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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #5
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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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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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
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.
 

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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 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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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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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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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
RCinNC, these were actually in Indiana.

But yeah, I’ve ridden over lots of tar snakes, but never ones that caused so much squirrelly-ness in a straight line, even at low speed. The Harley rider who crashed had been traveling the opposite direction of my group. After I turned around and came riding up to the crash site, I saw that tar snake and knew what had probably happened even before I talked to the guy.

Just to be clear, I’m not disputing the fact that dirt riding experience gives you a leg up when dealing with momentary loss of traction. Still though, it just seems like it’s a challenge to get your brain to process (apparent) traction loss when you’re traveling in straight line at a steady speed.
 

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The first time I hit sand on my DL1000, that was...interesting...

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.

Try standing weight forward in soft sand. You can't un-weight the front on a heavy bike like a dirt bike. Weighting the front will stop it from shimmying. It will still plow of course because it's heavy. Got to keep accelerating.

The back tire will move around more when you are weight forward but that's a better feeling than the front moving around (to me).

Kinda like this. Yea I know a Strom isn't a rally bike by any stretch but the concept is similar. Keep the front going straight and the back will follow.

 

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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.
Recipe for a high side.
Last ride in Australia I really had to grit my teeth and keep on the power in some unexpected sand on what was otherwise nice 80-90 kph hard pack.
It was very hard to see the sand drifts - same colour as the road. Far too easy to lose the front end if you try to slow quickly.

Only place I've ever seen a tar snake sign was in Quebec ...showed a bike sideways on them. They had a white powderish stuff on them and were crazy slick.

I wish they would mix some grit in the filler material.
 

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I treat tar tar snakes like I do paint stipes and railroad tracks. They all offer very little traction. In the Summer Tar gets hot and slippery and oozes out of the cracks. We also have "Slurry Paving" here in Virginia. Often in long thin partial lane patches which leaves a lot of loose gravel some visible and some almost invisible.

Definition: A slurry seal is the application of a mixture of water, asphalt emulsion, aggregate (very small crushed rock), and additives to an existing asphalt pavement surface. A slurry seal is similar to a fog seal except the slurry seal has aggregates as part of the mixture.


Reading road surface, looking through turns and knowing what to expect and practicing how to handle it is paramount. So far that approach has kept me on the road and 2 wheels 58+ years.
 

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The tar snakes on Utah 12 back in 09 were like 3/8" higher than the surrounding pavement. Riding over those in the curves, even at 25 MPH, was not fun.

89A going down from the GC North Rim - Jacob Lake to Marble Canyon in AZ was exactly like that. Add Heidi K60 scouts and it was disconcerting to be sliding sideways in the sharp s curves then have it catch when back on the non tar pavement.
 

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Ohio might very well lead the nation with the invasion of tar snakes.
 

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One thing about Indiana roads is that INDOT is quite careful with the taxpayer's money, and generally won't pave or even grade and compact one square inch that's not actually needed for driving.

So most roads have absolutely no shoulder, and are thus spiked with gravel and dirt in the corners that trailers and trucks have pulled up. Plus, on all but a few main highways, there's no attention given to trimming brush, making signs visible, or sight lines in general.

INDOT also doesn't believe in such modern foolishness as road engineering, so in the hilly bits twisty roads are laid down on top of the original cow paths with absolutely no regard for banking, sight lines, G-forces, etc. Driveway and field connections are made wherever property owners feel is convenient, which very often leads to all sorts of garbage from gravel driveways in corners, and tons of blind driveways just out of sight below hill crests.

Chip-and-seal repaving is common, with zero efforts to clean up the excess gravel afterwards -- IN 135 in Brown County, to give just one example, was ruined for about 6 months a few years ago until traffic and weather finally kicked most of the excess gravel off the road or pounded it in. It was sort of fun on a KLR; just treat it as a gravel road.

And of course, tar snakes are cast far and wide with no regard for traction or reason, and they seem to just platter streaks of tar willy-nilly rather than trying to hit the cracks. Sometimes if you're very, very lucky (only seen it once) they'll throw some sand down (without getting much on the tar snakes) just to make sure there are no scraps of traction left fer them goddurn moder sickles.

I guess what I'm saying is that while we have some incredible twisty roads in Southern Indiana (seriously!), it's also quite challenging. You have to be 110% on your game and ready to encounter just about any stupid neglectful thing at any time.

On the plus side, it makes us better riders.

But it's a definite mind shift for riders from states where the DOT actually pays attention, like Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Tennessee, etc. I mean, the folks at MODOT are absolute artists.

Anyway, the OP's tale is not the least bit surprising, and I'm sorry to hear about the HD rider crashing. I'm sure it was avoidable, but we weren't there. Hope the rider is OK, and even though we're a "freedom state", perhaps he will consider a helmet in the future.
 
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