MIKE WAITE served in the Dorset Police for 20 years as a police motorcycle instructor training police officers to the very highest level of high-speed pursuit riding. Now you can buy his expert training DVD on Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com.


Bends (Positioning)

There is only one position to be in at any time for every occasion, and that is the correct position for the circumstances that confronts the rider.

We can lay down principles for position for bends, overtakes and general riding. Saying that we must take in to account many different situations. For example light traffic, heavy traffic, town and city riding, country roads, main or minor roads, weather conditions, road surfaces. One could go on and make a very long list of such variations.

I shall recommend the following positions for the principles of right and lefthand bends and why. But the main beneficiaries about positioning, is we have an advantage. This relates to view, stability and safety.

Principles of positioning for righthand bends.

The principle of position for righthand bends is towards the nearside, which is close to the lefthand edge of the road. We gain three advantages.

1. We create view. The better the view the more time we have to react as features are seen that much earlier. The other advantage is that the other driver or pedestrian will see us earlier and can also react to us.

2. Being close in to the nearside creates stability, as it is a wider turning circle.

3. And last but not least, in the main, we are in a safety line position, as it takes us away from anticipated other road users that may be encroaching on our side of the road.

Bear in mind these are principles. Many things may change, that would not hold us to the near side. For example, debris, drain covers, unstable road surfaces, junctions, and severity of the bend. etc.

Principles of positioning for lefthand bends.

The principles of positioning for a lefthand bend is out towards left of centre or just left of the centre of the road. We gain two advantages.

1. Positioning out toward left of centre creates view, as the farther out we are the better view.

2. Being out towards the centre of the road creates stability, as it is a wider turning circle.

The one thing we do not have is a safety line position.

We should always consider that just out of our view are vehicles, which are travelling towards us at high speed and also encroaching on our side of the road.

I would suggest that you look at this situation and judge whether you could move away from the position to a safety position. If the answer is no then you are not in the correct position, and you have no advantage by being there.

As one would surmise position will vary depending upon the severity of the bend. For example. If I were approaching a tight blind lefthand bend, I would always consider a large vehicle just out of my sight coming towards me and encroaching on my side of the road. I would consider a safe option and move well away from the centre of the road.

Lefthand bends are in my opinion the more dangerous of the two.

If you are not concentrating and anticipating you will more than likely be at a disadvantage.

Positioning for an overtake from a righthand bend.

For all overtakes there are three main positions on the approach to set your selves up, for the perfect overtake every time.

1. An extended following position.

This is a position where either you are approaching from some distance and arriving at the start of your overtake. Or a position which you hold because an overtake is not an option due to situations ahead. This maybe that traffic is very heavy and no overtake would be possible. It maybe that you and other vehicles are approaching a speed limit and vehicles ahead are braking and bunching up. Following them into that scenario would eliminate your advantage and cause you to brake. There are many other situations that would call for an extended position. The main advantage would be that if the correct gear is selected for the right speed you would be able to control the position very accurately with throttle control in a relaxed state.

2. The next phase is a following position.

This position would be taken when an opportunity has or is developing which is developing in to an overtake. This is useful as one can move into an overtaking position or drop back to an extended following position. This of course entirely depends upon the developing road situation ahead.

3. The final phase is the overtaking position.

This is a position taken from a righthand bend with the rider close into the nearside just as the righthand edge of the road beyond the bend is in view. (Which eliminates dead ground) Distances behind the vehicle will vary depending on speed and aspects of the road in all the above positions.

All these positions depend on distances from you to the vehicle or vehicles you are about to overtake. Distance will be subject to many factors. For example, speed of the vehicle or vehicles you are about to overtake. Weather conditions. The road is an incline or decline or a flat surface; to mention a couple.

One thing always to remember is, no overtake is that important to cause you or other vehicles danger or inconvenience.

If you have to think shall I or not. DON’T As the next bend you have the perfect overtake.

Positioning for an overtake from a lefthand bend.

Overtaking from a lefthand bend is an option when there is a view, which has been cleared on both sides of the road.

There is, like all situations many different types of lefthand bends, some with extended views and others with restricted views. We also have to consider the type of vehicle to be overtaken, i.e. a large and high sided vehicle or a relative small vehicle, which can be seen over.

In all cases it will be dependant on the view and distance we have allowed our selves to complete the overtake safely.

Following a small vehicle, which can be seen over, position will be towards left of centre, which creates view and stability. The three positions as described for a righthand bend would be considered. The timing of each of the three positions is the skill that will perfect this feature. To early and the rider decrease his safety margin and smoothness. To late and the overtake is lost. The one feature that must be cleared is dead ground. Dead ground on the approach to a lefthand bend is the near side edge of the road beyond the bend and out of your sight If this edge is out of sight there could be some obstruction or junction, which is of potential danger to the rider.

The perfect timing for an overtake is to arrive in an overtaking position just as the left hand edge of the road beyond the bend comes into sight. It is at this point when an overtake is on or not. Just like any overtake there are so many features to assess. For example, speed of the vehicle you are about to overtake, the length of the vehicle, distance in view taking into consideration vehicles in view coming towards you, vehicles out of your view that may be travelling at high speed towards you, your own gear selected, your speed to complete your overtake, weather conditions, road surface, view to the rear, signal for your overtake. All of these would be desirable and essential, and the decision made instantly. If you cannot make that instant decision then the overtake should not be taken. It should be Yes or No and no in-betweens. The in-betweens are the thought process asking ones self is it okay to go. But in that short time the situation has changed quite dramatically. If in doubt do not proceed.

I would suggest that all these features could be finally honed under the instruction of a top class trainer. All can be practiced without an overtake taking place.

Overtake high-sided vehicles from a lefthand bend.

Overtake of a high-sided vehicle from a lefthand bend requires the utmost skill. There is no question that this movement should be studied very carefully and not acted upon until the technique is completely understood.

Following a large vehicle around a lefthand bend the view ahead must be maintained to the vehicles nearside. If the view is lost, even momentarily, the manoeuvre must be started all again. Once you have the visual point ahead of the high-sided vehicle you are following, pick a point to the offside ahead of him and mark it in your mind. With the vehicle continuing around the bend the previously marked point comes into view to the rear offside of the vehicle. At this point you will know that there are no vehicles along the offside of the vehicle you are following. (This is why it is most important not to lose the view ahead at any time on the nearside of the vehicle for fear that a vehicle out of your view has moved inside dead ground on the large vehicle's offside).

Developing a view on a lefthand bend when behind a vehicle means enhancing the view by moving out to the right, still keeping the view on the visual point from the lefthand edge of the vehicle.

The next phase is to wait until you clear the road ahead of all obstructions, any junctions or moving vehicles. The view and distance must be extensive to have time to overtake the length of the vehicle you are following, taking into consideration his speed, your speed, speed of vehicles in view and possible speed of vehicles out of your view. Consider the time it will take to pass, taking into account the length of his vehicle, the road and weather conditions. If they are favourable the overtake could be executed; check the rear view mirror, indicate and overtake as fast as possible. My advise is always know where to overtake too, if you reach that point then plan your next point to overtake to.

Keep well away from the vehicle you are overtaking, this is to eliminate the possibility of him deviating from his own course. Caution This manoeuvre is for skilled riders only and no attempt should be taken without being fully familiar with the technique. This feature can be seen on an every day journey. I recommend that you look for situation for observation.

Even on courses there are very few times this feature comes together to be put into operation. Saying that one course I was conducting, my student and I did three such overtakes all in a row.

Wonderful feeling when you do it right. There is no margin for error with this feature.

One final word about overtaking. The best overtakes is where you overtake a vehicle, return to your side of the road and still moving away from the overtaken vehicle with no brakes needed. This of course requires you to have the correct gear engaged with accurate use of throttle. The vehicle driver being overtaken will not be forced to apply his breaks.

Positions to take in potentially dangerous situations

If you are travelling on a road around a bend and you are confronted by stationary vehicles ahead you must consider vehicles behind you, which are travelling towards you out of your view. Potentially you are in a very vulnerable and dangerous position. Brake and hold back as far as you can away from the stationary vehicles. Stop, go into first gear, eyes to your rear view mirror and look for an alterative course or an escape position. By staying as far away from them as possible, should a vehicle come from behind you will be able to move forward, giving the driver time to react for his own braking and for you to work out where to go to if he cannot stop in time. If possible try and stay in sight of vehicles travelling towards you from behind.

Escape position

An escape position is a position you occupy behind a vehicle, which is stationary, and from which you can move forward ahead of him so as not to be in danger from vehicles behind that may not stop and are likely to collide with you. If you stop behind a stationary vehicle ask you self “Could I drive forward to his nearside or offside” If you cannot you cannot control this situation and are vulnerable.

General positioning

Positioning in towns or city with a high concentration of vehicular traffic will entail loosing position for righthand bends in the main. To hold an advantage one would hold position for view and safety. You would be wise to give any position up for safety.

I would ask riders to consider every situation you ride in. Be flexible and adapt to the ever changing environment you ride in. Ask your selves, can I get into a better position and take advantage of the situation. Concentration anticipation and planning all go hand in hand why not take advantage of it.

Copyright Mike Waite - Teaching motorcyclists advanced Police riding techniques for faster safer biking!

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