Sharing the road
There are three important ways motorcyclists can safely share the road with other vehicles:
- Being seen – don’t assume other drivers or riders can see you.
- Scanning and planning – scan regularly without focusing on any one spot too long.
- Keeping your distance – the best protection you can have is space between yourself and others.
Be seen by other road users
A large proportion of motorcycle crashes in urban areas involve other vehicles. For your safety, you need to ensure that you are always seen.
- Always have low beam headlights on during the day.
- Wear bright coloured protective clothing, or at least contrasting colours (e.g. black and white, and a reflective vest at night.)
- Always be aware of how your visibility to others will be affected by the lane you are in and your position within it.
- Move within your lane when coming up to junctions to be in the safest position if someone suddenly pulls out.
- Parked cars can obstruct other drivers’ view of motorcycles when approaching junctions, so adopt a lane position that gives you clear space from them.
- Be aware of drivers or riders ‘blind spots’.
- Try to make sure that you can see the driver or riders face in their wing mirror or rear-view mirror.
- Slowing down when approaching junctions or other areas of manoeuvring traffic gives you a better chance of being seen and more time for all drivers to plan their actions.
Scan your surroundings while riding
Always be aware of potential hazards and scan regularly without focusing on any one spot too long.
- Scan ahead so you know what junctions or other traffic situations are coming up.
- Use your height advantage to look over or through vehicles ahead to see what’s happening.
- Be aware of vehicles immediately around you and what you think they might do.
- Use your mirrors frequently to check behind you, especially if you are about to manoeuvre.
- Do a head check to make sure there is nothing sitting in your blind spot.
- Scan the road itself for hazards such as oil, slippery road markings, twigs and debris, gravel or potholes.
Keep a safe distance
The best protection you can have is space between yourself and others.
Space in front
Under normal conditions, a three second buffer zone between yourself and the next vehicle:
- Gives you enough time to react in an emergency;
- Gives you a better view of the road surface; and
- Allows other drivers to see you.
In wet conditions, extend the buffer zone to five seconds or more to give you additional stopping time.
At the side
Moving from one side of your lane to the other will allow you to maintain your buffer zone at the side when:
- You are being overtaken by other vehicles
- You are passing a line of parked car
- A truck is approaching, possibly creating hazardous wind gusts.
If a driver is tailgating your motorcycle, increase your distance from the car in front to give you additional stopping time. Alternatively, change lanes or slow down and allow the tailgater to overtake.
Choose the right motorcycle
- Talk to experienced riders, chat to knowledgeable staff in showrooms and check out as many websites as you can before choose something that could prove to be unsuitable.
- Think about what sort of motorcycle you want and what would best suit your needs, whether it’s for touring at weekends, everyday commuting, trips to the beach or a sports model.
- Be realistic about your size, weight, and strength – these are important considerations, as you will need to be able to manoeuvre quickly, efficiently, and confidently.
- If upgrading to a more powerful bike after gaining your ‘R’ licence, take time to practise , as the handling is very different from smaller motorcycles.
Setting up and braking
‘Setting up’ is braking lightly as you approach potential hazards, giving you more opportunity and space to react to events. The advantages of this are:
- It prepares the rider. By recognising the hazard and taking preparatory action you will have more control.
- It prepares the motorcycle to stop if needed without locking up the brakes and losing control.
- It prepares the vehicle behind you, whose driver has been alerted by the brake light that you may be about to brake hard.
In rural and regional areas, the majority of motorcycle crashes tend to be single vehicle. Many of these relate to misjudging cornering.
Braking and gears
- Adjust your speed coming up to a corner.
- Allow for traffic and weather conditions.
- Ease off the brakes gently on entering the corner.
- Change down to the appropriate gear to get you into and out of corners.
- Start corners wide to improve your vision of oncoming traffic.
- Plan to finish in tight.
- Move away from the central ‘head-on’ zone as you round the corner.
A number of surfaces can provide a slipping hazard for motorcycles, particularly if the road surface is wet, including painted lane markings and steel surfaces such as manhole covers. To ride safely on slippery surfaces:
- Reduce your speed, so that you require less space to stop
- Reduce the amount of lean on the motorcycle when riding curves. This is done by slowing down and/or leaning your body into the bend.
On wet roads you may gain more traction from riding in the tracks made by the car in front of you. However, look out for oil that often collects down the centre of a lane.
If something unexpected happens and you need to avoid a crash:
- Lean in to the swerve and then try and correct the motion as quickly as possible
- Check where you’re going to make sure you don’t end up in another crash.
Steering shakes or 'wobbles'
This can occur at any speed due to incorrect tyre pressure or weight distribution on the bike. If it happens:
- Grip the handlebars firmly but do not try to correct the steering. Don’t fight the wobbling.
- Gradually decelerate without braking suddenly.
- Once the wobbling stops, pull over to a safe place.
Blowouts and punctures
If a blowout or rapid puncture occurs whilst you are riding:
- Don’t brake – just gradually close the throttle down and try to steer straight.
- Move your weight towards which ever tyre is still inflated.
Carrying a pillion passenger
Carrying any additional weight your bike will affect the handling of the motorcycle:
- Do not carry a pillion passenger or heavy loads unless you are an experienced rider
- Make sure you have a suitable seat fitted on your motorcycle
- A passenger is your responsibility; make sure they are as well protected as you are
- Adjust the rear suspension spring preload, mirror, headlight and tyre pressure to allow for the additional weight
- Ride at lower speed
- Slow down earlier
- Adjust your buffer zone to allow extra stopping distance
- Keep conversation to a minimum to avoid distraction
- Do not make sudden moves or show off as it will make your passenger nervous and could compromise safety.
Your passenger should:
- Get on the motorcycle after you have mounted the motorcycle and started the engine
- Sit as far forward as possible
- Hold on to the waist of the rider or a secure part of the motorcycle
- Keep both feet on the foot pegs at all times, even when the motorcycle is stopped
- Stay directly behind you, leaning as you lean and avoiding any unnecessary movement.