7 tips for city motorcycle riding

Scooter commuter? Bought a motorcycle to cut your commute time? Check in here


I first commuted into London 10 years ago. I'd only been riding a few months and can still remember the first time I took on the rush-hour traffic in one of the busiest cities in the world, it was quite a challenge, with a lot to watch out for and 10 years later I'm still learning but I'm well aware of what's most likely to catch me out.

It would be impossible to calculate the number of cars I've passed and minutes I've saved by commuting to work. Sure it's more risky than taking public transport but despite what people may say, commuting on two wheels is a safe way to travel, but there are risks and - like with all riding - you have to minimize them.

If you've bought a motorcycle or scooter to cut down your commuting time, just passed your test or are riding in cities and town centres for the first time, this article is aimed at you.

I'm not an instructor, this is just 10 years of my experience concentrated into one article. I hope it helps you out.


Whatever the situation, don't be tempted to head for the gutter. It might look like a good place to nip up the inside of a car when the traffic's at a standstill but it's a bad habit to get into. In London, most of the roads are marked up with cycle lanes, so heading to the gutter means you'll encouter cyclists who are a prickly bunch at best but even if there aren't cycle lanes, it's still a bad habit. You'll also be where drivers aren't expecting you, so if another motorcycle comes along to the right of a car you're on the left of, the car might mover over and squeeze you out. And finally, if you're right by the kerb, you'll more likely to tangle up with a pedestrian who steps out into the road without looking.



If your name's Valentino Rossi, it's crucial to be first away when the red light goes out but in the real world if you fire off from the lights with Rossi-beating pace, you could get tangled up with a red light jumper, be they an arrogant cyclist or a moron in a car. A red light jumper clearly doesn't value their own life, so what regard have they got for yours? Always check for traffic coming across your path when you pull away from the lights and don't be too hasty to get the holeshot, there are no trophies to be won.


There's no knowing when a car door is going to open or when a car's going to do a U-turn infront of you, so make sure you create a good gap between you and the cars you're passing. If you ever see a police motorcyclist riding past a line of solid traffic with nothing coming the other way, you'll see they're halfway into the oncoming traffic's lane. Give a decent look to the front right tyre of the cars you're passing. If it's pointing right, there's a much higher chance it's about to shoot out into your path. The more space you give yourself, the more chance you have to avoid an accident.


If the traffic's at a standstill, it might seem like a good idea to wind open the throttle and push on or get to the front of a queue but think carefully: people crossing the road tend to use queueing cars as cove and don't expect bikes or bicyles to appear in the gaps. If they spring out what are you going to do? Anchor on the brakes? Swerve?

Be careful to not carry too much speed through town. As a rule I try not to go more than 20mph faster than the traffic, that way I'm not going past traffic much faster than I can ride a push bike and therefore I give myself the best chance of seeing a hazard or avoiding it if I really don't see it.


I see so many motorcycles and scooters rolling around with their indicator flashing away. I have a nervous tick in my thumb that sees it reaching for the indicator switch to cancel it, even if it's not on or even if I haven't indicated for ages.

If you're crusing along with your indicator flashing and you're happen to not be paying 100% attention then you're inviting an eager car driver to pull out infront of you.


This is obvious and one of the first things you're taught when learning to ride, but in town it's easy to get blasé as there are so many turnings. There are also so many cars that sporadically use indicators. When you're filtering past traffic when it's moving, keep an eye out for any junctions ahead and when the traffic's at a standstill, it's not unusual for a car to jut out if the oncoming lane is clear, so they can shoot down the road and get to their turning. Larger vehicles tend to make turns without much regard to other traffic and often with less visibility. Never try and nip up the inside of a longer vehicle, especially when there's a left-hand turning ahead.


I remember being an angsty young lad when I first got on a bike. I went for every gap, got annoyed at car drivers who 'cut me up' and took plenty of risks to get to the front. I got away with it.

These days I'm much more relaxed in town, I try and let gaps open up infront of me rather than try and force them open. I don't put myself into tight spots and if I get blocked in, well, I just wait for things to get moving again. Almost every day I'll come across a commuter on a scooter, buzzing like an angry wasp, trying to wedge themselves in everywhere and for the majority of the time, they end up boxing themselves in because they're not relaxing and taking in everything that's going on around them.

I believe there's an art to commuting; knowing when to press on and when to take a step back.

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