Riding Skills Newsletter

 Published by the:
New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants.

P O Box 26-036,

Email address:

Phone 64-4-478-5024
Fax 64-4-478-6197


Where do you ride in your lane?

This is a judgement that varies from time to time and place to place, based on such factors as the condition of the road surface (the centre of the lane is always covered with oil dropped from car and truck engines, whether there is a vehicle beside you that you cannot drop back or accelerate away from, increasing your conspicuity to other drivers, staying out of other motorist’s blindspots and controlling your lane.

The concept of 'controlling your lane' is one many inexperienced riders are unaware of. Yet it is important to your safety.

For example, assume you are riding on surface streets in a city and are stopped at a traffic light preparing to make a left turn. Logic suggests that you should be in the left wheeltrack track of your lane but, in fact, it is safer to be in the left hand side of the right wheeltrack track. (This article is written for left hand drive countries, US, Canada, Europe, etc. Change right to left and vice versa if you ride in a right hand drive country)

When you are located at this point you control the lane. If you are sitting to the left of the lane, some drivers, upon seeing you in the left track with your left turn signal flashing, will try to gain an extra few feet by aggressively pushing their vehicles into that gap in the lane to your right and sitting right beside you. If you are in the right hand portion of the left hand wheeltrack they can’t do so because you are in the way.

It may not sound much to have a car driver share the lane. After all, you may do that to cars if you lanesplit. But, if *you* misjudge as you lanesplit, you will just damage a car - and no doubt have to pay for it. But, if the car driver misjudges, s/he will damage *you*. Also, should that sharing vehicle actually be going to make a left turn too, you could easily be forgotten (in his blind spot) and s/he could drive right over you while making that turn.

Another example is when you are on a smaller bike travelling slower than other traffic. Normally you would try to avoid being in this sort of situation, but if you can’t, unless there is a large roadside shoulder you can ride on, the worst thing to do is ride well over to the side of the road to let cars pass you without changing lanes. Since many car drivers are poor drivers, if you ride to the right while still in the lane one such driver may clip you as s/he passes - and you can bet s/he won’t stop to check whether you are OK after you’ve fallen.

Also, you may be forced off course by wind or an object on the road. If a car happens to be passing you closely at that point….

Owning your lane is a matter of being assertive. Be careful but don’t be bullied. Ride in such a position in the lane that shows that you "own" it.

Don’t however, ride in the middle of the lane as this is where oil tends to drip from car engines and accumulate into what we call the suicide strip. The safest place to ride is where the cars’ wheels run - in the wheeltracks. That’s because the cars’ tyres act as a broom, sweeping that portion of the road clean for you. Also, the rubber laid down by the cars’ tyres is a good surface for your tyres to grip, especially on corners.

Given that you get many dangers coming from the right - car doors opening, pedestrians running out, cars from driveways, animals, police officers who jump out and wave at you - you should avoid the right hand wheeltrack unless some hazard such as an oncoming car waiting to turn left ahead makes it prudent to establish a space cushion between you and the car by moving into the right hand wheeltrack.

So, as a general rule of thumb ride in the left hand (outside) wheeltrack.

When doing this, don’t forget that the wheelbases of different cars vary in width and cars don’t always travel exactly in the middle of the lane. Thus, the wheeltracks on the road are usually about five car tyre widths wide and this means you have a fairly wide wheeltrack "lane" to use.

So, to "own" the lane, where do you ride in that wheeltrack "lane"? In the left or right portion of the wheeltrack?

The answer is, obviously, in the right portion of the left hand wheeltrack as this places you more towards the middle of the lane, and thus discourages car drivers from trying to push past you.

Well, that’s a quick look at positioning your bike so that you control your lane.

Next time you are out riding, think about this, and check whether you control your lane.


"To my way of thinking, one must make intelligent risk/benefit choices, and do what one can to optimise the ratio of safety to risk - and enjoy. A rider who ignores safety is like an undercapitalised entrepreneur. You may get a thrilling ride for a while, but the end is almost surely disaster."

Jack Winter


We all hope it never happens, but would you know what to do if you had to do something at a bike or car crash? These Wellington Free Ambulances tips will help you feel more prepared:

Position your own vehicle safely.
As a general rule, position your vehicle between the injured people and oncoming traffic. Switch on your emergency lights/headlight/blinkers and send others to warn traffic.

Check that it is safe to help.
Don’t rush in. Check for other safety concerns such as fallen electricity lines. We don’t want more patients.

Find out how many people are involved.
Have any passengers been thrown of the bike or clear of the wreckage?

Contact the emergency services.
Dial 111 and ask for an ambulance. (There is no need to dial area code from a cellular phone.) The dispatcher will want to know the exact location of the crash, how many are hurt, if any are trapped and any other relevant information.

Check the patient Is Breathing.
If the patient’s airway is obstructed, it should be cleared and mouth to mouth resuscitation given if needed.

Check the patient has a pulse.
If not, provide cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Stem any bleeding.
Apply direct pressure over the wound. Use a dressing pad, clean handkerchief, or clothing.

Don’t move the patient.
Moving the patient could cause further injuries.
Only move them if there is further danger from fire, traffic etc.

Treat the patient as a shock victim.
Keep them warm, stable and reassured.
Do NOT give them food or liquids.

Be prepared.
Always carry a first aid kit and do a first aid course to learn the basics.

People who stay calm and work methodically can, and do, save lives by following these procedures.

Motorcycling Misquotes

We all know that motorcycling changes us. It's the thrill and the challenge of riding that ensures that, once captured by the adventure of riding, we stay captured.
Then motorcycling becomes part of our life and very persona. And, because the motorcycle invades its rider's life so completely, have you ever wondered what the words of the great literary figures of the world would have been like if they had been motorcyclists.
We did, so we took a look at a famous quote from a famous person and made a minor gentle adaptation to show you how this famous quote would have ended up if the author had been motorcyclist:

To ride a motorcycle badly is a sign of a mis-spent youth.

Herbert Spencer 1820 - 1903
English philosopher.



Kiwi stunt rider Aaron Lupton gives it all in the call of duty and has done all sorts of riding stunts involving crashing a variety of motorcycles at all sorts of speed.

When Aaron was finally injured on the job, it was when he popped his shoulder joint while doing a very slow speed, first gear wheelie on a photo shoot!


A motorcycle cop had just pulled over a car after it had run a stop sign.
"May I see your driver's license and registration please."
"What's the problem, officer?"
"You just ran that stop sign back there."
"Oh come on, pal, there wasn't a car within miles of me."
"Nevertheless sir, you are required to come to a complete stop, look both ways, and proceed with caution."
"You gotta be kidding me!"
"It's no joke, sir."
"Look, I slowed down almost to a complete stop, saw no one within twenty miles, and proceeded with caution."
"That's beside the point, sir. You are supposed to come to a complete stop, and you didn't. Now if I may see your license and..."
"You've got a lot of time on your hands, pal. What's the matter, all the doughnut shops closed?"
"Sir, I'll overlook that last comment. Let me see your license and registration immediately."
"I will, if you can tell me the difference between slowing down and coming to a complete stop."
The policeman had enough. "Sir, I can do better than that." He opened the car door, dragged the rude motorist out, and proceeded to methodically beat him over the head with his nightstick.
"Now sir, would you like for me to slow down or come to a complete stop?"


Never let your emotions overcome your discipline.


Steve Haigh had this story to tell:
"Blimey, a female car driver just saved my arse...Here's a lesson for all of us.

We were both approaching a mini-island from opposite directions, I was going to turn right (in front of her). I had switched on my indicator at the right moment, and as I had right of way, I proceeded onto the roundabout. Imagine my horror as she started coming onto the roundabout. She obviously thought I was going straight on, even though I was obviously indicating. However I was committed to the turn and I thought 'Crumbs, I'm compromised here' or was it 'JEESSUZDAFTBITCHARUBLIND'. Anyway, she did me the favour of a spot-on emergency stop, and I carried on, heart rate a tad quicker.

The punchline? Well, as I looked down to switch off my indicator, I noticed that it had stopped working at the front....! No wonder she thought I was going straight on...."

NZMSC comment:
Always check that your indicators are working before you leave home....

MENTAL CONTROL - Motorcycling’s Hidden Skill

On a motorcycle, Mental Control is the rider’s use of his/her brain, especially in pre-programmed mode, to implement the correct reaction for any given riding situation.

The NZMSC book, MENTAL CONTROL - Motorcycling’s Hidden Skill covers the complex subject of what mental control is, how it manifests itself in your riding, and how you can improve it in your riding.

There are few books like this around, covering as it does one of the lesser known mental skills of riding. It includes sections on such things as Senses; Thinking; Sampling; Processing The Samples; Sampling and Concentration; Conspicuity and Concentration; and Putting Yourself In The Picture.

The book costs US$15 plus $3 postage.

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New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants
PO Box 26-036, Newlands, Wellington, New Zealand