The group ride on Aug. 3, taking hundreds of motorcyclists from the southern edge of Hall County to its northern end, was a beautiful demonstration of the community’s solidarity for our law enforcement agencies. Riding along with the father of fallen Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Blane Dixon, seeing the groups of people along the roadsides waving stars and stripes flags, reaffirmed my belief that North Georgia is a great place to call home.
Car drivers sometimes ask why motorcyclists are so committed to their vehicles. Many will answer “it’s the wind.” Riding a bike conveys a feeling of being part of the environment. This includes challenges that are important for all road users to be aware of. Rain is the most common one.
Modern suits are completely waterproof, and riders who prefer old-fashioned leather gear don’t mind much getting wet. The main problem is traction. The surface area of a motorcycle tire is no larger than a credit card. On a wet road, a curve taken too fast can cause slipping and a crash.
Even the latest machines with electronic anti-lock brake systems need to be handled with care in the rain. Wise automobilists leave plenty of safety space behind motorcycles, especially in rainstorms.
Hot weather is another challenge. In 100-degree conditions, the wind blast is higher than the body temperature. Jackets become a burden, and although motorcyclist associations recommend padded gear, riding in just a T-shirt is more bearable.
Along with this comes the risk of dehydration on long rides. Hot wind removes an enormous amount of moisture from the body. This wasn’t a problem on the Dixon Memorial Ride, but my research trip to Virginia the same week, much of it on sweltering Interstate 40, brought it to mind. Motorcyclists need to pay attention to the symptoms, which include headaches, fatigue and possible disorientation.
Good Samaritans have sometimes brought salty snacks (to replenish electrolytes) and sports drinks when they spotted exhausted motorcyclists at gas stations.
Motorcycles can be loud for various reasons, but they are environmentally friendly. Gas efficiency of the typical Harley-Davidson is 50 mpg. Fuel injection and catalytic converters on the most recent models provide clean emissions. A few short years from now, silent electric bikes will be abundant.
During the Dixon Memorial event, Hall County showed its understanding once again that motorcyclists aren’t wild-eyed “bikers.” They are caring community members.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China.