s chewing gum is nasty enough but trying to pry it out of my facial hair at the side of the road is just plain disgusting. It may well have been flicked up off the road by another vehicle’s tire before being shot into my face, but I’m pretty sure the teenage driver in the Mustang convertible, who just overtook me in the right hand lane, spat it out of his window as he charged past me on an important mission to nowhere.
The cell phone using texting drivers versus motorcyclists debate has and continues to be beaten to death and I have no answer for any of it, apart from keeping my eyes open and watching out for drivers on the phone as they wander from lane to lane, oblivious to anything apart from the important conversations they are having.
But riding a motorcycle I find brings with it other hidden dangers from other road users that nobody tells you about when you first started out.
I’ve watched from the saddle of my bike as a cigarette butt, still smoking, has been thrown from a passing car window. It’s arced up through the air, hit the top of my bike’s tank and then rolled down it to sit still glowing in my crotch. I can assure you that trying to remove a lit cigarette from between your legs while on the move in heavy traffic is a pretty difficult task.
Like the chewing gum incident I am not entirely sure the flicked cigarette butt was a deliberate action aimed specifically at me on a bike. It’s just symptomatic of other road users ignorance and being completely unaware of anything but themselves and where they are heading.
However, there was a time out in the middle of nowhere in Nevada when I’m pretty sure the guy in the truck ahead of me intentionally emptied his coffee cup out of the window. He’d come racing up behind me, over took me, and then a few minutes later down the road tossed a cup out of the window knowing that I was still behind him.
I got to enjoy the remnants of his breakfast beverage and me and the bike smelled of coffee for the rest of the day.
We’re really lucky with the weather where I live here in California so it’s not often that you need to use the windscreen wipers and washers on your truck or car. But on really hot sunny days, when I’m out on my bike, I am occasionally surprised to find it has suddenly started to rain only to discover the guy ahead me of has chosen that precise moment to use his washers.
I’m not saying this is another deliberate action against motorcyclists but I do occasionally glimpse the driver watching in his rear view checking to see if his washers have hit their intended target.
Riding on the freeway as motorcyclists we all know is fraught with danger too. Apart from the obvious of the crazy driving habits of other road users there are times when there are obstacles to overcome like the remnants of a tire blow out that has left scattered pieces all over a lane.
I’ve driven through this kind of debris in a car and I know that it’s not always easy to avoid it sometimes because of the volume of traffic or simply because you didn’t have sufficient time to drive around it. But there have been times when I’ve been on my bike when the guy ahead of me has had ample time to change lane, as the traffic is light, and could have easily missed hitting the mess altogether. Instead though, he’s chosen to plow straight through it, hurling it all into the air, which then come straight towards me in a rain of broken and frankly dangerous rubber. I’m not saying this was deliberate just another case of inconsideration from other road users.
There have been times though when it’s been entirely my fault. If a large truck on the freeway, which I have chosen to ride up to and sit behind, has large stickers stating ‘Live Animals On Board’ then I have absolutely nobody else to blame but myself for getting pissed on by a group of nervous pigs.
What obstacles have you found in the road when you’re on your bike and how have you dealt with the situation?