View Full Version : Lane Position

12-23-2005, 08:39 AM
There was a post in another thread that made me think about lane position. I'm going to post my thoughts, and let everyone shoot them down.

As a rule, I vary my lane position depending on the circumstances. If I am moving with traffic, or slower, I stay in the right lane, usually in the left track. If a car looks particularly squirrelly next to me, I’ll either speed up or back down…usually back off it a bit. I may move to the center of the lane, but I try to avoid “inviting” them over. The same is true of on/off ramps. I’ll stay in the right lane, but I kind of treat them like dogs. I back off a bit and gauge the traffic around me…then I gas it to get past quickly.

If I am moving faster than the flow, I’ll ride in the left lane in the right track. If someone wants to go faster than I am, I move a lane over to the right. On a two-lane road, I pull over to let them past me. Seldom do I ride in the left track.

Naturally, I adjust position for curves to get outside-inside-outside (delayed apex if I can’t see through the curve) without leaning into the other lane.

At stops, where I am depends on traffic, and even the type of vehicle in front of me…for example, if there’s a truck or vehicle with no back window or rearview, I position myself so I can see the driver’s side mirror, and so I have an escape route. If it’s a car with a back window and a rearview mirror, I stay centered, but pointing a little to the side, far enough back that I can shoot the gap if I need to.

Anyway…your thoughts.

safety geek
12-23-2005, 10:04 AM
It's always good to have a plan. It's important to think some of these scenarios through while you're off the bike, because they will come a little easier, more naturally, when you're on the bike. Keep thinking and analyzing different situations and visualize your reactions so they're relatively familiar to you when it's real time.


Missy B
12-23-2005, 12:30 PM
I do a lot of the same things you do. I dont know if it's right or not, but....I do. LOL

The only difference is that I will use the left track of a lane in an attempt to make myself visible in the drivers' side mirror. I also vary my lane position a lot, in accordance to how I feel I need to make myself visible, or if I have a car on my left or right that I think I need to be away from. LOL

The only time this is different is if I"m riding staggered with H. Then, of course, I dont ride around the lane too much. Unless I'm tailgunning, then I ride wherever the heck I wanna--if I need to. LOL After hearing dalan's crash story, tho, that's in the back of my mind and I dont run too much all over the lane while staggered.

12-23-2005, 03:11 PM
I do a lot of the same things you do. I dont know if it's right or not, but....I do. LOL

The only difference is that I will use the left track of a lane in an attempt to make myself visible in the drivers' side mirror.

Are you talking about in the left lane of multiples, or on a two-lane? I just realized my post wasn't clear enough. I kind of move around some when in the left lane, but I favor the right track. I do move over as you mentioned, Missy, to make sure I enter the field of vision of the driver's left mirror...I just don't cruise in that track. I don't know why...just feels like I'm inviting someone to share. And I don't like sharing. :)

On a two-lane, I do favor the left track and the center. Like you said...feels more visible.

In formation, I keep the stagger, though probably not as close as some would prefer. I also don't maintain the stagger in the twisty bits.

I still need a lot of practice, beginner that I am.

12-23-2005, 05:07 PM
Sounds good to me Caddie.

As always there's the caveat to adjust lane postion as needed to maximize visiblility to other vehicles... which of those is more threatening varies as you go... sometimes you move to make yourself more visible to the guy waiting to pull out of driveway, sometimes for the potential left-turner, etc.

Missy, I don't worry too much about being in the mirror view of the vehicle directly in front of me. About the only thing they can do that's threatening is suddenly hitting the brakes, which I should be ready for anyway with proper following distance. Caddies strategy of being in the right track of the left lane, or the left track of the right lane makes you more visible in the side (or rear-view) mirror of vehicles in the adjacent lane. Those are the ones likely to cut you off.
Related... On lane ownership... If you divide the lane into three tracks, where I generally ride is right on the line that divides the center track from one of the side tracks, rather than in the center of one of the tracks. It gives me some of the advantage of being to one side, but a little more to the center to claim more "ownership" from both sides.

In formation... In the real twisty bits the leader should be signaling for single file and everyone should be expanding their spacing to 2 sec. (Which is essentially the same spacing to the bike directly in front of you, 1 sec. between bikes in a stagger is 2 sec. to the bike directly in front of you). For mellower curves you should try to maintain your lane position, however a major point to the staggered formation is so that you can use the whole lane anytime you need to without clipping the bike in front or behind.


12-24-2005, 10:55 AM
I also try to remember to keep out of cage blind spots, irregardless of which part of the lane you ride. I've seen cops position their full size Crown Victorias in driver's blind spots and then pull them over for speeding. It's pretty funny to see this happen, because the siren comes on loud and seemingly out of nowhere.

Don't even mention the blind spots of trucks/buses.

12-24-2005, 03:21 PM
I am with you TorontoBoy & in my area of central B.C., Cdn four lanes are pretty rare compared to the twisty up & down two lane ones we have here in the Cdn Rockie Mtns. I think there are more lanes in some of the larger cities like Vancouver. Still I spend most of my riding on the hwys & not the triple or even larger lanes that are not here.

Some yrs ago they used he tall clay banks & twisty roads from Penticton to my home town as being the most dangerous in B.C., though I loved wheeling the bikes into & out of those bends. Unfortunately they made it a four lane stretch so now the fun of riding is no longer there.

Funny thing is they have just as many accidents & same number loose control & take a dip into the Okanagan Lake or go into the rock walls of some of the Mtns. I guess with four lanes then more traffic can go along it.

01-01-2006, 08:55 AM
I'm glad to see subvets comments on riding staggered when there are more than 1 rider (s). I see it ALL the time where 2 riders are riding side by side in the lane or the back rider on top of the front rider with no space cushion between them. I cant help think to myself what would happen if one of them had to suddently swerve or stop....disaster.

01-04-2006, 08:04 PM
I'll usually default to the left-hand track of a lane, unless I'm
- avoiding obstacles/rough patches
- setting up for a turn
- feel the need to bob over for a moment and let somebody on the lane to my right know I'm there.

Caddie's post has me thinking now about the following scenario: Let's say you're in packed, speedy traffic, on a four-lane highway, riding in the left-hand lane. The left lane's moving faster, so sometimes cars on the right lane will try to merge into the fast lane.

In the right track of the left-hand lane, you are more likely to be spotted by the cars to your right. This means they're less likely to go darting into the space you occupy, thus avoiding potential collisions. However, if they still manage to not see you and go for your lane, you're RIGHT THERE when they start moving in, and the gap ahead of you (in this case, the lane split on your right) has already been closed by the merging cager. You need to swerve to the left at least as quickly as the cage on your right is closing before you can do anything else, or brake hard and hope the cage behind you will spot your taillight.

In the left track, you're more likely to have people move in on you from the right for having not seen you. On the other hand, when they do, you might have time to split the lane ahead of you (in this case, the left split or shoulder), lay on the horn to stop the approach before he's fully crossed the line, or brake. Given that you're on the left track, you're directly in front of the zoned-out stare of the cager behind you, so there's a chance he'll see your brake light and do the same in time to not hit you from behind if you choose to brake.

It seems like it comes down to a question of, do you maximize your visibility to others first, or maximize your ability to avoid them when you prove invisible? For me, visibility is secondary to maintaining open escape routes, when they happen to conflict. Of course, I'm on a quiet little bike and surrounded by space cadets here.

01-05-2006, 07:32 PM
It's possible to do both. No one answer is right in all circumstances, you have to balance the risks/benefits constantly.

If you're in the left hand lane you should be passing those in the lane to your right, so...
as you approach use the right side of your lane for the visibility, when you get close enough that your space cushion becomes more important than visibility, move left until you've gotten past. Then you can move back to the right position as you approach the next car.


01-06-2006, 03:33 PM
Yeah, no set rules for this, every situation is different as is every rider's needs / riding style. But all in all I'm fairly similar to what's been stated.

On a two lane road I'l ride the left third of my lane for hte most part, moving within that lane as needed or warranted. Generally I tend to move over to the middle or right if there's oncomming traffic that's large ... large SUVs, trucks, 18-wheelers ... to minimize their blast.

On a 3-lane road I basically almost always ride in the left third of my lane, moving within that as warranted by traffic / conditions.

On a 4 lane road I tend to ride in the left lane, right third of that lane so as to protect my lane and be visible to traffic in the right lane. I will also for the most part slide to the middle or far left to pass 18-wheelers ... basically giving me some breathing room as I go by them. If I need to be in the right lane, because the left is bothering me, need to pass traffic, will be exiting to the right at some point, then I'll ride in the left portion of the right lane.

On a large multistate road, 3 or more lanes in each direction, then I'l tend to ride in the far left or next to the far left lane. This keeps me away from merging and exiting traffic for the most part. If in the far left lane, then I tend to ride the right 3rd of that lane. If in the next to the far left lane, then I tend to move between the left and right 3rd of that lane as warranted, keeping myself visible to traffic in my lane,and the lanes to my right and left.

I also don't have a problem riding in the middle of the lane at times. Yeah, I know all about oil dripping and such, but sometimes the "wheel" paths of the lanes can be bad, pot holed, rippled, and so on. Also, during rain, those lanes can become puddles because they're grooved whereas the water in the middle has run off into the side paths. I prefer riding where there isn't much water. Now, mind you, this takes into account that it's been raining for a while. We all know the dangers of riding on the road as it begins to get wet.

Oh yeah, then there's this one ... on a multilane street where you need to turn left from your lane ... I'll get in the far left lane but stay in the right 3rd of that lane until I'm turning. I've made the mistake of scooting left in preparation to make the left turn and then had a cage "squeeze" by me. DOn't like that at all!

01-06-2006, 04:00 PM
I generally try to stay on the paved surface of the road.

01-06-2006, 04:13 PM
There you go again, always aiming for the easy way ... ;-)

01-06-2006, 04:37 PM
I generally try to stay on the paved surface of the road.

Wuss. :redtounge