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Biking skills

Compared to other motorists motorcyclists have a disproportionately high risk of being involved in a crash. Novice riders, in particular, are at a higher risk of being involved in a collision than more experienced motorcyclists. Research shows that the majority of collisions involving novice riders occur because they fail to observe their surroundings fully, meaning that they can struggle to anticipate potential dangers on the road. This lack of anticipation, therefore means they react to situations in a way that causes them to lose control of their bike. 

Once you have completed your CBT, developing your motorcycle skills, through further training, is a great way to stay safe on the roads. You can improve your skills through practice and taking guidance and advice from professional motorcycle trainers. They can help you to think about how best  to observe your surroundings when on the road so that you can anticipate any potential difficulties and therefore position and control your bike. 

Why is it important to develop my riding skills?

Developing your riding skills can increase your ability to handle and position your bike correctly on the road, increasing your confidence and enjoyment whilst reducing your chances of being in a crash. RoSPA strongly recommends taking frequent, and regular professional lessons during your learning period. A good training school will also help you to understand the law, as well as being able to offer advice on how to maintain your bike and choose the appropriate helmet, clothing, gloves and boots for riding.  

How do I identify hazards when riding a motorcycle?

When you are riding your motorcycle there are several things you can do to identify hazards on the road around you 

  1. Stay alert and scan the road to see what is happening around you: Keep scanning the road ahead and all around you to help detect any potential hazards in your path so you can react to them in a timely manner. This could be things like potholes, debris, or other obstacles that could cause a problem. There may also be obstructions in the road that prevent you from seeing what is happening ahead. For example, cars might be parked along the road, or trees could overhang, obstructing road signage. If you can’t see ahead, reduce your speed so that you can safely navigate any hazards that appear from behind the obstruction. 

    Remember, wearing a helmet and visor will limit your peripheral vision, which is the area you can see at the edge of your vision. As a result, you’ll need to turn your head frequently to examine everything around you

  2. Be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye on pedestrians, animals, and other potential hazards that might be off the road 

  3. Keep an eye on other vehicles: Risks arising from the movement and positioning of other road users this could be due to vehicle movements or positioning at junctions or roundabouts. Look out for cars or other vehicles that might be making unexpected manoeuvres, such as turning without signalling or merging suddenly

  4. Pay attention to weather conditions: Wet roads, strong winds, and other weather factors can all create hazards for motorcycle riders. 

Some risks are constant, no matter where you go; whereas others vary from one environment to the next – on rural roads, for example, you might encounter slow-moving tractors or mud on the road; in cities, there are many different types of road users present. 

How can I anticipate hazards?

When riding you need to consistently  

  • Look. What potential hazards can you see? 

  • Anticipate. What can I not see? 

  • Plan. How can you prepare yourself and your bike?  

What information do I need to use when riding my motorbike?

When you’re riding on the road there is a lot of information around you. It’s important to use this information, as well as giving information to other road users; this will let other road users know what you are planning to do. 

How do I communicate with other road users?

  • Signals for turning

    • Use your indicators (or hand signals) when turning or changing lanes, it will indicate your intentions to other drivers 

    • Use your indicators in good time to warn road users what you are planning to do, but be careful not to indicate too early and so give a misleading signal

    • Make sure your indicators are cancelled as soon as possible after you’ve turned to avoid confusion. 

  • Warning signals

    • Horn: you can only use your horn when moving, use it to warn other road users that you are there 

    • Headlights: Most modern motorcycles will be fitted with Automatic Headlights On (AHO). This means that they will be on both day and night. RoSPA recommends that you either have AHO or have your headlights on in the day as well as at night time. This can increase your visibility to other traffic

    • Hazard lights: Use hazard lights if you have broken down and you may be obstructing traffic. Never use them as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking 

How should I position my motorcycle on the road?

You should always try to position yourself so that you can negotiate and pass hazards safely and smoothly. Keep scanning the road ahead of you to see when you may need to change your road position, such as roadworks, cars parked on the side of the road or cars pulling out of junctions. 

When you change your road position check 

  • Ahead of you for road users 

  • Your mirrors for vehicles behind you

  • ​Your sides for vehicles behind you

Position, speed, Lane and Acceleration

  1. Position: Make sure that you stay visible to other road users, especially when riding in areas with limited visibility  

  1. Speed: Manage space around your bike to ensure you leave plenty of room between your motorcycle and other vehicles to give you time to react to any hazards. Use your mirrors to ensure you know what is happening around your motorbike.

  1. Lane: Where are you in the lane? Change your lane position to indicate to other drivers that you are turning or changing lanes. Once you are in the right position and travelling at the right speed, select an appropriate gear. Are you communicating effectively to other road users? 

  1. Acceleration: Once you have passed the hazard, you can safely accelerate away. 

How can I position myself when approaching a junction?

Motorcyclists are most likely to be involved in a collision at a junction, especially at T-junctions. They often occur when other motorists pull out into the path of the motorcyclist because the driver failed to give way or stop. Research shows that other motorists can sometimes fail to see a rider, misjudge the motorcyclist’s speed and therefore the time it will take the rider to arrive at the junction.

As you are approaching a junction, try to make eye contact with other road users and anticipate what they are going to do, for example by checking if their vehicle’s wheels are starting to turn. Always reduce your speed and be prepared to take action, just in case the vehicle pulls out in front of you. 

How do I position myself when turning?

Turning left: When you’re turning left, look in front, behind and beside you then position yourself in the middle of your lane. Look in front, behind and beside you. Signal, slow down and choose the correct gear. 

  • Watch out for: Vehicles parked around the corner, pedestrians already crossing the road and cyclists approaching on your left 


Turning right: as you approach the junction look in front, behind and beside you then position yourself as close to the centre of the road as is safe. Look in front, behind and beside you. Signal, slow down and choose the correct gear. 

Emerging into a road: If you’re joining a road from a junction, you’ll need to judge the speed and distance of any traffic on the road you’re joining. At the junction you’ll then need to look carefully, remembering that your view might be blocked by buildings, hedges, bends or other vehicles. Your view can also be affected by poor weather or even low sun. 

  • Only emerge when you can safely join the road: you may need to wait some time for a suitable gap. If you’re crossing the path of approaching traffic to turn right into a major road, you’ll need to wait for a gap in both the oncoming traffic and the traffic you’re joining. 

  • When you’ve emerged: 

    • check behind for the speed and position of other traffic 

    • accelerate so your speed is correct for the road and conditions 

    • keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front 

    • make sure that your indicator is cancelled. 

Is filtering illegal?

For motorcyclists, scooter users and cyclists, filtering through congested lanes of motor vehicles is legal. If you filter, by moving past stationary or slow moving traffic, do it with care and reduce your speed. Closely packed vehicles in a queue reduce your visibility, your room to manoeuvre and your time to react to hazards.  

Some motorists do not regularly check their mirrors and may not realise that you are there, so may move across in front of you or open a door. Pedestrians may also suddenly cross between stationary vehicles without realising you are approaching. 

If you are unsure about filtering, then this video helps explain how to do it safely. 

How do I overtake safely?

Overtaking can be a high-risk manoeuvre. Overtaking requires the skill to judge speed and distance, good sightlines and a good knowledge of your bike’s acceleration. When riding a bike you are not used to, before performing any overtaking, take time to learn how it reacts when accelerating and braking in different gears. 

To overtake safely, you need a good view of everything going on around you and to be aware of places where a vehicle may be hidden from your view, such as over the brow of a hill, in a dip, around a bend or approaching from a junction.

You also need to consider how the driver or rider you are overtaking, or traffic coming from the opposite direction, will react. You can’t assume they will slow down to let you pass. They may do the opposite. 

Don’t overtake when approaching: 

  • bends

  • junctions

  • lay-bys

  • pedestrian crossings

  • hills or dips in the road

  • where there are double white lines or other signs prohibiting overtaking.

How do I improve my cornering on a motorbike?

Cornering is riding a motorcycle round a curve, corner or a bend and is one of the main riding skills, so it's important to get it right. Remember that your machine loses some stability and you demand extra from your tyres when cornering. Some bends can be smooth and even, others can tighten up dramatically. 

Think if you can take in any information before the bend: 

  • How sharp is the bend? Can you see around it? The curvature of the white lines can give you clues about how it bends 

  • Are there any road signs beforehand to warn you of any hazards? 

The principles of safe cornering are: 

  • Position yourself correctly as you approach the bend 

  • Brake and lose speed before the bend 

  • Choose the correct gear for your speed 

  • Use your accelerator carefully  

  • Steer to hold the correct line through the bend.  


For more information and guidance on cornering safely RoSPA have produced a video that can be accessed here

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