Biker adventure in OK City 2018

ADAS is “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems”, the new technology to keep drivers safe. This is the collision avoidance system, lane departure warning and so on. You get it. It pays attention so you don’t have to.

It doesn’t have a nose. (?)   Yes, a nose. This is a serious safety system when riding a motorcycle.


I’m in the center lane of 3 lanes of dense traffic moving through Oklahoma City. Traffic is heavy and I’m on my motorcycle, feeling a little vulnerable. I smelled something hot. It’s a hot day and we’re in the city, so what?


It’s a stronger smell now, burning rubber. I shook the handlebars of my bike. I’ve had a flat tire at 75 mph before, so I knew how a bike reacts when that happens. My bike is apparently fine so far.


I’ve also witnessed a number of high speed blowouts, which scatter hazardous rubber and steel chunks like a grenade. Each chunk of rubber can be fist sized or larger and have razor sharp wires protruding in all directions. These will puncture a tire with ease and I don’t care to know what they’d do to skin.


It’s a hot day and I’ve seen evidence of blowouts dozens of times just in today’s travel. One of the drills learned in the Motorcycle Safety Course is steering around debris in the road. I’ve been doing a lot of that to avoid these little roadway land mines.


The burning rubber smell is pronounced now and my senses are at their peak. I know someone is about to blow a tire, I just don’t know who or where. I scan rapidly back and forth. I see smoke from the right rear of a Mercedes, in the left lane about 2 car lengths ahead of me.


I ease up on the throttle, to put a little distance between me and the Mercedes. The car doesn’t slow down and shows no reaction. A part of me wants to get beside them and signal them. Another part of me says they won’t understand or, worse yet, will think I mean to harm them. So I wait.  I can’t get too far back, traffic is dense and I don’t want to introduce other vehicles in front of me who might get tangled up and involve me. I also don’t want to get rear ended by a texting driver behind me.


Smoke is now pouring off the right rear, just like a NASCAR racer heading for the pits to change a tire. Amazingly, still no reaction. They’ve got to smell it. Does no one ever check their mirrors?  I see the rubber part of the wheel wobbling now. It won’t be long. Little rubber bits are now flaking off. I move over to the far right lane, the smoking car stays where it is in the far left lane. It hasn’t slowed down or anything. Geeze.


Now, the rubber is flailing and finally, the tire lets go. The entire tread, completely round and intact, slips off the wheel and heads directly to the right, straight for a semi tanker truck. Rolling like a hula hoop, it rolls right into the truck. I figure the truck will take it out. I was wrong. The tire slipped unharmed right under the truck, directly into my line of travel. It quickly crossed the right lane, bounced off the outside barrier and headed straight for me.


I’ve learned to stay cool under fire and my brain immediately went into all sorts of mathematical calculations regarding speed and direction to help me decide what to do. I hit the brakes and steered to the right edge of the road, right where the tire was. It was heading left, I was heading right. It had just exited my lane as we passed. Holy jeepers. I exhaled a sigh of relief.


This is another very important skill to learn, called “target fixation”. Most drivers will fix their gaze on the sudden obstacle in the road. The bike will go where you look, so if you look at an obstacle, you’ll run right into it. It’s important to look where you want to go. I wanted to go to the right side of the moving tire, so I fixated on the area behind the moving tire.


My sense of smell told me this was coming. That enabled me to see the whole thing unfold like it was in slow motion. Had I not been paying attention, I’d have impacted the tire. There is no current technology that would have advised me this was coming like my nose. A substantial amount of rider training gave me the rider skills to deal with the situation. Nose, training, experience, practice. Riding a motorcycle has made me a much better driver.


The Mercedes continued on like nothing had happened, riding on the metal wheel, like some chase scene out of COPS. I hit the gas and rode on.

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