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Rider Skills: How to Improve Your Overtaking

Passing lanes gap look overtaking rider skills

Contributed post on How to improve your overtaking (for our North American readers)

Risk-taking has been singled out as the factor behind around 50% of fatal motorcycle accidents and approximately 28% of non-fatal motorcycle crashes, according to research done by the Queensland University of Technology. Overtaking without due care and attention is a risky manoeuvre that poses a danger to you and other road users. 

If you want to enjoy your ride and maximise the freedom, flexibility, and health benefits that come with motorcycling, you need to adopt a safer overtaking technique. If precautions aren’t taken, even a simple mistake can lead to a serious crash. Here are some essential tips to help you overtake safely while riding a motorcycle.

Learn the Common Overtaking Mistakes

Roads are full of hazards, and making an error can dramatically increase your chances of being involved in a collision. Although motorcycles can pass other vehicles quickly due to their accelerating capabilities, you need to know when and where to pass another vehicle or rider. One of the common mistakes most motorcyclists do is overtaking without observing traffic regulations. Certain sections of the road are illegal to overtake, therefore, you need to ensure you are not breaking the rules.

Look out for road signs, solid double white lines, or other lines that prohibit overtaking. Lane splitting in a state where it’s prohibited can also endanger you and bring you legal trouble. A motorcycle accident that involves lane splitting can easily occur when another vehicle suddenly changes lanes and strikes a motorcyclist. Therefore, you need to know whether your state forbids it. Also, avoid overtaking when a junction is up ahead, when approaching a bend, and when the road ahead narrows.

Overtaking Routine

To execute the manoeuvre as safe as possible, you need to adopt a routine. First, you need to position yourself in the right place. Maintain a sizeable distance between you and the vehicle ahead – the bigger the distance, the better the view of oncoming traffic. After you are in a good position, examine the car that you intend to pass and observe whether it’s about to take any action. 

Check whether the car is indicating, slowing down or accelerating. If there is no hint of that, look at the road ahead, and keep track of oncoming cars. Once you determine it’s safe, and you decide to pass, judge the speed of the vehicle in front of you, indicate, and start to accelerate while you are still far behind the vehicle. During this run-up, find the right speed to pass the car without causing the other driver to panic. A run-up minimises the time you spend on the lane for opposing traffic. 

Overtaking Large Vehicles

Trucks, buses, and other large vehicles can cause difficulties for riders trying to overtake. They can obstruct your view of oncoming traffic, and the large vehicle’s driver may fail to see you. First, attempt to make the driver of the large vehicle notice you by positioning yourself where they will see you in their mirrors. Ensure you keep a safe distance and avoid staying in the large vehicle’s blind spot.

Trucks reversed image lane filtering blind spot
All the bikes in this photo are in a truck’s blind spots

Keep in mind that if you can’t see the mirrors of the car ahead, that driver can’t see you. If the truck or coach has obscured your view, you can carefully move to the left or right of your lane to try and find the best view, while maintaining no-less than a two-second following distance. Once you determine the road is clear, signal early, evaluate the speed of the truck, check your mirrors, and then make your manoeuvre. 


A proper overtaking technique can help you steer clear of many dangerous situations. Remember that even if it’s legal, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to overtake. Always try to make yourself visible, keep an eye on the vehicles in front and behind you, and monitor the road ahead.