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

Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and hope for the best

"We can learn a lot by watching other riders". Someone told me that a few years back, whilst suggesting that we don't really need rider coaches like me, nor programmes like my Survival Skills advanced training courses. All we have to do, he told me, is what how other riders deal with situations and then copy them. Unfortunately, there's a major assumption built into that particular plan; that the rider we're watching is actually a role model from whom we should actually be learning.

It was a lovely warm evening in early April, so I took the (t)rusty old Nissan Serena people carrier down to Eastbourne to watch the Eagles take on the Poole Pirates at speedway. There were plenty of riders out taking advantage of the warm evening sunshine too.

And plenty of examples of poor riding.

Poor positioning on right handers, hugging the white line through a curve so I had to keep moving left to avoid decapitating oncoming riders was a favourite, as were the obligatory duff overtakes.

I saw plenty of the latter, but one in particular was a cracker. Rider 1 begins to overtake and Rider 2 follows. But Rider 1 decides NOT to go for the two car pass that Rider 2 is clearly expecting and slides into a one bike-sized gap between the vehicles. Rider 2 is of course left hung out to dry. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for rider 2 to complete the overtake. Except Rider 2 didn't, and decided to try to squeeze into the same gap.

But we should know that junction collisions are the most common crash of all, and it was two incidents at junctions that particularly stuck out.

Here's the first. I'm in the Serena, waiting to turn right at a mini-roundabout, with a stream of traffic approaching from the left who would have to give way to me when I move forward. Unfortunately, the view to my right - the direction where I have to give way to traffic - is partially obscured.

Now, put your biking hat on, and imagine you're approaching from that direction, where I'm searching for vehicles to my right. So my Serena is ahead and sitting on your left.

Here's the problem. You're approaching the junction around a bit of a kink which means your view only opens up quite late. And what you see is my Serena, and a big gap in that stream of traffic that's been coming the other way.

Let's hit PAUSE.

What could we anticipate? Firstly, as our machine's appeared around that kink, does the driver of the Serena know what's approaching from his right? If he didn't spot us on his last check to the right, what's likely to happen?

It's not difficult, is it? With nothing apparently coming from his right, he can pull out, but now the Serena driver's attention is almost certainly to his left, to make sure that vehicles approaching from THAT direction give way to him.

So back on the bike, what can we do?

Slowing down would be a good starting point. Covering the brakes would be a second. Watching the vehicle to see if it begins to move would be a third. Being prepared to sound the horn and hit the brakes hard would be a fourth and fifth.

Fortunately I DID spot the bike just as I was about to pull out, and I watched him as he approached and passed through the junction. He did none of these things. In fact, he approached (I guess) at around 10 mph over the 30 speed limit, and straight-lined the mini-roundabout riding straight over the paint blob. He didn't slow, he didn't look once in my direction, and I could see he wasn't covering the brakes or the horn.

Not only would he have been in big trouble had I emerged, but had the last car in the opposing stream turned right across his path, he would have been hard-pressed to avoid a collision. This guy was oblivious to the very real danger posed by the road layout. Why? Lack of knowledge? Or an assumption that he had right-of-way and that other drivers should signal their turns? My guess is the latter.

Two lessons. Just because an oncoming vehicle isn't signalling to turn right doesn't mean it won't turn right across your path. Just because you have right of way over a vehicle on the left, it doesn't mean a driver won't pull out across your path. Don't assume!

Just a mile up the road, I had to fill up before heading to Eastbourne. The filling station is on the other side of the road, so it meant that I had to turn turning right to get back onto the road - that direction happens to be to the west, and we'll see why that's important in just a moment.

Once gain, there's a slight kink just where the filling station is, so now I can't see left OR right. So like most drivers, I wait for a nice big gap in the traffic stream coming from my right. And when I get one, I pull forward to the centre line, and wait till a gap or some kind soul lets me complete my turn. Predictably, after I've sat there for a couple of seconds, a car driver hangs back and flashes me out.

Fortunately for Larry Lackwit on the bike approaching from my right, I've already clocked him at a distance, and double-check back to my right to see where he is before acting on the headlight flash.

Because Larry decides that he can make a point about him having right-of-way by aiming his bike for the metre-wide gap in front of my Serena.

If I'd just started to move as I double-checked, I would have punted him straight into the front of the car that had stopped to let me out, and we'd have been calling the emergency services. If I'd already gone without looking, he'd would have buried himself in my driver's door at 30 mph. He probably wouldn't have needed an ambulance.

Doubly-fortunate for him, the reason I knew he was there was because I'd been double-checking back to the right even when sat blocking the lane. And I'd looked VERY CAREFULLY because the light of the setting sun was right behind him. Even with his headlight on, he wasn't easy to spot.

Lesson? Another simple one about being impatient. Why put ourselves into dangerous situations simply to show off our right-of-way? It wouldn't have saved more than ten seconds - he could have just rolled off the gas, waited for me to complete the manoeuvre, and been on his way with barely a moment lost.

And remember, if the sun is behind us, we have a lovely clear view ahead with everything picked out in the evening light. Check the angle of shadows of the bike. If we're running over our own shadow, the driver ahead is looking straight into the sun.

Final point... neither of these incidents took place on the local roads where I know riders go hooning on summer evenings. The chances are both riders were locals, and almost certainly know that the mini-roundabout and the petrol station were there. My feeling was that both were making a very deliberate choice to enforce their own right-of-way, and would blame the other road user if things went wrong.

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