Top Motorcycle Tips for Commuting, Group + Challenging Rides
Graphic Designer, Motorcyclist & Creator of Neutral Moto
@neutral_moto + @ash_
Ash Thompson is a motorcycle woman on a mission, a graphic designer and founder of Neutral Moto, which is a platform for rider education & creating an inclusive riding community.
She aims to spread the message about lane filtering and increase motorcycle awareness on the roads while sharing her motorcycle tips for more enjoyable riding along the way.
You may already have read her previous post about how she got into riding motorcycles, why she created Neutral Moto and what spurred her on to pen these motorcycle tips for you all.
No? Then get your arse over there and read “Motorcycle Woman on a Mission”.
Want to dive right in a learn how to improve your daily commute, optimise your group riding or enjoy those long and challenging roads more? Then read on my friend.
There’s a handy comment box at the end where you can share your own tips. We’d love to hear them!
This is Ashleigh’s
Top Motorcycle Tips for Commuting, Group Rides and Challenging Rides.
What makes us all so different? Why are some riders out in rain hail, shine, wind, afternoon, early morning or even late at night? I think the most important thing that we can all do is be honest with ourselves and our ability on the bike. It’s less to do with the conditions we ride in and everything to do with the micro decisions we all make daily on the bike.
Our state of mind is everything on the bike. Getting on your bike after you’ve had a fight with a friend or a loved one isn’t the best idea, conversely, getting on your bike after you’ve had an amazing night out and a few drinks is never a good idea.
Being focused and composed on the bike is exactly where you want to be.
I’ve put a few tips together below to hopefully help in a few different conditions.
The Daily Commute
Firstly, the daily commute is by far my favourite type of riding to do! I commute about an hour each way both morning and night so I spend a lot of time in this mode. As a matter of fact, there was a recent study released which concluded that riding increases focus, a statement I can absolutely understand especially in relation to commuting.
Commuting can lull you into a false sense of security very quickly, mainly because most motorcyclists will follow the same route to and from work every day. I see a lot of riders who ride at the same time in the same place, as a result I see them becoming overly confident and sloppy in their riding which worries me. I’m all for making your ride fun, part of what I love is the fact that when the traffic grinds to a halt we can carefully slip between the two lanes of traffic and ride to the front.
Filtering is legal in Queensland so we are very lucky during commuting hours. However, Filtering is a double-edged sword. A gap that looks fine a few cars back can quickly become a path full of issues and hazards. In Queensland, the motorcycle awareness campaigns talk about ‘developing your sixth sense’ as a rider.
What I’ve come to understand is that your ‘sixth sense’ is actually your ability to recognise patterns on the road. Therefore, developing your pattern recognition you speed up your reaction time and your capability on the road.
I constantly run through regular checks for filtering:
- What type of vehicle is at the front? If it’s a larger vehicle, carefully assess the intersection.
- Are you confident enough to smoothly but quickly take off?
- Can the driver see you?
- What cycle are the lights up to? Have they just gone red to give you ample time to safely filter to the front?
- Does the road narrow or widen? Some inner city streets are extremely narrow, or buildings and sidewalks are close to the edge. Therefore, forcing drivers towards one side or the other.
- What does the line of traffic look like? The order the vehicles sit in plays a really big part in how you can filter a section of road.
- Are there trucks or large vehicles one after the other?
- Are the vehicles a little more broken up and can you time your ‘passing’ correctly?
- Are there any ‘unfriendly’ drivers? I’ve been quite lucky with this but from time to time there will be a driver who hates that you are on a bike and can ‘skip the cue’. With this in mind, watch for them and if in doubt don’t filter.
- What are the road conditions like? This is a really important one. For instance, rain will change the road surface and wind can make it difficult to keep control of your bike. Filtering requires accuracy, and the last thing you want is to clip a mirror due to a gust of wind.
Group rides are an awesome way to explore new routes without having to know it like the back of your hand. Not to mention the bonus of riding with and learning from different people. On the other hand, group rides can also be a little intimidating if they aren’t something you do often. Knowing what types of bikes and the experience level of the riders can help you gauge what type of ride it’s going to be.
There is a really common theory called the rubberband effect which is what happens to the end riders when trying to regulate their speed and ‘keep up’ with the group. If you are on a nice little cafe racer you might not want to go on a long highway ride full of cruisers (but if that is your jam that’s fine too!).
Should things become overwhelming you can always choose to leave the ride. With this in mind, be respectful of the group and make sure you let people know that you are happy to call it a day to ride home. After all, if the group is kind they will understand and maybe even ask for a little feedback for next time!
I look for a couple of things when choosing group rides:
- How big is the group? Is this a sensible size for the route? For instance, if you are doing a lot of inner city roads, large groups can be tricky to keep together.
- Do I trust the capability and the pace of the ‘leader’? Knowing that your ride leader understands the group’s ability and expectations of the ride makes it a lot less stressful.
- Does the group have a plan like regrouping stops, corner markers if the group gets stretched and is everyone clear on the plan and route? This makes all the difference if you get in a tricky spot.
Whether that is hitting a red light or a part of the path that you don’t want to push hard on, knowing that there is a plan so you don’t get left behind makes it easier to ride at your own pace.
Long Rides and Challenging Roads
Challenging roads can feel like long rides and vice versa. So a lot of the same common sense applies. However, the biggest difference here is knowing the route. The last thing you want is to come off your bike in a town or place that is isolated or foreign. It’s not a situation that is impossible to get out of just one that isn’t all that fun.
- Studying the route, knowing what parts are going to be particularly challenging will mean you’ll have your bearings and be able to mentally prepare as you move through the journey.
- Balancing a ride well is key. Knowing the right amount of ‘cruising’ and the right amount of ‘pushing’ means you’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day but not too exhausted.
- Having the basics on your
bikelike wet weather gear, a small first aid kit, a small tool kit, panadol, water and snack is helpful too! You never know what you or a friend might need!
WolfPack App helps
How to be a better motorcycle rider
For the most part, I’m sure a lot of you reading this already
Above all, it isn’t luck that separates the riders who have a lot of accidents from the ones who have only a few over their riding career. It is, in short, deliberate thoughtful choices, self-evaluation and honesty that keeps the good riders riding.
Seek all the support and love you need to push yourself to be a better more competent rider.
In conclusion, the only silly question is the one you don’t ask.
Do you have some tips of your own?
Chime in and share your tips for motorcycle commuting, group riding or long challenging rides in the comments below.
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This is some really good information about commuting with a motorcycle. It is good to know that it would be smart to think about making sure that the driver can see you. Also, it does seem like a good thing. It might be smart to get a motorcycle that is good for commuting.
For sure! Making sure you are seen can be the difference between getting home in one piece or not.
Best tip I received when starting to ride was “always assume you are invisible”. It puts me on higher alert when commuting in traffic if I remind myself this mantra.
Great advice! I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely important for us to make ourselves seen on our motorcycles and never assume that we have been. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made eye-contact with a car driver before they enter a junction to make sure they see me and don’t pull out in front of me; only to have them carry on and cut me off anyway!
Thanks for mentioning that riding a motorcycle for commuting purposes can lull you into a false sense of security pretty fast. My brother is thinking about getting a motorbike next month and will need insurance for it because he likes to ride fast and it will be his main vehicle to get to work. I think it’s a good investment to hire a reputable company to insure him so that he’ll be protected in case of an accident during his travels.
Great suggestions there. It makes me want to get back on my dusty motorbike. There is an article on the lifestyle blog pages of wwww.whitemountain.ro and if the link is allowed, this is it, https://blog.whitemountain.ro/2020/01/romanias-greatest-motorcycling-routes/
This article is so informative and helpful. I gather some important tips and informations to read this article.
This is great advice for commute riding and riding in groups. I couldn’t agree more with your sixth sense being an ability to recognize patterns on the road. One thing I might add to riding in groups is that it is vital to learn and understand signals from other riders. I learned these signals too late when I was already in a group ride. The leader will use hand or leg signals to communicate directions, potholes, obstructions in the road, change in speed or when to stop and pull over. It’s up to the rest of the group to relay these signals. I don’t know if these are universal or not, all I know is it can be frustrating for the other rider when they signal you to stop and you ride on by with a big friendly wave, like I did myself!