Stayin’ Safe: Hidden Valley

The view of the road ahead looks wide open at first. But look again and notice the stretch of road that is hidden from sight.
The view of the road ahead looks wide open at first. But look again and notice the stretch of road that is hidden from sight.
The short valley beyond the hillcrest has swallowed the car from view. Could the school bus stop indicated in the sign be hidden there too?
The short valley beyond the hillcrest has swallowed the car from view. Could the school bus stop indicated in the sign be hidden there too?

Riding a stretch of rising and falling road is fun, but also presents a special kind of challenge for the back-road motorcyclist. While the rider can often see the road stretching out into the distance, parts of the path are hidden from view by one or more low elevation hillcrests. Those shallow dips—often hardly noticeable—can be as dangerous as a sharp blind curve. Both a blind curve and a small hillcrest can hide a car, truck, intersection, driveway, school bus stop, stopped mail truck…well, you get the idea.

The increased risk comes in a rider’s tendency to ride faster than he or she should over the low hillcrests. Being able to see the road in the distance, it’s easy to slip into the trap of setting travel speed according to that long view. The problem is, the real threat may be hidden just out of view, a few bike lengths ahead in the valley just beyond a rise in the foreground. First, it’s important to recognize even a small hillcrest that hinders your view of a section of road ahead. Notice how the car in the pictures disappears from view when it drives into the dip. Also notice the sign indicating a school bus stop—is it in the valley or farther up the road? Consider the immediate hillcrest to be your “visual limit” or visual point (it’s not where the road disappears in the far distance). Then set a speed that would permit controlled slowing, stopping or other maneuvering to avoid any threat that might be lying in wait in the hidden valley. There’s a reason we call it “dead ground” in our Stayin’ Safe program.

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