By October 20, 2010

Random Motorcycling Tip #21: Count to Four Before Passing

Virginia state law requires that slower traffic move to the right. In an ideal world, this means that some of us can zip merrily along without having to pass on the right. In reality, most people cruise in the far left lane just under the speed limit while texting.

So, why is this part of a random motorcycling tip? Because every once in awhile, a cager suddenly looks up and spies me behind them. In an effort to be polite, they move over one lane.

Unfortunately, this is usually after I’ve decided to pass them. Sometimes they wind up in my lane, sometimes I have to scoot over another lane, and no matter what happens my heart rate goes up and I wonder what I could have done differently the next time.

So here it is: count to four.

As I approach a slower vehicle in the left lane, I give them an “awareness cushion” that is about four of five bike lengths in size. If people are going to get over into the next lane, they usually do so within this cushion.

Once I get a behind them at a safe distance, I start my count. When I get to four, I pass on the right.

Why four? Because three is too short. I think some people are overly cautious about lane changing. I find that if I wait until like 2.5 they turn on their signal, look in their rear view mirror, then their side mirror, then the head turn …. and then one wheel width at a time, slide over. Just in case.

Five, on the other hand, is too long. You lose too much speed, and worse yet run the risk of traffic behind you deciding to pass you both at the same time. It’s always fun when that happens — the car in front eases to the right just in time for the jacked-up 4×4 with truck nuts to swerve and blast “Dixieland” on their horn at 85MPH.

Four seems to be a bit perfect. Count to four, turn on your signal, check your mirror, do a head check, check the car in front of you to make sure they didn’t decide to be attentive and courteous, and then GTFO.

Posted in: motorcycling

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