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Tar snakes


graydude

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I had major BH puckering event on Hwy 89 outside of Prescott. I was taking this two lane in a very spirited manner and grinning from ear to ear. The road was fairly fresh asphalt for most of the run. Suddenly the nice pavement turned into old asphalt with fresh tar snakes. My back wheel got squirmy and I drastically reduced my speed. My question is I know we've all been exposed to tar snakes but has anyone actually been taken down by these things? Am I being overly cautious? For the record, the temps were in the mid 70's, dry, my front metzler 880 and rear Bridgestone BT020 are in excellent shape. Do most people just ride through them? Is a their a technique utilized besides slowing down?

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Guest Kakugo

It's really difficult to say, and it depends a lot upon the materials used.

For example tar snakes in Switzerland are so slippery as to be downright dangerous while those in Spain have pretty much the same level of grip as the surrounding tarmac: you'll barely notice them.

 

The best strategy is always to slow down and ride cautiously when you spot them until you've assessed the level of grip.

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It's really difficult to say, and it depends a lot upon the materials used.

For example tar snakes in Switzerland are so slippery as to be downright dangerous while those in Spain have pretty much the same level of grip as the surrounding tarmac: you'll barely notice them.

 

The best strategy is always to slow down and ride cautiously when you spot them until you've assessed the level of grip.

 

I concur.

 

The worst ones are the wide ones. The thinner the strip the quicker the tire regrabs the roadway. Then there was a stretch of I70 East in CO that had so many tar snakes that they just about completely covered the road. The cars around me weren't quite sure why I was no longer going 80mph with them. If you aren't approaching triple digits on that road you are holding people up :grin:

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Mismatched tires could be a contributor to the feel of them. If you aren't sure of the available traction, slow down until you are.

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Graydude...To your question...I have never been taken down by one, but have felt the same pucker you described. In the summer heat in Texas they can become very soft and some roads are so covered in them you would be hard pressed to see the real road. If they are few and far between I just go around them. If plentiful I slow way down.....then the fun of getting them off the bike. I use Goo Gone primarily and it comes right off....If no Goo Gone then other orange citrus cleaners without an abrasive work too.

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Bill_Walker

Lots of variability in the states, too. I've rarely noticed any effect from tar snakes in California, but I've found Utah tar snakes slippery with temps in the 60s! The longitudinal ones (i.e., those that follow your path of travel) are the worst. Stay loose, slow down a bit, and ride 'em out.

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Years back Utah's tar snakes were notoriously slick, but in recent years they seem to be a non issue. Some of that might well be the tar formulation in different areas.

 

To answer your question about going down...I've never heard of any incident of that happening.

 

My favorite solution to the problem was the Ducati 695 Monster I had a few bikes back. That bike was so flickable that I could just miss the majority of them and cross the rest at the best angle with no reduction in speed. The ride up to Boulder and back became a game of dodge the snakes.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

To hold a line through a turn, you need a certain average grip force. For every moment of below-average grip force (as when crossing a tar snake), you need another moment of greater-than-average grip force. If you're riding at ten tenths, then that tar snake is going to start a slide that's difficult to recover from. If you're riding at significantly less than ten tenths, then the tar snake will cause a little upset, and then the bike will recover itself.

 

The trick is learning to tolerate that little upset, which means finding a road that's infested with tar snakes and deliberately leaning while crossing the snakes. This can be done by cornering, or even just by slaloming on a straight road.

 

Getting more comfortable with tar snakes like that will also help you get more comfortable with the upset that occurs when you run over a small patch of gravel or sand.

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I rode the 7 passes ride, devised by Bill Allen of SCBMWRC and modified by Dan Burtt. The leader was the recently deceased and penultimate SCMA rider Blake Anderson and he led a very spirited couple of days through the Eastern Sierras. I was the sweeper behind three really good riders and it was easily my best ride so far. I figure I rode at 105% of my ability.

 

IMG_1491.jpg

 

IMG_1017.jpg

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I loved every bit of it except the sliding laterally 4-8 inches on hot tar snakes in the 100+ degree heat. Blake was far more experienced than I and after a really bad section, we stopped to gather ourselves. I knew my eyes were huge and barely in my visor after an especially bad slide at the apex of a really nice turn, but his too were notificable. I tried to act cool ( poorly) and he said that he almost lost bladder control; if he was worried that really was a very bad situation. We all learned to pick a less desirable line, but one that had better snake avoidance. It worked!

 

I watch for those evil things, monitor my temps and do not wish to repeat that feeling of almost going down. Big Sur last week was cake compared to hot snakes in the Sierras.

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To hold a line through a turn, you need a certain average grip force. For every moment of below-average grip force (as when crossing a tar snake), you need another moment of greater-than-average grip force. If you're riding at ten tenths, then that tar snake is going to start a slide that's difficult to recover from. If you're riding at significantly less than ten tenths, then the tar snake will cause a little upset, and then the bike will recover itself.

 

 

Please explain ten tenths :S

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To hold a line through a turn, you need a certain average grip force. For every moment of below-average grip force (as when crossing a tar snake), you need another moment of greater-than-average grip force. If you're riding at ten tenths, then that tar snake is going to start a slide that's difficult to recover from. If you're riding at significantly less than ten tenths, then the tar snake will cause a little upset, and then the bike will recover itself.

 

 

Please explain ten tenths :S

 

.01 tenth before crashing. :Cool:

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Joe Frickin' Friday
Please explain ten tenths :S

 

Ten tenths is a reference to riding at the limits of performance/skill. Example, If you're right behind the leader in the final turn of a motoGP race, you're probably going to ride at ten tenths in an effort to pass the leader, leaving pretty much zero margin for error or loss of traction, nothing kept in reserve. It's a bad way to ride on public roads. Contrast with riding at 9/10, 8/10, and so on.

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Even in moderate temps and at far below 10/10's tar snakes can be a problem; worse if the road is even only damp.

 

I made a relatively gentle turn from a left turn lane at 45-50F air temp and in mid-turn crossed a not-noticed tar snake (my bad for poor scanning). Back end stepped sideways an unnervingly large distance before the rear tire hooked up again.

 

To answer the OP's questions:

 

yes, you can low-side if leaned over and the snake is wide enough in the direction of travel of your wheel;

 

no, you are not being overly-cautious -- while you don't need to be hyper-sensitive, you need to respect the potential for traction upset;

 

technique -- ride over the snake(s) as close to vertical as possible, if parallel to the direction of traffic, move laterally to avoid driving over the snake(s) in the first place, in curves control speed/lean angle/lane placement to increase the traction reserve margin. There is no "special" riding technique for tar snakes; I treat them like painted lane markings.

 

There's not much else you can do, this is unlike something like riding over debris where learning to stand on the pegs increases your ability to traverse the problem.

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