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HOW-TO: Riding in Traffic Tips
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HOW-TO: Riding in Traffic Tips - March 2, 2006, 01:17 PM

http://motorcyclistonline.com/howto/122_0504_tips/

Watch drivers’ heads and mirrors
Watching the head movements of drivers through their windows and mirrors is an excellent way to anticipate sudden moves. Most drivers won’t lunge left or right without first moving their heads one way or another (even if they don’t check their mirrors).

Trust your mirrors, but not totally
Your bike’s mirrors can be lifesavers, but they don’t always tell the entire story even if they’re adjusted properly. In traffic, always buttress your mirror-generated rear view with a glance over the appropriate shoulder. Do it quickly and you’ll add an extra measure of rear-view and blind-spot knowledge to your info-gathering tasks.



Never get between a vehicle and an offramp
This sounds almost too simple, but drivers who decide to exit at the last minute kill plenty of riders each year. The simple rule, then, is to never position yourself between a vehicle and an offramp. Passing on the right is generally a no-no, but in this day and age it’s sometimes necessary. So if you do it, do so between exits or cross-streets.

Cover your brakes
In traffic you must often react extra quickly, which means not fumbling for the brake lever or pedal. To minimize reach time, always keep a finger or two on the brake lever and your right toe close to the rear brake pedal. When that cell phone-yakking dorkus cuts across your path trying to get to the 7-Eleven for a burrito supreme, you’ll be ready.

Be noticed
Make sure drivers and pedestrians can see you, even from a distance. Ride with your high beam on during the day (as a courtesy, turn it off when sitting behind someone at a light), and wear brightly colored gear, especially your helmet and jacket. Aerostich’s Hi Vis yellow suits and jackets aren’t just hugely conspicuous, they’ve also become fashionable, so now you don’t have an excuse.

Be ready with the power
In traffic, ride in a gear lower than you normally would so your bike is ready to jump forward instantly if asked. (Not everyone rides open-class twins, after all.) Doing so gives you the option of leaping ahead instead of being limited to just using the brakes when that pickup suddenly moves over. The higher revs might also alert more cagers to your presence.



Traffic slowing? Stay left (or right)
When traffic slows suddenly, stay to the left or right of the car in front of you. This will give you an escape route if needed. It will also help keep you from becoming a hood ornament if the car behind you fails to stop in time. Once you’ve stopped, be ready—clutch in, your bike in gear and your eyes on the mirrors. You never know.

Practice the scan
Constantly scanning your entire environment while riding—from instruments to mirrors to the road ahead to blind spots to your left and right rear—keeps you aware and in touch with your situation, and therefore better able to react. Dwelling on one area too long—watching only behind or in front of you, for instance—is just begging for trouble.

Left-turn treachery
When approaching an oncoming car that’s stopped and about to turn left, be ready. Your brights should be on so the driver can see you (during the day), but don’t rely on this to save you. Watch the car’s wheels or the driver’s hands on the steering wheel; if you see movement, be ready to brake, swerve or accelerate, whichever seems best for the
situation.

Study the surface
Add asphalt conditions to your scan. Be on the lookout for spilled oil, antifreeze or fuel; it’ll usually show up as shiny pavement. Also keep an eye out for gravel and/or sand, which is usually more difficult to see. Use your sense of smell, too; often you can smell spilled diesel fuel before your tires discover how slippery the stuff is.



Ride in open zones
Use your bike’s power and maneuverability to ride in open zones in traffic. In any grouping of vehicles there are always some gaps; find these and ride in them. Doing so will separate you from four-wheelers, give you additional room to maneuver and allow you to keep away from dangerous blind spots. And vary your speed. Riding along with the flow can make you invisible to other drivers, especially in heavy traffic.

Use that thumb
Get into the habit of canceling your turn signals often regardless of the traffic situation. A blinking signal might tell drivers waiting to pull into the road or turning left in front of you that you’re about to turn when you aren’t. So push that switch a few times each minute. Better to wear out the switch than eat a Hummer’s hood, eh?

It’s good to be thin
A huge advantage single-track vehicles have over four-wheelers is their ability to move left and right within a lane to enable the rider to see what’s ahead. Whether you’re looking to the side of the cars ahead or through their windshields, seeing what’s coming can give you lots of extra time to react.

More than one way out
Yeah, motorcycles fall down. But they’re also light, narrow and hugely maneuverable, so you might as well learn to exploit their strengths when things get ugly, right? So don’t just brake hard in a hairball situation. There’s almost always an escape route. Swerving into Mrs. Smith’s front yard could be a lot better than centerpunching the Buick that turned left in front of you. Always have an escape route planned, and update it minute by minute.

Running interference
This one’s easy, and we’ll bet most of you already do it: Let larger vehicles run interference for you when negotiating intersections. If the bonehead coming toward you from the left or right is going to blow the light, better they hit the box van next to you, right? For the same reasons, don’t lunge through an intersection as soon as the light turns green. Be patient, and use the vehicles next to you as cover.
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March 2, 2006, 01:26 PM

Here another thing I do. If you can look through the car in front of you to see down the road. Helps you pick out cops too. Its pretty obvious when 5 cars up ahead stab their brakes at the same time


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March 2, 2006, 01:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DRAGULA
Here another thing I do. If you can look through the car in front of you to see down the road.
+1 Good point Drag. I never did this until I started riding. I used to just watch the car infront of me like a zombie. Now I even do it in my cage and I almost always know what is going on.
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March 7, 2006, 08:55 AM

watching the finger go on to signal is a give a way that car will be turning into you soon, but yet again, many dont even signal


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March 7, 2006, 09:54 AM

Here's a tip I've picked up over the years: when you come to a controlled intersection (like a 3- or 4-way stop sign) and there's cager traffic to your left or right, don't look at the driver - watch the wheels of their cage instead. That's the best indicator IMO of whether they're gonna give the right-of-way or try to take you out.

I've had cagers look right straight at me - apparently make eye contact with me, and then start out and claim they didn't see me.
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March 7, 2006, 10:10 AM

yes, i had that too, too many times, i just slow way down in a case like that, and keep it in 1 to accel faster if need be


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March 8, 2006, 07:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scratch
Here's a tip I've picked up over the years: when you come to a controlled intersection (like a 3- or 4-way stop sign) and there's cager traffic to your left or right, don't look at the driver - watch the wheels of their cage instead. That's the best indicator IMO of whether they're gonna give the right-of-way or try to take you out.

I've had cagers look right straight at me - apparently make eye contact with me, and then start out and claim they didn't see me.
Specifically, the top of the wheel, as that will have the quickest acceleration and show if the car is moving or not.

Personally, in traffic, I tend to ride in the far left or right lanes and put myself on the inner third of said lane. That way, I only have traffic in front of me and to one side of me. I don't have to worry about one side. However, if I'm in the right lane, I keep an eye out for on ramps and position myself accordingly so drivers entering the moving parking lot don't try and jump into the "open spot" that conceals me.

And +1 on looking through cars (if possible). I will work my way around a van without windows, large trucks, semis and cars with dark tint. I like to be able to see at least 5 cars ahead of me to gauge what traffic is doing. They start putting brake lights on, I'm off the throttle and covering the brake lever, preparing to slow down. I watched a dumb ricer cager almost run headlong into the car in front of him as he didn't gauge how quickly traffic was slowing. Luckily, for him, there was an opening in the middle lane that he jumped to and missed the car in front of him by inches.

Good find and post, LaoTzu.


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March 8, 2006, 09:53 AM

Good post Don!


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March 8, 2006, 10:41 AM

You can look under cars too. For brake lights in low light situations and when going over a rise in the road.


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August 10, 2006, 11:38 PM

i once heard a long time BMW rider (year-round-daily rider) say after years of being tailgated and merged into he decided to ride like a noob when in traffic. Weaving back and forth across the whole lane and changing speeds regularly, tapping brake lights, moving around in the saddle... he found that people started backing off and giving him room and generally didnt have to worry so much about the cars near him not seeing him.

still have to pray riding through an intersection though.


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August 11, 2006, 06:36 AM

Excellent post. Love Motorcyclist mag.


Tony

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August 11, 2006, 07:59 AM

Thanks!
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October 9, 2006, 01:19 PM

Thanks for info!! One problem I have is this... When changing lanes, I don't completely trust my mirrors, but when I look over my shoulder I don't feel like I get a really clear look.... Its almost like my helment is in the way... Anyone have advise???


Angie
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October 9, 2006, 01:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by angiegsxr 600
Thanks for info!! One problem I have is this... When changing lanes, I don't completely trust my mirrors, but when I look over my shoulder I don't feel like I get a really clear look.... Its almost like my helment is in the way... Anyone have advise???
expirence. You'll get used to it. I also have convex mirrors which help.
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October 9, 2006, 03:28 PM

Great post...but all that can be summed up into one basic rule:

Treat everything like one big PUSSY waiting to get FUCKED!



Honestly tho, that might've sounded a bit harsh, but riding agressively and defensivly is the biggest advantage to surviving the asphalt jungle.


This msg is brought to you by my alter ego; VENOM!
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