Tar snakes and you

What is a “tar snake”? Motorcyclists are all too familiar with that term which simply means “those darn squiggly lines on the asphalt that can cause the bike to slip”.  Many states, if not all, use the summer time as the time to “repair” roads by filling the cracks up with tar. In an attempt to prevent the road from cracking further and possibly delay the replacement of the road surface tar is basically used as a “band aide”.

As a motorist the “snakes” mean nothing as it does not affect the four wheeled vehicle. As a motorcyclist it can pose a safety threat if not approached correctly.

Case in point was today as I took my favorite winding road out of town on the way home, suddenly I noticed that the “snakes” were all over the road AND IN THE CORNERS! Rats!

Below are some tips on safe riding through tar snakes:

  1. Be Aware that the tar snakes present a slippery surface so slow down; wet conditions and summer time are the worst.
  2. Accept that the motorcycle may move around beneath you and become familiar with how that movement feels. Keep in mind that there is asphalt to either side of the tar snake that is NOT slippery.
  3. Visualize a positive outcome by picking your course through the area of tar snakes.
  4. Avoid any roads that you know have had fresh tar snakes applied and look for wide areas (aka giant blobs) of tar poured on them.
  5. Remain Loose while riding by not getting tense or over correcting when sensing the bike’s movement under you. Approach the tar snakes at 90 degrees where possible, no less than 45 degrees preferably.


  1. Larry Disney says:

    A few years ago I was bit by a tar snake on a road I take almost every day. It was at the end of a hot summer day and the crew had left just a few hours earlier. I was in a turning lane going about twenty mph checking crossing traffic as I had only a yield sign when the front wheel flew out slamming me to the ground. Damage to the bike was minimal and I rode it home. Damage to me was much less than it could have been. Sprained ankle, a few bruises and some road rash on my leathers. Very lucky under the circumstances. Lessons learned, ATGATT and just because you rode there yesterday doesn’t mean you can take it for granted today.

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