In the seemingly never-ending list of road hazards that we riders need to be aware of, today we’re highlighting the slippery ones. When you come upon them, do you know what to do?

We’ll start with the obvious: road markings. The paint on the roadways that defines lanes and gives us instruction about where to position ourselves on the asphalt. There are two ways this can be slippery.

The more common one is rain! This paint can be very slippery when it’s wet. This is why it’s imperative that we take care when passing slow-moving or turning vehicles in the rain: we can run into a sudden no-traction situation as soon as our tires hit the center line or fog line.

Sometimes this thermoplastic road paint is installed poorly, and will occasionally come unglued and sit in the road like a giant pile of goo, attached to nothing and waiting for the unwary motorcyclist.

Road Marking

The less common (but more dangerous) way these road markings are slippery is the way the paint is made reflective. The paint itself is not reflective so tiny glass beads are added to the surface of the paint. When correctly applied, these beads add some roughness along with reflectiveness to the surface, and they are our friends. When they are incorrectly applied or very fresh, they can be loose on the road and act like tiny glass ball bearings. They are incredibly slippery in this state, even, as I found out, under your boot at a stop. If you see fresh road markings surrounded by a vague cloudy haze on the road, be very very careful and try your best to avoid the entire thing completely.

Often we can navigate around markings like arrows and messages like “School Zone” in the road. Since the common motorcycle’s tire contact patch is about the size of a credit card, we can plan ahead and put our tires into the spots where there is bare asphalt and no paint.

Crosswalks, however, are increasingly just a whole swath of paint across the road. There is no avoiding these. When they are wet they are slippery, and I’ve lost traction on them several times myself.

When there is no avoiding a potentially slippery patch on the road, you will have to roll over it. Try to avoid asking the road for any traction at all in this situation. That is, do not try to turn, or speed up, or slow down. Let the bike remain completely neutral by keeping a steady upright speed. This might mean you need to turn early or late to accommodate the direction of the road, and that’s where practice comes in: do this every time it is safe to do so, and road paint will give you no trouble at all.

Got a tip for us? Email: