Biker Boy: Pay attention to potholes
Rainy weather can cause deformities on the road but there are ways to spot these hazards
It was drizzling in mid-January when I was rattled by a series of potholes.
I was greeted by the unexpected road deformities on the Bukit Timah Expressway on the way to work.
That caused my dirtbike's handlebar to wriggle uncontrollably. Luckily, I managed to stay on my bike and not ride into another motorist's path.
As luck would have it, I rode over a squarish pothole in a Geylang Serai carpark two weeks later. It felt as if somebody had kicked me in the groin.
Now, one of my dirtbike's fork legs has sprung an oil leak.
It is a fact that all roads undergo wear and tear.
According to onemotoring.com, potholes often occur during rainy seasons.
Prolonged rain and flooding can cause water to penetrate the asphalt and compromise the soil below, said Mr Daniel Ong, whose company provides consultancy services and supplies road surfacing machinery.
Mr Ong, 45, told The New Paper: "The soil below may have different properties that can be affected by water seepage.
"Unstable soil can cause cracks and potholes on the top layer of asphalt."
Surface cracks or localised spider-web patterns may be due to surface "overloading" by heavy vehicles on the roads.
Interestingly, surgeon Philip Iau, who rode 23,000km across Asia in 2014 with fellow surgeon Mikael Hartman, believes that there are differences among road imperfections.
In his book, The Long Ride From Singapore, Dr Iau classifies them as ridges, ripples and patches.
Ridges are caused by lorries waiting at traffic lights. The heavy load they carry causes the asphalt to "sink" near the lorries' wheels.
Ripples, on the other hand, occur as heavy vehicles accelerate away from a standstill, particularly at traffic stops. In biker speak, the patterns look like brake or acceleration bumps.
Bikers should pay attention to what damage potholes can do.
Suspension specialist Norman Lee said riding over hard bumps or potholes on straight roads may cause tyres to deflate, rims to be dented or suspension to bottom out.
Mr Lee from Race Werks Motor Sports: "Stock bike (riders) also risk their forks being bent... hitting a good-sized pothole at speed is akin to hitting a wall and hoping you come out of it without falling."
Now imagine hitting a pothole when you are leaned over in a corner. You could lose control of your bike, said Mr Lee.
On rainy days, it is hard to spot potholes.
But seasoned riders tell me to look out for tell-tale signs such as puddles and clumps of soil, or asphalt on roads.
Another way to anticipate a pothole is to watch the vehicle ahead of you. If any of its wheels suddenly jolts, avoid staying on the same line.
If you do not have time to counter-steer to avoid a pothole, just relax your body.
Hopefully you're able to absorb the impact and be ready to stabilise your bike.
Whatever you do, do not slam on your front brakes as this would compress the springs in your forks and not give it enough travel to absorb the hit.
The good news is the Land Transport Authority (LTA) regularly checks and maintains the condition of public roads.
According to its website, expressways are checked daily while minor roads are checked once every two months.
Motorists can also help by alerting LTA at 1800-225-5582 if they spot potholes.
LTA said it aims to fix potholes within 24 hours.