By November 18, 2009

Random Motorcycling Tip #09: Dealing With “The Braker”

If you ride street a lot, you may have encountered this type of driver before: someone who rides their brake pedal as if their life depended on it. Accelerate, brake. Go downhill, brake. Go uphill, brake. On-ramp, brake. Brake, brake.

It’s frustrating and dangerous at the same time. Motorcyclists need every bit of advanced warning to avoid trouble. If someone brakes all the time it can lull you into a sense of complacency or make you so nervous about the car in front of you that you get tunnel vision.

The most important thing to discern is why this person is braking. Is the car in front of them also panic braking? Do they look lost? Are they trying to signal you (I’ve had cars to this to me to “help” when a law enforcement officer is in front of them)? If they are just being stupid or timid, you have a Braker on your hands.

Now, the obvious solution to dealing with “The Braker” is to go around them, but sometimes this isn’t possible. I find myself trapped behind these timid knuckle-draggers when approaching important turns, like an on-ramp or before turning off of the main street on the way home. Sometimes traffic is just congested, and there you are, stuck behind a strobing red light.

If possible, I look over The Braker’s car. This allows me to see if there are any dangers ahead and disregard The Braker’s stomphoof. If I can’t see over the car, I look through The Braker’s rear and front windows. If I can’t do that (tinted windows are the #1 reason, I sit taller than most cars) I ride offset so I can see around as much as possible.

If I am in the fast lane, I stay to the left — that also plays into my strategy against lane incursion. If I’m on the right, I ride on the right. If I am in a middle lane, I try to stay as far away as possible from the car that seems to be the most aggressive and/or paying the least attention.

Like all things motorcycling, the idea is to mitigate risk. You can’t eliminate everything that will happen to you on the road. The next time you are stuck behind The Breaker, trying looking past them to where the real danger lies.

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