If you’ve driven a car, then you’ll already know the basics. If you’ve not, then here’s a quick lesson. There are usually three lanes on a motorway and the law says that you travel in the inside lane, use the middle one to overtake slow traffic and the outside one to overtake medium speed traffic in the middle one. Having made your overtake, you are supposed to move back in and not hang about in the middle or outside lane.
In reality, too many people hog the middle and outside lanes and so everyone else ends up doing it too. There’s a massive temptation on a motorcycle to undertake these dawdlers and on a bike you could perform such a manoeuvre much more quickly and safely than in a car. But, it only takes one person to pull back in at the ‘wrong’ time and you are history and those cars will not be expecting a bike on the inside of them so won’t have checked their mirrors.
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Plus, if the police catch you doing it, you’ll be looking at a hefty fine and points on your licence.
Filtering through stationary or queuing motorway traffic is a different matter. So long as you are only travelling 10mph or so quicker than the traffic, you’ll be fine, but watch every car. Look out for front wheels turning to change lane, heads popping out of windows to see what’s happening or frustrated drivers opening the door and getting out for a better look.
Joining and leaving a motorway
Motorbikes have so much acceleration you can always find a gap joining a motorway, but make sure you double check first and look over your shoulder as you pull onto the carriageway. Watch out for spilt diesel on motorway roundabouts or slip roads. Recently-fuelled lorries are notorious for spilling, and braking on diesel is a common way to fall off. When leaving a motorway, pull into the inside lane in plenty of time.
- Make sure you have enough petrol to get to the service station. Petrol stations are typically around 25 miles apart on the motorway and most modern bikes do about 30 miles once the low fuel light comes on. So if yours is on, fill up as soon as you can.
- Know exactly at which junction you need to leave the motorway. It will be a long way to the next one.
- Make the most of your fuel stop and take an extra few minutes to use the loo, have a stretch, check your directions, grab some food and re-adjust your earplugs or the seal between cuffs and gloves. Don’t forget to use the hot air hand dryers to warm up your freezing fingers and dry out your soggy gloves.
- Don’t tailgate the car in front no matter how slowly they may be going. Cars can stop much faster than bikes and you won’t see the debris in the road that they’ve just run over.
- Don’t forget that lorries have enormous blind spots right where you will be sitting in the next lane. Remember also left-hand drive lorries have even bigger blind spots.
- Don’t forget that if it looks like rain you should put your waterproofs on before you join the motorway or when you stop for fuel. Police take a dim view of people hopping around under bridges trying to get their leg down a pair of overtrousers.