As a motorcycle rider, you often end up dealing with all sorts of hazards on the road. Anything and everything out there seem to be out to kill you--from the deepest of potholes, to crazy weather (which we have been having as of late), to other road users who don’t see you or who, more likely, just don’t care. Everything is out to spoil your two-wheeled adventure.
At the end of the day, however, you can predict the weather (there’s an app for this) and keep an eye on other motorists while your other eye remains firmly on ‘scan mode’ on the road for obstacles that threaten to throw you off your motorcycle.
But there is one thing that can’t be predicted--stray animals on the road.
My worst experience with animals on the road was during a group ride from Manila to Ilocos. My friend and I were riding in a formation in Tarlac when I noticed from the corner of my eye a dog leaping out from the roadside and started chasing wild my riding buddy. Now, we all know that a canine can’t hope to achieve anything by doing this, but who can tell what the creature was thinking.
Watching as if in slow motion, I saw the dog cross the road, barreling straight toward my friend's motorbike. He quickly weaved onto the oncoming lane in an attempt to avoid the animal. Because of the angle the dog decided to take him on, he had no chance. And with a horrendous crunch, the dog’s brains were splattered on my friend’s engine case, while its body spiraled across the road.
Thankfully and fortunately, my riding buddy didn’t fall from his Ducati Multistrada, and aside from having to need a good shower with all the blood and bits on him, he was shaken, but all right. This can’t be said about all animal experiences, as many a rider has died or has been seriously injured after hitting an animal and falling off his machine.
This experience gave me some insight into how we can better prepare ourselves for animals that may have some mischievous instincts when it comes to bikers on the road. Here are four tips for dealing with the local wildlife:
1. Stay vigilant.
When riding through towns or highways, it is always best to be extra vigilant, especially when you start seeing some dogs already taking up space on the side of the road. Keep an eye out for them, and if it is possible, signal to your group to slow down and take more precautions in populated areas. That being said, sometimes, it has been known for animals to make it onto our tollways. So don’t assume that just because you are on the highway that a dog or carabao hasn’t jumped the fence in its bid for freedom.
2. Use sound to your advantage.
Animals can be sensitive to sound as a motorcycle makes quite a racket as it barrels down the road. This can be both a boon and a curse as being too noisy may make the animal panic and attempt to cross the road. On the other hand, being too silent may also make it panic right at the moment it is most likely to run across your path. The best way of dealing with this is to keep this in mind with number one above: Stay vigilant and honk your horn approaching an animal to see how it will react. In that way, you can react as well.
3. Space out with your riding buddies.
This was what probably saved my skin from having to run over the dog my friend hit, which could have potentially caused me to get into an accident with the mass of the animal throwing me off my bike.
When travelling in a group, don’t ride directly behind the person in front of you, and give adequate space between the riders in your group so that you maintain good stopping distances between riders. Hitting an animal may or may not throw you off your bike, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that if you hit your riding buddy after he takes a spill, both of you are in for a world of hurt. And lastly, if there doesn’t seem to be any other recourse…
4. Brake, don’t swerve.
My friend didn’t get into an accident because when he had hit the dog, he was upright and stable. When all else fails, and it is inevitable that an impact is impending, you want to get on your brakes as hard as it is safe for you to do so, using both front and rear brakes to maximize your braking. Slowing yourself down would either prevent an accident from occurring, or it would make it so that injuries will be lessened if the worst does happen and you fly off your bike on impact.
Sorry to all the animal lovers out there, but swerving is the worst thing you can do in that situation since you want to be as upright as you can be upon impact to minimize the possible injury it may inflict to the rider and animal. Unlike humans and animals, the motorcycle has available spare parts so it should be the least of your worries.