Riding motorcycles brings fun, freedom, and inner peace for us riders, doesn’t it? But riding motorcycles in traffic could be slightly challenging. With more than 20 years of riding experience and growing up in NY, this is one thing I can proudly say I have mastered. The art of riding a bike through jam-packed traffic is my game, and if you live in any major city, you’d better make it your game too!
Potholes, the constant texting by drivers in their cars, the visor makeup queens, lunch eaters, moms in mini-van dealing with a car load of kids, old-timers with less than stellar reaction time, you name it, there’s no shortage of situations or distractions by others. Any one of these conditions can make the ride tough sometimes. By using proper tips, tricks, and techniques, not only can you tackle them, but also enjoy your ride through boring and lifeless traffic or at the very least, hone your skills.
Although some of these tips might sound very basic and primary, I have seen experienced riders taking them lightly and paying the price. They will help you a great deal with motorcycle riding safety. Applying these simple riding practices will surely make you a better, smarter and safer rider.
Anticipating driver’s movements
To anticipate sudden moves of drivers, pay extra attention to their head movements by watching them through their mirrors and windows. Almost every driver makes head movement first and then takes a left or right. And always remember, if you cannot see their face in the mirror then that means they cannot see you!
YOUR mirrors are not 100% trustworthy
Mirrors on bikes are just short of lifesavers. But, to be 100% sure of what’s going around, it is better to take a quick glance over the appropriate shoulder.
It is a bad idea to get between an off-ramp and a vehicle
Drivers who are late at making their decision to exit kill a lot of riders each year. It is very wise on the rider’s part to avoid positioning themselves between an off-ramp and a vehicle. It becomes necessary sometimes to take the risk of passing on the right, but it is better to do it between cross-streets or exits.
Keep a couple of fingers on the brake levers always!
Traffic means less reaction time and less reaction time means chances of fumbling. To avoid such fumbling, keep a finger or two always placed on the brake lever, and your right toe near to the rear brake. So the next time when you have to react quickly in an urgent-brake situation, you would have already reduced the action required by some margin as well as reduced the chances of fumbling.
Be ready with the power in hand
Whenever you need your bike to jump forward in traffic, ride in a gear lower than your normal one. This will help you to leap ahead and not limit you to just brakes. Everyone around will also notice your presence more with those higher revs. If you’ve heard the expression, “Loud pipes saves lives”, well this is what I’m talking about.
Do not be exactly behind the car in front
Be either towards the left or right corner of the car in front of you. So whenever an escape opportunity presents itself, you are ready to grab it with both wheels. This will also help you to conquer the traffic race quickly. Just moving slowly behind the middle of a car will not take you anywhere!
Run a constant scan
Always keep scanning the traffic if you want to get away from it. Notice everything from mirrors, instruments, people’s movements, and the road ahead to the blind spots to your right and left rear. Doing this will make sure you are aware and in touch with your situation. You will be better able to react as well. If you just keep watching in the front and back, it is only half useful.
Scan the asphalt conditions
Look out for fuel, spilled oil or anti-freeze on the road. Plus, watch out for sand and gravel too. Try using your sense of smell as well. Shiny pavements are to be avoided as much as possible. You can always smell slippery diesel fuel before your tires run into it. This is yet another reason to ride to either side of a lane, road contaminants tend to be in the center of the road.
Open zones are your riding zones
Use your bike’s maneuvering skills and power to ride in open areas in traffic. Look for gaps between vehicles and ride through them. You will, therefore, separate yourself from other vehicles which will give more space for maneuvering. It will also help you to keep away from blind-spots. Keep varying your speed too.
Do not cancel turn signals
It is a very bad habit I have noticed in a lot of riders along with myself sometimes to procrastinate over using turn signals. Make a habit of giving blinking signals to let other drivers know what you are up to. Another idea is to sporadically switch on your emergency signals when traffic comes to a complete halt. At the very least, have your foot on the rear brake until upcoming driver behind you comes to a full stop. Using the brake light will help ensure that you are seen, you never want to assume.
There is always another way out!
Every biker should remember this in traffic. There is always a way out of traffic. All you have to do is practice your riding skills and use your bike’s strengths. Use their narrowness, lightness, power, and immensely maneuvering features to your advantage. Unlike our car driving friends, we bike riders do not have to sit back and hope something opens up in traffic. So keep planning for multiple escape routes, and when you see the clearest way available, ride away!
More balance by dragging back the back brake
Riding your way through traffic requires some skills. One of these skills is to keep a sense of balance when you ride. For this, keep a slight amount of pressure with your toe on the back brake. Hold it there just enough that you can feel a little friction when you ride.
This will help to prepare you for urgent stops and also smooth out the power delivery. All in all, it will help you to get more balance and ease off that bounciness between accelerating and decelerating.
Always remember your advantages
Riding in traffic is not rocket science. It is about understanding your rocket and it’s strengths and using them to the best possible effect. Always be fully attentive. Strong situational awareness and good hand-eye coordination will help you get through any traffic like a pro!