Juggling around twenty different things, each as important as the last, is no mean feat for anyone, but it’s what many of us motorcyclists have to do every time we take a ride in heavy traffic. Monitoring speeds, anticipating what an impatient driver might do, making sure you’re in the right position – this is just the tip of what riders have to deal with. To make things easier, and help you keep safe, we’ve compiled some essential tips to help you stay safe when the traffic hits.
It may sound slightly drastic, but it’s something you need to have in your head every time you set out on your bike – even more so when you’re riding in traffic. In the battle of car vs. motorcycle, the motorcycle will pretty much always lose but many drivers don’t care about this, especially when frustrated by traffic, so the onus is on you to act. And act fast.
If you start thinking as though getting hit could happen at any time, you’ll be more prepared to tackle any situation. Preparing escape routes and reassessing them every time the situation changes is essential to riding safe. Figure out how you might get out of a hazardous incident, especially if the car behind you doesn’t stop in good time and you need to avoid becoming a new accessory to the car in front, and always be prepared to act.
Another rule of thumb that seems over the top to beginners but isn’t to more experienced riders is that motorcyclists are often invisible. You can have all the fancy gear, from reflective tape to a neon green bike, but chances are there will be a driver who just isn’t looking. For many drivers, something small like a motorcycle isn’t considered as big a threat as a car, so often ignore it. Make sure they don’t.
Avoiding riding along a car’s flank for too long, especially when lane splitting, is the simplest way to be seen. Keeping your motorcycle in view, rather than in a driver’s peripheral vision, makes sure the driver is aware that you’re there. Changing your position within the lane itself, a huge advantage motorcycles have over cars, can not only give you a better look at what is going on ahead, but can also make you clearer to drivers in front, behind and those merging into your lane. You don’t want another car blocking a driver’s view of you.
If you’re not already doing this every time you set off on your bike, you really shouldn’t be riding, but paying attention becomes even more important when riding in traffic. When it comes to traffic, there are so many things to consider, so keeping aware is key to staying safe. One minor situation a few meters ahead of you could mean a major problem for you, so it’s best to stay on top of things.
Don’t just rely on your mirrors. Keep looking all around you when you need to – your mirrors should be part of your check to see if it’s safe, not the sole check. Watch out for what’s happening with a driver’s wheels or hands on a steering wheel, as they are more likely to tell a bigger story than the driver themselves. Most importantly, just stay aware. A ride through traffic is not the time to be thinking about what you’re having for dinner or something at work; you should be solely dedicating your brainpower to making it through safely. If a car passes you and you weren’t aware it was there, you’re not paying enough attention.