One of the most important street survival skills every rider should strive to perfect is choosing proper lane positioning. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) teaches that there are three positions within each lane: left, center, and right. But which is the best position?
There’s no one correct answer to this question. A multitude of factors and circumstances need to be taken into account before choosing the best lane position. Following are 10 factors to consider when choosing the best lane position for optimal safety.
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1. Road surface conditions
2. Available cornering clearance Is the road youre riding on level, or is it crowned, meaning that it’s higher in the middle? Crowned roads are sometimes designed this way so that water can run off the sides more easily. While you could choose to ride on top of the crowned (center) portion of the lane, the center of the road is where all of the fluids leaking from cars end up, leaving a slippery cocktail of oil, transmission fluid, and anti-freeze that builds up on a daily basis until its washed away by rain. During the first few minutes of rain, you should avoid the center portion of the roadway. But be mindful that riding beside the crowned middle will offer you less cornering clearance when you lean the motorcycle in its direction.
3. Visibility Remember the motto “see and be seen.” The ideal lane position puts you in the best position to be seen by others and at the same time gives you the ability to see as far ahead as possible.
4. Blind spots
5. Blind corners
6. Nighttime Visibility
7. Intersections Your senses should be extra-alert at intersections, where most multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents occur. If you scan ahead to see a potential hazard at an intersection, such as a car waiting to pull into your path, a deliberate weave in your lane can get that driver to notice you, especially if you are following a large vehicle making it difficult to be seen.
8. Escape paths
If you are traveling on a single lane road in the far right position, where will you go if a distracted driver barrels over the blind hill in your lane? All you have as an option is the shoulder. Conversely, if you are on that same road in the far left lane, you may be putting yourself at a greater risk when coming to that blind hill. Center is the ideal position in these circumstances.
Try not to box yourself in, so that you only have one way to go. If youre passing a vehicle on the highway for instance, and a construction barrier is on your left while passing the vehicle, where is your out? Its better to adjust your speed and wait for a better opportunity to pass, when there isnt an object like a guard rail, construction barrier, or a steep drop off limiting your opportunities for an “out.”
9. Following distance
10. Group riding
Don’t toss your knowledge and skill of riding out the window when youre riding in a group. Ride your own ride, even with friends, and encourage them to do the same. Choose your own speed and position.
While riding motorcycles is an expression of freedom, make sure to always stay sharp and focused when youre on the road. Be aware of all the hazards and oblivious drivers that are too busy texting, reading, eating, and daydreaming to think about your safety. Proper lane position gives you all the information you need to be in the right place at the right time. Practice your skills and your bikes limitations when you’re in a safe, controlled environment so that when you need to call on them, it comes as second nature.
18 thoughts on 10 Lane Positioning Tips
Would add a #11 which would be lane positioning at a stop. I always keep an eye on the driver behind me and position myself so that I have an escape route if the driver doesn’t stop.
Since stops are almost always at intersections, #7 covers stopping pretty well. But great advice in keeping an eye on your mirrors!
Just a note of caution on number seven—intersections and the presentation. I have a brother and more than a few friends that were rear-ended because of the stop, pull up, and stop again technique. On all occasions the drivers thought that they were making their turn. Be extra cautious when you have a vehicle behind you.
Great point, Doreen! Keep an eye on those mirrors!
I found this article very interesting to read, and is something that you should read more than once. Ride safe.
Very good article. Everyone that rides a motorcycle needs to read this.
Thank you for this editorial. As a new rider this information is invaluable. Very well written along with the pictures—shows exactly what I need to know.
Great article and refresher. Take the Advanced Rider’s Course if you have not—it will help you with maneuvers and emergency stops and you will learn how to avoid other pitfalls that can derail you. Stay safe!
I have been reading this publication for a long time and have always found something of interest and educational in the articles as well as the ads.
Thank you for this “refresher” information. This really helped me, because I’m constantly thinking in “what if” mode while riding.
Very well done article. Just today my 16 year old grandson passed the MSF course. I’m sharing this article with him.
Thanks for such an excellent article! The photos combined with the tips were very effective in illustrating your points.
Very good refresher. Good read.
Thank you Janet! We’re so appreciative that you love us!
Very good article. Good refresher for even seasoned riders. Thanks.