I pay little attention to posted speed limits when riding my motorcycle. Do I frequently exceed posted speed limits? Probably. Do I care? No. When riding on streets with automobiles, my attention is focused solely on minimizing risk and staying alive. I would prefer a speeding ticket to spending time in a hospital or worse if some idiot driver runs into me. How does this attitude manifest on the road?
At intersections, I prefer to be the first vehicle at a stop light. When the light turns green, I use the weight and power advantage of the motorcycle to get out in front of other traffic. I want to find pockets between groups of cars, rather than be part of a pack with cars moving at various speeds on either side of me. Cars travel in groups, frequently close together, with large portions of road sparsely occupied between these bunches of cars, and I want to be in those open areas. Once out in front of the other cars, I slow to stay behind the clump of cars in front of me. This sweet spot, between car crowds, maximizes my view of the road ahead and extends important processing time for me to analyze various scenarios based on the road and traffic in front of me. It also makes me more visible to other drivers.
On the highway, you may see my bike moving through traffic, accelerating around cars and trucks as I seek out these pockets of greater safety. It may appear I’m riding dangerously, but the opposite is true. Moving 5-10 mph faster than surrounding traffic is far safer than allowing traffic to overtake me from behind. If I’m going faster than someone, they can’t hit me and I’m less vulnerable to being struck from behind by distracted drivers.
Let’s be clear. I am not advocating riding all that much faster than surrounding traffic and never more than one’s ability and comfort as a rider. But motorcycles are nimbler and quicker than most cars and trucks. Smart riders use these capabilities to increase their safety. Judicious pulls of the throttle can get me out of a blind spot, away from situations where everyone is breaking and putting me at risk from being hit from behind. Safe riding like this requires confidence in your command of your clutch, throttle, and brakes. It means knowing how far your bike will safely lean over and being comfortable at those angles. All of this needs to be second nature to the point you execute what needs to be done instantly without a conscious thought, and that means training and practice.
Training and practice. A pianist plays scales on the keyboard, a marksman tunes his skills at a shooting range, a runner stretches and warms up before a race. No less motorcyclists: remember and refresh what you know and learn what you don’t. There’s a lot of dangerous metal out there!
Notes: Photo at the top is me riding a Honda Goldwing, closely followed by Sargent Dan Nochta of the Phoenix Police Department. This was a cover photo for a story about my reporting on police motor officer training.