Tar Snake Dangers - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
Riding Proficiency Tips and suggestions for improving the rider's safety skills and riding techniques

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post #1 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 01:40 PM Thread Starter
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Tar Snake Dangers

PSA Y’all: Tar snakes. On route 56 along the Ohio river in southeastern Indiana (East of Madison, IN for what it’s worth) they have done some extensive tar snake-ing.

The normal small ones aren’t much of a problem, but they’ve also laid a bunch of long, straight ones down that run parallel to the lane. They are treacherous. Coming back towards home yesterday, we encountered a guy who had just crashed his Harley because of one. His bike was in the ditch, and he was lying 15 or 20 feet away from it, being attended to by a guy who had stopped. He was bashed up pretty good, but it didn’t look to be life-threatening (no helmet...big, nasty knot/scrape on his forehead). He had hit a parallel-running tar snake about 30 ft long that was about 18” from the right edge of the perfectly straight road. He said the bike just “went out of control”. My guess is that the tar snake slid the bike to the right, and he target-fixated in the ditch, and went there. I hit a couple of smaller ones myself, and the feeling of loosing control is strong, and extremely disconcerting.

Be careful out there.
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post #2 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 04:05 PM
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I agree that hitting a tar snake is disconcerting but it you've ever done any dirt riding, the feeling of the bike wiggling around is normal to you. Unless you're at the very edge of your tire traction, it's a non event. The tire will hook right back up once it gets to the other side of the tar snake. Guess he had to "lay 'er down".
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post #3 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 04:14 PM
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Utah 12 heading to Torrey had some nasty snakes a few years ago. Cal 95 going to Parker Dam had me sliding into the oncoming lane and that was at a speed below posted. They were just too slick.
But tire choice can make a difference. Had some Perilli's once that seemed less fazed by tar snakes.
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post #4 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 05:13 PM
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Yeah. I hate those things. It's not fun to hit one on the interstate at 70+ mph. It's worst on hot days, I guess because they get somewhat soft and oily.

How bad it is depends on how wide the snake is. Fortunately, around here they are usually very slender, so I might feel the front wheel shimmy a bit but I'm soon again on nice friction-y pavement.

Also the direction. Across the lane, no problem. Parallel to the lane...can be problem.
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post #5 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dravnx View Post
I agree that hitting a tar snake is disconcerting but it you've ever done any dirt riding, the feeling of the bike wiggling around is normal to you. Unless you're at the very edge of your tire traction, it's a non event. The tire will hook right back up once it gets to the other side of the tar snake. Guess he had to "lay 'er down".
I've hit tar snakes in the middle of curves. It's caused some puckering, but you're right in that it hooks right back up once the tire slides off the snake.

While I hear you on the "had to lay 'er down" thing, I think it might be slightly unfair to malign the guy in this case. In this case, the guy would have been completely upright, not leaned into a curve. It's not generally reasonable to expect the bike to start feeling like it's gonna come out from under you when you're bopping down the road in a straight line at 50-55 mph.

Although it's pure speculation, what I think might have happened is this:

The guy is in the far-right line position, staggered correctly behind his buddy in front of him, probably doing 55 mph (the posted limit) or so. He hits the straight, 30-ft long tar snake, which was quite close to the white line. That causes the bike to unexpectedly drift right because of the normal crown/slant of the road surface. He panics/target-fixates on the ditch and, of course, ends up right in that very ditch.

Like I said, complete speculation. But it seems feasible.
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post #6 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 05:29 PM
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I'm with dravnx on this one. I think this is one area that guys who do a lot of dirt riding have an advantage over those of us who don't spend much (if any) time there. If you can get accustomed to that feeling of when the tires are losing some traction, it doesn't take you by surprise; plus, you'll have a better way of judging when you're really in trouble, as opposed to just momentary losses of traction.

I hit a lot of them out in Utah last month, including those long ones that run parallel to the road. Definitely disconcerting and not enjoyable, but they didn't cause me any serious problems. The E07's, which I'd heard guys complain were terrible on tar snakes, didn't give me any heart stopping moments. I definitely tried to stay off the parallel ones; it was in the 100's in Utah, so I'm guessing those snakes might have been getting a little squishy. I tend to think that some (certainly not all) of the crashes that happen on tar snakes are due to a panic response on the part of the rider to the momentary loss of traction, rather than the loss of traction itself.
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post #7 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 05:44 PM Thread Starter
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I ran North Carolina 226A (the python?) out of Little Switzerland a few years ago after it had just been plastered with tar snakes. While I didn’t enjoy the ride very much, I understood the dynamics of what was going on and just rolled with it.

The tar snakes that I talked about in my original post were different. I don’t know if they were thicker, more gooey, or what, but the way they wiggled the bike around, even when perfectly upright, was pretty nerve wracking.

-Scott

Last edited by ScottKY; 07-08-2018 at 06:23 PM.
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post #8 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by RCinNC View Post
I'm with dravnx on this one. I think this is one area that guys who do a lot of dirt riding have an advantage over those of us who don't spend much (if any) time there. If you can get accustomed to that feeling of when the tires are losing some traction, it doesn't take you by surprise; plus, you'll have a better way of judging when you're really in trouble, as opposed to just momentary losses of traction...

...I tend to think that some (certainly not all) of the crashes that happen on tar snakes are due to a panic response on the part of the rider to the momentary loss of traction, rather than the loss of traction itself.

I grew up riding dirt bikes and a bike getting squirmy doesn't make me nervous.

Typically the best reaction when you feel the bike getting loose is no reaction. The bike will recover by itself normally, you trying to correct the situation usually makes things worse. If you do need to make corrections do it smoothly.
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post #9 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 06:55 PM
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Might be one of those areas where we old guys have the advantage; slowed reaction time. By the time our brains are telling our hands and feet that the back tire slipped out a bit, it's already reacquired traction.

I treat tar snakes kind of the way I treat grooved pavement and steel grating bridges; let the bike find its own line, without trying to wrestle it around too much. Stay off the brakes in a curve, and try not to grab too much throttle all at once in the curves. So far, it's worked. It's certainly possible that KY is using a different compound now to seal cracks; I passed though KY a couple weeks ago, and while I did hit a lot of snakes, I fortunately didn't hit any like ScottKY encountered.
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post #10 of 29 Old 07-08-2018, 07:23 PM
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The first time I hit sand on my DL1000, that was...interesting. It was in Saguaro National Monument outside Tucson, in December.

I was sure I was about to crash, so I just kinda relaxed and got ready to fall off the bike. Never occurred to me to hit the brakes. Then I was back on solid dirt.

I still don't like doing that, but it's not the worst thing that can happen when riding forest roads and such. I'll only turn around when I keep hitting sand to the point that the front wheel is constantly shimmying. Don't care for that a bit.
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