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.


Overtaking techniques

Overtaking from righthand bends

The main overtakes on roads which in their very nature are twisty are from righthand bends. Using the police system we choose a righthand bend, considering an overtake. On the approach from an extended following position we should be evaluating the driver and vehicle up ahead, considering what he will do at the bend. Take into account his age, speed of the vehicle, and the type of vehicle being driven, whether loaded or empty, small or large and whether the driver is likely to brake. All these items, and more, add to the distance you would occupy behind it on the approach to the bend.

The skill of the rider is to take up the correct distance from the vehicle on approach and to get to the overtaking position just as the righthand side of the road beyond the bend comes into view. Our position would mainly be to the nearside and closing. We need to keep the view on the righthand side of the vehicle on the approach to a righthand bend, this being very important with a large goods vehicle or any vehicle that can block the view from our position on the nearside to the leading edge of the righthand side of the bend. The position would most probably be a following position at this time.

The closer we get to the bend the more view we have and when all the elements are right and it is safe to do so we would try to achieve an overtaking position. This being reasonably close to it. Overtaking position is a point where the righthand edge of the road comes into view beyond the righthand bend. At this point our observations would give us information on all of the following; speed of the vehicle or vehicles we are about to overtake, our speed and speed of vehicles in view. Consider any possible vehicles out of view that may be approaching at high speed. We need the correct gear, a place to overtake to, the right amount of throttle required to overtake without braking, and the ability to move away from the vehicle being overtaken, without causing the driver to brake if we move in front of him

We assess any hazards such as junctions, double white lines and obstructions, taking into account road surfaces and weather conditions. All these things have to be considered in a flash to affect the perfect overtake. If one element is missing one should never overtake. If in doubt, hold back. The perfect overtake is one where you overtake firmly and precisely, with no interference to any other vehicle, keeping well away from the vehicle or vehicles you are overtaking. You then glide into the next position, without causing the vehicle or vehicles you are overtaking to brake. It will convey to other road users why they should ride motorcycles!

Overtaking from lefthand bends

Overtaking from lefthand bends is achieved in the same manner as righthand bends except for position and the clearing of the lefthand edge beyond the bend. The position would be left of centre if we can retain the view ahead of the vehicle or vehicles. If this is not possible the view should be taken to the nearside of the vehicle ahead.

If the visual point starts to move away rapidly on a lefthand bend it will tell you that the road is straightening. By the time you have maximum view you should have achieved an overtaking position and made the correct decision to go or hold back.

If you have to think about it do not do it. By thinking about it you have wasted precious seconds and in that time you could have effected an overtake. Do not be anxious about overtakes as the important part is the lead up to and the correct positions.

The important part is the technique. When you are overtaking do it as fast as you can, do not hang about. Before executing the overtake check the righthand mirror, indicate then go.

Do not follow any other vehicle out for this manoeuvre, except on motorways or dual carriageways; it may lead you into dangerous situations. If the vehicle you are following aborts an overtake you would be in a vulnerable position; wait until he is clear and then consider overtaking. Always plan to overtake to a place you can see to be safe and easy. On motorways or dual carriageways following a vehicle for an overtake does not present the rider with much problems as above.

Overtaking 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 must be maintained to its 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 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).

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 rearview mirror, indicate and overtake firmly.

Caution, This manoeuvre is for skilled riders only and no attempt should be taken without being fully familiar with the technique.

Where not to overtake

  • Extended-junctions
  • on roundabouts
  • alongside petrol stations
  • double white-line systems and,
  • between lines of traffic going in opposite directions, (if the space is limited).

Do not overtake if you have not considered where you will go to. It is advisable not overtake where you would cause the driver being overtaken to brake heavily.

If there is a doubt in your mind i.e. “Shall I or shall I not” There is an element which is missing in your technique. Don’t do it.

A three lane carriageway is in my opinion potentially dangerous so distance and timing is essential, make sure you plan where to overtake to.

No overtake is so important that any chances should be taken. An overtake which has not been executed with precision can lead to a very serious accident or incident and can involve innocent road users in a situation that was not of their making.

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

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