For many new riders, especially those with relatively little experience, riding on the highway can be a daunting task. The higher speeds and sea of cars around you can seem intimidating at first, but riding on the highway doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, in some regards we prefer highway riding more than scrambling around on surface roads. But before you go tackling the freeway with some newfound confidence, here are some tips for how to ride a motorcycle on the highway safely.
The obvious first step for riding on the highway is entering the highway in the first place. Being on a motorcycle gives you the benefit of being able to accelerate faster than nearly any car around you. Use this to your advantage to get up to speed with highway traffic and merge with surrounding cars as quickly as possible. Just as you would do in a car, when merging with traffic, don’t simply rely on your mirrors to view traffic behind you – do a quick head check to make sure there’s room for you. And don’t forget to use your indicators – whatever you can do to grab the attention of other motorists and let them know your intentions is worth doing.
Once you’re on the highway, we prefer to station ourselves in the number one lane (that’s the left-most lane) and travel just slightly faster than the flow of traffic. Placing yourself on the left keeps you as far away as possible from oncoming/merging traffic, where there’s a higher chance of errant car drivers doing something stupid. It also reduces the odds of someone performing a bonehead move from your left, though you can never rule out the possibility of something happening from opposing lanes of traffic – we’ve seen it happen! Going slightly faster than the flow of traffic helps keep you out of the blind spots of cars around you and gives you an advantage when it comes to seeing what’s ahead and planning accordingly. No matter which lane you’re in, try and stay either to the left or right portion of the lane – where car tires track. The center of the lane is more likely to be dirty with debris or oil deposits.
There’s one caveat to the left lane rule: if there’s faster traffic approaching, move over to the right and let them by. Don’t be a lane hog. Once the faster person is past, then move back. As you cruise along steadily, never let your guard down; scan ahead and always give yourself an escape route – don’t get boxed in by cars and don’t ride other people’s bumpers. Common sense stuff, really.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that allows lane sharing, we prefer to filter through cars when traffic is slow or stopped. While it might seem strange at first, the best time to filter is when cars are side-by-side in their respective lanes. Each driver should see each other, greatly reducing the likelihood they’ll dart into the other lane. This leaves a gap for you to ride through. One of the most dangerous times to split is when there’s a gap in a lane just big enough for the car in front of you. More often than not, the car driver will only see the opportunity – not you – and go darting for that space.
If you’re in the person’s blind spot, this puts you in a very dangerous position. Either stay well back or place yourself in a position where the driver clearly sees you – but when in doubt, play it safe and stay back. Being on a motorcycle gives you a few more advantages; sitting higher allows you to look through car windows. Use this advantage and see whether or not the driver is paying attention, on their phone, or spinning their head looking for an open gap. If they do anything that sets off red flags, just stay back. Also, look at the front tires of cars ahead – wheels angled left or right are a great indicator of the driver’s intentions. Prepare accordingly. Lastly, don’t go flying past 50 mph faster than traffic. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, it’s obnoxious and adds more ammunition in the general public’s disdain for motorcyclists. If you have any questions about lane positioning, follow the link below.
These are just a few quick tips. Throughout it all remember some key things: No matter where you are, place yourself in a position to have an escape route. Always pay attention. Limit the amount of time you’re in blind spots. Use your higher perch to look through car windows and front wheels of cars. Most importantly, use common sense and err on the side of safety. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with and ride your ride.