A very close shave.

I almost had a disaster at the weekend here in Seto. It was raining heavily and the back wheel of the bike locked up with the slightest touch of the brakes and I slid for 30-40 metres on a painted road surface, through a red light and onto the centre of a busy junction. Thankfully those starting to cross the junction saw me coming and waited.

Recently the roads people have taken to painting the roads at junctions with orange-redish paint. I’ve not had any issue with it at all until this incident. I was coming through the tunnels here in Seto, a 40kmph zone, and approaching the junction at a green light. Just as I was about to leave the tunnel, where the painted surface starts, the light turned amber and I braked just as I left the tunnel and moved onto the painted surface. Here’s a photo. I was coming out of the tunnel in the far lane.

The painted surface between the tunnel exit and the lights.

When I brake in the wet, I just tap the back brake intermittently whilst dropping down the gears and using the engine brake, and but when I did it on this occasion the back wheel immediately locked up and I could feel the back wheel gliding on the surface of the water like I was on ice. I was doing about 45kmph and not slowing at all hardly. The back wheel started to slide out to the left, so had I applied the front brake the bike would have slid out from under me, so I just tried to keep the bike upright with me on it.

Luckily the only traffic to cross the junction at that point was filter traffic from the opposite lane and a woman waiting to turn right, and across my path, had seen that I wasn’t slowing down so she waited. I managed to keep the bike upright and when I left the painted surface and met the asphalt the back wheel engaged again, but I was still doing around 40kmph and had to continue across the junction. Had something been coming to meet me I would have braked hard, but that would have meant me losing the bike and coming off, so I kept going. Here’s the junction.

This completely freaked me out. I was very lucky indeed. I remembered immediately Masaki-san, my mechanic, telling me that the back brakes were a little dirty and the callipers may be prone to sticking, so I went over to him yesterday to have him clean them. As a testament to his total honesty, he told me that they didn’t need cleaned and that the road surface was to blame and not the brakes. Even if the callipers were to stick, they wouldn’t lock the wheel, he said.

He said that the biking community in Aichi were up in arms at these painted surfaces. He almost lost his bike in similar circumstances and told me that he had seen several people come off on the painted roads. He also told me that such road painting in exclusively an Aichi thing. I may be wrong, but that’s what I understood from him. So, if you’re coming to Aichi in the rain, be very, very careful with these painted surfaces in the rain. I’d suggest approaching them as if you a patch of ice, i.e. very slowly and with great caution.

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3 Comments on “A very close shave.”

  1. Simon V Says:

    We have red sections near junctions here in Shizuoka too but they seem to be LESS slippery rather than more. But the BLUE lanes for turning, I’m not so sure about.
    Take care.

  2. Klaus Says:


    I assume you are also riding “knobby” tires?!?! They make riding and braking even worse. Of course the TA looks good with those tires, but they are NO “street tires”. Found this out a couple of times.

    Also, well, guess you know this, too – apply the front as well as the rear brakes if you want to slow down fast. Since the older TAs have only one front disc braking it takes a little longer and needs more “power” on the lever!

    If possible you should go to an empty parking area and practice all these things, emergency braking on dry surface, wet surface, and so on. Since in Japan there is no safety training course for bikers like we have it in most European countries it is upto you to find out what your bike does. And with lots of biker friends around in your area that shouldn’t be a problem.

    Once again, be careful with the TA’s brakes. Want to meet you one of those days – NOT IN THE HOSPITAL!!!!!

  3. Yeah Klaus, the guy who owned the bike before me put a new rear tyre on the bike to get it through the shaken and spent as little as he could so it’s made of crap material.

    Masaki-san the mechanic said that the tyre would be OK off-road and OK on road, but it was not designed to be good on either. I had a front tyre put on and it’s a road tyre. When the money’s available, certainly before next winter, I’ll put a decent rear tyre on.

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