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What is the best lane position?

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The answer to what is the best position within a lane for motorcycle riders is not simple.

Most instructors tell novice motorcyclists to ride in the driver’s side wheel track so they can be seen and where the tyres clean the road of oil, gravel and rainwater.

That’s the simple answer and one that most people use to great advantage.

However, lane position also depends on a lot of other variables such as traffic, location and road conditions.

In traffic

In heavy traffic, you should frequently switch between left and right wheel tracks to attract the attention of car drivers.

Lane position
Don’t ride in a blind spot

If you sit in the one wheel track, you may become a blind spot, even if you are still visible in one or more mirrors. If you are frequently changing position, you will attract drivers’ attention.

In multi-lane traffic, it can also be advantageous to sit in the passenger wheel track when alongside another vehicle as it provides a bit more of a buffer zone in case they suddenly merge into your lane.

As you approach an intersection where there is a vehicle on a side road waiting to turn into your street, swapping wheel tracks may attract their attention. I usually move to the wheel track furthest away to provide a bigger buffer zone.

Being seen by traffic going the opposite direction is also important if you are out on a country road, following behind other vehicles.

If you sit in the passenger wheel track, vehicles coming the other direction won’t see you and may start overtaking as soon as they’ve passed the vehicle in front of you.

Lane position
Leave a buffer

Sitting in the driver’s wheel track will make opposing traffic aware of your presence.

However, if you are in a long sweeping left bend, it may actually be better to sit in the passenger wheel track for visibility. Basically, if you can see approaching traffic, then they should be able to see you.

Country roads take me home

When riding down a lonely country road, the driver’s wheel track is usually less bumpy and has less stray gravel.

Country roads are also often crowned, sloping away from the centre of the lane. If you ride outside the centre of the lane, it can push you towards the weeds.

However, as you pass a vehicle going the opposite direction or you crest a hill, it’s a good idea to move to the outer wheel track, just in case the opposing vehicle suddenly weaves across the centre line. This could happen if they are changing a CD, sending a text or falling sleep!

Staying out of the middle of the lane is usually a good idea, because you are only visible in the driver’s centre mirror which is not often checked.

If you are used to arcing through a corner from one wheel track to another, you might want to consider staying in one wheel track on country roads which are rutted by trucks.

City riding

In the city, if you ride in the middle of the lane you will cop bumps and sewer covers which are positioned there so most vehicles straddle them.

The centre of the lane also has the least traction as it’s where vehicles drop oil or diesel, and it’s where the road is often painted with turn signals.

Lane position
Staggered riding

If you are in a group and riding in staggered formation, the lead rider should be in the driver’s wheel track. 

If you have the choice, so should you.

When you come to a bend, abandon the staggered position and arc the corner as normal.

  1. Riding in a staggered formation is crazy. Means everything that happens is dependant on the lead rider and you in the pack, usually too close, have nowhere to go. Ride your own road, and the guidelines above are a good start.

    1. Riding staggered formation does not mean that you ignore stopping distances. The advantage is that unlike a car you have extra visibility and additional stopping distance

      1. and then in the LHS wheel track your are closer to the roadside hidden hazards, its crazy.

  2. In NSW the official teaching as per both the “handbook” and from HART’s instructors is that your position in your lane should be dictated by the hazards around you. That is, specifically you should “(setup your brakes and) buffer away from hazards” and when faced with conflicting hazards, you should “split the difference” and ride between them.

    E.g. Buffer away from parked cars and left hand side streets into the right hand wheel track, but if there are parked cars and oncoming traffic then ride in the centre of the lane.

    As a new rider we were specifically (and continually) taught to constantly scan for hazards and to continually adjust our position in the lane to maximise our buffer space with the mantra “Look for hazards, setup your brakes and buffer away from the hazard”.

  3. What really pisses me off is when someone usually
    on a sports bike over or undertakes in my lane,
    assuming i have seen them and will hold my position
    in the lane.

  4. Utilize all the space that is legally available to you to to create space and therefore time to deal with all the big metal hurty things around you. Why some people need to be continually told this is beyond me.

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