READER REPORT:

I want to ride my bike and get home alive

NICK SUMMERHAYES
Last updated 09:30 15/01/2013

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I enjoy motorbike riding less and less these days, purely because of the massive effort required to stay alive and well on New Zealand's poorly designed roads.

To be fair to the road planners, I think their hands are tied due to budget restraints.

I live in Christchurch, and can't believe that State Highway 1 is not motorway from top to bottom of the South Island.

I guess the major expense is the motorway intersections with rural roads, but surely, a motorway with a central divider the length of the island would save 30 lives a year ?

A lovely (cheap) start would be to have "armco" dividing barriers where ever there are the current four-lane passing lanes - that is, two lanes heading South, then a solid divider, and then two lanes heading North.

Anyway, if I give my survival tips, maybe fellow motorcyclists would respond with theirs that I can maybe start using?

Around town, always have two fingers on your brake lever.

When passing a line of parked cars, try to check for front wheels at a 45 degree angle pointing toward you. Any occupied car on the side of the road or car sitting at an intersection gets a "I'm here" horn beep, but the timing is crucial, not so far away that it is indistinct, but not too close that you can't take avoiding action when they don't give way to you or perform that un-signalled U-turn.

When travelling straight through an intersection where traffic coming from the other direction is about to turn right across your path, tailgate the car in front, to not give the right turning vehicle the opportunity to turn across your path.

 

Expect other drivers to change lanes onto the very bit of tarmac that you are occupying and be prepared to drop a gear and accelerate hard not to be taken out.

At the same time, monitor every inch of road for sand/dust, spilled diesel, wet concrete in carparks, and try to hit the furthest away portion of metal manhole cover (in the wet), so that when you slide, it's onto decent tarmac again.

While monitoring all the above, don't drive up the rear of any other vehicles.

Lanesplitting (riding between stationary traffic queues) can reduce the chances of being rear ended. Yes I've been hit from behind on a bike by a car that was "creeping" in traffic, presumably while he was reading the paper. Luckily just a bent numberplate was the result.

However, don't lane split next to large vehicles that don't know you are there. If needs be it's better to illegally enter the start of the intersection, if, after lanesplitting, you find an articulated truck at the front of the queue.

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On the open road, try to use other vehicles as "shields". Sometimes it's better to be trailing a vehicle, than have the open road to yourself.

With lots of traffic coming from the other direction it's well worthwhile keeping well left and behind another vehicle. You may need to temporarily speed to closely tailgate at times just to prevent right turning traffic taking you out, as previously mentioned around town.

Try to find a car doing a speed that suits you to sit behind, the theory being to let them discover the campervan on the wrong side of the road around the next blind bend.

If no other traffic on the road, then it's up to you to be able to stop in the distance you can see around the next blind bend. This makes for quite disjointed riding, ie super slow around a tight, left hand, bend that you can't see around, but then maximum acceleration to the sweeping right hander up ahead that you have perfect visibility for.

Not the best for fuel consumption, but a nice feeling of control of your own destiny when it all comes together.

Try not to swerve on first impulse when "something" comes at you. A low swooping bird, a rabbit bolting from the undergrowth, or a deer out of the forest... actually, revise immediately if it's a deer or bigger.

When you slide, you may find your weight immediately transferring to both footpegs automatically, that's good. You start "feeling" the slide, and the lower (the feel) the better.

Finally, I'm not particularly interested in speed on a motorcycle (I get a bit twitchy about punctures or similar) but I do like acceleration and cornering.

However, if stopped for speeding (eg to temporarily tailgate as previously mentioned) don't forget that old excuse "I was trying to keep a safe distance from the car in front".


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