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Riding Tips

From OCAU Wiki


Road Riding



Wet Weather

Some people hate riding in the wet, but it's not something to dread, more a dampening of the usual free experiance we motorcyclists enjoy. Water falling from clouds is an essential part of our lives so why worry about it. And if it's wet and cold and dark, well, it's just a different motorcycling adventure (even if you are just coming home from work!!!).

It's all about riding accordingly. The main factors to consider are:-

  • The type of wet you are in, which will greatly effect the following...
  • Grip - it's reduced, so your braking, cornering and acceleration are limited
  • Visibility - it's reduced, you have water on your visor, maybe on the outside and the inside, you may have fogging, and you may be looking through heavy rain or mist thrown up from cars and trucks.

You also have to make allowances for the fact that everyone else on the road are also experiencing less grip and visibility.

There's wet and there's wet...

Some wet conditions are treacherous and others simply wet:-

  • Beware first rain - particularly in town, and particularly if it hasn't rained for a while. All of that built up oil and grime on the road turns very slippery. Once it's been raining for a few hours a lot of that oil has washed down our drains and grip improves.
  • Beware dark shady country lanes that don't see a lot of traffic as moss/algae tends to grow on the road surface and things can get very slippery when wet.
  • Light drizzle tends to create more slippery conditions that heavy rain in an urban environment. The oil and slime on the road just doesn't wash away.
  • Best "wet weather" grip at moderate to low speeds tends to be when the rain is quite heavy, but not heavy enough to create flooding.
  • There's always too much of a good thing though... if the rain is heavy and there's surface water on the road be careful with your speed - motorcycles also suffer from aquaplaning, where the tyre starts "planing" on top of the water rather that staying in contact with the bitumen. Once this happens you have no grip for as long as the tyre is planing. Typically a problem at speeds above 100 kph, definitely a problem at speeds of 140 kph plus.
  • Depending on how long it's been raining, and the locality (town/country) it can be a little more slippery just after the rain has stopped (but the road is still wet). If you're in town and it's been raining, but not for long, it can be slippery with that oil still hanging about and not being flushed away with the rainfall.

Of course the good news is that after it's been raining for a while all the grime and slime is washed away, and once the road dries the grip is better than before it rained!!


When riding in town stay off the oily lane centres, especially near traffic lights. Typically stay in the car wheel tracks, typically the right hand one in your lane. Those areas of the lane get the most scrubbing and the least oil dripping.

In the country it's business as usual - the centre's fine. With oncoming traffic there'll be less spray if you're over to the left though.

Things that go Slip
  • Some road markings will have less grip than the normal road surface.
  • Many road repairs ( particularly tar poured into cracks etc) will have less grip than the normal road surface.
  • Those metal plates that are used to cover temporary holes in roadworks are also something to float over - not much in he way of braking, turning or accelerating should be done on these.
  • Rail tracks should be crossed at a perpendicular angle, likewise be wary of tram tracks in the wet - make the crossing angle even greater than what you would do in the dry.

A couple of hints here - watch for them, try to avoid them, and don't try anything fancy on the older road markings. Stay loose in the wet - the worst thing you can do is be in fear of the conditions and ride as stiff as a board. From time to time the bike is going to slip a little when it hits a bit of shiny tar - don't panic and over-react, grip will be normal again in another 100 milliseconds when you are an inch or two further to the left or the right of where you were heading before!

DO NOT however apply large amounts of front brake on old road markings,on shiny tar or those metal plates etc, as the fron might lose grip suddenly and it's all over red rover.


Riding in heavy traffic can be a nightmare, especially for new riders. When your braking and manoeuvring skills have yet to become second nature the last thing you want is to be crowded out by vehicles driven by people who are chatting on their mobiles, pacifying the kids or looking for the next CD. And to make matters worse you have to process everything about you...street signs, speed signs, your speed, the speed of everything about you, the road surface, traffic lights, pedestrials, and of course, knowing whether that person about to turn in front of you is looking for the CD on the floor of the car or you!

Here are some tips....

What Is That Driver Doing?

Scan drivers about you, particularly if they are likely to be a threat, like those you are about to pass in multi-lane roads, those parked on the side of the road, or those that may be turning in front of you. Watch for the body language, and watch for them in their mirrors - are they looking to change lanes? (don't expect to see blinkers in time - they often come after the lane change is already under way). If you see a driver or passenger in a parked car expect opening doors, U-turns, or anything! Look for the head movement which usually precedes a car pulling into the traffic... here I come, blinker or not

Watch Your Mirrors

Watch your mirrors to be aware of traffic around you, it may be important knowledge if you need to do an emergency manoeuver like heavy breaking or if you need to duck in left or right of the vehicle in front (refer below). Unfortunatly there is no such thing as the perfect mirror and even when well adjusted there are significant blind spots. Occasionally glance left and/or right to see if there is a vehicle in your blind spots. Always quickly glance back if you are changing lanes.

Cover Your Brakes

In traffic you often need to react quickly, which means not fumbling for the brake lever or pedal. To reduce reaction time, always keep a finger or two on the brake lever and your right toe close to the rear brake pedal.

Be Noticed

Sometimes drivers just aren't looking and you must ride accordingly. But being seen is a good thing, because luckily for us most drivers do look. Ride with your lights on during the day (most are hard wired anyway), and wear brightly colored gear, especially your helmet and jacket.

Be ready with the power

In traffic, ride in a gear lower than you normally would so your bike is ready to jump forward instantly if asked. Doing so gives you the option of leaping ahead instead of being limited to just using the brakes when that cage suddenly moves over. The higher revs might also alert more cagers of your presence.

Traffic slowing? Stay left (or right)

When traffic slows suddenly, stay to the left or right of the car in front of you. This will give you an escape route if needed. It will also help keep you from becoming a hood ornament if the car behind you fails to stop in time. Once you’ve stopped, be ready — clutch in, your bike in gear and your eyes on the mirrors. You never know.

Practice the scan

Constantly scanning your entire environment while riding, from instruments to mirrors to the road ahead to blind spots to your left and right rear keeps you aware and in touch with your situation, and therefore better able to react. Dwelling on one area too long — watching only behind or in front of you for instance, is just begging for trouble.

Right-turn treachery

When approaching an oncoming car that’s stopped and about to turn right, be ready. Your lights should be on so the driver can see you (during the day), but don’t rely on this to save you. Watch the car’s wheels or the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and look for eye contact if you can; if you see movement, be ready to brake, swerve or accelerate, whichever seems best for the situation. Consider a sideways weave on the way as well if you suspect you have not been spotted - sometimes that additional/unexpected movement will be picked up in the drivers peripheral.

Study the surface

Add road conditions to your scan. Be on the lookout for spilled oil, antifreeze or fuel; it’ll usually show up as shiny pavement. Also keep an eye out for gravel and/or sand, which is usually more difficult to see. Use your sense of smell, too; often you can smell spilled diesel fuel before your tyres discover how slippery the stuff is.

Ride in open areas

Use your bike’s power and maneuverability to position yourself in open area of the traffic. In any grouping of vehicles there are always some gaps; find these and ride in them. Doing so will separate you from four-wheelers, give you additional room to maneuver and allow you to keep away from dangerous blind spots. And vary your speed. Riding along with the flow can make you invisible to other drivers, especially in heavy traffic.

Use that thumb

Get into the habit of canceling your turn signals often, regardless of the traffic situation. A blinking signal might tell drivers waiting to pull onto the road or turning right in front of you that you’re about to turn.... when you aren’t.

It’s good to be thin

A huge advantage single-track vehicles have over four-wheelers is their ability to move left and right within a lane to enable the rider to see what’s ahead. Whether you’re looking to the side of the cars ahead or through their windshields, seeing what’s coming can give you lots of extra time to react.

More than one way out

Yeah, motorcycles fall down. But they’re also light, narrow and hugely maneuverable, so you might as well learn to exploit their strengths when things get ugly, right? So don’t just brake hard in a sticky situation. There’s almost always an escape route, particularly if you are positioned ready to use it (not too close to the vehicle ahead and smack in the centre of the lane). Always have an escape route planned, and update it minute by minute.

Running interference

This one’s easy, and most likely most of you already do it: Let larger vehicles run interference for you when negotiating intersections. If the bonehead coming toward you from the left or right is going to run the light, better they hit the box van next to you, right? For the same reasons, if the traffic is chaotic don’t lunge through an intersection as soon as the light turns green. Be patient, and use the vehicles next to you as cover.

Lane Spitting and Break-Down Lanes

Do with great caution. Anticipate lane changes - where there is a gap someone will want to fill it. Keep the relative speed down, but if the traffic starts moving, or is moving, don't hang about in people's blind spots - get moving and get back into a lane.

Use break-down lanes with great caution - keep the relative speed down, anticipate cars pulling into the lane - while they have mirrors they can't be expected to be expecting you to be in that lane.

Ride like you are invisible.


Please confirm people...

Qld - Legal in stationarly traffic only

NSW - Not strictly illegal but passing on the left of a vehicle in the same lane is illegal.

Never get between a vehicle and an offramp

Relevant on multi lane roads, and sounds pretty obvious; but beware the approaches to offramps, particuarly if you are travelling down the break-down lane.

Related Links

Motorcycle Council of NSW - Road Safety

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