Jun 19, 2006

When to overtake

As you can tell, I've nothing better to do except thinking about motorcycles. So here's more of my ruminations. Yesterday, while commuting home, for some cosmic reason (I can't put my finger on it), I started noticing the situations in which I was not overtaking cars (even though I probably could have) and others where I was (although at first glance, it wouldn't seem to be a good place to pull one).

Here's what I noticed:

  • Intersections
    They're a good place to overtake cars going the same way. They 'cover' you against other jackasses who're jumping their lights, and they're usually more careful than elsewhere. It's important to be in their mirrors before the intersection, though. Also, most people I've noticed rarely swap lanes mindlessly through intersections. Some very obvious exceptions to this idea, obviously apply

  • Gearshifts
    If you have space and notice the car you're planning to put a move over is either going to change gear (hand moving to lever and other subtle signs), that is also a good time to pass the car. When he engages the clutch, he 'loses' drive for a moment, and the space between him and the car ahead will open up a bit... should you need it, it'll be an escape place.

  • You just made eyecontact with a driver
    That's a really good time to pass. He's noticed you, he knows you're there. Flash and pass. Simple. Wave a thank you.

  • Coming around obstructions
    If you are coming around an obstruction on the road (like a lane blocked off), the widening road is a good place to pass. But care is needed. You need to be at some distance from the car you're planning to pass, but need to be on the throttle earlier than him. You also need to keep an eye peeled for debris in the space you will need to overtake. The distance gives him to notice you. And gives you time to plan an escape, evasion or abort should he be planning to run wide (aggressive drivers usually will).

  • Inside line
    This, done wrong, is a potentially fatal move.
    You've been warned.
    The timing is absolutely crucial. As is the reading of the driver you're passing. First of all, this move is not to be tried on anything longer than a midsize car. They're too long for this. On shorter vehicles, you're capitalising on their laziness. The drivers are usually loath to turn the steering wheel, and will tend to run a bit wide. You pass them just before they actually start turning their front wheels. This is the time when they're either off the gas or better still, on the brakes. This means you, skilled rider and all, can get past quicker.

  • Outside line
    This, done wrong, is a potentially fatal move. You've been warned.
    Again, the timing, reading of the driver you're passing and the amount of space you've got is crucial. First of all, this move is not to be tried on anything longer than a midsize car. They're too long for this. On shorter vehicles, you're capitalising on their laziness and the available space. Don't run into 'enemy' lanes while doing this, mind. Again, what you do is take a wide lane, maintaining about a half lane between you and the driver as you pass him. Make sure he knows you're there and you do have to corner harder than him. However, don't try it if you have less than one full lane on your left. This is the place to go to should the driver run wide. Don't try this on motorcycles, when they have trouble, they always run wide. And be sure that there isn't another Rossi behind and left of you, planning to outside line you as well.

  • Turn-offs and driveways
    I generally tend to put off overtakes when I spot places where cars/bikes could be joining my traffic stream. Unless I can clearly see that they're clear for a fair distance. I'll take up an overtake ready position, but I usually won't pass until I can see down that road/driveway. That means being in the powerband, ready to go. The moment you spot that the road is clear, vrooom. It's done.

  • Stopped traffic
    Filtering, splitting lanes, or moving between stopped traffic is one of our privileges. That means no abusing it also. I find that I never filter if traffic is moving, unless I make eye contact with the driver. I'm quite happy to pass when the others are stationary, though. You do have to watch out though. Stopped cars means people can open doors in your path. You have to watch the heads in the cars, and ensure that you don't do a mirror high-five as you pass. The Scorpio, for instance, has mirrors at the exact same height as most Indian motorcycles. And never filter more than 5 kph faster than the traffic. No matter how much the chap behind you is honking.

  • Bad patches
    If you're willing to bash through bad patches, they make great places to overtake. Especially, if two lanes are well-kept, and one is cratered. Obviously, this has more than little to do with your mechanical insensitivity and your off-road ability. Most of the traffic will queue up to take the better road, leaving the bad patch open for you. Beware of auto rickshaws, which generally forget that other people exist when they see a bad patch and make haphazard and drastic course changes.

  • Curving undivided roads
    I'm very heavily dependent on sightlines on these sort of roads. There's a stretch of Cadell Road (between Hinduja and Shivaji Park), which makes a great example. This stretch has a long, but not sharp curve with poor sightlines. I tend, therefore, to never bother with top lane here. However, I'm sure that if I could see oncoming traffic properly, I could safely pull out, overtake and pull back in without a second thought.

  • Off throttle moments
    When do drivers come off the throttle? Those are all, as long as other hazards are low, good places to pass. That means, weather (rain, consequently low traction), other motorcyclists (aiming for the same move) can mean an abort.

  • Compulsive lane changers
    I don't overtake these driver and/or riders. I simply pull up parallel at the next intersection and then accelerate away. No point, too unpredictable.

  • Aggressive drivers/riders
    Again, I'd rather stop for a soda, fill fuel, visit the ATM... whatever... than take them on. Since they're usually quick (and reckless), just slowing down for a bit is enough to have them disappear. If not, take a different route home. You don't want to be there when they do finally crash.
Enough, eh?

Other overtaking related posts: How to overtake, Parallel attack

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