To overtake, it seems so easy, especially if you ride a motorbike with lots of horsepower: just wait for an opportunity, and open the throttle.
But overtaking is an art. If you have acquired the art of overtaking, you will have more opportunities to overtake, you will overtake in a safer manner, and you don't need the horsepower.
This page is dedicated to the art of overtaking.
Er is een Nederlandse versie:
You just open the throttle, don't you?
Open the throttle
For many motorcyclists overtaking is simply a matter of opening the throttle, without thinking too much more about it.
As you see the picture, in some situations you should be a little extra careful ...
There are better ways
Even if you overtake someone else than a cop, there arguments to pay more attention to the art of overtaking:
- With a better technique, you will be able to overtake in more situations.
- With a better technique, you will be able to overtake on a bike with less horsepower.
- With a better technique, you will be able to overtake in a safer manner.
- With a better technique, you will be able to overtake an annoyingly slow car earlier.
- With a better technique, overtaking will be more fun
That better overtaking technique consists of three simple steps:
- Get the best view
- Take a run-up
- Break of or go
Get the best view: keep a distance
Too short distance, almost automatically
It almost seems a natural tendency to ride with a too short distance from the vehicle that you want to overtake: you ride faster than that vehicle, you want to get in front of it, and before you notice, you ride close to its rear bumper.
You also might do this conciously: you might have the idea that it's the fastest way to overtake, because you have already covered the distance to the vehicle before you.
So, what's wrong with it?
The bigger the distance the better the view
Especially if the vehicle is large and high: buses, trucks, tractors, vans and the like, there is an enormous gain in the view you have, if you can keep some distance.
In particular, see will oncoming traffic much earlier; you can see a much longer stretch of road.
This means that the moment that you can decide that the road is clear to overtake, will be sooner.
Furthermore, you should keep your distance as safe as when you would not try to overtake: this safety distance is not suddenly unneccessary because you want to overtake.
See oncoming traffic earlier
If you would have kept too short a distance in this situation, behind the truck, you would not have seen the oncoming truck until at the last moment.
Especially in the case of trucks, if you ride almost on the rear bumper, you cannot see anything in front of you: it is as though you have to look around the corner.
Sometimes you evenhave to ride on the lane of oncoming cars to see anything at all in front of the truck, and when the road is narrow, that is not the most pleasant place on the road in the case that there is oncoming traffic!
So the rule is: keep more distance instead of less distance if you try to overtake someone.
Get the best view: ride to the left or to the right
You can't overtake just before a blind corner, obviously, but you can choose a position on the road to maximalise your view through the corner. It enables you to see as early as possible whether you can overtake after the corner, safely.
Corner to the left: ride at the right side
In this case, in a corner to your left, you have the best view throught the corner if you would ride at the right side of the road.
Corner to the right: ride at the left side
The other way around, you could better ride left within your lane in case of a corner to the right. In principle, that's the place of the road you occupy anyway.
Start a corner at the outside
In fact, there is no difference between the way you ride a corner without someone in front of who whom you would like to overtake, or with such a vehicle (see our page on corners on a motorcycle)
So, as a preparation for overtaking, you ride as far as possible to the outside, until you have a clear view at the entire road ahead.
Keep your distance!
Especially in corners, it's difficult to keep enough distance: the vehicle in front of your drove slower than you would like to anyhow, and in general this difference in comfort speed is greatly effect is further increased in a corner.
So, pay extra attention to the distance you keep.
Run-up in the corner
Below on this page, you will read how to make the run-up. You do that even before you can be certain whether your attempt to overtake will succeed.
A corner is a perfect [place for a run-up. You reduce the distance during the turn to the vehicle in front of you, which is almost natural, on a motorcycle, with a car in front of you.
The view with a truck before you
On a narrow road, a truck blocks your view in sich a way that it generally does not help when to ride at the outside of a corner. In many cases, you will have to do the opposite: ride at the inside of the corner, to get a glimpse of the road beyond the truck.
Move to the left and to the right
The best behaviour, in such a case, is to move both to the left and to the right of your lane: you will then find out which position gives you the best view.
Consider the blind spot
Keep in mind that, with a bus or truck in front of you, there is always a big stretch of the road that you just can't see. There is no guarantee that there isn't a side road or a parking space within that stretch. Somebody can suddenly turn up from there!
Pitfall when getting the best view: differences in height
Invisible in case of differences in height
Something to be aware of when trying to get an optimum view, is that oncoming traffic can be hided in "dips" in the road.
In principle, you can keep track of oncoming cars in dips: you could calculate whether a dip could hide a car, by counting, but there is a danger in relying on it:
What if there is a parking place or a side road in such a dip?
You wouldn't have seen anyone driving into the dip, but the dip does hide a car!
Wait until you have a clear view
So you don't have a choice: you have to wait until you have a clear view of the whole road.
The run-up: pick up speed
Before you really overtake, you perform a run-up. During the run-up, you pick up the right speed.
When you do that, you already have the right speed during the moment that you overtake the vehicle in front of you.
Especially when your bike has an engine with (relatively) few cc's, the rpm's should be in the range which aloows for fast acceleration: it could be neccessary to downshift.
For the reason why you have to downshift, you could read our page about torque.
Why a run-up?
The main argument is that you minimize time spent at the lane for oncoming traffic, if you don't have to accelerate on that lane because your speed is already high enough. The lane for oncoming traffic is the most dangerous place on the road, so it pays to minimize that time.
Furthermore, being overtaken is less harrassing if your speed is constant: an accelerating engine makes a lot of noise (you often ride at high rpm's during acceleration), which can lead to panick reactions of the driver of the car. So there are advantages for fellow road users as well, if you do a run-up before you overtake.
So distance was necessary
To be able to to a run-up you need space: another argument is to keep a distance before finally overtaking.
Corners form a great opportunity for a run-up.
You start well away from the car in front of you, and gain speed during the corner. Thus you're able to enjoy the corner far more than when you would have started right behind the car, which is a big advantage.
When, at thje exit of the corner, the road appears to be free, you can immediately overtake the car.
Don't postpone until you are certain
If you start to overtake at the moment that you are certain that overtaking will be possible, you have wasted valuable time.
The trick is to be up to speed, and near to where you are on the road for oncoming traffic driving, at that moment that you are certain that you can safely overtake.
That means you have to accelerate before you know whether you will be able to perform the overtake!
When you see the last vehicle of all oncoming traffic, you accelerate in such a way that you know that you will have the right speed exactly at the moment that that last vehicle will drive by.
If the road is still free at that moment, you're able to continue, and you will have won precious time.
The alternative is that you accelerate at the moment that the last of the oncoming vehicles passes, and that's a lot later!
Int this example
In this example, you would have to estimate when the oncoming truck would have reached the car in front of you. Furthermore, you would have to estimate how much time you need to accelerate up to near the car in front. You should then use these estimations to know the moment when you should accelerate.
At the moment that the oncoming truck passes the car in front of you, you're able to see if the rest of the road is still free.
In the photo you don't see depth: it seems like there is not enough space. In reality, there might be plenty of space.
Not blind after the one in front of you
If someone before you overtakes another vehicle, you should, obviously not follow that someone blindly.
In reality, this is less obvious than it seems: if the overtaker is a truck, and you see don't see any oncoming traffic because the truck blocks your view, your brains will sometimes subconsciously give you a signal that overtaking is safe.
And if you're in a group of bikers, the urge to keep up with the others can be almost irresistible. Try to be aware of those pitfalls!
Do accelerate in time
What you can do in such a case, is accellerate so that you will have the right speed, and that'you will be near the car in front of you at the moment that the truck has ended its overtake action.
At that moment you will have a clear view, and you know whether you can continue overtaking or not.
Run-up: with the one in front of you
Along with the one in front of you
If you have a number of riders in front of you, and it is clear that the last rider of those also wants to overtake, you can make sure, with your run-up, that you can go along.
Start your run when you see that there will come a moment that this last rider will overtake. So, start your run-up before he or she actually overtake.
You can then overtake along with this rider, because you will have the rightt speed at the right time.
The two of you then need about the same space on the road as this rider would have needed on his own.
Beware of unexpected overtaking!
Be very wary with such a "train" of motorcycle riders in front of you. It may seem as if no one of them wants to overtake, but more often than not, one of them will come to the left exactly at the moment you are overtaking him!
This happens with both cars and motorcyclists.
Only drawback of this technique
That's the only drawback of this technique: in general, you will see a possibility to overtake in a much earlier stage than the one in front of you: you will be up spped when the rider in front of you still has to accelerate.
So you will often be in the process of overtaking at the moment he is still finding out whether he has an opportunity.
Abort or continue
Make the decision
Once you've finished the run-up and are close to the car in front you, you must decide: abort the attempt or continue the overtake.
If, in the mean time, extra oncoming traffic has appeared, you just close the throttle.
If the road is still free, you have the right speed to get past the car in front of you without any additional acceleration.
It's really a decision
The key here is that you should really, consciously, make a decision (like you with all the decisions that you should take while riding): either break off the attempt or go.
If you start to hesitate at this point, you lose speed and you loose the whole benefit of your run-up.
Hesitate to break off the attempt, in a situation where you need to break off, is obviously far worse.
If you know about yourself that you do have trouble making quick decisions, you can practice to make decisions really consciously.
Try overtaking in situations where you can overlook road far ahead, and overtake in these three steps: get the best view, run-up, and decide.
If you follow these three steps really consciously, every time, it will become a habit: it will be far easier to make the right decision in a situation where you do not already know in advance that you can continue.
Abort or continue: be aware of blinkers
Indicators of the one in front of you
If the vehicle in front of you indicates it will turn to the right, the decision to overtake seems very easy: you need very little space for the prcedure.
But be very aware: sometimes, someone decides on the last moment to drive straight on instead of make the trun, and usually, someone making such a last-minute decision doesn't look in the mirrors.
Blinker to the right, car turning left
In the situation in this photo it is unlikely, but all too often, in situations with a driveway or parking space to the left, someone who indicates he will turn to the right, actually turns to the left!
If you would have started to overtake that someone, there would be a crash ...
So, be extra careful when the vehicle in front you indicates he will turn right!
The same applies to slow drivers: often, they are people who are looking for a specific number or a certain street, and they are therefore unpredictable.
They may slam thair brakes any time (which makes the distance, which is reduced anyway during your run-up, suddenly becaomes very short), or they just decide to turn left when you're overtaking them.
Side street to the left
Abort when you spot a side streets to the left: a lot of (novice) drivers forget, when turning to the right at such a spot, to check if "their" lane is clear: they only look to their left side.
They look only for traffic from their left, and then blindly turn to the right. If you're overtaking at that moment, you have a problem. So, no overtaking in case of a side-street!
Abort or continue: be wary of stopped vehicles
Another situation to be especially alert when you want overtake is stationary traffic.
In the photo, of the motorcycle riders looks in the mirrors, but people tend to forget to do that before starting to ride again, and then ride onto the road, without looking.
Especially when people are in a group, this happens often.
Cars or motorcycles
Of course, exactly the same is a hazard in case of a stationary car.
Keep in mind, while overtaking, that someone can just ride or drive onto the road.
Even worse: turn around
An even greater danger in with respect to stationary traffic is that someone could be stopped to turn the car to the opposite direction, by making a U-turn. If you've just begun to overtake a crash is almost inevitable.
As in the case of indicator lights, you should be extra wary when overtaking stationary traffic.
Abort or continue: abort when necessary
Never feel too brave to abort
An important part of this overtakingh technique is that you must be willing to abort if there is not enough room after all.
You started your run-up while you could not be sure whether you would be able to continue overtaking, which means you really should take the decision to abort if you have a clear view and see that there is not enough room.
Not enough room
In the photo, there is not enough room: during the time required for overtaking, a vehicle may appear from the blind corner.
In such case, do not continue to overtake, and use the corner for another run-up.
Abort or continue: push through if possible
A better example
On this photo you see a overtaking as it should be. You can see that the overtaker carries more speed at this moment: he did do a run-up.
You can see an oncoming car, but there is ample room for overtaking.
The three steps: get the best view, do a run-up and then decide to abort or to continue, have perfectly executed here.
Overtake: first check your mirrors
Check your mirrors before the run-up
Just before you do the run-up, you check your mirrors: when, at that moment, somebody approaches with more speed, it's better to allow that person to overtake you before you start overtaking someone else
Again just before you overtake
Just before the moment that you really start overtaking, after the run-up, you check your mirrors again, and you look to your side (because there is not only a blind spot in a car but also one when you're on a bike).
You need to five right of way to someone overtaking you (even on highways!)
Overtaking: keep getting the best view
Still keep getting the best view
During the overtaking process itself, you should sometimes ride at a different place on the road than usual, to get the best view.
The photo shows such a situation: a stationary truck, in a road slightly curved to the right, blocks all view to oncoming traffic.
Left in a curve to the right
The only way to see an oncoming car in time, and the only way for you to make sure that the oncoming car sees you in time, is to ride at the extreme left from the truck.
It might seem the wrong thin g to do, because you take up the space fot oncoming traffic completely, but it's the only way to ensure that you appearance will not be an unexpected and unpleasant surprise for an oncoming car, and the pther way around.
Enough room after overtaking
Back to your lane
After overtaking, you ride on, for a short stretch, until there is enough room between you and the vehicle you just overtook.
One of the reasons is that, if you swerve to the right too soon, you could force the vehicle you just overtook to brake.
Another reason is that there could be someone else behind you, while you were overtaking, without you noticing. If you leave enough room, that second overtaker will neatly fit in between you and the vehicle you both overtook, if necessary.
In a group of motorcycle riders
Especially within a group of motorcycle riders, you should take care to leave enough room between you and the care you just overtook. In this case, it's even better to swerve to the right side of the road after you came back to your lane. If you do that, you allow space for motorcycle riders who came after you. They can, if necessary, ride next to you to clear the lane for oncoming traffic as soon as possible
Overtaking a line of cars
Small speed difference
When you're overtaking a line of cars, it's often impossible to wait until you are sure that you can overtake the whole line aat once, without any oncoming traffic
So, you must ride in such a way that you can swerve bewteen two cars at any time.
This means that the speed difference between you and the cars you overtake must be small.
The photo shows a line of stationary cars. In general, you can overtake them even with oncoming cars, but you should be aware that there will always be at least one oncoming car who doesn't see you, or just wants to hinder.
In that case, you should be able to swerve between two cars and stop, until you can carry on.
That means you must adjust your speed.
Damgers near a line of cars
Watch out for U-turns
While riding along a line of stationary cars, don't forget that there are people who will not look in their mirror when they escape out of the line by performing a U-turn.
So it's not only for oncoming traffic that you need to slow down.
Car by car
So, in the case of a line of cars, you overtake them car by car, in such a way that you can come to a standstill between two cars at any time
With stationary or slow moving cars, there is always the danger of other overtakers who don't check in their mirrors.
Every car that you are overtaking could come to the left!
Danger from the right
Even when you're overtaking a line opf cars,. there can be danger at the right side of the road.
The car you see, on the photo, coming from the driveway, could estimate that it is safe for him to drive onto the road, in front of those slow moving classical cars, because he didn't notice you...
Allow others to overtake you
Check your mirrors
Check your mirrors, not only when turning or when you want to overtake, but also in between.
You will then be able to know when another motorcyclist rides faster than you through the corners.
In such a situation, it is pleasant for noth (and safe) if you would cooperate with the one behind you, to overtake you.
Don't accelerate out of corners
What works best is not to accelerate after a corner. If you just keep your speed calm after a curve, the one behind you gets an easy opportunity for overtaking by accelerating out of the corner.
Not too much to the left
What also helps, of course, is not to ride against the lane for oncoming traffic (like the biker in the photo).
This provides some extra margin for the biker overtaking you.