“Felix the cat, what a wonderful wonderful cat…whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks.” You have to be a ‘Baby Boomer’ or raised by parents who are to get that.
…We as motorcyclists aren’t much different. When we get in a situation (the “oh crap” moment) we need to pull what we have in our bag of tricks to save us. The bag of tricks comes from three things..skill building, practicing those skills and being aware of your surroundings. Being able to adjust instead of react.
Let’s take an all too common situation…a car turns left in front of you!!! Oh Crap!!! Now what? What do you do? Slam on the brakes? NO!!! Try to go in front of the car before they completely have you squared off? NO!! How about going where that car came from? Yes…maybe.
But wait…before all of that, lets put your ‘bag of tricks’ in place.
1: Awareness. When you are coming to an intersection start scanning. How is the traffic pattern going ? Stop lights, stop signs, left turn lanes, blind intersection?? This is the time you are planning your escape route.2: Slow down. Coming to an intersection slow down. Here’s is the “DUH” moment, stopping distance is shorter when you’re going slower. If a car does turn left in front of you, you will have more time to adjust or react. When a car is turning in front of us we instinctively hit the brakes. Never a good idea…HITTING the brakes. Knowing how to really use your brakes is a vital skill that needs to be practiced a lot.
3: Go where the car was. This is rather complicated but it goes back to awareness. Where am I? We don’t want to go in front of the car, we want to go where it was so I’m going to go to the left, right? What about a car on my left side? Always position yourself to either have enough room to stop safely (this is where scanning the intersection well and slowing down comes into play) or make that swerve to the left to be behind the car that turned in front of you. In the photo below you can see where the rider can go behind the car.
4: Look where you want to go. If you are fixated on the car, guess where you are going to go??? You guessed it..right into the side of the car. If you have been aware (always checking your surroundings), and you have slowed down for the intersection you can be ready to use your escape route. When coming to an intersection I like to either be in the left lane (if I am going straight on a multi lane road, as in 2 on each side) or the left side of a single lane. That way I can go behind the left turner quicker and easier. But wait!!! Will that put me into oncoming traffic???!!! It could. But…if you have slowed down before the intersection you’ll probably be able to stay in your own lane as you maneuver around the car. This is where having control of your motorcycle makes all the difference. Control takes practice and makes your riding much more enjoyable.
Don’t let this be you. Be aware, check your surroundings, practice your skills and always be prepared for whatever might get in your way of having a good day.
Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll See You On The Road