Im­prove your rid­ing: Ba­sic road po­si­tion­ing

Ride bet­ter. Ride smarter. And it won’t cost you a penny to im­prove.

Motorcycle Monthly - - Improve Your Riding - Tested by: Tony Carter Photography: Joe Dick

WEl­COmE to the Im­prove sec­tion of MCM. Ev­ery­thing you need to know about motorcycling but were afraid to ask. Be­cause no mat­ter how long you’ve been rid­ing; 30 days or 30 years, there’s al­ways some­thing to learn. Es­pe­cially as so many rid­ers of our gen­er­a­tion are... ahem... self-taught and sur­vivors rather than highly trained and in­vin­ci­ble.

First up is road po­si­tion­ing. In some ways it’s the sim­plest part of bet­ter rid­ing. Ride here, not there – how much more straight­for­ward can things be? Ex­cept, so many of us don’t quite get it right. And be­ing in the wrong place com­pro­mises your abil­ity to get through a cor­ner as smoothly, safely and quickly as you could.

And as al­ways, the key is prac­tice. Read the fea­ture, fol­low the in­struc­tions and swap those in­grained bad habits for shiny, fresh new ones. Good luck.

Step one: Straight, not nar­row

Visibility is key here. Your abil­ity to see what’s com­ing at you, whether that’s traf­fic or changes in di­rec­tion of the road. But also other road users’ abil­ity to see you.

So let’s as­sume that you’re rid­ing along a straight, level road. There’s no other traf­fic... so where should you be po­si­tioned? Ide­ally, if you imag­ine you’re look­ing down on the road from above and the left side of the road it­self is split into equal thirds then you should be sit­ting on the line one third in from the cen­tre of the to­tal road. Or two-thirds away from the gut­ter, if you’d pre­fer.

There are three main rea­sons for this. The first is so that you’re not in the gut­ter, rid­ing over de­bris. You’ve paid for your part of the road and you’ve got ev­ery right to be on it, so make the most of it. Don’t be timid. Con­trol your part of the road, and ride in the two-thirds po­si­tion con­fi­dently.

The sec­ond is so that you have the most avail­able amount of road to ei­ther side of you quickly should you need to get on to it to avoid trou­ble. And the third is that ‘V’ word again, visibility. Ride in this po­si­tion and you will be able to see the pro­gres­sion of the traf­fic in front of you and the pro­gres­sion of the traf­fic com­ing to­wards you on the other side of the road.

Step two: Left-hand cor­ners

Get­ting in the cor­rect po­si­tion for cor­ners should be done in plenty of time BE­FORE you get to the cor­ner. Get this right and you can see much fur­ther round the cor­ner much sooner so you can plan your line through it and set your speed and gears ac­cord­ingly.

So, nice and early you need to get over to the right-hand side of your lane – with­out drift­ing too far and cross­ing the white line (be­cause this is a road, not a race­track and we’re hav­ing fun, not set­ting records).

If you’ve never done this, you’ll be gen­uinely sur­prised how much more visibility you can get from an ex­tra foot to the right. If you do it al­ready, try an­other six inches and see what hap­pens.

Traf­fic makes it trick­ier. Should you find a truck block­ing your view, the smart move is to hang back a bit and shimmy left so you can see down the side of him (if the geog­ra­phy of the cor­ner will al­low with­out hav­ing high hedgerows etc) and judge the road ahead for over­tak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties once the cor­ner opens out. It feels weird at first if you’re new to this, but once it be­comes a habit you’ll won­der why ev­ery­one doesn’t ride this way. Out to the right, look across the in­side arc of the cor­ner and get an idea of what’s up ahead in some cases even be­fore you en­ter the cor­ner.

Step three: Right-hand cor­ners

The pro­ce­dure is ex­actly the same for right-hand cor­ners as for left, ex­cept you are mov­ing to the left of the road. Get into po­si­tion early, and move as far as you can com­fort­ably get with­out rid­ing in the gut­ter.

Once you’re there make sure there’s enough room be­tween you and the ve­hi­cle in front so that you’re not fo­cus­ing on what he’s do­ing in or­der to give you some time to look around. Then look across the cor­ner to the right, just as you did for the left-hand cor­ner set-up, and get all that lovely in­for­ma­tion about what’s around the cor­ner be­fore it’s even got any­where near you.

Step four: The right dis­tance back

We’ve all seen the impatient rider sit­ting right up the chuff of a car or van or lorry, weav­ing and neck­cran­ing around the edge to see if it’s all clear.

Er... no. The key here to be­ing safe and clever is dis­tance. You want to be be­tween 10 and 15 bike lengths be­hind the ve­hi­cle, in the two-thirds lane po­si­tion. From here you can see over most things and still have the im­me­di­acy to get up to speed safely and make the pass.

If the ve­hi­cle is a be­he­moth-type truck sim­i­lar in height to a small build­ing, then drop­ping back that bit fur­ther will have a dra­matic ef­fect on how aware you are of traf­fic com­ing at you. Any fur­ther than 15 bike lengths and two things hap­pen. Firstly, some clot in a car will over­take and fill the space, but more im­por­tantly, when an over­take presents it­self, you might not have the time to take ad­van­tage of it safely.

Step five: Look well ahead

Hold a pen­cil in front of you and stare at it. Now, move it away to your left while star­ing straight ahead. You can move that pen­cil 90 de­grees to the left and still see the out­line in your pe­riph­eral vi­sion. This phe­nom­e­non is your big­gest friend in ad­vanced road po­si­tion­ing.

Ap­proach­ing a right-hand cor­ner, move as far to the left as you need. Now, stop look­ing at the kerb and stare straight ahead. Don’t worry about where your wheel is, pe­riph­eral vi­sion is keep­ing it in check. Some­how you in­stinc­tively know and the more you ig­nore it and fo­cus ahead, the eas­ier it be­comes, let­ting you fo­cus on look­ing through the cor­ner and not at your boots.

Step six: The safety bub­ble in town

When you’re in busy traf­fic the need to main­tain your area of safety grows.

This is all about be­ing aware of what’s around you. Good ob­ser­va­tion is key here, as it is dur­ing all rides, of course, but when you find your­self sur­rounded by sev­eral tons of metal then po­si­tion and think­ing ahead are crit­i­cal.

Po­si­tion should stay ba­si­cally the same at the two-thirds of the lane spot – own the road, don’t be in­tim­i­dated... con­trol what’s hap­pen­ing. Stay­ing there will stop driv­ers chanc­ing their arm and muscling in, es­pe­cially if things have ground to a vir­tual halt.

Slowand steady wins the race in town traf­fic though, main­tain for­ward mo­men­tu­mas much as pos­si­ble and keep the clutch and brakes cov­ered at all times.

In short, treat ev­ery town driver like they haven’t seen you, own the space and do the think­ing for them. Take re­spon­si­bil­ity and you’ll be far bet­ter off for it.

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