As enthusiastic motorcycle riders, we are always seeking new, exciting roads to explore. Our search often leads us into the hills and mountains in pursuit of curvy asphalt and thrilling changes in elevation. Often the best roads trace the path of a canyon or the crest of a mountain ridge. These roads offer thrilling rides and the majestic beauty of nature and occasionally reveal the underlying strata of rock where the mountain was carved to build the road. On a motorcycle, the rider is immersed in the magnificent scenery more than is possible in any other vehicle. Experienced riders know, however, that we can’t get lost in that experience. It’s critical that we always scan for hazards.
1 - Take Warning Signs Seriously
Some of the diamond-shaped yellow warning signs that advise motorists of the potential for hazards along the road ahead, warn of seasonal hazards. Often we see these signs and the hazard does not appear. Be wary of developing a tendency to dismiss them like the boy who cried wolf, lest you get bitten. This is especially true of the “Fallen Rock” signs, particularly if you ride through the cold season.
2 - A Seasonally Increased Hazard
Rocks often fall onto roads when rain finds its way into cracks in exposed rocks. In late fall, as temperatures between day and night fluctuate from above to below freezing, the process is increased by the rapid freeze-thaw cycles. This natural process is as powerful as the manmade tools used to carve the mountains when building roads. It just happens.
3 - Effective Countermeasures
Fallen rocks are one of the surface hazards that can be avoided by continuously scanning the road ahead. This is a basic skill taught in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Education Courses. When you see a “Fallen Rock” sign, that’s your cue to pay even more attention to the road surface. It’s helpful to increase your following distance from traffic in front of you. Cars and trucks can often harmlessly pass over or around rocks that present a major hazard to a motorcycle. A reduction in speed will also increase the time you have to see and react to hazards. If you encounter rocks on the road, don’t fixate on the rocks. Focus instead on the clear path around them. Be aware that if you can’t see completely through a curve, a rock could be in the road around the bend. So allow yourself a safe margin to change your cornering line.
Enjoy the extended riding season and ride safe!