So you’ve got your license, gear and bike and have been practicing around the neighborhood or in empty parking lots. But now, you’re ready to get to commuting or riding on the highway. It can be scary at first, but as long as you’re knowledgeable about the rules of the road, you can stay safe and have fun at highway speeds in no time. Here are some tips to help you get started!
Entering The Highway
Riding your motorcycle at highway speeds can be a little testing at times, especially if you’re not familiar with certain aspects of high speed riding, such as whistling wind or cars whipping past you. When you’re first entering the highway there are some important things you should do that will protect yourself and others.
First, when merging onto the highway, you should enter the speeds of the cars around you quickly. Luckily motorcycles give riders really good acceleration, in comparison to the cars and trucks around you. This should be no problem to do. However, motorcycles do not have the luxury of simply relying on only our mirrors to guide us. Instead of just trusting your mirrors, give a quick head check. This will ensure you have enough space and time to enter the highway, as well as make sure that you’re not in any car’s blind spots.
Second, make sure you use your turn signals. It may seem obvious that you’re getting on the highway, if you’re literally on the merging lane, however never assume car drivers can see you. It’s safest to assume you’re invisible—using your blinkers will give drivers a notice of your presence on the road.
Riding In Traffic
Being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic is the absolute worst for every vehicle involved. But it especially sucks for motorcycle riders. This is because there is always the possibility of a cager not checking their blind spots and getting in your space, hitting you or just causing more traffic in general. Further, traffic can be really dangerous for bikers due to things like overheating, fatigue and lack of space for emergency exiting.
It is super crucial that you know how to safely make your presence on the road known in the most obvious ways. Whether that be using your signals as mentioned before, wearing super bright gear or knowing how to position yourself within your lane. If you need more help with understanding motorcycle controls, such as turn signals check out our motorcycle controls guide.
The best thing to do if you’re in traffic is to be hyper alert of everything going on around you. There for sure are always going to be car drivers that are on their phones, not paying attention or simply just driving frustrated. These are all dangers to you. Being aware of your surroundings will save your life.
Another pro tip for riding in traffic is to have an exit route. Give yourself as much distance and reaction time as possible. This will help you have an extra exit lane in case drivers try speeding past you or getting in your way. Stay ahead. We’ll talk about lane filtering next, which is another way to help you in traffic.
Lane Filtering vs. Lane Splitting
In the motorcycle community there seems to be a split on whether riders should lane split and lane filter, or just lane filter. For me, I’m a believer in lane filtering, but I’m not too keen on lane splitting. Let me explain the difference between these two.
Lane filtering in my opinion is the safer option, opposed to lane splitting. Lane filtering allows riders to ‘filter’ their way to the front of the line, at red lights, intersections or any instance where cars are stopped and are lining up. This is beneficial to both riders and drivers, alike. Lane filtering allows for traffic to have breathing room and flow faster. It works like this: the motorcycle rider filters between the stopped cars and makes their way to the top of the traffic, while the cars behind can take their place and move up more lanes. Thus, the flow of traffic is sped up, just slightly—which is better than nothing.
Lane splitting follows this same concept and applies it to moving cars. The reason I am not too fond of this idea is because sometimes riders and drivers can make unnecessary mistakes that can make splitting extremely difficult to execute and just flat out stay safe. Lane splitting takes place when both cars and motorcycles are moving and sometimes at high speeds. Motorcyclists maneuver between moving cars, to get to where they want, faster. This can help the flow of traffic but it’s just too dangerous. There are many variables that can go wrong and at high speeds, splitting can be fatal. Cars can merge into different lanes, can open their doors when riding at city streets and can even get angry with motorcyclists if they’re unaware of the concept.
Check your state laws to see if lane filtering/lane splitting is legal, where you live. Ultimately it is your choice and responsibility to ride your motorcycle the way you’d like. Just make sure you keep yourself safe by riding with purpose and principle.
Last but not least, is lane positioning. This is one of the skills you learn in rider school, and it may seem like common sense. However many riders may still be unaware of the benefits to proper lane positioning. As I said before, making yourself seen on the road is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe on the road. Positioning yourself in certain ways within your lane can help you accomplish this, very efficiently.
Some different circumstances require different lane positions. Usually riders should stick to either the left or right lane position. This is due in part to oils on the road surface typically being in the middle position, which can cause tire traction failure.
Depending on if you’re driving on city streets, highways or back roads, this lane position suggestion may change. If you’re on a two-way for example, it might be best to stick in the right position, unless you’re entering a blind curve. Then, position yourself to where you can have the most range of sight, as well as the safest distance from drivers (In this case you should implement timing).
Sometimes at intersections, you may want to be in the middle position. This is okay, so long as you make yourself visible to other cars. In the end, it’s all about making sure you can see, be seen and can keep away from road obstacles. Here's a guide to dangerous scenarios for motorcycle riding that explains in detail certain circumstances where lane positioning will help you stay safe.
Riding a motorcycle on the highway can be a dangerous proposition, but with a few simple tips, you can make sure that you stay safe. By following the advice in this article, you can make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable ride.
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