Rural road observation skills

rural riding

Riding on rural roads can be quite a challenge. Tight bends, unexpected wildlife and narrow lanes complicate matters, but if you get it right these roads can be the most fun too. Planning ahead is the key – expect the unexpected. The IAM’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, has five tips on getting rural roads right.

  1. Look as far ahead as possible to see what direction the road is taking – hedge lines, telegraph poles or lamp posts all give clues on twists and turns ahead. And always be prepared for something you can’t see round the bend – a group of cyclists or a horse, for instance.
  1. Wet roads can seriously effect on bike control. Keep an eye out for wet leaves or standing water on the road – as well as being slippery they can hide a multitude of hazards.
  1. Be mindful of any animals that may also use the road and look out for these warning signs. Horses in particular can be easily startled, so when approaching reduce your speed and give them plenty of room. Pass wide and slow when it is safe. The British Horse Society offers more advice here: http://www.bhs.org.uk/safety-and-accidents/dead-slow.
  1. Keep an eye out for agricultural vehicles on the road too – they probably can’t go as fast as you want to, so try and be patient. On a single carriageway road only overtake where there is plenty of room to do so and where there is no oncoming traffic. Remember, any break in the hedge line is a potential junction for a tractor – if in doubt hold back.
  1. If you’re riding behind a bus or school coach, keep a look out for passengers that start to move around inside. This is usually an indication of passengers getting off at the next bus stop – be prepared to slow down for children crossing the road in front of or behind the bus.

Richard said: “Most country lanes will have a speed limit of 60mph – but this doesn’t make it a target. You should be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your own side of the road. On a single track road you may need to stop in half of that distance to allow for oncoming traffic – if you can’t see, slowdown.

“There are so many potential distractions in this environment, but nothing beats riding through a country road with beautiful scenery on a nice day. Take your time, plan ahead and enjoy the journey.”

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