There is more to cornering than choosing your line and leaning. Even a well executed start to a corner can go wrong if you lose road traction. On slippery surfaces, the only viable option is going in a straight line without braking or accelerating. Unfortunately, you can only straight-line so far on a curve before you are off the road or in the oncoming lane. This means you should be doing more than picking your line when you’re about to enter a corner. You need to look for slip hazards in addition to road defects such as bumps, potholes, and large cracks. Common slip hazards include:
- Gravel. Gravel can get on the pavement in a number of ways including erosion from a storm, falling rocks and pebbles from a steep hillside, or from a gravel shoulder. The astute rider should look for these signs as well as for actual gravel in the road.
- Leaves. Watch for leaves after storms or high winds and during the fall. Leaves will retain moisture from a recent rain, fog, or dew long after the rest of the pavement has dried. While dry leaves in quantity are slippery, the absolute worst are wet leaves.
- Oil, grease, and antifreeze. This is common in urban areas, especially at intersections. Avoid aggressive turning at intersections and exercise care when the weather gets rainy after a dry spell.
- Painted or taped pavement. This is commonly used for pedestrian cross walks and occurs in urban and popular sight-seeing areas.
- Water puddles. In addition to reducing the pavement friction, water puddles conceal potholes and may cause hydroplaning.
- Live or dead animals. Even if the animal is already flattened, it will reduce your traction.
Avoiding these slip hazards requires that you see them in the first place. A common mistake many riders make is failing to look far enough into the corner to spot hazards in time to avoid them.
Another problem that takes out even experienced bikers is going into blind corners too quickly. A rule that applies to all motor vehicles is to never go faster than you can see ahead. This doesn’t just apply to night riding or riding in fog. It also applies to corners that you can’t see all the way through. Slow down so that you can stop within your line of sight. As your line of sight increases, speed up again. This means you will exit blind corners faster than entering them.