What to look out for when you're on the road - tips written by riders for riders. Every month, we sort through the tips you send us, and publish a selection here.
We invite you to write a tip for us. Winning submissions are awarded a new pair of protective riding gloves.
Riding in the Wind (Video)
By Andrew Denis (2009 rider safety tip competition grand prize winner)
Heads In (Video)
By Jackie Matthews (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
Farm Safety (Video)
By Ian Nicklen (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
Don’t die to be right! (Video)
By Trevor Dickson (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
Leading a Group (Video)
By David McMillan (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
White lines in the wet (Video)
By Adrian Gunton
Watch for the roll (Video)
By Martyn Lewis
Indicator cancellation (Video)
By Peter Bleach
Personal Blackspot List (Video)
By Paul McIntosh
Think Ahead to Save your Head (Video)
By Daryl Pearson
No Surprises! (Video)
By Peter Pryston
Freeway Riding (Video)
By Jenny Percy
Be Predictive (Video)
By Vic Fkiaras
Car Body LanguageBy Anthony Batchelor of Stawell
You cannot rely on indicators.
Concentrate on the wheels but be aware of the rest of the car, its body language and the general environment of course.
When riding behind cars, tail lights play the same role, especially the brake lights (assuming they work).
Using these focus points and actually waiting for the motor vehicle to take the course of action indicated provides the rider with the earliest possible detection process for understanding what a driver is actually doing.
Cars that don't give wayBy Belinda Coleman of Diamond Creek
When riding along and you see a car ahead at a 'give way' on your left or right, always look at the front wheel of the car as well as attempting to make eye contact with the driver. If the front wheel is moving slowly, it's likely that the driver hasn't seen you and is not going to give way. You will have time to take evasive action if necessary!
Driving in congested traffic - gaps and cars mergingBy Peter Edens of Kalorama
When travelling to or from the city during peak hour the roads are often heavily congested with traffic. This is a dangerous environment for the motorcyclist. Car drivers can change lanes suddenly upon seeing a gap in the traffic and will not see a motorcyclist travelling between the traffic. When there is a gap in the traffic large enough for a car to merge, slow down so that you have enough time to react if a car suddenly changes lanes.
(Ed's note: Remember that riding between lines of moving vehicles, more commonly known as lane splitting is not only dangerous as described but is also illegal).
When cars are waiting to merge from side streets the traffic will sometimes stop and leave a gap for them to cross both lanes to merge. Sometimes these cars merge with the direction of the traffic and sometimes they cross completely to the other side of the road and travel in the opposite direction. These drivers are usually looking in the wrong direction when a bike approaches. When approaching side streets, slow down and check if there are any cars waiting to merge and if there are make sure that the driver has seen you. If you are unsure, slow down and stop with the traffic as it is better to wait for a short time than to wreck your bike and yourself.
Car CountBy Bruce James of Leopold
If you can not locate the car in an effective check then it has turned off. You must always know where all vehicles are around you at all times.
Effective Braking to Cope with Unpredictable DrivingBy Peter Hayles of Altona
One of the most important things I learned in my early years of riding is to be a bit paranoid. Treat every car like they are out to get you and you greatly increase your chances of survival. Almost every day I ride, someone does something illegal or completely unexpected. Sometimes it is foolish, more than often it is just plain ignorance.
All that aside, you will never win an argument with a car or a truck when you are on a bike.
So the number one rule has got to be avoidance. Now most of you can handle a bike for sure, but when it comes to the crunch, how quickly can you really pull up, particularly in the wet? In the moment of panic you have got to know EXACTLY how much you pull up, if you lock up your rear, or even worse your front, you will be out of control in no time at all.
So... like everything else, practise. In the dry to start with. Travel along an empty road at say 60kph and apply the rear brake only at a particular point. See how long it takes to stop. Now repeat with only the front brake. A bit better that time? Now try for the optimal mix. You should find it to be about 80% front with just a bit of rear, particularly on sport bikes. In the wet this changes to almost 60% front. But the rear still counts a bit.
I also like to practise locking up the rear quickly, to test the road or tyre condition. Just quickly stamp on the brake when alone on a straight bit of road.
Another technique to practise is compensating for engine braking. Engine braking occurs though the rear wheel of course, so try changing down through the gears, using only rear braking to come to a smooth stop. What you need to do is back off your right (brake foot) each time the clutch is released. This will ensure an even braking force on your rear wheel. When you learn this and bring back your front brake your braking performance will be smoother and better. Good habits to get into NOW, before that next lunatic pulls out on you.
[Ed's note: When buying a bike it is a good idea to budget in the cost of your full protective gear.]
Keep anger in checkBy David Pleasance of Burwood
I find that if I am in a situation of another driver's fault, I will never get angry at the situation and seek retribution. I will say silently "no I insist - after you" rather than swear and flick the bird. As a younger man I may have.
If you allow yourself to get angry, you will endanger yourself greatly by fuelling an already tense situation. No good will come out of a road rage incident with you on two wheels.
Be safer behind trucks - from a truck driver/riderBy Craig Baxter of Euchuca
If you are going to slipstream a truck I personally don't mind as long as I know you are there. Just pop out to the right hand corner once in a while to remind us you are there.
The most important thing is don't sit too close - stay back at least a car length as things can get shot out from underneath - bits of blown tyres, sticks even dead animals that have been hit by the truck. If you are too close you won't have time to react.
I have seen the end result & it wasn't pretty. This applies doubly so at night.
Trucks are not your friendBy Leigh Knight of Frankston
Okay, the tip is this, if you want to slip through next to a truck, don't do it on his left side! The visibility from that mirror is incredibly limited and a single headlight amongst the others doesn't register all that well.
(Ed’s Note: A reminder that lane splitting is both illegal and dangerous).
If you have to do it, sit back at the right hand corner of the truck, the driver will see you within a few minutes as that mirror is less peripheral than the left. Most truckies will shift to the left of the lane to give you room once they have seen you. Sure, some won't. If they don't move over it means they haven't seen you or simply aren't moving. If that is the case, don't split the lane! Semis wander around a lot.
• Don't sit behind tip trucks. They carry anything from sand to concrete rubble. It hurts when it comes out and hits you.
• Don't sit behind low loaders. The usually carry machinery such as graders or backhoes. The trailer will always be left with clay or soil on it. This also hurts.
• Be careful of the dirty air from trucks. As you pass, the draught from a truck can change from pushing you away to suddenly drawing you in.
• Once you have everyone's attention by blipping the throttle coming into the car park, don't forget to put your stand down before trying to get off and go to the ATM. Yes, I know.
Wet Roads - Smart PositioningBy John Pozzobon of Wheelers Hill
[Ed's note: And remember to extend your survival space on wet roads. You need a following distance of at least three seconds to give you adequate time to respond if the vehicle ahead acts unpredictably. Give yourself even more survival space if the vehicle ahead is a truck or bus, which is harder to see around. Keeping your lights running always helps with visibility.]
White LinesBy David Brittain of Werribee
As we are only a fraction the size of cars, we have the ability to place ourselves in certain parts of the lane. When coming to a corner that has a direction arrow, just place yourself slightly to the left or right. If this is impossible, reduce speed to a minimum and adjust you body weight so the lean angle is reduced, decreasing the likelihood of the rear wheel loosing traction. Like any corner, avoid braking. The white lines (arrows) are very large and visible so your line and speed into the corner should already have been adjusted to suit. Direction arrows on corners are rare (most are placed before the corner) but like all riding, scan ahead, think of the conditions you are in and adjust riding to suit.
Debris on the road/keeping safe distanceBy Lancer Nichols of East Geelong
I was riding on the M1 freeway last month when I came across a 1.4m long star post right in the middle of my lane. I did see the post in time and went around the post. If I was too close to the car in front of me I may have run over the post and lost control.
It pays to keep at least 5 car lengths so you have a chance to avoid any debris on the road. The Great Ocean Road is one place great for riding but watch out for small rocks on the road that can catch you out.
Trail bikes on BitumenBy Mike Allan of Hallam
So if you are riding your trail bike with off-road type tyres to and from work, please take extra care. If you intend to continue riding your trail bike to work you would be well advised to get a set of Dual Sport tyres fitted to your bike. Dual sport tyres will give you much better grip on bitumen, and will still be useable on gravel roads. Unfortunately they will be next to useless on tracks used for traditional trail riding. If you leave your trail tyres on your bike they will soon be worn out if you ride on bitumen for any length of time, so not only will they be useless for trail riding they will be useless for the road as well.
The weekend trail rider will also have limited experience of handling road traffic and road conditions, so again take extra care, keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and make sure you can be seen by the other road users around you by positioning yourself in the right hand wheel track of the lane you are travelling in, turn on your headlight, wear a reflective vest or any other measure you and think of that will make you stand out from the crowd. Most of all expect the unexpected, be prepared to take evasive action or emergency brake at any moment, in short ride in a manner that will allow you to avoid accidents.
If you hit a dogBy Brian Podem of North Caulfield
The most normal reaction in this situation is to brake. But it is imperative not to be braking or swerving at the moment when you hit the animal, if it's avoidable.
What you want to do is to straighten the bike up and if anything to accelerate just before impact with the animal. This will lighten the front end of the bike so you will go over the top of it.
If you are braking when you hit it, the wheel will lock and you will slide along the road. If you are leaning the bike to avoid the animal but you hit it, the outcome will be the same.
[Ed's note: Very true, but apologies to animal lovers all the same.]
City Riding v Country RidingBy John Kaup of Wangaratta
Country riding is great fun, there's nothing better. But it can quickly come to an end when you're in an avenue of trees and an oncoming car doesn't see you. Modern bikes these days have the headlight wired ON, but if you have an older bike like me it's much safer to make sure it's ON before you ride.
Can't change othersBy Ken Rodger
Read more about Rider Safety.
Spokes road safety tips offers motorcycle riders advice for staying safe in all road and traffic conditions and sharing the road with cars, trucks, scooters, pedestrians and other vehicles.