my enjoyment vs. tar snakes
I'm not a racer by any means, but I did a little searching to see if my skill or choice of tire was my biggest culprit in a scare I had last year, and a continued fear today. Feel free to laugh and scoff but I'm just going to say, I hate tar snakes. Read on.
Synapsis: 85*, old twisty road in Minnesota, and myself with my 919 with a fresh pr3 on the rear and the stock tire on the front, it had plenty of tread left and my wallet was empty to do both so rear only. I go in for a moderate right lean turn and hit a patch of tar snakes bad. The front nearly washes out from me and instinctively put my right leg down to save my dignity and bike from sliding on its side.
Note, you cannot do this at 30mph...heck even 10 mph. What happens is your leg flys back and pulls a muscle...and your butt cheeks are now semi permanently puckered shut.
I slow down and realized this road is like this the rest my eye can see. I take every turn monotonously slow. It's a crappy ride with a pulled groin muscle, lost confidence and questions on why I've never noticed these things so much more.
Fast forward to this year. I'm done playing games and decide to take a variable out and throw on a brand new pr3 for the front. Things are great. It turns nice, no 45 mph wobble, and my confidence builds up again knowing I have a tire with compounds abound better than the stock tire.
But now, this past month, I had the opportunity to once again visit roads with the tar snakes and take some turns...I'm warry on my first turn...not to bad. Second turn a little faster and more lean...nope. The front and rear skid out from me and I remember my groin muscle is not the tool I need so i gently flick the bike straight and aggresively stop moments before the ditch.
I don't understand this. I'm a rider that when I go out, its mostly not to just ride aimlessly. I want to improve my skills each and every time and this stupid game isn't going well. I'm not looking for track performance and I know the street is a dangerous lake where I'm a small fish, but it just makes me loose enjoyment when I'm not sure what other riders are doing that seem to not be affected by these things. It's gotten to where its not just curves, straight lines makes my front wobble.
Ok, so you made it this far, and typing this much on my smartphone while I'm donating some plasma here's the punch line. I wanted to get two things out of this. The fiesta, is copy and paste something I read on the victory vision forums I found on a Google search:
Man, where do I start....
First of all, don't shoot the messenger. I am a Field Engineer with the Illinois Dept of Transportation who oversees 6 Team Sections in 4 counties who put down those "tar snakes".
A little about the reasoning for tar snakes. Over the last several years, our wonderful EPA friends have made us change the oils we use in our asphalt pavements resulting in asphalt that is more "brittle" and less able to heal itself. Also, with the push for better fuel economy, semi's are running higher pressures in the tires and with 80,000# loads, they cause a lot of rutting in the pavement which dictates the need for the more brittle pavement as well.
The result is the pavements have a lot more cracks that open up now and allow water to run down through the layers. In the winter, it freezes and breaks the bond between the layers which subsequently allows it to chunk out and cause potholes. In the intense summer heat, the water intrusion causes pavement blowups at the joints.
We've tried other maintenance methods to seal the cracks including oil & chip seals. Our state pays vehicle damage claims and you can imagine the number of windshields that get broken with oil & chip, so we don't do many of those anymore. The only other way of fixing the cracks without doing another resurfacing is to do what we call "rout & sealing", aka tar snakes.
In our state, the sealing is with a material called Crafco. It is a rubberized asphalt compound that comes in large bricks that have to be heated, then hand applied using a wand with a shoe to fill the crack.
That's where it starts to get interesting. When our Team Sections do the work, I am fully aware of the safety issues being a motorcyclist myself. I make sure that they put the narrowest shoe on the wand (1"
and tell them to only fill the cracks on the centerline, edgeline, and any transverse crack that you can put the width of a pencil in to. I specifically tell them to stay out of the wheel lanes with longitudinal cracks and don't make it look like a spiders web when they are done. For the most part, my crews do a good job with this and we seal most of the cracks in the pavement without greatly affecting the safety of the motorcyclist.
However, we are mandated to contract a lot of this work out as well and that's where we have issues. The contracts are set up where they get paid by the amount of material they put down and when they hit the contract dollar amount, that's the end of the job. In the eyes of the contractor, they want to put as much material down in the shortest distance they can in order to make the most profit. Consequently, they like to use wide 3" shoes, put in on thick so it sticks up, and fill every tiny hairline crack there is resulting in a checkerboard pavement when they are done. The contracts are overseen by a different department, so we don't get much say in making the contractors put it down like we do.
The problem with the Crafco material and motorcycle tires are many. It is a rubberlike material that has a low friction coefficient (much like a rubber railroad crossing where you easily spin your tires). Our motorcycle tires are rounded to allow us to lean in to the turns, so there is just a narrow contact patch in the center of the tire. As it encounters a raised tar snake that runs longitudinally down the road, it changes the contact point which causes the bike to want to follow and/or fight with the strip much like grooved roads do. Coupled with the low coefficient of friction, it leads to that uncomfortable squirm we all don't like. (not advocating car tires on motorcycles, but probably a "pro" for them in this case, ha!) ;-)
I've done a lot of research on this and other states use other types of materials as well. Some use softer compounds of the rubberized material while others use an emulsion type oil which is really soft and squishy. Some states use sand on top of it, others use a fine aggregate, while others like us actually put toilet paper on top of it. The reason is not what you think...it's a "blotter" used to keep it from sticking to tires as it cures and keeps it from being pulled back out of the crack. Actually putting sand or fine aggregate on it makes it worse as it makes it a higher "lip" that causes the bike to dance.
Now, where do we go from here? I don't think any of the DOT's will ever get away from sealing the cracks in the pavement as they are strapped for money to repair the roads the way it is now. However, changing how it's done, the materials used, and limiting it to centerline, edge line, and major transverse cracks will go a long way to helping. Educating the maintenance crews (many are bike riders also) like I have done helps them understand the problem. Getting the DOT's to change how they write the contracts and administer them to make sure the contractors aren't burning large quantities in short distances is key also.
ABATE has taken a position with this and I would encourage you to discuss this with your local chapter if you are a member. They have been talking to FHWA officials in DC to try and lobby for some changes. I would also encourage you to talk to your State DOT's. They all have a Highway Safety Unit that is responsible for Highway safety in every state as the Federal funding is dictated by how well they are reducing the number of fatalities on their Highway Systems. Lastly, talk to your local Representatives. That's how most of our inquiries come in to our office as they are representing one of their "constituents" and we have to respond to the inquiry. Being a safety issue, we can push it to our Safety Unit for review to help bring this to their attention.
My second thing is - am I doomed as a rider and my fear of these things going to get to me? Anyone else deal with these and offer help on how to ride dealing with them in a normal fashion?
I may not have a lot to say but it doesn't mean I don't listen.