TOTW: Road paint is surprisingly slippery

The riding tips on these pages are my personal opinion about matters related to motorcycle riding. They are not the official position of any organization, and are for your consideration only. They are not hard and fast rules, they should not necessarily be applied in all circumstances, and they should not be applied without thinking. Always use your judgement and take all current safety factors into account while riding. You are responsible for your riding, not anyone else (especially me). These tips were originally published by a motorcycle riding course, called “Tip of the Week” (the reason for the TOTW in the titles).

What’s the problem?

Did you ever wonder what makes the white lines on the highway so visible at night? A reflective material, usually fine glass dust, is mixed in with the paint so that it reflects your headlights brightly. Unfortunately it’s often true that what makes a material reflective also makes it slippery.

Painted road lines, especially fresh ones, are very slippery when wet. This can cause skids when braking or turning, and can affect your stopping distance. If you put your foot down on one when stopping, the lack of traction can catch you by surprise and cause you to lose your balance, dropping your bike.

The solution

The solution to this problem is not complicated; just be aware it exists and take appropriate precautions. Don’t let an accident be the first time you realise how slippery those lines are.

As with any hazard, you should not be caught by surprise by slippery lines. Look ahead, be aware of what is approaching you on the road, and plan appropriate action. Consider road paint (wet with rain) to be a slippery hazard, just like an oil slick. Avoid it where you safely can, run straight over it where you must, and avoid hard braking or leans when making contact.

When coming to a stop on a wet day, pay attention to where you put your feet, and avoid putting them down on painted lines.

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