Roads and Handling

By: CarMatchPro

A couple of years ago there were several journalists that had to drive the 1990 BMW M3, first generation of the M3 series. As the common enthusiast knows the M series vehicle is pretty much the standard for handling. However, this generation didn't really have any bells and whistles, in fact, I believe, ABS "was" the feature. Needless to say after driving current modern cars they had a real hard time driving it. The truth of the matter, current modern cars, even bottom of the barrel type of vehicles have more technology and precision then the archaic first generation BMW M3 series, but to point out that the driver is still king if one has the ability. In other words, a good driver with technology will improve greatly whereas the average driver will just suffice, because of the technology. So, like the car, tires, whatever, it can enhance or detract from the driver's ability. A good little tip regardless of car or ability is to find the right position of the steering wheel and the driver and secondly really pulling tight on the seatbelt once you are secure in the right position. This is alone will improve ones driving ability by about 10-20%. So, what is the right driving position? Well for one thing you want to drive with your shoulders and not your arms and be closer to the steering wheel. This may look and feel uncomfortable, but will greatly enhance your ability as a driver. Google it.

Just like driving position and being strapped in securely, roads are another thing to watch for.

The roads depending on the environment and climate will dictate what the road or asphalt or aggregate (basically concrete) is made of. For example, in colder environments the road will expand in the summer and contract in the winter, like the Midwest, out East, Canada like conditions and conversely in wet conditions like Seattle and Vancouver, exposed aggregate (concrete with little rocks that are at the surface) or like in L.A. , a lot of concrete with grooves. So what? Well, knowing the difference can cause you to be more alert to the situation and therefore correct or enhance your driving ability.

I'll give you a couple of examples from different climates. First cold environment, handle great in the summer as they stick really well to the tires, but in the winter it contracts and doesn't get as sticky, actually becomes hard. That's why ice, black ice and snow can stay on it. I've actually been in a certain circumstance where I was "just" driving, not fast, and the car did a 360 degrees turn then went straight onwards as if nothing ever happened. Like I said, great in the summer, with probably the best traction. In my younger years to put the vehicle up on three wheels, was easy, basically the three tires were able to grip enough. Don't try this at home kids.

Vancouver, very wet and a lot of exposed aggregate. The thing about this and this was very weird as this will cause accidents. You buy some new tires, you think you have traction, but you don't. Why? Well the surface isn't in full contact, number one, and secondly, the rocks that are smooth just slide off the tire. Of course you modify the tire accordingly. I'm just trying to convey the concept of reading the road. Note: Just south of the border, between Blaine and Bellingham has to be one of the worst roads in North America for snow. Each county or district may have it's formula for the road composition, but in a real scientific way of communicating this...is that it sucks!...a lot! Obviously, people of the Northwest are not used to driving in snow, but if even taken it slow would get themselves in the ditch pretty quick. Remember the I-5 and I'm talking right over the American side, it changes for the worse.

Now, in L.A. the concrete and it's not everywhere, but because Earthquakes are prevalent concrete is used, especially on the freeway. So if its summer it doesn't change-contract or expand and it's very hard, again, finding the right tire will enhance or detract from that. Of course, sedans, mid size vehicles, SUV's generally won't feel it, but if you have a car with less rubber (low profile tires- the distance between the rim and the ground is less than the average tire and you will feel it.) And the grooves that are in the concrete dissipate the rain, after all, L.A. is the desert and the rain doesn't absorb like it would in the Pacific Northwest area, hence, the grooves.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many factors. With this data it should give you a better assessment on buying the right tires or car for that matter and to read the road to get the most out of your vehicle. On another blog, I'll get into angles or banks as they call it. With this data you know where to position the car for maximizing the performance...if you look at Nascar tracks, they are banked (have a steep angle and because of this they can go faster, gravity basically-in a nutshell.)

Just like the journalists earlier, they had a rough time, but like the guy or gal that can't have the ultimate car, he or she can enhance his skills and by going to Autocross events or just go out in the country and have some fun. Remember, you have to walk before you run.

Think IdyIIwild, CA and have fun!

Lawrence Ribeiro

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