Thursday, November 22, 2012

Left Handers

I recently observed some riders on curvy two-lane roads while on vacation with my lovely wife.  Now, we weren't on the bike, you understand.  Instead, we were in the cage pulling our 1967 Apache popup camper behind us.
A shot of our venerable home away from home.
1967?  Yes, we get lots of use out of our purchases.  (I have been a tightwad from shortly after birth, you see.) 

We drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway on US-276, past Caesar's Head and through Brevard North Carolina,
View Larger Map

then made our way, over the next few days, north to the Skyline Drive where it finally became too foggy to see much of the scenery.

A day in Washington D.C. was nice, as were Williamsburg Virginia and Wilmington North Carolina. 

Anyway, while driving along, we saw quite a number of bikers amongst the traffic, and in particular, I noticed a characteristic of the lines some of the bikers coming the other way used while they were in left-hand curves.  I'd estimate that about fifteen percent of the riders we met on their left-handers made corrections to run wider when they spotted us coming in the cage in the other lane. 

Sometimes this was a subtle correction, other times it was more pronounced, but it was readily observable.

At this juncture, I must assure you, kind reader, that I was not driving over the center line in the car, so it was the bikers who were making the correction based on their judgment of the curve and oncoming vehicles.  These riders apparently made their corrections to avoid their leaning into -- or close to -- the other lane.

Why were they doing this?

Well, when I ride, I try to make it a point to stay to the right of the lane in a left hander until I can see the exit of the curve, at which time I may apex if it is tight enough to do so.  This staying to the right makes the curve less sharp, and gives more clearance between me and oncoming traffic.

There are exceptions, of course.  If there is a patch of sand, or a pothole, or some oil in the wide line, then staying closer to the centerline is just fine -- as long as you don't stray over the painted line with any part of you. 

This didn't seem to be the case for the riders in question.  Maybe they were shying away from a ditch or dropoff, or a mountain wall. I have done that, but crossing -- or leaning -- across the centerline is a very poor last resort.

There might be another reason.  Taking the left turn closer to the centerline makes it, in effect, a tighter curve, increasing the acceleration felt in the seat of the pants.  Maybe they were trying to increase that feel even when the curve wasn't all that tight.  I confess that I have done this on occasion, too.

At any rate, we don't want to be doing what this guy did: 
Yes, he hit the car's mirror.
 How about you?  Do you make a little --or big -- correction on your left handers?


Take a few minutes today to thank God for our country, for our manifold blessings, and for our freedom.
Freedom from Want
Norman Rockwell, 1943