How close is too close?

How close do you ride to the vehicle in front?

Have you ever considered the distance between you and their exhaust?

Next time you are out on the road, measure it. Not in distance but in time. As the vehicle in front passes a parked vehicle or prominent landmark such as a lamppost, count elephants. One elephant, two elephants… if you’ve passed your staging post before you’ve finished the second, you are too close.

If it’s wet on the road, make it four.

Bikes have – unfairly in many cases, fairly in others – a bad rap from some motorists. They see us a leather-clad thugs permanently covering their rear view mirrors, ready to sweep past at the first opportunity. Bikers know that’s not an accurate reflection on the community as a whole but at the same time, we have to admit there are plenty for whom the description fits.

So how about this: hold back a little. Motorbike instructors, particularly those who run refresher courses for returning bikers or those who want to up their game, often say that the biggest fault they see repeatedly is a biker who drifts too close to the vehicle in front. Often you feel the spot you’ve picked is the best place from which to start an overtake manoeuvre, but to the other road user you just look pushy and aggressive.

But there’s more to it than that. You are also leaving yourself no time to react if the vehicle in front does something unexpected. If they suddenly put the brakes on, you’ll have no chance to stop in time. What’s worse, by being too close you also restrict your field of vision – particularly so with vans and these modern tall SUVs that every family seems to own nowadays. And that means you can’t effectively scan the road in front for potential dangers, such as the motorist at the side junction who just might try to nip out, causing the car in front of you to brake suddenly.

A double whammy: You can’t prepare for the potential threat, or respond when it actually happens.

By pulling back a little more from the vehicle in front you not only give yourself more time to respond to the unexpected but also open up your field of vision, giving you a chance to spot troublespots before they develop.

And here’s an irony: You may find that sitting back a little allows you to spot overtaking opportunities that you would have otherwise missed if you were too close and basically staring at the vehicle in front’s backside.

Give yourself a better view of the road and you’ll have more time to make your pass in the right gear for the job, and with the right amount of acceleration to do so safely and efficiently.

So don’t be pushy or aggressive. Yes, bikers like to overtake but let’s do it in a calm, considerate fashion that starts a little further back from the vehicle you want to go past.

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