Sep 21, 2006

Commuting lessons #1: Posture

Buell XB9SX CityXWell, posture is probably not the right word, but I'm not really feeling up to picking up a dictionary to look for the exactly right word. I intend to write up a whole bunch of ideas (as in you may not agree and think this idea is BS - please post a comment; and as opposed to tips/tricks) that aim to speed up, smarten up and increase the safety of your daily urban duel. The first one, this one, is about posture. That word again...

What I'm looking for is a word that says, 'how you look to other commuters' er... in a word. You might wonder why that matters. Let me explain.

Next time you are out on the street, look for your stereotypes. I mean people who you automatically 'classify.' There will be some who you think are good riders, some will be indifferent and some will be jackasses. When you have time, think about why you classified them.
The reason you classified them, was because of their posture. The way they sat on their bikes. The way they blipped their throttles at signals. The way they were dressed etc.

The next time you are in a car, notice the riders who car guys instinctively steer clear of. These are people from all three categories (riders, appliance borne and jackasses) who ride with a certain image that makes car guys think, 'oh crap, he looks nuts/mad/lunatic/whatever and I think I'll just steer clear of him.' That is the sort of space that you want, isn't it?

I find that looking extremely aggressive in traffic is very effective. It doesn't mean you have to ride like an idiot on his last ride, though. It simply means you have to look like you're about to snap the restraints of reality and go completely wild. This means a beady stare, a hunched forward position at the lights, a few completely unnecessary blips sometimes and very little else. Look like that, and ride your own ride, and you'll find gaps opening up for you, car drivers noticing you (a huge bonus, since more car-bike accidents are car-guy-didn't-see-bike types) and many times motorcyclists also giving space to you. Once past, consider waving a thanks. Then they will not only notice you, they'll remember you. I've made a few 'commuter friends' by waving, I can tell you. Also, dress serious. That means as close to proper motorcycle kit as you can afford. It will also protect you when it becomes time to say hello to tarmac.

Oh, and don't get carried away by your own new image. You are not the two-day-stubble, hard-talking, part-time-motorcycle-guerilla you look like.

There is a negative side, of course. What doesn't? You'll invariably receive attention from the truly loony riders in traffic. They will want to race you. This is where your maturity comes in. Dig?

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