Riding in heavy traffic, and loving it!
Two weeks ago the orthopedist said my broken leg was sufficiently healed to return to work, so it was back to the salt mines for me. Ah well -- I was getting used to having the whole day to do as I wished, but life goes on.
At least I'm commuting 105 miles a day again (When is the last time you heard that as a positive?), and am having a ball doing it! The feeling from dealing with heavy traffic as effortlessly as the 919 with lanesplitter bars is capable of has to be, at least for me, the pinnacle of riding! This may sound a trifle strange coming from someone who so thoroughly revels in tortuous asphalt, but the two are so completely different as to defy comparison past the obvious commonality of man and machine, and our symbosis.
I'm convinced it's the incessant variety and intensely dynamic nature of it that is addictive, but not in an adrenaline surge sort of way -- quite the contrary: there is a zen aspect to moving through traffic that requires a detachment from the immediate ... for at least part of my brain. Instincts will take care of what is directly in front of me with only minor additions of conscious attention to abet accuracy and smoothness, but the bulk of my awareness is toward the organism that is any group of cars, with ripples and eddies; crosscurrents; twitches and tremors; and just a soupçon of unpredictability that gives it spice.
Lane splitting is, of course, an integral part of the traffic experience, and requires a shift in my attention from the predominant awareness of traffic in general to a closer in subconscious focus on the 15 cars ahead in the lanes to each side of me, and the next lane over for its effect on cars on my right. The bulk of my conscious awareness, maybe 30% as compared to 5 to 10% when traffic is moving faster, is toward the four cars just ahead of me, and there is where things get difficult to describe. I have, for want of a better term, received messages from drivers as clearly as if they were talking in my ear, occasionally words, but more commonly a feeling of an earnest of intent to do something that I will have to deal with, particularly left turners. How much is the result of playing the "what if?" game for nigh on 40 years, and how much is something deeper I cannot say, but I've come to know how to sense all inputs and avoid situations before they become situations. As evidence of the effectiveness of this, I have not had to apply the brakes hard, much less panic stop, in over 20 years despite nearly daily exposure to the worst traffic L.A. can throw at me. Make no mistake, I've had to make some very quick maneuvers usually accompanied by judicious amounts of throttle (When in doubt, gas it!), but they are usually non events.
The foregoing is for those who can split lanes, and may I offer sympathy to those who cannot legally do so. Splitting is one of the best teachers of deadly accurate control and the finer points of reading traffic.
Everything I've said up to this point represents an ideal that happens quite often, but being human means you are not always on top of your game, and it can bite if you don't catch the warning signs and take more care.
The problem with learning this is there is no way I can think of to teach it other than describing it in as much detail as possible to make others aware that it is possible, but in the final analysis it takes lots of exposure and having all possible moves necessary to control the motorcycle so ingrained that even in a desperate situation no conscious thought about control is required, freeing up brain space for a more important task: first avoiding an accident, then eventually avoiding the necessity of avoidance.
Another factor I've noticed recently is that traffic has gotten more, well, civilized. It's hard to describe exactly, but he number of cars that move over to make room for me has increased by quite a bit, and I was at a loss for an explanation until it occurred to me that I don't see cell phones plastered to the sides of driver's faces since the "No hands" cell phone law went into effect July first. Now there is a great piece of legislation!
One of these days I'm going to video an average commute, edit out the droning pulls in the carpool lane (at 80 to 85 mph), and post a highlight reel. You'd have puppies!
If it has already been done, it is safe to assume it is possible to do it.
On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
------- Rob --------