Riding tips: Biking on a motorway

Posted: 14 Dec 2013

Biking on a motorway

Whether you’ve just passed your test or been motorcycling for years, riding on the motorway can be a challenge. Tackling a motorway is very different to riding on a single carriageway road in rural or residential areas, but by remembering a few important tips you’ll be able to use the lanes to your advantage and arrive at your destination safely.

Here are a few handy pointers to bear in mind when you enter that slip road…

Stay alert
Rather obviously, concentration and keeping observant is the key to your safety on a motorway. Plan your route before you set off, and be aware of the traffic, for example, are you heading out onto the M25 during rush hour? Try to stay in the left-hand lane as much as possible, and keep your distance – how fast is the driver in front and behind you going?  

According to the IAM, it takes an alert rider more than 21m to react to a hazard, and more than 75m more to stop (when travelling at 70mph on a dry motorway). Always try to stay at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front, or if you can, 100m behind.

Be seen
With three (and sometimes more) lanes of traffic there are a lot of events to process on the motorway. It’s important to ensure that car drivers can see you easily by having your front light on at all times and wearing a hi-visibility jacket or waistcoat if possible, especially if you are riding at dawn or dusk. It’s also a good idea to have a hi-vis vest accessible should you break down or be involved in an accident on the motorway.

Wind
The wind you experience on the motorway is a lot stronger than you would usually experience on a single carriageway and the noise it creates in your helmet can be off-putting. You can minimise this by using ear plugs, which will still allow you to hear your engine but filter out the wind noise to allow you to fully concentrate.

Wind can also have an effect on your ability to ride in a straight line on the motorway as you can find yourself being pushed as the wind catches your fairings, but concentrate and lean into the wind and keep a steady speed if you find it’s affecting your riding.

Back draft from lorries
The first time you ride past a lorry on the motorway can be daunting. The pull of the wind can drag you towards the body of the lorry and you can end up a lot closer than you would like to the tonnes of metal travelling at 56mph. But just focus and look at the road ahead, accelerate smoothly, be confident and you will overtake the lorry with ease.

Be decisive
With a lot of other vehicles travelling on the motorway at 70mph it’s important that you are decisive and confident with your actions. To pull out: check your mirrors, do a lifesaver glance, indicate, do an extra lifesaver and then pull out. Watch out for vehicles travelling faster than the speed limit as they will appear in your mirrors, and catch up with you faster than you expect.

For more advanced riding advice visit www.iam.org.uk/riders.

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