Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

Bumps worse than potholes for motorbikes

Potholes and bumps Road maintenance potholes

Potholes are dangerous, but bumps or a seam of humps in the middle of a lane caused by heavy vehicles pushing the tar up can be much more dangerous to motorcycles.

Yet they are less likely to be fixed than potholes in yet another example of how the authorities ignore and neglect motorcycles.

A pothole can cause a big jolt in the front suspension, kick the handlebars about and possibly damage a rim. But at least the suspension is set up to absorb most of the impact.

When a motorcycle runs into a pothole, the suspension should be at its resting sag point and as the wheel drops into the hole, the suspension actually extends a little to absorb the hit.

Most of the damage is taken by the lip at the other side of the pothole, but by this time the suspension may be unloading again (depending on the length of the hole and your speed) and lifting the wheel up and over the lip.

It’s also usually over fairly quickly and you can be on your way.

Bumps more dangerous than potholes

However, bumps in the middle of a lane are far more dangerous.

Potholes and bumps
A dangerous mid-lane lateral seam or ridge

They are usually a lateral series of bumps or a raised seam that goes on for a while causing a prolonged and detrimental affect on the suspension and steering.

They can lift the front wheel off the ground, kick the bike left or right into the bush or oncoming traffic, or cause a tank slapper where the handlebars oscillate wildly.

They are also much more difficult to see than a pothole which is usually darker and has broken asphalt. Of course, some potholes can also have debris, gravel and even rocks the size of footballs as this photo shows.

Pothole big as a football potholes
Pothole big as a football

A hump may not have any unbroken asphalt and unless the sun is low, it won’t create a shadow so it’s less visible.

If you’re following traffic, you can watch the cars in front bumping around when they hit a pothole which alerts you to take avoiding action.

However, you won’t get the same alert of an impending mid-lane hump because most vehicles will straddle them.

If you are following a big vehicle like a truck, they can obscure a lot of the road ahead and you could suddenly find yourself confronted with a big hump emerging from under their vehicle.

And because most traffic is not upset by humps which they straddle, fewer complaints are made to the authorities, so councils are less inclined to fix them quickly as they might a pothole.

Potholes and bumps
A patch of potholes has been fixed, leaving a mid-lane lateral seam

In fact, roadworkers can actually create these humps when they fix a series of outer wheel track potholes (the most common) with a half-lane patch, leaving a centre-lane seam or hump.

So what do we do about bumps and lumps in the road?

Here are five useful tips for coping with bumps:

  1. On country roads where these humps are more likely to occur from heavy trucks on under-engineered roads, it’s best to ride in the wheel tracks, not in the middle of the lane.
  2. Don’t follow cars and trucks too closely or you may get no notice of a looming bump.
  3. If you see a bump, wash off as much speed as possible, but let the brakes go again before you hit the bump to ensure the suspension is not compressed or it won’t absorb the hit.
  4. Move your upper body forward to keep weight on the front wheel so it doesn’t lift as far. At the same time move your elbows up and out while holding on firmly to the bars. This will help absorb some of the handlebar kick or tank slapper.
  5. Stop, take a photo and send it to the local council with your complaint. Don’t leave it for other people to complain. Although councils don’t seem to be legally obliged to fix them, no matter how dangerous they are!
    Potholes and bumps

And if none of the above works, get yourself an adventure bike!

  1. Hi Mark,

    I come from Europe and that is where I learned how to ride. The instructor (really good bloke) gave me a good advice that saved my a#$ a couple of times. He said that regardless of your speed, traffic conditions and location a rider should never ride on the middle of the lane. You must allays position on the same side as the driver of the car in front and/or behind.

    Apparently the human eye can still register movement at a small angle in front even if not paying attention and also, most driver arrange their mirrors so that they can see without moving their head. That leads to, what is called in EU, a focus point where the mirrors are focus around the drivers face and visibility is restricted to behind his side of the car. That means that is you are sitting in the middle of the lane you are in view of only one mirror and not in the focused are, while if you are siting in the right side of the lane you are visible in two mirrors, you are right in front of the driver behind you, and you are in view range of any cars that want to change lane coming from the right.
    Also, you can avoid any bumps and manholes as they usually are made in those areas.

    Hope it helps and the guys gave me a good advice.

    1. Another good reason not to ride in the middle of the lane is that any oil or diesel is dropped in that area and, if wet, can be very slippery.

  2. Bumps across the road just before an instersection are pretty scary when they make the front end go light and ABS kicks in. It’s no fun trying to stop or slow down at a T-junction when ABS lets the front brake off and you think you are going to sailing out in front of traffic.

  3. C’mon!! If you ride a bike you should always be observing the road surface as well as everything else including every vehicle that could potentially take you space. In our area we encounter every sort of road and road surface hazard regularly. If you don’t have the skill sets and observational skills to handle it hand in your bike license. Like me and everyone else if you choose to ride a bike you choose to accept all the risks and the necessity to be hypervigilent.

  4. I’m going to take issue with this bit of (IMO poor) advice: ” holding on firmly to the bars” – riding a motorcycle you should never be gripping the bars tight. That’s a recipe to stiffen the arms and feedback any shakes at the front wheel to the rest of the chassis causing a tank slapper that won’t stop. Grip should be light and arms relaxed, if the front end shakes it will recover itself if the rest of the bike is stable.

  5. Yes we do feel rough roads more than car drivers. but this largely because motorbikes are lighter than cars. And the laws of physics show that a body in motion will continue in motion if disturbed and the heavier it is the more that this will occur. Being old, I now really feel rough roads and almost at the point of quitting until my wife suggested a heavier bike. Voila! Sportster gave way to FatBob; problem solved!

Comments are closed.