Riding tips: How to overtake – safely!


One of the best things about a bike is not sitting in traffic. You’ll probably overtake more cars in your first month on the road than an average motorist passes in five years. Get it right and overtaking is simple and easy, get it wrong and it’s one of the easiest ways to end up in trouble.

1. Be sure

Make sure you know what’s happening. How many cars are you overtaking, is there a little old lady in a Ford Fiesta in front of the truck that you think is at the front of the queue? Have you got room to make the pass before the next bend or junction? Is there any road furniture or bollards in the middle of the carriageway. Are the white lines broken or solid? The police see overtaking on a solid white line as dangerous driving and will always prosecute.

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2. Right position

It’s tempting to get close to the car you’re about to pass, but hanging on its bumper is a bad move. For one thing, the driver might not see you, for another, you can’t see as clearly past them as if you hang back. There’s also a chance that if they slow down or indicate to turn, you won’t see their lights in time.

3. Check your mirrors

You might not be the only one planning an overtake. Have a proper look, not just for cars, but for other bikes approaching quickly.

4. Check ahead again

Check ahead quickly to make sure that nothing has changed up ahead.

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5. Indicate

Indicate and change down into the right gear for best acceleration. On most bigger bikes, passing traffic doing 40-50mph, this means second or third gear.

6. Check your mirrors again

And do a lifesaver look over your shoulder.

7. Pull out

And accelerate briskly, but still in control. As you pass, be thinking about your pull-in point.

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8. Be polite

If it’s safe to do so, give a thank you wave to cars who pull over to let you past. But… only pass if it is safe to do so. They may think they are being helpful, but you have to make the decision.

9. Done and dusted

Smoothly pull back in to the traffic, giving the lead car plenty of room.

10. And if it all goes wrong…

Don’t panic. You’ll be surprised how small a gap you need to get through. If you really aren’t going to make it, ease off the throttle, match your speed to the traffic you are overtaking, indicate, turn and look at the driver and smoothly ease into the gap. Better to abandon the pass than take a chance.

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The biggest danger once you’re overtaking is a car pulling out to either do their own overtake, pass a parked car or cyclist or turn into a junction that you hadn’t seen. To help avoid this make sure you give the cars you’re overtaking as wide a berth as possible and watch for indicators going on.


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