Five mistakes to avoid on the road

Tips to make you safer

By Alan Dowds

THERE'S plenty of danger to avoid when you're riding on the road. And while most of it comes from other people, sometimes we put ourselves at unnecessary risk too. Here are five hazardous mistakes that you should avoid when riding on the street.

1. Overtaking near a junction

This is a gold-level cock-up, and one that's really easy to do for novices and experienced riders alike. In busy traffic, you can get into the overtaking groove, buzzing past car after car. Then – boom – you're flying over the bonnet of a car that just turned right in front of you as you went to overtake.

The cure for this is simple – don’t overtake anywhere near a right turn. Cars will turn without indicating or warning – maybe the satnav just announced the turn, maybe the driver is on their phone. Keep your spidey senses tuned for hidden driveways, lanes, narrow roads, even a layby – and be ready for a car to turn into it without warning.

Keeping a decent distance from parked cars makes a lot of sense. Whether it’s a sudden door opening, a pedestrian walking out on their phone, or a parked car suddenly pulling out into the road, there's all manner or hazards ready to spring on you. Staying further into the middle of the road gives you time and vision to spare.

Filtering through busy traffic is one of the premium features of motorcycling, but it's also one of the more hazardous times on two wheels. A classic crash you can avoid is the sudden U-turn from a car stuck in a long line of queueing cars. Keep your distance from the cars – the further to the right you can position yourself, the further ahead you can see, and the more visible you'll be in a rear view mirror. Consider sticking the high beam headlight on, and be poised over the horn button, and the brakes. If you get a sniff of dangerous movement, slow down and give 'em a beep on the horn.

Riding with your pals is a top laugh. There's nothing like charging across country with a load of mates, riding in formation, blatting down great roads before stopping for tea and tiffin, then doing it all again on the way home. But there are pitfalls here too – one of the biggest is a slower rider trying to keep up with a faster pal. Getting sucked into riding beyond your abilities can be a way of improving your riding, but it's a risky one, and regularly ends in disaster. Keep your skill set in mind, ride within your comfort zone, and accept that there will always be someone faster than you…

Okay, modern bikes with ABS and traction control have reduced this somewhat. But going too hard, on cold tyres, can have you off in an instant. Many things on a bike work better when warmed up – the tyres have more grip, suspension movement is smoother, the power delivery will be more predictable. And, of course, you'll have higher levels of machine control when your brain and body have eased themselves into the riding groove.

We'll not mention the amount of people who crash outside a motorcycle dealer when they've had brand new tyres fitted…

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