RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

The Road Often Traveled: Tips & Tricks – Part 1

Mar 20, 2012 View Comments by

The repetition of riding the same roads in varying traffic over 12 years has taught me a few things. Obviously proper gear and training are the main factors that contribute to your safety while on the road, but there are other techniques that I’ve found work well to help make my commute a safe one.

Being conspicuous: I wear a modular (flip face) helmet that is predominantly white, which is one of the most noticeable and easily spotted colors by drivers. My bike is tall; the seat height is 32”, which puts me at eye level or above when compared to most vehicles. My side cases have reflective tape and my top box has a wide reflector. I’ve taken to using hand signals as well as turn signals to make my movements even more visible. I am mindful of lane position too, choosing left, center, or right positions to make myself more easily seen, and I use high beams in the daytime in certain situations.

Situational awareness: At every stop I do a quick scan of who’s around me and what they’re doing. I check out who may be reading or talking on a cell phone or distracted in some other way. I stay in gear at lights and leave plenty of room in front of me, so that I have the ability to accelerate away if needed. I also keep one eye on the car behind me to ensure they’ve noticed that traffic has stopped. I try not to push yellow lights, except when not doing so may cause me to be hit from behind. I watch the head motions of drivers when appropriate, as they usually precede a turn with a head movement (but not always a turn signal). Sometimes I stay a gear lower to achieve some extra acceleration in heavy, slow traffic.

Self-protection: I use other cars to shield me through intersections when possible. On a four-lane road, if I’m approaching a green light and there’s a car near me, I’ll speed up or slow down a bit to allow the other car to pass through at roughly the same time. A car is easier to spot than a motorcycle, which helps lessen the chances of getting hit from one side. I also ride with the flow of traffic, either a bit faster or a bit slower but never drastically so. Sometimes aggression keeps you out of trouble, and other times it gets you in it – it’s a judgment call.

Staying Alert: riding the same roads every day can cause your focus to drift. I’m so familiar with my route I know every pothole and bump. I always remind myself to stay alert for the things that can’t be anticipated when I’m on familiar ground.

It sounds like a lot to do but when you do it often enough it becomes second nature. Of course there are tons of other tips I’ll cover in later posts, and new situations arise every day that I haven’t seen before. That’s one thing I love about motorcycling, it’s always a new experience and every ride teaches me something.

If you’ve got more tips, please share them so we can all benefit.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.