Even regular and experienced motorbike riders can aim to improve their skills. Below is some information that will help you improve your riding, and as a result, become safer on the road.
Information is the fundamental framework of motorcycling and incorporates all other aspects of riding, such as position, speed, gears and acceleration. You always need to be seeking information to plan your ride and you should provide information at all times to other road users. Because of your increased vulnerability as a motorcyclist, your safety and sometimes survival depends on your ability 'Take, Use and Give information' (TUG).
Always do your lifesaver checks - before you change position or speed, intend to overtake, start or stop, you need to know what is happening in front, to the sides and behind you. Ensure people know that you are there by using your horn or lights and make sure other road users know where you are going so use your indicators and brake lights. To gain as much information as you can, you need to use all your senses (sight, hearing, smell, feeling), ensure you have good rear observations and carry out those lifesaver checks.
You should always position yourself so that you can negotiate and pass hazards safely and smoothly. Before you change your position, always consider your rear observations. Whatever position you are looking to get into, always train your eyes to look as far as you can in the distance and to come back to your present position, scanning the road and road surfaces to assist with being in the right position for the circumstances ahead.
Adjust your speed appropriately for the hazard ahead taking into account visibility, the road surface, the degree of cornering and other road users. Remember the possibility of the unseen hazard too. Always reduce your speed by using your brakes and acceleration sense, not your gears.
Select the appropriate gear for the speed that you intend to travel at. Pass through the gears intermediately and do not block change. Systematically working through the gears will help prevent the rear wheel from spinning or locking up.
Once you've negotiated the hazard, consider rear observations. You should now be in the correct gear for the circumstances. Use the throttle to maintain speed and stability and open the throttle sufficiently to offset any loss of speed after cornering. Take into account the road surface, the amount of turn required, other road users and road, traffic and weather conditions. Choose an appropriate point to accelerate safely and smoothly and adjust the amount of acceleration to the conditions.
This means riding a motorcycle round a curve, corner or a bend and is one of the main riding activities, so it's important to get it right. Remember that your machine loses stability and you demand extra from your tyres when cornering.
The principles of safe cornering are:
- Your machine should be in the right position on the approach
- You should be travelling at the right speed for the corner or bend
- You should have the right gear for that speed
- You should be able to stop on your side of the road within the distance you can see to be clear
NEVER brake on a bend. You should reduce your speed by braking prior to the bend and select the correct gear before negotiating it. Once you're in the bend, use acceleration sense to travel round safely and smoothly. If you do have to slow down in a bend because you're travelling at excessive speed, use acceleration sense and, in an emergency, apply gentle braking to the rear brake.
Overtaking is a hazardous manoeuvre and safety is the most important consideration. There are three main stages - follow position, the overtaking position and then the overtaking itself. The follow position is when you need to be planning and extending your observations. Match the speed of the vehicle you're overtaking. For the overtake position, get into a point to further extend your observations and plan your safe gap to move in to, which usually involves moving closer to the rear of the vehicle in front. Once you know it is safe with no hazards ahead or behind, you can then proceed with the overtake. Indicate to let other road users know of your intentions and overtake the vehicle(s). Make sure you know what is happening in front and behind you. Ensure that you have your safety gap to return into once you have completed the manoeuvre.
As a motorcyclist, you have the flexibility and manoeuvrability to use the limited amount of space to make progress in traffic that is either stationary or moving slowly in queues. This is known as filtering. This does increase your vulnerability and if you decide to filter consider:
- Safety first
- Keep your speeds low
- Ensure you have your safety gap to move in to
- Ensure that you are visible to other road users
- Consider using your horn or your lights to show your presence on the road
- Always be courteous to other road users
Accidents are more common while filtering as motorcyclists do not anticipate other road users such as pedestrians, vehicles merging from junctions, vehicles changing lanes or doing U-turns without warning, doors opening and also failing to use their observations to gather the information they need such as road markings, traffic islands or signage. Always be aware that if you do have an accident while filtering, your insurance company will always go in favour of the stationary vehicles.
You need to be aware of several conditions when riding your motorcycle on the motorway:
- Speed and volume of traffic
- Rest stop and refuelling areas
- Vulnerability of stopping on hard shoulders
- Level of concentration needed
You also need to know the legalities of riding on the motorway such as driving licence requirements and type of motorcycle and cc of motorcycle permitted. Before going on the motorway, you should always carry out your POWER checks. You must consider your visibility and ensure that other vehicles can see you. Use your horn and your lights to let other motorists know that you are there. Be fully aware of your speed. At 70mph you are travelling over 100 feet per second. Give yourself time to react so extend your observations as far as you can. NEVER undertake. Take note of weather conditions when travelling on the motorway, particularly high winds, as high-sided vehicles may veer in front of you and cause you to be drawn towards them as you pass. When passing these vehicles, give yourself enough space.
Hill crests (otherwise known as blind brows) are a fixed hazard and should be respected. Approach in the correct position (in the centre of your carriageway to allow for any hidden hazards such as parked vehicles or vehicles coming towards you on the opposite side), at the correct speed for that position and in the correct gear for that speed. You need to be able to stop within half the distance you can see to be clear.