Saturday, June 14, 2008

Its my own fault, really. After all, were taught as riders that we need to be responsible for not only ourselves but for those around us, too. Still, I wonder if there really was anything I could have done differently and the answer is, "Maybe."

It happened Yesterday, Friday, on my way home from work. I was on the four lane highway and traffic is more than moderate but moving at a reasonable pace.

The van I am following moves over to the left lane to pass a slower moving dump truck. I hit my turn signal, do a quick head check and follow suite. The truck is a semi tractor with a 30 foot dump bed and as the van and I pass, the van slows down.

There are drivers that do this on purpose. I'm not sure if its part of their nature or whether they go to school to learn this technique. You know its true because it has happened to you! These drivers usually employ this technique with me when I have followed them into the left lane to pass slower traffic and then need to exit the highway in a mile or so. That's not the case today, though.

Anyway, here I am, following a graduate from the "Slow Down While Passing School". I have the truck on my right and a 3 foot shoulder on my left. Trapped. I wish these drivers would have bumper stickers identifying them. I would have passed sooner.

We travel like that for about a mile the van holding steady about 50 feet in front of me. My frustration climbs because I can see that there is no one in front of him for half a mile and yet he refuses to accelerate to the speed limit to complete the pass.

I moved over to the center of my lane. Maybe he doesn't see me. Of course he should be able to see the 15 cars behind me. No effect. The van inches forward 10 mph slower than he was traveling.

And then the van swerves, first to the right and then back to the left. I think for an instant, "What demon has possess this idiot?" And then I see the demon coming out from under his rear axle, black, long, wiry, flopping in torment and in my path.

Of course it really wasn't a demon at all, but what looked like an entirely intact truck tire retread. Our valedictorian in the van must have been distracted because he had at least 20 seconds to identify a hazard in the road way and avoid it. I had about 3 seconds.

And 3 seconds might have been enough - 5 seconds would have been plenty - for me to shift to the outside and ride the shoulder had the demon not decided to uncoil all of its 10 feet directly in front of me and perpendicular to my path.

There were 3 distinct thumps; one for each of my tires and one when it smacked the floorboard on the left side and my pipes on the right.

The good news: I was still vertical. The bad news: It smacked my left foot as it rolled past. I raised my foot off the floorboard to make sure it was still attached to my ankle. It was still there but I remember thinking, "That's gonna leave a mark."

I rolled the throttle, cut to the right and quickly slowed to a stop on the right shoulder. I dismounted and did a quick walk around. The tires were still inflated, for now. No oil or other fluids were leaking. That's good. The bike had tread marks on its pipes. Those will buff out. The fenders were still attached. This was beginning to look better all the time.

I started the engine and pulled back into traffic. About a mile down the highway, Mister Graduate had pulled his van to the shoulder and was crawling underneath looking for either damage or brains. I'm guessing he might have found damage. I know he never found any brains since he had none to loose in the first place.

For a second I thought about stopping and asking him why he didn't try to avoid the tire tread since there was no one in front of him and he had clear vision ahead. But like Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does.", so I chose not to stop.

At home I took my boots off. There were no tread marks on my foot, just a nasty bruise on the top side. Battle scars that will fade from view. The lesson learned will not soon be forgotten.

I bet if I had stopped to check on Mr Graduate he would have been wearing a sign. Maybe I should get some bumper stickers to hand out, too.


Harvey Brodsky said...

Although I am happy that Doug was not injured by the piece of tire debris that hit him, I wish he had not posted that he was hit by a piece of "entirely intact truck tire retread," since he really had no way of knowing if the piece of tire debris was from a retread or a tire that had never been retreaded.

Truck tires fail because ofimproper tire maintenance -underinflating, overloading, mismatching of truck tires on dual wheel positions, improper tire repairs, etc. Doug and other readers might be interested to learn that much of the tire debris on our highways comes from tires that have NEVER been retreaded.

To assume that all tire debris on our highways is from retreads is the same as assuming that all accidents caused by drunk drivers are the fault of the vehicle.

Retreads have a safety record as good as the best new tires and are safely used on motorcycles (yes, motorcycles), school buses, commercial and military airlines, emergency vehicles and millions of other types of vehicles from the largest 18 wheelers to the smallest 4 wheelers.

Retreaded tires are very environmentally friendly and economical. They also put a brake on new tire prices, which helps all motorists keep their replacement tire costs down.

For more information other readers to this blog can contact the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau toll free from anywhere in North America at 888-473-8732 or send an email to: We will send them a free CD & DVD about the economic and environmental benefits of retreading and we will also include a booklet about the true causes of rubber on the road.

Harvey Brodsky
Managing Director
Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau/TRIB
900 Weldon Grove
Pacific Grove, CA 93950 USA
Toll free from anywhere in North America 888-473-8732
Telephone: 831-372-1917, Fax 831-372-9210
Cell 831-917-6449
The retread industry is one of the GREENEST industries in the world! Go retreads...GO GREEN!

Earl Thomas said...

Ummm.......I mean no offense here Harvey, but I think that you kind of missed point of Doug's post.

I really don't think that he wrote this post to condemn "Retreads" or question their merits, rather I think it is to discuss the situation and how to learn from it so that we all can ride more safely in the future.

A potentially hazardous situation occurred in a split second; Doug was boxed between a vehicle in front of him, casually overtaking a Semi to his right with heavy traffic behind him. Pilots call this "Situational awarness", which it sounds like Doug obviously quickly became aware of his "situation" once he was in it. Who cares whether the object was a Retread, new tire, or a discarded trash bag for that matter.

The fact is Doug, that something came into your path of travel and you had to decide how to react. Hindsight is 20/20 and fortunately your still with us so that we can all discuss this together on your blog to learn from.

Inevitably this sort of thing will happen again to one of us in the future, and discussing this here can help us all better prepare ourselves when it does. Yet one more very important reason why Motorcycle blogging, in my opinion, is a valuable tool at our disposal.

I believe that Irondad is much more qualified to dissect and comment on the situation than I am. It sounds to me though, that once you found yourself in "this situation", you reacted in a matter that I learned a long time ago back when I was in Flight School and that I have applied to riding as well, and that is when those demons do occur, and it seems like all hell is breaking loose, don't panic and do what you were trained to do and that is "Fly the Plane." Personally, I don't care if it has two wings, or two wheels, just "Fly the Plane first."

I am glad to hear that you are alright and thanks for sharing your experience with us and definitely continue keeping the "Rubber Side Down." Retread or not.

Ride Well

Doug C said...

Harvey: Its obvious I touched on a subject about which you are passionate. I always assumed that tread debris came from retreads. If that's not the case, then I stand corrected.

However, whether the tread came from a retread or from a new tire is like aguing whether a tree limb in ones path was pine or poplar.

Thanks for the retread information. Learn something new everyday...

Earl: A bumper sticker saying "Doug, Back off" would have been real helpful at the time. What it boils down to is, I was too close.

Even with all the guidelines, thumb rules, and even science, I'm not going to be able to avoid every obstacle that might pop up in front of me. But I can increase my odds of avoidance and survival by using those guidelines and thumb rules... plus a little extra for good measure.

Doug C