Riding Skills 101

Improve your motorcycling skills
with Survival Skills Rider Training

Start your journey into better biking here!

Survival Skills|FREE better biking tips for all motorcycle riders

Learning biking Survival Skills isn't expensive...
...because these tips are FREE for all bikers

Wide lines, tight lines, right lines - the law of Diminishing Returns

Years ago, I went along to one of the very first BikeSafe courses run by the Met Police, and had a good day, picking up a couple of useful tips and generally being impressed with the comments. One of my few negative observations on the day was the way the police rider taking us out held a wide line, right out on the white line, around left-hand bends even when there was traffic coming the other way. I felt the position was too extreme, and when writing up my day out, I made this comment on my regular bike forum. The ensuing discussion surprised me.

One forum member, a former bike cop himself, took me to task and insisted that if the rider gained an extra half-second view ahead, then the wide position was worth it.

I thought about the cornering crash stats, and just how many riders are killed on left-hand corners. It's pretty obvious that seeing the spiky thing on the front of the tractor half a second sooner if it's about to impale us doesn't really help much. A second trainer said:

"There are times when position for view is the last thing (but not 'final') to be considered. Narrow lanes, tight blind corners? Forget 'progress', hug the left verge."

Then up popped a third instructor with:

"Seeing something half a second earlier CAN make a difference. What is important is that your speed is right such that you are able to deal with any situations as they occur.

"Very often people are simply carrying too much speed as opposed to being in the wrong position. The two combined are a lethal combination, 2 mph can be too much, just lose it and manage the problem."

So which is it? Should we hold that wider line and get a slightly better view around a left-hander? Or should we tuck in a little closer to the nearside and sacrifice a bit of view for some extra clearance to oncoming vehicles?

The answer, to my mind, usually lies with the simpler option.

If we hold the wide line out alongside the centre line, and we DO see something we need to avoid, then we need to move - and pretty rapidly too - to the left to get out of the way.

If on the same corner we hold a slightly tighter line, we have slightly less view around the corner, but the chances of meeting a vehicle cutting the corner and requiring some evasive action are lessened. And we'll probably not have to move so far for that evasive manoeuvre.

But there's another consideration. The only real reason for holding a wide line around a corner is to carry more speed. Think about it - we need to be able to 'stop in the distance we can see to be clear on our side of the road' etc. That's the instruction from 'Motorcycle Roadcraft', the police manual. If we move left, we can still apply the rule, just at a slightly slower speed because we can see a little less far.

How much is our view restricted? Well, mid-corner it's not nearly as much as is generally believed. The diagrams in Roadcraft are massively exaggerated in terms of width of the road, simply to make the point clear. But on real roads which are much narrower, the extra distances we can see by taking up wide positions is just a few metres. If you're sceptical, you can easily see for yourself. Stop near a left-hand bend, and walk to the centre of the lane - look up the road and see where the limit point is. Now walk out to the centre line, and have a second look. You won't be seeing much further around the corner. If you don't fancy getting round down, you can achieve much the same result by using the satellite view on Googlemaps and zooming in on a bend. Lay a straight edge over the screen and move it around to simulate the different lines of sight. I think you'll be surprised how little extra the view moves forward as you shift from a centre-of-the-lane position to the extreme right.

The real benefit of the wide-right position on a left-hander is not what we can see of the the road ahead, it's actually an earlier view - and more separation from - the other big threat on any twisty road; blind driveways, entrances to fields, and side turnings on the inside of the corner...

...and if we DO find something pulling out from the left or turning into the entrance across our path, we better be able to stop in short order.

Suddenly, the benefits of carrying more speed around the bend don't look quite so important as the ability to stop when we find the road blocked.

* I repeated BikeSafe in 2018 and am happy to report that the police rider was taking up rather less extreme positions!

Kevin Williams
Survival Skills Rider Training

...because it's a jungle out there


If you have enjoyed these Survival Skills articles, you can help me stay awake and keep writing. Just click the button below to buy me a coffee!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

* follow Survival Skills on Facebook and find new tips every week.
* discover Survival Skills books 



Subscribe to our Newsletter

Book a training course

What is Survival Skills all about?

How are Survival Skills Courses put together and taught?
The Making of a Good Instructor - musings on my Driver Education course

Would a National Standard for advanced training be appropriate?
Writing a riding tip - what detail is necessary?
What to do if you've had an accident
Accident Statistics - dispelling some myths

Improver or advanced, pragmatism or perfection?
Piling on the miles
Compartmentalisation & Practice -  the key to learning new skills
Countersteering - Question and Answer

Braking Rules and Tips
Over-confidence and Riding at the Limit
Practice makes Perfect
The Danger of Misunderstanding
Learning from your Mistakes
A Moment of Inattention
Staying Warm
Staying Awake
Don't just ride for yourself, ride for others
Filtering - what's legal and how to do it
Cornering Problems 1 - Lean or Brake?
Springing into Summer - polishing off the winter rust
Group Riding - Rules and Tips
Awareness of Risk and Risk Management
Cornering Problems 4 - Stability and the "Point and Squirt" technique
Cornering Problems 3 - Staying out of trouble! Pro-active Braking or Acceleration Sense?
Cornering Problems 2 - Staying out of trouble
What is Risk?
Avoiding Diesel
The Vanishing Point - is it enough?
Posture - the key to smoother riding
When the Two Second Rule is not enough
Riding in the Dark
Roundabouts - straight lines, stability and safety
Slow Speed Control
Aquaplaning - what it is and how to deal with it
Rear Observation - when to & when not to!
Staying upright on icy roads
KISS - 'Keep it simple, Stupid' or Low Effort Biking
Overtaking Safety - avoiding vehicles turning right
Proactive versus Reactive Riding
Living with  Lifesavers
Which Foot? The Hendon Shuffle - Question and Answer
Carrying a passenger - Question and Answer
Riding in the rain
Riding in strong winds
Sorry Mate, I didn't see you - an analysis of SMIDSY accidents
Ever gone into a corner too hot and had it tighten up on you?
The Point & Squirt approach to corners
A time to live...
Target Fixation - Question and Answer
The Lurker, the Drifter and the Trimmer
The five most important things I learned as a courier
Overtaking - Questions and Answers
Precision riding - or keeping it simple?
Wide lines, tight lines, right lines - the law of Diminishing Returns
Surface Attraction
Euphoria - when your riding is just too good to be true
Straight line -vs- trail braking
Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and hope for the best
Before you overtake, do you...?
Do you need to blip the throttle on a downshift?
Holiday Riding Tips 1 - Dealing with hairpins (a new occasional series)
Holiday Riding Tips 2 - The (drive on the) Right Stuff
Why SMIDSYs happen
Avoiding dehydration - riding in hot weather
Riding errors - and avoiding them
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - riding in fog
Where does Point and Squirt come from?
Overtaking - lifesavers and following distances
Offsiding - what is it, and why you should think before you do it!
Anger Management - dealing with "red mist" and "road rage"
That indefinable gloss
Overtaking on left-handers - experts only or best avoided?
Apex or Exit - what's important when cornering?

Developing 'Spidy Sense'

Armchair Riding - how to improve summer skills in winter

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 1

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 2

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This archive of articles is provided free to read and download, but is not for commercial use. Contact me for re-use rights.

IMPORTANT: The information on the Survival Skills website is for your general information and personal use and should be taken as a guide only. Survival Skills Rider Training provides no warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness, clarity, fitness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements and you acknowledge use of any information and materials is entirely at your own risk, and that neither Kevin Williams nor Survival Skills can accept responsibility for your interpretation or use of this information or materials. The content of these pages is subject to change without notice. 

 Copyright © 1999 - 2019 Kevin Williams and Survival Skills Rider Training