Greetings, fellow riders! This post is a continuation of the topics introduced in my last post: Positioning – Part One. I would encourage you to read that post, if you haven’t previously, before returning to continue.
You may remember that in my previous post on positioning, we had established a “default” position to maintain in the road unless external influences force us to consider deviating from it. I had outlined three things that may cause use to deviate from our default position:
- When doing so would give us a better view of the road, and traffic/hazards ahead.
- When doing so would give another road user a better view of us. I call this “presenting” to a potential hazard.
- When doing so would give us a greater “buffer zone” between a perceived hazard and us.
Let’s ease back into things with a couple of simple examples of the above:
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Often, if I’m behind a vehicle that is obstructing my view — particularly a large vehicle, I will shift my position to the left or right in my lane to be able to see alongside that vehicle. If that vehicle happens to be riding in the left or right of the lane, I will often take the opposite side.
However, the very best way to improve your view ahead when following a vehicle is to drop back!
It is worth noting than an experienced rider is most often not focusing on the car in front. More often, they are “reading” the road two, three or more vehicles ahead.
A good rider will often react to a situation before it has developed — and even before the drivers in front have reacted. They do this by careful, and experienced analysis of what is happening far ahead of them. Anything we can do to improve the view ahead helps that process.
Still on point 1 (shifting our lane position to see better, and to be better seen): In this example, the truck in front is blocking the view as it makes the curve. I have moved to the right so that I can see up the inside of the truck as it makes its turn.
As the road straightens, I will smoothly resume my position, or even move to the left side of the truck if that will give me a better view of the road ahead.
2. Presenting. If I perceive a hazard ahead, I will often shift my position in my lane to give the driver of the vehicle presenting the hazard the best possible chance of seeing me. There are many variations of when this would be useful. There is one depicted below.
I am following the truck, and I’m starting to feel a little vulnerable because the driver waiting to enter from the right could easily miss me behind the larger vehicle, and pull out as soon as the truck has passed.
So, in the diagram, I have moved to the right of the my lane to give the driver the best chance of seeing me. I may also consider sounding my horn if I’m not confident that he/she has seen me.
As I near the car, how far right I need to be to “present” to the car will become less and less. As that happens, I will move smoothly over to my left to create a buffer zone before I reach the junction — all the time making sure I am “presenting” to the car. I would pass the car while riding in the left part of my lane.
This shift to the left of my lane — while ensuring that I am still presenting to the driver has a three-fold benefit: The driver is always able to see me, I have created a buffer between myself and the car, and the shifting to the left of my lane has presented some X-motion to the driver.
There are other times when it is worth changing your lane to better present yourself to a hazard. In the diagram below, I am approaching a divider in the highway where cars are turning. From my position in the left lane, I am very effectively hidden by the red car turning left.
This is a very dangerous situation. Having seen this situation developing on the approach, I have wisely shifted my lane so that the green left-turning car has a much better chance of seeing me.
This, of course, also has the added benefit of creating a much larger buffer between myself and the green car.
Point 3 (creating a buffer zone) has been partially covered above, but there are many examples where it is prudent to give up your default position to give yourself a little extra room just in case.
In this example, I can see that the car on my right is closing in behind the truck. There is a good chance that it will come out into my lane.
Because of this, I have now given up my default position, and have shifted toward the left of my lane. This is to give myself a buffer zone should the driver pull into my lane.
Of course, I would not do this if shifting to my left would put me into conflict with traffic coming from the other direction. I would need to maintain that buffer zone as well.
Overall, try to remember that, as motorcycle riders, we are using the road under some perceived disadvantages. One of our disadvantages is our size. We can, however, use that also to our advantage.
By applying intelligent thought to our position in the road, we can effect a massive improvement in our ability to see hazards, and our ability to be seen by other road users. That is what positioning is all about.
As you are riding, try to consider carefully if you are, at all times, in the right part of the road to be gaining the best possible view of the hazards ahead — and that you are efficiently “presenting” yourself to other road users. Fortunately, the ideal position for these two criteria is most often the same.
That’s it for this post. Next time, I will cover some places where you don’t want to be when riding!