Im­prove your rid­ing Part 3: How to fil­ter

It’s one of the pluses of mo­tor­cy­cling and a great way to carve through traf­fic.

Motorcycle Monthly - - Lego Improve - Words: Tony Carter Pho­tog­ra­phy: Joe Dick

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.

Key points:

■ 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.

Key points:

■ 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.

Key points:

■ 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.

Key points:

■ 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.

Key points:

■ 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!

Key points:

■ Head­lights on! ■ Blip the throt­tle if you need to get their at­ten­tion ■ If the driver’s been help­ful then say thank you.

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