It seems in late summer and into fall you come across one of the great challenges to two wheelers. Sealcoat season is not nearly as prevalent as it once was, but in some ways that makes it even more treacherous.
City road maintenance budgets allowed for sealcoating every few years. The street-preserving routine saves high reconstruction costs in the long run. Now, many cities simply don’t sealcoat curb-to-curb at all. Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn. are among the cash-strapped municipalities to abandon the practice.
Decades ago, you would get huge piles pebbles and heavy oil coats splashing against your body work that took weeks to wash off. As a matter of efficiency and improved application techniques, you now see much-thinner applications of both oily base binder and stone chip topcoat. This is especially on high-traffic streets where the better technicians have discovered that a very thin coat of chips lays flatter quickly under heavy traffic flow.
Photo courtesy of City of New Brighton, Minn.
That’s mostly a good thing because you are less likely to dump your ride with fewer of those loose pebbles cluttering the road. On the other hand, the fact that sealcoating has become rarer and the coats are thinner presents new challenges to riders. We are less accustomed to dealing with the problem, and in some cases we don’t even notice when enter into a hazardous area.
The key is not to panic. Your best options are to keep your speed as steady as possible, ride in the most-traveled grooves, and use engine braking to the greatest extent possible.
The real challenge is when you have to make a turn. Of course, you will want to slow gradually, and then avoid all braking and acceleration while in the turn. As always, it is best to keep your grip on throttle gentle. In the worst case scenario, be ready to use your boot to shove off the pavement if the scoot starts sliding downward; in slow speed turns this is easier than you might think.
The same advice applies when you encounter loose gravel on dirt roads. We run into this challenging situation quite often because our main ride is very much a street-only machine. The keys to success are just to slow down and avoid panicking.