Improve your riding Part 3: How to filter
It’s one of the pluses of motorcycling and a great way to carve through traffic.
There are a few crucial things to know about filtering on a motorcycle. Get them right and any hold-up that draws to a halt the journey of the car, van or lorry will be nothing but a minor inconvenience for you.
So here’s those tips laid out in an easy-to-learn way. Yep, there’s some basic stuff here, but it’s always good to go over the sort of info that can save you, whether you are new or old to biking. Read this, keep it in your mind and use it the next time you’re passing people parked up in their tin boxes. And smile your way to motorcycling happiness as you do. Good luck.
1 Step one: Observe before you commit
Yes, it may be from the department of the bleedin’ obvious perhaps but this can be the most crucial aspect of getting filtering right. Don’t assume that you CAN filter and just move to the centre of the road and plough on regardless. Look past the immediate traffic and see what’s what a bit further down the lane.
It’s worth checking if there are any cars that have thoughtfully parked up so close to the middle of the road that you can’t even get a bike down there. It might be worth sitting and waiting rather than filtering and finding yourself in trouble and unable to go anywhere to get out of it.
■ Slow down well before you get to the back of the stationary traffic ■ Move over to the edge of your lane nice and early so that you can see as far ahead as possible ■ If in doubt, don’t filter. Stay safe and get back into a better lane position.
2 Step two: Keep your distance
Filtering is travelling past stationary traffic (we know that much) but the real trick to having a stress-free time while doing it is to keep a sensible distance from the traffic you’re going past.
There’s no right or wrong amount really because it all depends on two factors; the position of the stationary traffic you’re overtaking (in relation to
the lane it’s in) and the oncoming traffic (the volume, the speed and the proximity).
Ideally you should leave a few feet of space between your left side and the stationary traffic, but as far as this rule goes, you’ve got to make a judgement on the fly.
■ You should leave a few feet between you and the traffic you’re overtaking ■ Don’t drift into oncoming traffic ■ Take into account the speed of the oncoming traffic.
3 Step 3a/3b: Watch for doors and cars pulling across lanes
This leads on from the previous point about putting some space between you and the traffic you’re filtering past. It’s fine and good practice to make space, yes, but don’t turn off the usual ‘biker’s senses’ and stop looking for numpties out there.
If the traffic has been sat for a while then you’ll often find drivers opening their car doors to get out for a look or just swinging their car around in a U-turn and grumpily heading off in the opposite direction. Both things can have you on your arse in a split second. Be wary.
■ Be sharp, don’t switch off ■ Watch for car doors opening into your path ■ Watch for frustrated drivers U-turning their car around right in front of you.
4 Step four: Working the gaps
A useful tool this, especially if you’ve been filtering for a while. Naturally, in any long line of traffic, there will be gaps and these can be ideal for a bit of a rest. If you see a gap and fancy a few seconds of respite from the intense concentration that’s needed when filtering then take a breather.
But be aware that losing those few feet of space to some drivers can be enough to enrage them into pressuring you back out into the flow. Keep your eye on the car and driver you’re just about to drop in front of into the gap preceding them.
■ See a gap, use it for a breather ■ Before you commit to taking the space, check out the car and driver – rev-happy-Harry in his clapped out, loud-piped Clio might see you slotting in front as an affront to his very tiny manhood.
5 Step five: Filtering as a group
It’s possible to filter as a group, well group might be too much of a description really, what you’re actually doing is riding in group formation until you get to the stationary traffic and then (keeping in your preallocated order) filtering as individuals.
Each rider has to be responsible for their own riding and decision making. The only added thing to be aware of and not ignore is the fact you’ve got another rider in front of you, so drop back and increase the gap between you accordingly.
■ Switch from group to single file formation as early as possible, give yourself plenty of time ■ Each rider is responsible for their own riding, ride as individuals once filtering ■ Be very aware of the rider in front of you and drop back to ensure plenty of room accordingly.
6 Step six: The tools at your disposal
Don’t forget that being on a motorcycle doesn’t always mean you’re without tools to use in the ancient art of filtering. Making sure you’ve got your headlights on is always a good start. You might prefer to flick your hazards on too (we don’t as a rule but we’ll let you judge this as you go).
If you don’t think a driver has seen you and is becoming a bit of a pest, or just drifting across from their lane as they inch along while texting etc. then a quick, loud blip on the throttle with the clutch pulled in is far more effective at getting their attention instead of a dab on the horn. And if someone does get out of the way and tries to help you as you filter then make sure you acknowledge the gesture with a wave of the hand or thumbs up as you go past. It means a lot to the driver and could just ensure that they help out other bikers in the future too!
■ Headlights on! ■ Blip the throttle if you need to get their attention ■ If the driver’s been helpful then say thank you.