Chris Snatcho on his Suzuki GS450 that survived a crash with a road-hogging whitetail deer.
It’s that time of year when the last, few warm days make shot rides very tempting. In our region, we’ve yet to see any measurable snowfall and sunshine is quite common, despite the days being at their shortest. Still, with temperatures reaching the fifties several days each week, the sound of motorcycle engines is a welcome one as rider cram in their final miles before Old Man winter does his thing. The major downside to riding in the Mid-Atlantic region and many other parts of North America in fall and winter are whitetail deer. The swift-jumping, furry forest dwellers are enjoying a veritable population explosion of late, with our native Pennsylvania currently home to nearly 13 million of the road-invading buggers.
It’s the recent growth of the deer numbers that makes me particularly apprehensive about riding this time of year, as the current mating season- otherwise known as “the rut” make the largest, male deer especially active. My next-door neighbor is a motorcycle rider who often invites me to join him for rides during the late afternoon and early evening hours, times when whitetails tend to begin their nocturnal feeding forays and searches for mates. I’ve declined all of these invitations having had my share of close brushes with deer and other four-legged commuters at this time of day.
I’m far from alone. The late Larry Grodsky, Rider magazine columnist and owner of Stayin’ Safe motorcycle training school, often commented that he’d been riding long enough to anticipate what car drivers would do to make his rides dangerous, but deer, he lamented, were another matter completely. Grodsky ended up being killed after colliding with a deer that lurched into the path of his motorcycle back in 2006. One of the custom bikes featured in the current December/January issue of Cafe Racer magazine is also a deer contact survivor. The motorcycle’s owner, Chris Snatchko, had just put the finishing touches on his Suzuki GS450 cafe racer when, during a shakedown ride, he was rammed broadside by a deer on a busy, 70-MPH Pittsburgh highway. Chris and his very nicely detailed Suzuki both survived, miraculously, but the collision left him with a painful awareness of the ever-present danger these prodigious animals present.
So while it’s a great seasonal balm for the soul to enjoy riding on these great, final days of the season, please keep in mind that there are hidden dangers just about everywhere. Grodsky, for his part, often advised students to scan the adjacent hillsides and wooded areas for deer movement and if one whitetail crosses the road ahead of your motorcycles, it stands to reason that several more may follow as they’re herd animals who frequently travel in packs.
Stay safe and have fun. Spring is only a few months away!