Riding Tips - Overtaking


Overtaking should be a simple procedure on a bike-after all we take up so little space and we have the performance and acceleration of a surface to air missile. So why does it cause so many problems? Overtakes don't just happen, they are planned for, and that planning starts the moment a vehicle appears in front of you.

Make sure that your attention does not become focused on the back of the vehicle. Ideally you should reach the vehicle and pass it with the minimum disruption to your progress as possible. Normally the danger for motorcyclists is not hitting something coming the other way, but hitting the vehicle you are overtaking, usually as it does a sudden right turn. Check for offside dangers, especially any form of junction or entrance. Be suspicious of vehicles travelling less than the normal pace for the road; are they looking for a picnic spot or a convenient U turn location? Being able to blitz past them at five times their speed may be (and is) fun when it goes right, but the sight of the driver's door blocking your path is a simple and effective cure for constipation.

Watch out for hazard lines; why are they there? This much-misunderstood white line is the simplest and most effective warning in the book. Remember that a single long line with a short gap means hazard, which is usually a junction, hillcrest or a bend. Whichever it is, you must check it out before you commit yourself to crossing the line.

We must put ourselves in a position where we can see, so don't get too close to large vehicles. You end up closing off your view and all you can see is "TESCO" in 12-foot high letters! Don't be afraid to look up the inside of vehicles. If the road is going even slightly to the left, then that's where the view is. Trying to look down the offside won't work. You simply wont see far enough ahead. Once you can see, pick your time; don't be rushed into taking an overtake. You must know where you are going before you commit yourself. If there isn't a space don't presume that one will appear.

If you are overtaking lots of vehicles in a line you usually end up having to take a few at a time. When you come back to the nearside lane, make sure it's under smooth deceleration. Whacking the brakes on, and diving into a gap looks naff, and is naff! As you go out, accelerate, but come off the gas alongside the last vehicle so you can lose your speed and mould back into the line of traffic. Don't get too cosy because you are not staying. Just stay out by the centre line and don't go making yourself at home. When the next gap appears, off we go. Try not to swoop in and out with loads of gusto! It just looks tatty, and like you don't know what you are doing.

The one thing riders do loads of, which is usually a total waste of time, is indicating. The last student I followed who did this a lot, was riding a ZX9R. I counted one flash of the indicator and the overtake had been completed. Who was supposed to see that? Most people don't indicate their intention to overtake; they state the bleeding obvious! If no one will benefit, don't bother. If you need to indicate it's usually for the benefit of oncoming traffic or any one following who may be looking to overtake you.

The other thing to watch is rear observation. Don't look over your shoulder, use your mirrors. You should have been checking them regularly enough to know what's there, but we don't want you looking over your shoulder when you are "too" close to the car in front. If it does anything unexpected you have lost some reaction time by looking somewhere else.

Keep it smooth and controlled. Remember overtakes are not a percentage game, they are either 100% on or don't go. When in doubt bottle out!

Finally, on a licence/self preservation note. However safe you may consider it is to slip across a solid white line, our advice will always be don't! You will almost never get cautioned for this offence. What the copper sees is a rider saying "I know this is a dangerous area, but I don't care". From an accident reconstruction point of view it makes life very simple. It turns a Careless Driving charge into a Dangerous Driving one. One involves points and a fine, the other crap food, and dubious sexual practices for a few months. Can't you just wait, till that line ends?

Summing up, you'll never get good at something unless you practise. Practise makes perfect, so if there's a vehicle in front of you get practising!


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