my enjoyment vs. tar snakes - Wrist Twisters
 
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post #1 of 17 Old 07-31-2013, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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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.
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-31-2013, 07:59 PM
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tar snakes you say. Try Pilot Powers 2ct in some wet grass I should say do not try

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post #3 of 17 Old 07-31-2013, 08:40 PM
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I HATE tar snakes, why the hell do they always congregate in the bestest corners of the wickedest mountain roads?


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post #4 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 04:33 AM
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Im right there with ya velo. There are tons of these tar snakes in my area. Some spots are more tar than road, and I too have issues navigating them. For a split second it's like riding a dirt bike in loose mud. Do you shift your weight up and potetially high side when you get traction, or keep your current course and low side??? I am very interested to hear if anyone has tips on how to navigate through these nightmares.

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post #5 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 05:59 AM
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Not a fan of tar snakes here either, but fortunately for me I haven't encountered any spiderweb patches of that stuff around here. There are plenty of other obstacles to contend with.

I think you should try tackling the problem head on and get used to the feeling of the wheels slipping. I used to be deathly scared of wheel slip, but I've been slowly pushing it and getting used to the feeling just so that I don't overreact or do something to make the situation worse. I sometimes aim for tar snakes now just to get a feel for how far the tires will slip.

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49/50 visited on two wheels. 1 more to go!
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 08:43 AM
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First of all, what an excellent write up. My hat's off to you BigV!

Second, yes, the "tar snakes" (what an apt name) plague me out here in California on my favorite roads.

I do exactly as you on my 10r with my Metzler Sportec M3's. I'm running some recent replacements and I get the same deal. I think the best thing for front washouts is to aggressively yank the bars towards the upright position......just muscle it.
I pick my tr4ack through these snakes as careful as I can in order to create the best perpendicular intersection between snake and contact patch. It may look funny even though it is mostly subtle maneuvering, but it's the way I live with these things. I hate em with a passion, but they are a fact of life. I seem to have less of a problem with my dual sport tires on my KLR, but the tendency is still there.

Most of the tarsnake areas I run are in the 20 to 60 mph range though there are highway sweepers with capability of more than doubling that.
Believe me, I pick the track carefully with puckered butt in tow on those.

Again, Very NICE writeup, Velo. Many thanks for your time and expertise!

I said I never had much use for one.
Never said I didn't know how to use it."
Mathew Quigley
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 11:23 AM
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Great write up Velo! I have had almost the exact same experience but I never actually got my foot on the ground. Shchols Ferry Rd to Newberg here in Portland, great road with some nice twisties. I had it hard when the weather was still cool with no problems, but I went back this summer when the temp was up and it was like riding on grease as the tar snakes loosened up. The inconstant feeling wheel slip and grab is the worst. I talked to a friend who races about it, he advised keeping your feet firmly planted on the pegs and leaving your ass ever so slightly lifted, picking your line and sticking to it. It was scarey as shit, but it worked.

If you watch the guys on TT Man, they are constantly riding with wheel slip using this technique. But then again, they're masters of the art.

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post #8 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 11:38 AM
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No rubber compound made to date will grip smooth tar. It has no rough surface for the rubber to clinch to. Learn to spot the tar and hit it as straight on as possible, like going over RR tracks. No angles please.
Also in the South we have what is called Chip and Seal! A 1/2" layer of tar and then little 1/4" chips of stone is spread on top for the tar to glue down. For 2 months cars get busted windshields, then the loose stone moves to the side to form a ridge along the shoulder, ( loose gravel) and as heat and trucks roll over the lanes it buries the chip and gets really smooth. You will slide on this smooth compound, especeily in the rain.

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post #9 of 17 Old 08-01-2013, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brokerecord View Post
Chip and Seal!
We get chipseal up here in NY also. I hear you, it sucks.

Not sure which is worse tar snakes or chipseal.

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post #10 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 03:45 AM
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Had my first encounter with tar snakes some weeks ago on a Hornet Swarm ride with DocLizard and JohnB somewhere in NJ. We were going up a twisty and a couple times I just got this very disconcerting side thrust action with no obvious reason that I could see on the road surface. After we pulled over I started checking my back wheel as I was sure it was coming loose but everything was tight. John mentioned to Doc that we were on some tar snakes. Never heard that term before and never really felt that kind of reaction in all the years I've been riding. Really got my attention.

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post #11 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 06:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deandeib View Post
Had my first encounter with tar snakes some weeks ago on a Hornet Swarm ride with DocLizard and JohnB somewhere in NJ. We were going up a twisty and a couple times I just got this very disconcerting side thrust action with no obvious reason that I could see on the road surface. After we pulled over I started checking my back wheel as I was sure it was coming loose but everything was tight. John mentioned to Doc that we were on some tar snakes. Never heard that term before and never really felt that kind of reaction in all the years I've been riding. Really got my attention.
That's the same sensation I got when my bearings were going. May be worth checking next time you have your rear wheel off the ground.

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post #12 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 09:08 AM
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tar snakes or wheel bearings?

Quote:
Originally Posted by marylandmike View Post
That's the same sensation I got when my bearings were going. May be worth checking next time you have your rear wheel off the ground.
Yea, thanks Mike. I checked by grabbing wheel at 12:00/6:00 and also at 9:00/3:00 and could not detect any slop whatsoever, but I'll check again. Is that a sufficient check or might it require a wheel-off-the-bike examination?

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post #13 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deandeib View Post
Yea, thanks Mike. I checked by grabbing wheel at 12:00/6:00 and also at 9:00/3:00 and could not detect any slop whatsoever, but I'll check again. Is that a sufficient check or might it require a wheel-off-the-bike examination?

Nope I think you checked it OK. If they are gone it will be obvious.

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post #14 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 09:46 AM
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Snakes.........
Why does it have to be snakes?

I plan to die young, as late as possible.
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post #15 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 10:48 AM
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Snakes.........
Why does it have to be snakes?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amYzBQMT4VI

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post #16 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 10:51 AM
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I tipped over on tar snakes late last year, and I was just making a left off of my street onto the cross street after pulling away from the stop sign. There were fresh tar snakes EVERYWHERE, or should I say a huge, ten-foot diameter spider web. My riding gear and my sliders saved the day, but I learned my lesson - watch for snakes.

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post #17 of 17 Old 08-03-2013, 11:01 AM
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Actually, I was thinking of this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClwIj3x24Q4

I plan to die young, as late as possible.
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