It’s tempting to get out the hog and go for a long ride when the warm weather finally arrives. But potholes might not yet be repaired – which can be expensive, and deadly, for motorcyclists.
In the summer of 2022, a Philadelphia policeman was seriously injured when the motorcycle he was riding flipped after hitting a pothole. Now, in the spring of 2023, motorcyclists in the San Diego area are dealing with an exceptional number of potholes as well due to the unusually heavy precipitation that region has received this year, as reported by News Chanel 12.
Potholes and motorcycles are a bad mix, as seen in the statistics. In 2019, there were 5,014 motorcycle fatalities in the US due to various causes. Driver error – speed, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or failure to drive for weather and road conditions – is often among those causes. But the time of year in which motorcycle riding is most popular, between May and September, just so happens to be the time when pothole repairs are only underway (note, this is similarly hazardous to bicyclists, as previously reported here, however the physics of less weight and lower speeds alters the outcome).
Motorcycles are only 3 percent of all vehicles registered in the US, but motorcyclists account for 14 percent of fatalities. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road surface conditions (which include potholes) are thought to contribute to about 10 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes.
Potholes cause expensive repairs for motorcyclists
Aside from injuries and deaths when a motorcyclist loses stability and balance from a pothole, there can be significant financial costs when a bike is damaged by poor pavement conditions.
Damages are typically in three categories:
Tires and wheels, with punctures, flats, and bent rims being the most common. Punctured tires can range in price from $50 to $500, plus labor. If the wheel is bent or cracked but repairable, the cost might be under $200. But if it needs replacement the costs can go much higher, depending on the brand.
Suspension damage, when the damage to the system affects handling and ride quality. The degree of damage can vary. Rebuilding or replacing the fork can run from $300 to $1,500. A shock absorber replacement can run from $500 to $1,500. If the linkage and bearings have to be replaced, the costs are in the $100 to $500 range.
Frame damage, which can result from a jarring hit on a pothole, varies by model and severity of the impact. To straighten the damaged frame, costs can be $300 to $1,500. Welding and patching might cost $100 to $500. Replacement parts (think subframe or the swingarm) vary widely depending on the model and specific components.
All costs are parts only. Labor can add significantly to some of the repairs.
Springtime is danger time for motorcycles
Adding to the hazardousness of motorcycling and potholes is simply that with the first warm day beckons enthusiastic riders who pull out their bikes from winter dry dock. But those spring days can easily occur before local municipalities and state highway departments of transportation are able to repair the pothole damage that happened over the winter. So be careful on all rides, particularly those first ones of the season — and try to do it during the daytime, when pavement conditions are more visible.