So what could possibly go wrong? A rider’s attitude plays a massive part in determining how good you are at overtaking, particularly when deciding whether it’s safe or not. Chances are you’re going to need to be in the other carriageway to do the overtake, so if you don’t want to become a mascot on the front of the vehicle travelling the other way, it’s a really good idea to plan what you’re doing.
The first rule has always got to be to make sure that if you commit to an overtake, you only do so when you know you have somewhere safe to come back onto your side of the road. If you decide to overtake and hope to find somewhere safe whilst you’re on the wrong side of the road, it’s unlikely to end well. Trust me, being prepared to abandon an overtake is much better than pressurising yourself to carry on regardless!
There are certainly lots of things to consider when looking for an overtake, such as: the road layout, the speed of the vehicle you’re overtaking, the speed of oncoming vehicles, how good you are and how good your machine is, not to mention having to anticipate what vehicles are likely to do ahead, like brake, accelerate, turn off or even go for an overtake themselves.
Loads of crashes happen when bikers don’t plan far enough ahead and fail to anticipate what other drivers or riders are going to do. The classic scenario is a rider overtaking a car adjacent to a right-hand junction or driveway or farm entrance and the car turns across the path of the rider. This usually happens because the rider hasn’t picked up on the clues, like a warning triangle or fingerpost showing a junction ahead, or the driver indicating or slowing down.
A real benefit for motorcyclists though is the ability to move the bike into better positions to see what’s going on up ahead, sometimes this would mean looking down the left-hand side of vehicles rather than the right and even dropping back off the vehicle in front, for example when looking to overtake a large truck on a narrower country road. The earlier you have a view of the road ahead, the earlier you can start planning when and where you can overtake. You can then decide what speed you need to be at and what gear you should be in to get the job done. If you decide that the moment has now arrived for the perfect overtake, gone to accelerate and realised you’re in 6th, you may not quite get the response you were after. Then, by the time you have changed down a couple of gears, the situation could have changed and the moment has passed…
As mentioned above, overtaking is all about rider attitude. In my experience if you have a good attitude you can learn techniques, practice and improve, but with a poor attitude, overtaking can go spectacularly wrong with tragic consequences. A good rider learns when it is right to commit to an overtake and when to hold back.
On BikeSafe courses, we talk more about overtaking techniques for single and multiple vehicles and how to do this safely and without inconveniencing other drivers.
Sgt Gabe Snuggs – Hampshire Constabulary