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The Rider's Handbook

Speed management

Managing your riding speed is important for safe riding. The faster you ride, the greater your chances of crashing and of serious injury and death if you do crash.

Riding above the speed limit is both dangerous and unlawful. Riding under the speed limit can still be dangerous if you do not adjust your speed to match the road and traffic conditions.

Low risk riders manage their speed and road position to maintain a crash avoidance space completely around their motorcycle.

To determine the crash avoidance space to the front of your motorcycle you need to take into account two key factors - reaction time and response time.

Reaction time is the time the rider needs to:

  • See the information.
  • Perceive what it means.
  • Decide on a response.
  • Instigate that response.

A rider who is fit, concentrating, alert and not affected by alcohol, drugs, fatigue or a distraction, will require about one and a halfseconds to react to a sudden and unexpected change in traffic conditions.

Response time is the time required to take action. Generally a minimum of one and a half seconds is needed to respond. In many situations braking may be the only possible response. Swerving is rarely appropriate and is likely to result in a more severe crash, for example a head on collision.

A total of three seconds crash avoidance space is needed to react and respond to a situation in front of you. You may need even longer in poor conditions such as rain and darkness.

The three second rule, explained below, can be used when following another vehicle or if there is potential for something to accelerate or steer into your crash avoidance space.

Maintain space to the front

Maintain space to the front
To calculate a three second crash avoidance space when following another vehicle, use this basic technique. As the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes a stationary object at the side of the road, such as a power pole, tree or sign, start a three second count 'one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three'.

If your motorcycle passes the point you picked before you finish the count, you are following too closely. Your crash avoidance space is not large enough.

Slow down and repeat the count again until the three second crash avoidance space is achieved.

Maintain space to the front

In poor conditions such as rain, night and gravel roads, it may be necessary to increase your crash avoidance space to four or more seconds.

To reduce the risk of riding into the back of another vehicle, the three second crash avoidance space is essential, as the vehicle in front has the ability to stop very quickly indeed if it collides with another vehicle or a stationary object.

Be aware that in most situations cars can stop in a shorter distance than motorcycles, due to the greater grip provided by four tyres.

Maintain space behind you
It is difficult to maintain a crash avoidance space behind you, as another driver or rider controls the space.

If a vehicle behind is travelling too closely, slow down slightly to increase the space you have in front of you. This will enable you to brake more gradually if you spot a hazard in front, which will enable the following vehicle more time to stop as well.

When you stop behind another vehicle leave at least one and a half motorcycle lengths between your front wheel and the back of the vehicle in front. This will provide some space in case they roll back or if you need to ride around them.

Maintain space to the front

Safe speeds
Adjust your speed for the road conditions.

Situations where your vision may be reduced include:

  • Blind corners
  • Blocked intersections
  • Crests
  • Poor weather conditions.

Slow down if you cannot see five seconds ahead, and stay within the speed limit.

To calculate five second vision in a curve, pick a fixed point in the oncoming lane that has just come into view and start a count 'one thousand and one, one thousand and two...one thousand and five'. If you reach the point before five seconds you are riding too fast for the available vision.

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