Sep 30, 2006

Commuting Lesson #2.1: Position

Since position in traffic is a fairly complex subject, I'll start with lane position, not the simplest concept, but certainly a place most of will find ourselves trying to perfect for the largest amount of time in traffic. For our hypothetical situation, we'll just take a straight, infinitely long road divided into lanes. And we'll talk about the best place to be in for safety and speed. Together.

Without exception, the best place to be is in the top lane, riding in the left wheel track (for a right hand drive country like ours) of the vehicle ahead. Two important points. Since our traffic is pretty unruly, never leave a big enough gap between the median and yourself to tempt the car behind you to pull a close overtake. Second, when you are in the wheeltrack, one good thing that happens is that you leave the right side tail lamps in clear view of the chap behind. However, you do end up covering the left side lights. So if the chap ahead of you indicates that he wants to turn left, you will need to center your lane position so the car behind you can see the indication.

The left wheel track is also good to ride in because it stops cars on your left from trying to squeeze you and take over your lane position. There will be one or two complete idiots who will still try. Remember the adage: Be a truck, but give like a bicycle. Which implies that you occupy your position with the authority of a 18-wheeler. This will put off most idiots. But for those who persist, give up the space without resistance - you are on a much smaller motorcycle after all. Another adage comes to mind: Bent sheet metal on a car can be very serious for the motorcyclist.

Now that you are in a good position 'laterally,' consider your longitudinal position. Most motorcyclists tend to ride up ever closer to the car ahead. Instead, hang back. This allows you to see more, gives space in case the chap ahead brakes (his brakes are always better than yours) and also allows you a bit of cushion should the chap behind you come up too close to you.

If you are being tailgated by the chap behind, there is very little you can do. The easiest solution is to indicate left, change lanes and give the impatient bastard the space he so desperately wants. Or, if your bike is fast enough, and the chap ahead gives you space, put a car between him and yourself.

Sounds simple, right? Now it gets complicated.

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