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Riding skills

Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in motorcyclists colliding with other vehicles during or after an overtaking manoeuvre. In many of these situations, riders collided with an oncoming vehicle or lose control and leave the road.

Please remember, overtaking not only requires the riding skills to judge speed and distance, but a good knowledge of your bike’s acceleration. With a bike you are not used to riding, take time to learn how it reacts to acceleration and braking in different gears, before doing any overtaking.

Don’t overtake when approaching:

  • Bends
  • Junctions
  • Lay-bys
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Hills or dips in the road
  • Where there are double white lines or
  • Other signs prohibiting overtaking.

There could be a high speed vehicle coming the other way, hidden from view. To overtake safely you need a view of everything going on around you and none of us have x-ray vision. You have no idea how a driver or rider will react when they see you overtaking them. You can’t assume they will slow down to let you in. They may do the opposite.

If you are filtering past stationary or slow moving traffic, do it with care. The closely packed vehicles reduce your visibility, manoeuvrability and reaction time to a minimum. A lot of drivers will not know that you are there and may move across in front of you or open a door. If you are riding with others, plan everything for yourself. Snap overtaking decisions are dangerous.

Become an expert of manoeuvres

  • Be on full alert when negotiating bends, junctions, overtaking and crossing junctions.
  • Take a ‘lifesaver’ glance over your shoulder before making a move. Make sure you know where other road users are.
  • Always remember that the best way to negotiate a bend is slow in and smooth out. Wait until you can see the exit before applying power. Don’t be pressurised to ride into a bend faster than you are comfortable with.
  • Practise braking at different speeds. Start slow and build up confidence, so that in a real emergency you can slow down and avoid the hazard.

Be in the right place at the right time

The middle of the lane is generally the best place to be but be guided by traffic conditions. Choose a position that maximises your view of the road and the amount of time other road users can see you.

When turning, take up your road position early so other road users can see what you are trying to do. Signal your intention at the appropriate time in the manoeuvre.

Become an expert at reading the road and spotting biker hazards. Inspection covers, shiny asphalt, painted lines, mud, leaves are all things you need to avoid if you can.

Read the Road

Always scan the road as far ahead as you can. Look for clues in the distance that tell you what the road is about to do. Signs, lampposts and hedges can help you read the direction of the road. Remember, where you look is where you go.

Ride at a speed that will allow you to slow down and stop within the distance you can see to be clear. This is especially important on roads you know well. The right speed will depend on conditions. Be on the look out for stray animals, cyclists, horse riders and farm vehicles.

A useful way to help judge your approach speed and speed through corners is to use the ‘Vanishing Point’. This is where, as you look into the corner, the two sides of the road (or verges) appear to meet. If you keep looking towards this point you’re looking far enough ahead to ride smoothly and see problems early. But if you also notice whether this point is moving towards you or away, you have a crucial indication of what the corner is doing next.

If the vanishing point is moving towards you, then the bend is tightening up and you need to roll off the throttle. If it’s moving away from you, the bend is opening out.

BUT… Remember that the ‘vanishing point’ tells you nothing about the potential hazards beyond what you can see. If you read the hedges rather then the kerbs or if the verge changes width or doesn’t follow the line of the road, it can lead to you thinking the bend is more open than it is. Corners where the road changes elevation are difficult to read – they can appear more open than they actually are, causing you to run in too fast.

  • Ease off the throttle smoothly and get in the right gear early. Aim for a neutral throttle opening through the bend.
  • Wait until you see the exit of the bend and can see where the road goes before applying the power.
  • We all counter-steer without thinking about it, but some positive forward pressure on the inside bar will force the bike to turn quicker.
  • If you lack confidence in cornering, you may turn in early to avoid having to turn hard later on. Turning in early may cause you run wide and veer into the roadside or oncoming traffic. Wait until you can see the exit of the corner before you turn in tighter. Find a speed that doesn’t cause panic and practise turning in later.
  • On a straight road with no other traffic practise braking with bent arms. In a stressful situation, it is natural to brace yourself for an impact but with bent arms you will have better control, find it easier to change direction and have more feel for the front tyre. Grip the tank with your thighs and try to move your elbows around. It you can’t, you are hanging on too tight.
  • On a straight road with no other traffic practise braking hard at different speeds. Start slow and build up as you get used to braking hard. This will not only give you confidence when you have to do it for real but will reduce your stopping distance in an emergency.
  • Don’t be pressurised by your mates, or the rider following you, to rush into a corner faster than you are comfortable with.

Never ride faster than the speed that allows you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear.