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I considered carefully what should be the first entry in this blog. I didn’t want to make things too difficult to start with, so I’m going to start with one of the most fundamental safety tips – following distance.
Good motorcycle roadcraft (you will hear me refer to this phrase often) dictates that you always ride so that you can stop in the distance you can see to be clear.
What dictates the distance you can see to be clear?
Well, the obvious one is the vehicles in front of you, but there are many other things that can affect how much of the road ahead you can see. Here are some of them:
- Curves in the road.
- Your own eyesight.
- Foliage (bushes, trees, etc…)
So, how much distance do I need to leave?
This varies due to a lot of circumstances. Different bikes will have various optimum stopping distances due to variations in braking efficiencies. This will also vary according to how well you know your motorcycle, how efficiently you can bring it to a stop, and your braking techniques (more on this in an upcoming blog).
It is important to know and practise stopping on your own machine.
However, here is a very useful tip for monitoring your following distance: At any given speed, a good rule of thumb is to leave two second’s space between the vehicle in front, and you – the Two Second Rule.
Here’s how it works: As you are following other vehicles, take note of a landmark that the vehicle in front passes. This can be a tree, a traffic cone, anything that you can reliably see when that vehicle passes it.
As soon as the vehicle in front passes that marker, start saying to yourself: “Only a fool breaks the two second rule.”
You should not pass that marker until you have finished saying that mantra to yourself. Don’t rush. Don’t see the marker coming towards you too quickly and hurriedly finish the sentence. Say it at a normal, conversational pace.
Using this simple rule of thumb, you will find that you are allowing a good distance between yourself, and the vehicle in front.
Does this change when it is raining, or the roads are wet?
Most definitely! You should allow double the following distance when the roads are wet. Simply say “Only a fool break the two second rule” twice, and you should not pass the marker until you have finished.
After a time of doing this, you will find that you will naturally start allowing a good following distance, and just an occasional check will confirm that you are.
The advantages to allowing a safe following distance are huge. The obvious one is that if the vehicle in front stops quickly, you will be able to safely stop with ease before your motorcycle becomes a very expensive ornament for the vehicle in front. Some of the not-so-obvious advantages include:
- You will get a much better view of what is happening up ahead. An experienced, safe rider is mostly taking notice of what is happening two, three or more vehicles ahead (more on observation in a later post).
- You will stand more of a chance of avoiding the scourge of a biker’s existence – the road alligator.
- If you are planning a passing manoeuvre (again, the subject of a later post), you will be able to glean much more information, and so be able to better plan that pass.
- If you have following vehicles, you will be in a better position to control your braking so that you don’t become an expensive ornament on the front of that vehicle!
So, as you are riding the next time you are out, try the two second rule. It may save your life!
Remember: Only a fool breaks the two second rule!