From Greg, June 2011: (Greg was riding an immaculate Ducati 998, and having already taken advanced training elsewhere, was riding to a consistantly high standard but was still able to take home useful stuff from our own training.)
Over to Greg:
“I had a great ride home. The concept of using the middle third of the road [on a wide road, where the limits were relatively low and we were riding within a busy stream of traffic] worked really well, central positioning [at a safe distance using the middle third of the lane] behind cars worked a treat instead of hovering on the right when waiting for an overtake [where there was no opportunity], and looking at the braking surface is a great improvement.“All in all, I got a lot of value from the session and felt it improved my riding significantly. I noticed my standard of observation was back up to a high standard too. Job done! thank you.”
Thanks for the nice words, Greg, and very glad you saw plenty of value to the session. Excellent that you found less extreme positioning a useful alternative to using all of the road. It’s really not necessary on roads where the carriageways are very wide, the bends are sweeping, and speed limits perhaps not as high as we would like, and where we’re in streams of traffic. The extra view gained by positioning at the edges of the lane are minimal and we give up a dominant position – plus very few drivers will really understand whilst we’re doing what we’re doing, moving from one side of the lane to the other.
The problem with the very close “overtaking position” close to the offside of the car we’re looking to overtake is that the driver being followed will usually (not always!) be aware of the bike. Most will find it rather unsettling (“bloody bikers, always in a rush”), and whilst many keep well to the left to aid the pass which may or may not be useful, some will deliberately block us (“I’ve got to wait, so can you!”) and worst case scenario is that there’s always the chance of an aggressive reaction.
But the main problem is that they may not drive very well at this point because the proximity of the bike to the car – the driver ends up watching the mirrors rather than the road ahead, which puts both of us at risk.
A more distant following position is more “stealth” and the driver is far more likely just to get on with doing their own thing and not try to help/impede. The longer following distance also means the rider can actually devote more attention to looking at the road ahead and less to avoiding running into the back of the car and looking for escape routes, even if the final pass takes a little longer and needs a bit more space. It’s best to move up to the “overtaking position” only when we’re fairly sure there’s actually an opportunity about to arise, not to hover there looking for one.
Personally, I think the cost in terms of missed opportunities is more than outweighed by the more relaxed ride.
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