Safety Talk with Doug Westly

When the Rubber Quits Meeting the Road

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Ultimately, the safety of motorcycle riders and their passengers is their own responsibility. Nothing presented in the column supersedes, negates or relieves a motorcyclist and/or passenger from assumption of personal responsibility for their actions and safety.

OK, this is just WRONG! (See above photo, courtesy of Sam Ubling) This was spotted at a recent Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (MSTA) rally. The owner of this bike will remain anonymous, but the photographer, a friend of mine and respected MSTA’er, said the rider actually rode another 30 miles on this tire AFTER the picture was taken. That final ride on the tire was to a dealership, for (finally) a tire change.

I recently had to patch another guy’s tire on the side of the road. His tire wasn’t this much of a disaster, but there wasn’t any tread left on it, either. That was bad enough, not to mention he had no tire plug/repair kit, no air compressor, nothing.

Some riders may not realize that tire condition and pressure have a radical effect on the handling characteristics (and safety) of the motorcycle. Just the change of a few pounds of air pressure can cause a bike to handle differently. Remember, your safety and ability to control the motorcycle resides in your contact patches; those few square inches of rubber on each tire actually in contact with the pavement at any given moment in time. Change the tire pressure or allow a severe degradation of the tire and you alter the handling of the bike.

Of course, when it gets this bad, you’re just asking for a catastrophic tire failure.

If nothing else, what kind of statement does make about the rider? Is this someone you want in front of you during a group ride? If he/she doesn’t take care of their bike, what else don’t they care about in terms of motorcycling? One look at this and I am certainly not going to ride with him/her.

When was the last time you checked your tires and tire pressure? Don’t do it at home because you have no way to fill your tires? Go to Sears, spend $49.95 and buy yourself a little pancake air compressor for the garage. Check your tire pressure religiously. Inspect your tires routinely.

Above all else, don’t end up with a tire like this. You may not get as lucky as this rider.

By: Doug Westly
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