Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter...

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by DMack_762, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. neanderthal

    neanderthal globeriding wannabe

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    Here, but lost. Am I lost if i know i'm here?

    I look at the videos and ask myself how would I have done this differently?

    Of course, most of the time i wouldn't have been going that fast in those conditions or been following too close. But i'm also looking for the tell tales that the rider missed but the camera caught.
    #81
  2. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

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    DMack, fantastic idea for a thread. Great job and I’ve added this one to my follow list.

    Just read through all the posts and two things I would add to the many great points are:
    1-that standing up seems a powerful aid in conspicuity. Very commonly when approaching an intersection where there is a current red light, especially in very light traffic , I will stand up full and tall from about a 100 yards prior to the actual stop. I’m always amazed at how many people seem to suddenly “notice “ me when I do that. ( I ride a KLR so if they know motorcycles then they know it’s NOT because I’m about to throw down a totally rad wheelie or Endo)
    I also ery commonly stand up when starting from a red light if I’m 2 - 3 positions back from the front. Again, it gets you seen it seems. And the field of view is amazing.

    2- stickers on my helmet. I have this theory that seems rooted in some visual science that visual asynchrony is more easily conspicuous then uniformity. That is, my helmet is a patchwork of mismatched sizes and colors of every moto company you can think of, all various colors and frankly looks like a moto decal printer just vomited stickers onto it. It’s HARD to not notice. Which is the point.

    Finally, if not already mentioned, Fortnine’s video on being seen is really interesting and well done I think.

    Thanks again.
    Ride safe brother.
    Thanks for this great thread.
    #82
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  3. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    I commute 120 miles per day (Colorado Springs to Denver) pretty much year-round - even January & February when it gets above 32 degrees.

    My Survival Strategies:

    1. We all know that the vast majority of motorcyclists are killed at intersections by left turning vehicles. When I approach an intersection, I'm in the right lane and pick a car in the left lane to act as my "blocker" and shadow him through the intersection. Once safely through, I immediately "release" and distance myself.
    2. 90% of the time I'm in the right side of the right lane. This is particularly true on the interstate. I always want a "bail-out" (shoulder/escape route). I cringe when I see motorcyclists in the middle of traffic. They can be attacked on both sides and have nowhere to go. Being in the right lane, you only have one side of attackers to worry about - cutting your "idiot factor" in half.
    3. In heavy traffic, I let my vision go "Panoramic". This may sound odd, but the brain can scan a wide field and detect danger rather well. The flip side of this is locking on with laser focus. This is a form of distraction that leads to missing things going on elsewhere in the scene.
    4. We all know about staying out of blind spots of the cars going our way, but far and away the most important is staying out of blind spots of ONCOMING traffic. If the angle is just right, an oncoming car truly cannot see you behind and to the side of the car beside you. The oncoming car makes a left when the vehicle nearest him clears - and there you are - a sitting duck he did not see. In those situations, gun it and grab a "blocker" or decrease your speed to get separation from the pack so you aren't lost in traffic to the oncoming eye. This very situation has been my most harrowing so far - and very tough to guard against.
    5. Though it may aggravate drivers behind me, I always roll off the throttle and cover the front brake when going through intersections to assess oncoming driver intentions. I never assume they see me. I don't want my tombstone to say "I had the right-of-way".
    6. I wear a Helite air bag jacket.
    7. Even one beer dulls my reactions. When riding, it's iced tea for me.
    8. I would vote for anyone who's platform was to throw all cell phones in the ocean. We all hear it is as bad as drunk driving, yet no one is doing anything about it. At every intersection I see people lost in their phones. It's a sickness; a disease that makes every car an unguided missile. An Australian recently told me there are strict penalties in his country for driving with a phone - yet in America, we just don't give a damn. A troubling value system.
    9. Though we always hear about brainless acts of the few, my experience is that the vast majority of motorist sense our vulnerability and are extremely courteous and patient. Whenever someone pauses to let me pass, I always try to be a good ambassador for the sport by acknowledging their patients with a "thank-you" wave.
    #83
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  4. Navy Chief

    Navy Chief Long timer Supporter

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    #4 almost got me the other day and was something I had never really considered until it happened.
    #84
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  5. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

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    Well stated. Solid post.

    BTW bwana, PLEASE take another long trip somewhere and write up a RR...many of us are hooked after your GCD trip report !!
    #85
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  6. DMack_762

    DMack_762 Been here awhile

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    I really enjoy Fortnine's YouTube channel. His no-nonsense approach is awesome. I agree, that video is worth watching. Interesting you mention standing up. I find that I do that as well. Now, I am head to toe in Hi-Viz kit, and I have also noticed that by standing up occasionally, cars seem to notice. I have not looked into the "legality" of standing up whilst riding on the highway, but I have not been pulled over for it yet. Like you, I do it at certain points, not to just ride down the highway standing.

    I like your idea about stickers on the helmet. I have some 3M reflective tape on the back of mine... but having a ton of stickers to make it obnoxious is something to consider.

    Thank you for the input... this thread is meant for discussion. Glad to see folks adding to the content.

    Ride safe, ride often!
    #86
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  7. DMack_762

    DMack_762 Been here awhile

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    VERY good post. I could not have written this better myself. I mirror almost exactly what you do. I too, wear a Helite Turtle Vest every single time I ride.

    Good advice on the "blocker"... I too, do this all the time. Intersections and merging traffic are my biggest danger zones on my work commute. I have one section of highway that is in perpetual construction... so, that changes daily.

    Again, well written and valid points. Thank you so much for adding this.

    Ride safe, Ride often!
    #87
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  8. rockitcity

    rockitcity Been here awhile

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    While I agree there is some good advice in this post, I really disagree with #2 here. I find lane position depends on the road and traffic at the time. On freeways or other multi-lane highways, if you're in the right track of the right lane you're invisible to anyone who might want to merge from the left lane or take an off-ramp. The only traffic that will obviously see you (if they bother to look) would be incoming traffic from an on-ramp. I feel it is most important to position yourself to be seen. For me, this means that if I'm in the left lane, I'll stay in the right track, and if I'm in the right lane, I'll stay in the left track. This will vary on multi-lane highways depending on traffic I may be overtaking, in which case I position myself to be seen in the driver's side mirror, whether that may be the left or right side. I do make it a point to almost never ride in the center track.

    Daily Los Angeles commuter here, other strategies may work better in different regions, so do whatever keeps you safe.
    #88
  9. macuaig

    macuaig Hung Up the Spurs

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    I was surprised to discover that standing up on a moving motorcycle is actually against the law in some (most?) states, including Virginia. I think it’s defined as reckless driving, which can have a lot of impact elsewhere.
    #89
  10. Cameleer

    Cameleer Europe, three days at a time.

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    Great post. BTW, dug up your AK RR after someone mentioned it above.
    Brilliant and most enjoyable read thanks!

    (Off-topic, sorry!)
    #90
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  11. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

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    Macuaig,
    Thanks for the heads up...I am absolutely amazed to see how many states have this law in effect....and I did follow the MSF link to page 31 and the instruction is indeed there for obstacle avoidance or maneuvering...

    I gotta rethink this, especially in light of the fact that every good rider I ride with also stands up frequently (dual sports and adventure bikes....)

    Thanks again for the heads up.
    #91
  12. macuaig

    macuaig Hung Up the Spurs

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    I noticed some confusion from non-riders when I said “standing up”, which some assumed meant standing on the seat instead of the pegs. The laws seemed clear about pegs, but it was hard to get clarification because of it.
    #92
  13. Gone in 60

    Gone in 60 Been here awhile

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    Been a daily commuter for years. On my Monday-Friday, I travel from North OC to South, along the 55 freeway, and am on the traffic side of the road coming and going. On weekends, I'm going to the West side of L.A. to my museum gig.
    I have a small area in my office to hang up my gear and change at my normal job. My daily outfit is a hi-viz jacket and white helmet. Both of my bikes have three LEDs up front (headlight and two driving lights) and LED brake flashers in back. For my museum job, I need to take my uniform, food and gear with me, so the big Givi trunk on my Honda is packed.

    I have a distinct advantage of being able to take some moto-only shortcuts in my neighborhood, around some barricades and stuff that save a school zone, several intersections and several minutes from my house to the freeway compared to a car. I'm splitting the 55 from end to end every day. I use all of the lane splitting situational awareness techniques that have been discussed, and I try to give a wave to every car that makes an obvious effort to move over for me in the car pool lane. For the most part, I'm passing the same cars each day, and it catches on. I wave at one guy, and the next guy sees me do it. The next day, that guy moves over too, and gets his wave. Eventually, when I get on the freeway and muscle over to the left, it's like the parting of the Red Sea, and I've got a clear path. My ride is 18 minutes one way, 35 minutes in a car.

    My L.A. ride is a bit different. There, after I choose an overall route to get to the West side of L.A. based on traffic, the museum is far from any freeway. Alleys, side roads, and other little tricks to cut through very dense neighborhoods help. Getting home presents a challenge sometimes. If I have a heavy load of museum tours, typically with minimal time for food and hydration throughout the day, if I jump on the bike right after I walk out of the building, I quickly realize that I'm not good to go. I need to take some time to eat and drink and get my focus back before I make the long ride home through urban and freeway traffic. But, I'd just as soon slit my wrist than sit in a car in traffic going from LA to OC on a Saturday evening.
    #93
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  14. mminob

    mminob MotoHolic

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    Yes , the use of a " Blocker " , a car or truck ahead of your moto , when going thru intersections , has worked for me so well over the years that it has become instinctual ... However , many cagers think I'm

    tailgating or a crazy Kamakazi pilot trying to take out their right rear tail light ... Many do not understand the " shadow technique " and get upset ...Whatever...

    Commuting is a game of mistakes . Don't make any, ride like you're invisible :thumb

    GEICOMore_RoadRage_Hero_RF_200288279_600x400.jpg
    #94
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  15. G3ARHE4D

    G3ARHE4D Adventurer

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    I agree with everything that's been posted. I am NOT a regular commuter, to work for instance (mainly because it's a 5.3 mile round trip and takes me longer to get gear on then off than it takes to get to the office) however, when I go tripping I'll put down 600 mile days with ease and love every minute of it. That said though, even though my personal yearly mileage isn't impressive, I like to think my "ride like I'm invisible" skills are sharp. The caveat is: You're never done learning how to ride.

    I grew up on the back of my dads Goldwing and he taught me everything I know about motorcycling. And I take pride in that because although now retired from the force, he rode his city issued Goldwing every single day to and from the station (96 mile round trip) and while on duty all day as a motorcycle cop, 5 days a week, and overtime, for 33 years. That man is the epitome of "live to ride" and still climbs on his Aspencade every chance he gets. He's a wealth of experience in all things "city riding".

    With that said, what shocks me the most nowadays, is the amount of people riding motorcycles that have absolutely no business doing so. I don't know if it only "seems" more prevalent with the existence of instant news and sharing via social media, but good lord. It's amazing to me some of the videos I see on instagram for instance. And the cancer of a comment section that follows. Out of all of the "road rage" or "near miss" or "cager danger" videos I've seen there might be 4 or 5 TOTAL where I've said to myself 'ok yeah there's nothing that guy could have done to not go down'. But the other thousands of videos are just people driving too fast, or switching lanes too fast, or riding in people's blind spots (then getting mad when they aren't seen wtf) it's just mind boggling.

    I don't wish harm on anyone. But it's very easy for me to be indifferent to riders that go down simply out of sheer ignorance.
    #95
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  16. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

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    G3,
    Sounds like you had a great mentor , even cooler that it was your dad. He sounds like the best sort of badass.


    Your thoughts on the unfortunate fools that get crushed while riding mostly due to otherwise preventable issues are spot on. I work in an inner city trauma center and every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I see the sad consequences of people operating motorcycles, cars, guns, etc who have mega attitude (the sour kind that gets you hurt) and almost zero caution and wisdom.


    I do not mean my follow comment to sound “preachy” (as we say here in the Delta,US) but two items I am really trying to ALWAYS leave behind in my garage are my ego and occasional bad attitude. We all have them if pushed enough. And they have zero place on a bike. Will only get us all hurt , and probably others in the process.
    #96
  17. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

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    This. As an added benefit of your positioning, you can see past the car directly in front of you to see what's about to happen by watching a few cars ahead of you.

    Riding on the right side of the lane means you've already given up half your reaction room/time. You options narrow from moving over in the lane 1st to diving for the edge of the road (which may or may not have a shoulder!) or hard braking. Limiting your reaction room/time doesn't seem to be very smart to me when that's what you have to keep yourself alive.

    I've watched people on a certain brand of moto made in Milwaukee that ride on the right side of the lane almost exclusively. You can't see them til they're right on top of you because they're being blocked by the cars in front of them. ...and I'm looking for motos and bicycles! People that aren't looking for a moto there will try to turn thru that motorcyclist. That means bad things to the motorcyclist or bicyclist.

    ...but... it's your life. Ride as you see fit.

    M
    #97
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  18. ebolton

    ebolton Adventurer

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    Lane position really depends on the circumstances. If there are people merging in from the right, you're better off to the left of the lane. If there is weird action going on to the left, you're better off on the right.

    I don't avoid the center, either. Modern cars are way more oiltight these days. If it isn't raining, the center is my default position on the highway. When it is raining, the left and right can be better since the car tires throw the bulk of the water off those tracks.

    You've got to be flexible!

    -Ed
    #98
  19. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

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    Actually, you're better off where the merging traffic can see you BEFORE they try and merge into you. AMHIK Just like riding on the right side of the right lane means people won't see you till it's too late, riding on the left when people are merging from the right has the same pitfall: you're being occluded from sight by the cars around you.

    I'm talking about when you're in traffic mind you. If it's only you on the road, things are a bit different.

    I'm all over the road depending on what's going on around me. Typically, I'm riding in a spot where I can see faces in mirrors: side view or rear view or both. Faces in mirrors means something's about to happen. You may not know what yet, but people generally don't look in their mirrors unless they're about to move. You don't want to be in a position where they move into you. See my 'brain dead moron' post above.

    M
    #99
  20. ebolton

    ebolton Adventurer

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    I don't count on them seeing me. Sometimes, honestly, I rather they didn't. I do pay attention to them, and react so they don't have to react themselves. I trust my reactions more than anybody else's

    -Ed
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