handling highway road conditions.... - Kawasaki Vulcan Forum : Vulcan Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2011, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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handling highway road conditions....

hello all,

riding now in my 3rd season and ready to hit the highways. curious how you handle bad road conditions when you're doing over 65 --- long cracks in the road, potholes, dips & bumps, ridged pavement (under construction). do you accelerate as you go over it or back off the throttle a bit? or does it depend on the road condition? i figure at highway speeds its definitely best not to go around it.

thanks all.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2011, 11:24 PM
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How many miles have you logged over the last few years? Did you take an MSF course? What are you riding, and how comfortable are you with it?

What you're describing are normal road conditions, and how a rider handles them should pretty quickly become part of his or her rider's intuition. You actually sound a bit timid for a 3rd season rider (no disrespect intended here); you might want to step up your game a bit, maybe take the Intermediate MSF course to hone your skills and boost your confidence. Being too timid on a bike can get you into trouble.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2011, 12:04 AM
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Hello godmother!
I try to do my braking before I hit the pot holes, dips & bumps. I give it some gas when I go over/ through them. This takes some of the weight off of the front wheel while loading up the rear suspension, maintaining as much traction as possible as well as keeping your rims from being hit too hard. I think it is best to cross cracks and ridges in the road as square on as possible. If you hit them at too shallow an angle, they can unsettle your bike. Be smooth with all your rider input.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2011, 09:04 AM Thread Starter
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no offense take at all. i have about 3000 miles under my belt. don't get to ride as much as i would like because of family responsibilities and weather (i live in ne ohio). all of my riding has been on city streets and outlying roads. no highway riding as yet and yes i am a bit timid about it!

my first bike was a kawa 500 ltd and i just bought a 2001 vulcan 800 classic a month ago. and now i'm anxious to hit the highways for rides far and wide.

last week i was on a local freeway and i hit a really rough patch of road followed by a big bump (not a speed bump) that made my car jump and jostle and i wondered how i (and the bike) would have handled that rough patch at 70 mph.

all thoughts and advice are welcome!
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2011, 09:40 AM
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I ride 360 miles, or more, of highway per week - but these days it is pretty much 'good' highways because I moved to Florida.

So despite riding them, I can't suggest much for your situation. I remember the highways and various roads of Pennsylvania well, but I can't remember anything much about the skills I used to ride them. I know that for any given road condition the quality and travel of whatever bike's suspension and tires I was riding had dictated the speed I rode rougher roads with. Riding really rough roads faster does not work well... while that is how we used to ride on dirt bikes to try to float over it, for road bikes it is different.

I can tell you that for my situation, now, I ride the same ~40 miles of highway north and south multiple days a week. For this:
1.) Based on the opinions of other riders - and it making sense to me - I generally ride in one of the side lanes so that I have a shoulder to get to immediately if something goes awry, or if someone decides to push me off of the road.
2.) #1 is negated if there is a much, much better lane to be in with motorcycle tires (when riding in other states)
3.) out of the left or right side, I choose the left lane against the shoulder due, in part, to my riding speed (which is generally a few mph faster than about 98% of the vehicles on the road... this may not work for you and really rough highways though)
4.) I mentioned number three for a more pertinent reason: after riding the same highway and that lane over and over again, I have learned and remember where a few of the larger holes are in it. As I hit landmarks on my drowsy morning commute (at 80 or 85 MPH) it generally hits me that "Oh, ok, move to the left here in my lane - those three consecutive potholes are coming up." Of course I am always scanning the roads for gators and debris, too, that may have ended up in my lane, as well as changes in the road surfaces.

If I were in your position, I would most likely maintain the suspension more often (changing the fluid), and possibly upgrade to progressive fork springs in the front*. At the moment I have front fork "stiction," and will eventually get around to working on it, but for Florida roads it isn't hindering me.

Likewise, when I rode a sport bike (during race school) at a racetrack that was very rough (a northern race track, so imagine all the pavement changes ( I swear they had at least seven different kinds of pavement throughout the lengths of the track) and some of the potholes of a typical Pennsylvania road, but at very high speeds), I found that reducing the stiffness of my rear suspension made me quite a bit faster than other guys. The trend, when modifying a bike for a road track, is to stiffen the suspension up... which is what a lot of the other students did (as did I, initially). I learned quickly that this was working against me on the track we were at, so I went the other way and, long story short, was singled out (in positive ways) for being much faster than the others.

But don't 'soften' up the suspension by running your tires too low. At highway speeds the sharp edges of the pavement irregularities can damage road tires - it is better to adjust your suspension for it, not your tires. You can run at the lower end of the recommended pressure, though, especially if you only ride one-up. The 800's are lighter bikes so it won't put undue loads on the tires like riding a heavier bike would on low-pressures.

Back to the throttle... I think a lot of riders agree that a smooth throttle at the right speed is best through rough stuff... backing off of the throttle before you get to it. If you're asking about attempting to unload the front tire when just about to hit an individual rough spot / hole / crack, then I haven't tried it on the street (at least not like we did in the dirt).

As long as someone behind you, or to the side of you, won't get the wrong idea and try to pass you or do something else stupid, the entire width of the lane is yours... ride the lane as you see fit. We don't have to ride blindly down a given lane, and it's probably better that we don't. For each lane we have the left, center and right sections to be in (if no-one is behind you and traffic isn't congested).

And, as stated earlier, the MSF courses - at this point the advanced course for you - is well worthwhile.

-------

* And, if progressive springs come in different wire diameters, and if you only ride solo and are a lighter person, I would call the spring company up to better match the spring to the rider.


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Last edited by Mambo Dave; 06-10-2011 at 09:54 AM. Reason: spelling error: "than" to "that"
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-04-2011, 09:16 AM Thread Starter
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all really good advice. throttling down or braking slightly to reload the back before throttling over rough road makes alot of sense to me. i'm definitely gonna pay attention and hit the highways with what you've said. will keep an eye on my suspension through the season...and will take the advance msf whenever i can get signed up this year---they tend to fill up fast since the season is relatively short in this parts. thanks again.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-04-2011, 09:43 AM
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err... wait... may be a little miscommunication here... when you brake (or throttle down) you load the front tire... you do not want to load the front before hitting an uneven surface. Throttling can unload the front, but, as stated, going faster into a rough area isn't a good thing either. Brake before you get to anything too rough if you have to, then let off the brakes in enough time before hitting it to allow the suspension to settle.


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vid
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-04-2011, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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thanks mambo dave. i didn't write very well what i took from yours and bugcrust's advice but i understand i DON'T want to be throttling down or braking then throttling hard over rough road if that's how my response came off. i hear you! now for some practice. thanks again!!!
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-04-2011, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by thegodmother View Post
no offense take at all. i have about 3000 miles under my belt. don't get to ride as much as i would like because of family responsibilities and weather (i live in ne ohio). all of my riding has been on city streets and outlying roads. no highway riding as yet and yes i am a bit timid about it!

my first bike was a kawa 500 ltd and i just bought a 2001 vulcan 800 classic a month ago. and now i'm anxious to hit the highways for rides far and wide.

last week i was on a local freeway and i hit a really rough patch of road followed by a big bump (not a speed bump) that made my car jump and jostle and i wondered how i (and the bike) would have handled that rough patch at 70 mph.

all thoughts and advice are welcome!
The 800 v-twin is an excellent bike to be learning on.

Most situations can be avoided by paying attention, constantly scanning, and giving yourself a good buffer. Seeing what's up ahead before you get there gives you time to respond to it, and because a bike has a much smaller footprint than a car, it can avoid a pothole, for example, without much effort. But you have to know it's there, you don't want it surprising you. Case in point: a few years ago I was cruising down a dark freeway at about 10pm. Traffic was very light but I noticed 500 yards ahead of me that cars in my lane (high speed) were braking for no apparent reason. I immediately changed lanes and slowed down. A few seconds later I passed a mattress lying square in the road. If I hadn't been paying attention I would have come upon this thing going 75 mph, and probably wouldn't have seen it until it was too late.

Pay attention, scan, and give yourself large buffers: These are just some of the rules that I follow religiously. Be safe.
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Last edited by inthewind; 06-04-2011 at 10:57 AM.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 03:17 PM
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godmother - above inthewind asked if you had taken a MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation ) course, but I don't see that you relied to the question. If you have I expect you understand how valuable they are. If not, after taking the Beginner before buying my bike, then the Intermediate after 6 months and 6000 miles, I can only say that all of your questions are covered in detail by experienced instructors. Highly recommended.

Ride safe. 09 1700 Nomad
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