Ride Further Back For Better Vision
Following a big SUV, a truck or any other such vehicle that obscures your vision of the road? Back off until you can see well. It’s more distance, not less, that will make your pass more informed and therefore safer.
Alert Other Drivers
Other motorcyclists or drivers who aren’t busy staring at their phones may also want to pass the traffic that’s slowing you down. Before beginning the pass process, take a long look at what’s behind you, if there’s anyone there, inform them of your intentions. Turn on your left turn signal and move to the left of your lane.
Once you pull out to make the pass, you’ll want to make sure drivers in the queue in front of you don’t pull out ahead of you. Know how your bike has a “trigger” for its high beams? That’s so you can easily flash it while passing. Do so. Ride to the far left of the road so people can easily see you in their wing mirrors, too.
Appropriate Passing Speed
So you’ve got a clear stretch of road, made sure no one behind you is trying to pass you and you’re ready to go. Don’t just grab a handful of throttle and pull a 150 mph power wheelie pass that truck. Accelerate with conviction and pass with extreme prejudice, but do so in a controlled, safe manner which won’t a)cause the passee to pick up the phone and call the cops b) allows you a margin for safety should the vehicle or vehicles do something unexpected and c) keeps you marginally on the grey side of the law. Don’t linger next to vehicles being passed, but also don’t push so hard that you sacrifice control of the situation.
Have a number of vehicles to get past and limited space in which to do so? You may need to pick them off one at a time. To all the above, add finding a reasonable amount of space to pull back into the queue. Identify that space before you pull out and match the speed of its leader and follower before pulling into it. Ideally, you won’t cause the car behind you to hit the brakes or take any sort of evasive maneuver and you’ll leave adequate following distance behind the vehicle in front. Relying on other traffic to do the smart thing is a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes, you may encounter a situation where you need to pull back into the queue unexpectedly. Again, this is where passing at a reasonable speed helps. And again, it’s all about planning. Have your escape routes planned before you pull out, then simply choose plan B or C or D should a situation arise where it’s no longer safe for you to make the planned pass. And also again, match the speed of the gap before pulling into it. And, for the love of Flying Spaghetti Monsters, clearly signal your intentions, particularly if another bike or car is passing behind you.
You’ll know you’ve gotten this all right if your pass is smooth, goes as planned and doesn’t freak anyone out. It should not involve any last second near misses, any extreme control inputs and no aspect of the pass should catch you unawares. Like all the rest of your riding, smooth is fast.
Put in some miles, practice this along with all of the rest of your skills and you’ll be smoothly and effortlessly folding passing into your ride. Traffic will become less of an impediment and more just another aspect of your riding. You should be identifying traffic and passing opportunities so far in advance that you’re not interrupting your pace or flow with the passes, you’re just flowing down the road with confident ease.
Cops hate passing as much, if not more, than other Americans. It’s also a great opportunity for expanding their bottom lines, as it enables them to throw words like “reckless” and “endangering” onto that ticket they’re going to write you. And, while the law states that it’s kosher to pass so long as the yellow line is dashed and you don’t exceed the speed limit, passing also allows them to enter their “judgment” into the ticket-writing process. If their “judgment” determines that you did anything unsafe, reckless or just plain un-American, expect to get the book thrown at you. We’d never, ever, pass a cop car, no matter how slow that Crown Vic is going. Above all, cops need to feel that their authority is respected.
So tell us, what advice for safely passing cars do you have.