Any seasoned motorcyclist would agree that riding on windy, hilly roads has a charm of its own. The cool breeze, breath-taking vistas unfolding with every turn and the motorcycle’s exhaust note reverberating through the canyons are some of the magical things that make the experience simply spellbinding. But riding on hilly roads comes with its own set of risks. It is essential to keep some things in mind so you can get back home hale and hearty and tell your friends the tales of your beautiful ride. Here are some tips to keep in mind while tackling hilly and winding roads.
1. Route planning
Hilly, mountainous regions are somewhat different from plains. The population is sparse, weather can be unpredictable, and you might not get access to resting places and fuel bunks as quickly as you do while riding through plains. It also takes more time to cover any given distance in the hills as compared to plains. The reasons are plenty – sharp bends, uphill sections, traffic snarls uphill owing to slow-moving trucks and lesser visibility. It is, therefore, important to plan appropriately before your venture out on your trip to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
2. Blind turns
Blind turns are one of the most dangerous aspects of riding in the hills and should be tackled with utmost caution. For the uninitiated, a blind turn is a corner beyond which the view is obstructed. While gentler curves sometimes allow you to see what lies ahead, with a blind corner, you don’t have any clue of what’s heading your way from the opposite direction. You wouldn’t know if there’s a truck hurtling its way, overtaking another vehicle through the bend in your lane. The hills won’t have enough real estate on the road to avert a collision in such a scenario. Your only option is to be ultra-cautious, keep to your side of the road, and announce your presence by flashing lights during nighttime or by honking if necessary. When it comes to blind corners, the mantra is to be watchful, ride slow and keep a solid buffer to expect the unexpected.
3. Eyes on the road
While riding, the basic rule of thumb is always to keep your eyes on the road and look where you want to go. Keeping your focus on the road and not getting distracted is even more important while riding through the hills where your field of vision is somewhat restricted. Being attentive and relying on your vision plays a significant role in guaranteeing that you keep the rubber side down. It is easy to get distracted by the landscape while riding through picturesque, mountainous roads, but even a sliver of distraction can lead to an accident. If you wish to soak in the views, find a safe area clear from the road, and take a halt to quench your eyes.
4. Dealing with the dark
Riding in the hills gets even more challenging once the sun goes down. Visibility comes down drastically, and in most cases, street lights are almost non-existent. But if you still have to ride during the night, make sure that you have ample illumination at your disposal to light up the road ahead. Ensure that your two-wheeler’s lighting system is capable enough to handle the challenge and function optimally. Always look for distant oncoming light and faded illumination as it warns you about oncoming vehicles in advance.
5. Work on your technique
While it is important to ride with good technique on all roads and surfaces, the narrow hilly roads especially demand you to be technically sound. Going too fast, too wide or sometimes even too tight on the hills might make you pay a heavy penalty as there’s hardly any runoff area available. What’s worse, unlike plains, where you would probably go off-roading if you went wide, hills would send you down vertically over a cliff, where the damage sustained by you can be catastrophic.
We have discussed riding techniques at length in various articles on our blog, which should help you ride with great control and safety. However, if you are not too sure of your riding abilities, it’s always advisable to practise extra caution and ride slower than you generally would.
6. Avoid riding on the edges
While traversing hilly roads, avoid riding on the leftmost edge of the tarmac. At higher altitudes, rains and landslides are a regular occurrence. When you combine both of these factors, it results in dirt, algae and grime accumulating on the side of the roads. Sometimes the edges of the road even cave in due to the erosion caused by water streams flowing down rapidly. Also, in most hilly regions, there’s a gutter to let the rainwater flow right next to the tar and going wide even by a few inches could land you into a pit. Stay away from the edges and always keep an eye out for mud, algae, fallen stones or broken patches of road.
7. Prepare for adverse weather conditions
It is always advisable to understand the weather conditions and pack suitable riding gear (winter/rain/snow) while heading towards the mountains. The weather in the mountains remains considerably colder and wetter than the plains and the temperature tends to drop drastically as you gain elevation. It would become virtually impossible for you to ride in such conditions if you are not prepared for it. One should also prepare for low visibility conditions like fog, mist and heavy rain. Avoid riding with a tinted visor and use a clear, anti-fog unit to ensure maximum visibility. If the visibility is low owing to foggy conditions, ride dead slow, and take a halt as soon as you find a safe, comfortable place.
8. Fuel up more frequentlyWhile finding a petrol bunk in the plains isn’t generally a problem, things change when you head towards the mountains. A harsher terrain and lower population density mean that there aren’t many petrol bunks in the hilly regions, especially if you’re travelling through a far-flung, remote area. The fuel outlets are lesser in number, and they don’t operate 24/7 and usually shut down by evening. So if you are travelling during night time, you won’t find fuel, even if you found a fuel bunk. It is therefore advisable to start looking for a filling station when the fuel level drops to half. You wouldn’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere just because your motorcycle ran out of fuel, would you?
9. Careful of wildlife
Fewer humans and the envelope of mother nature translates into wild animals being found in abundance in the mountains. When the sun goes down, these creatures venture out - sometimes searching for food and sometimes just crossing the road to get to the other side of the jungle. Always keep an eye out for animals and make sure that your motorcycle has enough illumination to light up the road nicely.
10. Shift gear or two lower while going downhillGoing downhill makes you realise that gravity is indeed natural. Your motorcycle goes considerably faster as the G-Force comes into play. It is advisable to shift a gear or two lower to restrict the motion of the motorcycle. It also assists in making a sudden stop because one can summon engine braking to assist the primary brakes. Riding in lower gears enhances traction, puts you in better control and even makes corner-carving more fun.
11.Never stop on the road
With the mountains offering their splendid views, chances are, you would want to park your motorcycle and take the serenity in. One should, however, never stop or park their vehicles on hilly roads, especially around bends. The windy roads on hills obstruct vision for the most part. It will need just a momentary lapse of attention by a road user to end up in a collision with your parked vehicle. Hilly sections don’t offer many flat surfaces away from the road, but always wait until you find one to stop and park your vehicle safely.