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What are Tar Snakes and What to Do When You Find Some

Posted by George Tait | Jun 17, 2022 | 0 Comments

Road Snake Tar Snake

Road snakes or tar snakes are the seemingly endless repairs to cracked road surfaces. 

Tar snakes present a clear and present danger to motorcyclists—especially if you are taken by surprise.  Road snakes can be easily dealt with if you are doing what you should be doing—staying focused, looking at the roadway ahead and hoping for the best but planning for the worst.

The tar laid down in the cracked asphalt are a problem because in the hot days of summer the tar heats up. 

How hot is that asphalt? 

Ambient Air Temperature

Asphalt Temperature

85°

130°

90°

140°

95°

150°

The tar becomes more fluid the hotter it gets.  When your tire hits the snake your tires slip.  This slipping of the tire, usually the front tire, and especially on curves, feels like your motorcycle is jerking.  This sensation is created by the tire first slipping on the tar and then gripping again on the concrete non-tarred normal surface.  If you are not expecting it this jerking sensation can freak you out! 

Your tendency might be to correct the direction back into the slip.  This reflex reaction is probably the wrong thing to do because it can cause your motorcycle to high-side.  This is especially so when there are multiple snakes—they are never alone.

Tar snakes are also slick when wet—and especially so when it first starts to rain.  The same rules apply—look ahead, be prepared and stay loose.

What to do when you are riding to escape the bite of the road snake:

  • Always scan the road ahead and be prepared.

  • If going straight, versus encountering the tar snake on a curve, simply ride over them while maintaining or reducing your speed. Accelerating on a road snake will most definitely cause your rear tire to slip so just maintain or reduce your speed.

  • Your bike may wobble or shudder as you ride over them. Keep a loose grip on the bars and do not over-correct.  Let your motorcycle tires find traction—they are much better at finding traction than you are.  

The snakes are everywhere—BE AWARE OF THE SNAKE!

Utah Bike Law is a motorcycle injury law firm and its lawyers who ride are dedicated to representing injured motorcycle riders and their families.  If you or a loved one were involved in a motorcycle crash anywhere in the United States we invite you to call for a free confidential consultation. There is no obligation and you are not charged any fees whatsoever unless we recover money for you.

About the Author

George Tait

Since 2004 George Tait has dedicated his practice to helping injured people and their families get fair and full compensation from the insurance companies. Before becoming an attorney George Tait was a Registered Nurse for over 15 years. The last years of his nursing career were in the Universit...

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