On Balance  

Frozen assets

Brrr! A whole lot of cold and white out there, eh? Had to plow the driveway, so this must be it. Officially winter.

That run up and down the driveway and all around the place reminded me that it doesn’t have to be very cold outside for me to get well and truly chilled in a couple of hours on the tractor. Winter lessons.

And now the plow needs fixing, of course. No shortage of “winter recreation” for us tool users in the country.

But, well, my bride’s having a much-needed nap, so this isn’t the best time to break out the grinders and the torch. I’ll do this instead.

About those winter lessons. It’s occurred to me before that winter can teach us a lot about riding motorcycles, so this week I want to see what we can make of that idea. In a minute.

First, though, some appreciation to spread around, a Christmas card for some people who have done important things this year for rider safety in the area.

Three journalists strongly addressed concerns about the numbers of motorcyclists injured and killed each year in the Southern Interior.

They wrote about the issues, talked on air about those issues, interviewed people about them, and they went looking for solutions.

Each of them left their comfort zone and took rider training with the Kelowna Safety Council. Not just for their own safety, but to better understand and communicate what can be done to make riding less dangerous for all of us.

You must remember their columns and chats earlier this year that covered this ground. I sure do.

Rob Gibson, Gord Vizutti, and Ross Freake: my hat is off to you, sirs. A much-needed initiative that served our communities well. Thank you.

I recently attended a very rare and special event in Kelowna, the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims (Nov. 20 ). You may have caught a news item about that. It’s part of the UN World Day of Remembrance campaign, running for a number of years now.

The Kelowna event is rare and special because very few communities in Canada hold one, although every community in Canada is affected by the trauma and loss associated with road crashes.

 155,000 souls injured or killed annually, countless other lives affected: every community.

Paul Hergott, a local lawyer and columnist, has organized Kelowna’s National Remembrance event for some years. This one’s for you, Paul.

Your efforts to bring the Okanagan into this very significant campaign, recognizing the toll our roads take in human terms, have been unique and well deserving of our gratitude. And our support.

Here’s where the rest of us come in: while we’re sitting staring into the magic window, let’s put next year’s event into our calendars. Third Wednesday of November, 2020. See you there. I don’t want to be the token motorcyclist rep. Again.

Where was I? Winter lessons.

I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of emphasis rider training courses place on traction management. I grew up with winter driving, learned to drive in winter, misspent a fair amount of time at the wheel “experimenting” with winter driving techniques. The road to Big White. Ahem.

What to do when it all goes cold, white, and slippery out there became second nature very early on. Meaning it’s still surprising that we have to teach this stuff.

Because riding a motorcycle on summer roads is very much like driving four wheels on snow and ice. Being Canadians, we all need to be familiar with the dynamics.

Winter’s “limited traction events”, (pucker moments), sharply remind us that we can’t blithely assume we’re always going to go where we expect, nor stop when we want.

They teach us to manage the traction we have, and to prepare for less.

That’s a fundamental lesson for us to hold in mind on two wheels. Not being able to always count on grip, but instead expecting to manage with less, is definitely the way to stay upright and ongoing as a rider. Instead of landing on our assets.

Those moments focus the mind on the two key defences we use to prevent collisions: time and space. In winter conditions, we need more of both.

We take more time to prepare thoroughly for the drive, and we allow more time for the trip. We take our time approaching and dealing with challenging situations, like corners and intersections.

We create time to deal with hazards by looking as far ahead as we can, so we can respond smoothly and effectively.

We create the extra space we need by slowing down in lousy conditions, braking early, and by increasing our following distance.

That’s huge, because we don’t leave enough space ahead in ideal conditions, so we really don’t have a functional grasp of how much we’re going to need when the Ice Queen cometh.

If we use the winter chill to practise our time and space skills, they’ll be life-saving habits when the sun does come back for riding season. Winter lessons.


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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