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Old 11-10-2012, 10:34 AM   #1
CaptCrash
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New Riders and the Freeway

Should rookies avoid the freeway? Yes. Why? Because in many ways it’s too damn easy. How so? Simple: think about how you drive your car on the freeway or highway. You’re looking straight ahead, in a bit of a trance, Rush Limbaugh may be screaming at you or it could be Trent Reznor doing the screaming either way other than the idea of speed we all tend to look at the freeway as an easy drive in our cars once we have any skill at all.

Therein lies the problem for newbies and the freeway—everyone else tends to be asleep at the wheel.

The flow of freeway driving leads to a certain hypnosis for drivers and riders alike, it’s easy to ride between the lines, hold a steady throttle and let your brain shut down as we wait for those cues that tell us our exit is coming up.

Admit it. You’ve arrived at your exit and don’t remember the journey.
New riders on the freeway are subject to the same thing, that slip into comfort and thought where you’re considering whether to have lunch at Taco Bell or…is Del Taco a step up or a step across? Really? And what about Green Burrito? Is that the same par? Is Baja Fresh in a different league?

OH ****! Brake lights straight ahead! (Time for a rookie braking error yes?)

Or, “THAT CAR DIDN’T SIGNAL THEIR INTENTIONS!” (Time for a rookie swerve error?)

How’s about, “I’ll just gas it and fit into that gap…OH CRAP!” (Rookie throttle error?)

The danger for newbs is that if you’re coming from a car you’re in the mindset that the freeway isn’t that big a deal. Sure, a new is a tad freaked out and wide awake the first few times but after a couple of survival sessions on the slab? Old habits come back.

Plus? All those car and truck drivers are a tad asleep as well. They make more mistakes and poor decisions and if you’re a newbie you ain’t got the skills to get out of a 70mph hole with trucks and cars and HOV lanes with seams and diesel and potholes around you. The skill set to ride on the freeway requires you to be wide awake and if you’re not? You need the reaction skills to do the right thing.

Newbs ain’t there yet.

I realize that in some places using the freeway is close to unavoidable. Sometimes you simply can’t get there from here without a jog on the 405 or 101 or (insert your metro nightmare freeway here) but that doesn’t mean you can’t go! It means you need to be aware of your own abilities. Increase your following distance. Keep your eyes up and know where you are and what’s around you. Plan, plan, plan. Know when you need to be where and be in that place before you have to be in that spot. And Newbs? The longer you’re on the slab the easier it is to have that mental drift happen so don’t plan for long runs on the freeway. Look for alternates and look the opportunity to use an alternate route.

Should Newbs hit the freeway right away? Nope. But if you have to realize the dangers you face and the skills you might lack.

Be Safe.
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:33 PM   #2
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The freeway is actually what woke me up. It was one of the last "challenges" I faced and it's still every bit as harrowing as the first time. It's a constant fight with the wind, changing paces, road seams, cracks, and debris while being surrounded by vehicles that wouldn't know they hit anything if they ran you over.

Perhaps a highway in Nevada or Texas or some straight shot is "too easy" but around here, I definitely beg to differ. If you were fully encapsulated like in a car, the outside drowned out by radio while the temperature was what you felt was comfortable, then yes, I'd say it was "too easy". But when you're freezing your nuts off because you didn't prepare for 70mph+ wind resistance pushing through all of your gear, rushing through your helmet and whipping through your hearing protection but can't tense up from the cold because you need to stay loose enough to hold your line when you waver over uneven pavement, and when you are going straight but your lean angle is further than you've ever cornered at yet to correct for crosswind, it is far from "too easy".

All this while watching for other cars.
Too easy is being on town/city roads going an easy pace thinking you're ready for anything/get into going to work mode. All of my close calls have been around town.

This whole post seems really counterproductive because most users I've seen warn people to stay off the freeway at first for the reasons I've encountered. There is too much to think about too quickly, and much of it is things no one would think about if not on a bike.


This post makes me less worried about newbs on the freeway and more worried about zoned-out vets who really do think they're ready for everything.
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:52 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Daks View Post
This post makes me less worried about newbs on the freeway and more worried about zoned-out vets who really do think they're ready for everything.
Precisely.

Who is in bigger danger?

Especially a newb who thinks "that wasn't so tough" or "I am so hyper aware that I am ready for anything!"

I spent 4 years driving a set of doubles back and forth over 17 and up and down 101, up 680 and over the grade and through the cluster of walnut creek...You'll find yourself zoning out eventually. Everybody does. Or, and you are right, you'll think you know it all and the road will show you that you do not. The problem is that noobs have got nothing in their skill bank account to cash that check with.
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Last edited by CaptCrash; 11-10-2012 at 01:05 PM..
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Old 11-10-2012, 08:22 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Daks View Post

This post makes me less worried about newbs on the freeway and more worried about zoned-out vets who really do think they're ready for everything.
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Old 11-10-2012, 11:29 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by CaptCrash View Post
Precisely.

Who is in bigger danger?

Especially a newb who thinks "that wasn't so tough" or "I am so hyper aware that I am ready for anything!"

I spent 4 years driving a set of doubles back and forth over 17 and up and down 101, up 680 and over the grade and through the cluster of walnut creek...You'll find yourself zoning out eventually. Everybody does. Or, and you are right, you'll think you know it all and the road will show you that you do not. The problem is that noobs have got nothing in their skill bank account to cash that check with.
So the moral of the story is "never go on the freeway because you might get used to it?"

I agree that newbs shouldn't go on the freeway right away, but I really don't see how the reasoning of it being "too easy" works, because it's definitely not easy.

I think making people more aware of road vision and constant situational awareness is far more valuable than telling them never to go on the freeway until they're ready for its monotony, even if they have no idea what to be ready for.

You're acting like there is only two ways to be...cocky or zoned out. My point is that newbies are less likely to be zoned out than veteran riders anyhow and it's kind of a moot point that speaks for itself whenever you tell someone not to grow complacent about riding. Being complacent also encompasses being confident enough in your skills to get out of bad situations to justify not paying full attention.


A better recommendation would include highlighting those points while suggesting that when newer riders start riding on the freeway, they stick to the slower lanes, leave good following distance and do very short rides rather ones they can risk growing bored of. This way they get the experience of reacting at speeds over those of any back-roads or cities with minimal danger involved with freeway travel.
There's really nowhere you can practice freeway riding other than the freeway. You can practice riding, yes, but a quick-stop at 70mph is vastly different than one at 25. As is swerving. There's only so much you can tell them to do before it gets ridiculous.
How new is a newbie? How do you judge the skill? Can they not ride on a freeway until they've ridden for 6 months? A year? 3 Years? You got that experience you can count on by experiencing it and I'm sure this wasn't your very first time on the freeway.
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Old 11-11-2012, 10:06 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Daks View Post
So the moral of the story is "never go on the freeway because you might get used to it?"
No, the moral of the story is "be careful when you ride a motorcycle on the freeway because you've got bad car habits that might bite you on the ass--and lack the skills to save your own bacon."


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daks View Post
I agree that newbs shouldn't go on the freeway right away, but I really don't see how the reasoning of it being "too easy" works, because it's definitely not easy.
To repeat: Most riders have spent time (often loads and loads) on the freeway in their automobiles. That time spent can often be mistaken for experience and we can fall into the old, bad car habits.

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Originally Posted by Daks View Post
A better recommendation would include highlighting those points while suggesting that when newer riders start riding on the freeway, they stick to the slower lanes, leave good following distance and do very short rides rather ones they can risk growing bored of. This way they get the experience of reacting at speeds over those of any back-roads or cities with minimal danger involved with freeway travel.
If you are a beginner you risk taking a ride with Herr and Frau Dunning-Kruger. There's an inside joke in there you might not get.

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There's really nowhere you can practice freeway riding other than the freeway. You can practice riding, yes, but a quick-stop at 70mph is vastly different than one at 25. As is swerving. There's only so much you can tell them to do before it gets ridiculous.
I would offer that a 55-60 mph expressway could be reasoned as a good jumping off point. Plenty of traffic, lower speeds, multiple lanes, merging and exiting traffic and stoplights. Wait. That sounds harder than a freeway. Curses...foiled again! If riding were just a matter of "Practice this...or do that...or..." then we'd write them all down, bind it and give it to rookies and everything would be good. What's the real difference between braking from 25 and 75? Nothing. Well, it takes longer and you're sustaining a heavy G load for what seems like forever...but technically you've got your head and eyes up, progressively squeezing the front brake, squeezing the tank with your knees and progressively putting less pressure on the rear brake. So...it's exactly like stopping from 25. This is one of those myths that newbies grab a hold of and use to frighten and crash themselves. What works as good braking at 25 works the same at 105.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daks View Post
How do you judge the skill? Can they not ride on a freeway until they've ridden for 6 months? A year? 3 Years? You got that experience you can count on by experiencing it and I'm sure this wasn't your very first time on the freeway.
That's an easy one: After 300 hours of figure 8s in a parking lot you're cleared for street riding! Sorry, was channeling a beginner. Let me give you a frustrating and perfect answer:

I do not know. That's on you. That's one of the reasons we ride--because it's unique, wild, weird and fun! And in the end? We are solely responsible for ourselves.

The rider who goes out on the freeway and says, "I got this" be they new or used is still a rider who's in a place of grave danger. Story time! One late summer I was dragging a set of doubles full of 50,000lbs of sod down 17 (before it was 880) south headed to 237. As I drove traffic slowed...and slowed...and slowed--but never quite stopped. It funneled down to one lane and then I could see what was going on. See, tomatoes have to be transported somehow and back in the day they would strap 20ft long plastic bins onto 23ft trailers and send them down the road. This poor northbound sap had got in trouble somehow and had smacked it into the center divider (which in those days was simply a double sided guard rail). The rear trailer must have cracked like a whip and that giant tub of tomatoes had broken lose, flown over the railing, landed smack perfect, had the end break off and then slews around spreading tomatoes everywhere--across all three lanes. Actually it was more like tomato sauce by the time I got there.

Here's the weird part: Some cars had driving in to the tomatoes and stopped. They were just sitting there and the CHP was waving them on and they would just sit there afraid to drive through the tomato paste. Me? And all the other trucks in the slow lane? We just chuckled for the poor dumb bastard and rolled through--worried that if we did stop, getting going again might be a real challenge. Yeah, we knew that stopping on slippery stuff is a bad, bad idea. Because we had encountered it before--as anti-freeze in a parking lot, or diesel fuel on the ground at a fuel stop, or and ice morning on a wet lot.

When are you ready for the freeway? I do not know. That's on you. However, if you think you've got it in the bag? Young, old or in between? You're gonna get a wake up call.

The difference I'm talking about it that as a newb? When the tomatoes hit the tarmac and you've got no frame of reference--you've never thought about that scenario or anything like it before--then as a noob you got nothing in your bag of tricks.
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Last edited by CaptCrash; 11-11-2012 at 10:09 AM..
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Old 11-11-2012, 08:08 PM   #7
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As a re-newb (took a bunch of years off, forgot what little I knew) I don't think OP's analysis applies to someone like me. I'm freakin' terrified of the freeway! In town or on mountain roads I'm feeling good, even if I'm going at or near freeway speed, but the freeways make me dirty my underwear.

I'm scared of having so many damn cagers around me (who are all half asleep or fiddling with their phones). Not having as many escape routes also make me nervous. On a back road I can just slow down and pull over if I want. On the freeway I'm at least 2-3 lanes away from being done with the fucking thing. Tons of other shit makes me wet my willies too, like road debri and oil slicks.

Baby wheelies, burn outs, and mini slides around turns are all a bunch of fun for me. The freeway is where I see death.
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:07 PM   #8
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i still believe the city streets are worse. as far more interaction. but on the slab it happens so fast, and it is so boring. most just do there time asleep.
-------and yes i know as i am a commercial truck driver.----------
so yes newbies should stay off the slab for a good year after getting there license.

so many stupid people out there, they think the whole world is there play ground and everybody else will just get out of there way.

be safe as they are out to get you.
and in a group on the slab you are only as safe as the worst fool in said group.


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Old 11-13-2012, 02:05 AM   #9
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I wouldnt say "stay off it for a year" - that sounds horridly long. you gotta learn sometime?

i think both city streets and freeways offer different things to learn. I definitely saw more cell phone users on freeways, so that taught me to check out what drivers are doing, if they're looking left or right and their head turns are erratic, its a good cue they'll laneshift/dive, or if they're just distracted which means i gun it past them asap. Freeways also taught me about looking reallly realllly far ahead - seeing the trail of stop lights in the distance helped me gauge soon to come stopping distance and how peeps behind me are gonna react. tons of other valuable stuff u can learn as well.

city driving taught me all sorts of other things, like keeping an eye out for left turners, noticing which joe-shmo looks like they're lost and avoiding them, dbl checking intersections for red light offenders.

i can see where noobs would zone out and break into bad habits... but i think any first time experience on the freeway that would happen and it would take a good slap in the face every now and then to break free of that habit.

took me some time but now i scan everything, even while driving (unless it's a boooooringgggg carrrrrrrrrrrrrr then i cant help but zone out).
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:58 PM   #10
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Freeways are a whole different world for sure. I approach it simply as Know Thy Self. If your not feeling it stay off it, I have taken side streets home because I just have a sixth sense, do not know how else to put it.

Any road any conditions should be treated with utmost respect and full clarity of all things around you. The freeway is way faster and shit happens far quicker, so there is a lot more reaction fitness that need to apply IMO. Just riding a Motorcycle is one thing One must consider first for themselves and just commit or go home.
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:13 PM   #11
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Freeways always get my attention. Lots of newbs... (In cages). Lots of distracted. Best to be on high alert. Don't get there often, but always on defcon 3 status.
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:59 PM   #12
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I don't really get it - First thing I did with my license was to hit the freeway and get some speed.
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Old 11-15-2012, 11:33 AM   #13
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I find freeway riding to be safer in most cases than surface street riding, albeit, far more boring unless you're talking commute times where max attention of what's going on 360 degrees around you is paramount as is looking well ahead to spot trouble before they affect you.

I think if you're a confident and aware driver on the freeway you'll be fine on a bike once you have competence and experience on surface streets.

But there are a lot of folks who white knuckle on the freeway driving a car so, for sure, on a bike that would be a recipe for disaster.
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Old 11-15-2012, 12:22 PM   #14
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I actually trained a year before starting a freeway commute. I started
some freeway stuff after the first few months of riding, and made a short freeway
stint part of my training ride - along with twisties and PLP - I even included a 0-60 accelleration bit too. The key was I did it during off hours where there was no traffic.

For a full commute in traffic I am with the guys who say wait a while,
a good long while until your bike skills are good. When I started my commute
I had near-death incidents on a regular basis (ok either a swerve or hard
brake). I survived all of them because I was ready, although in restrospect
just barely, and I had a forgiving bike that was hard to lock the
front tire.

I learned real fast to anticipate traffic patterns to avoid those incidents.
Consequently I have them less often now, but looking back, those first few
months of commuting were some of the highest risk riding I ever did.
And riding on the freeway now in traffic is still very high risk.

Traffic is unforgiving, changes in an instant, the roads are bad,
debris is everywhere, freeways scare me, and I do it every day.

Merges are the really nasty bits, and hugging the left of the carpool lane
is where I feel safest, unless the line of cars next to me
is at a dead stop, and I am screaming by at 65 mph, that is defcon 1 for me.

The day I stop being scared is the day I should stop riding to work on a bike.
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Old 11-29-2012, 10:45 AM   #15
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With only 16k miles worth of riding experience, I can say that I will NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER... get used to freeway riding. There's always something new to encounter. "oh, this concrete groove does bad things at 70mph... oh, it's raining, there are tar snakes all over this section of 101, and i'm late for work... oh, i'm on a 50/50 tire. hello unexpected wobbles..."

i hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. and i put unnecessary amounts of reflective gear all over me and my bike.
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