If you are lucky enough to live in a place that allows lane splitting, count yourself blessed. It’s great for reducing congestion, lowering commute times and if done right it increases the safety of motorcyclists on the road. But how do you lane split?
Well, on the surface it might sound simple, just hop on your two wheeled vehicle of choice and off you go.
Zipping down the road, weaving in and out of traffic, laughing at all those chumps or suckers sitting in their metal cages on wheels… obviously it’s not as simple as that.
There are many things you need to watch out for and be aware of to lane split safely. In this article we’ll go over some key points and tips you need to know to be safe while lane splitting.
So here, in no particular order, are 33 lane splitting tips for beginners:
1.Take it slow at the start. Like anything is life, lane splitting is a skill that needs to be learned. So start off slow and go at a pace that allows you to comfortably move through traffic. If you are with friends, don’t worry about trying to keep up.
2. Don’t focus on the mirrors. Target fixation is no good. Avoid gluing your eyes to mirrors as you lane split. It will only make you weave and wobble and possibly clip a mirror.
3. Keep your head and eyes up. You need to see what’s coming up ahead. Is the traffic opening up, is there a car blocking your path? You need to know about this as soon as possible. If your eyes and head are watching your front tire, you cannot do this.
4. Drag the rear brake. If you are moving slow, drag your rear brake. When you start to do this, you will see how much easier it is to maintain a constant speed and a straight line without wobbling. Everything will just feel so much smoother and stable.
5. Cover the brake. It’s true that lane splitting can be dangerous, any moment a car might cut you off or drift over closing the gap. When that happens, you need to be able to react as quickly as possible. Covering the front brake allows just that.
6. Keep it in the friction zone. When you are riding at slow speeds, like when lane splitting, every little twist or chop of the throttle causes the bike to lunge and surge. Upsetting the weight distribution of the bike and lowering stability, smooth this out by using the clutch and riding the friction zone.
7. Watch out for quick lane changes. During heavy traffic even the most zen Buddhist monk can become impatient. This means, your fellow motorists are probably looking at that lane beside them as it starts to move and think; “screw this, I’m going for it”. So they might quickly change lanes only to get 3 car lengths further, then change back to their previous lane when it starts to move. Be ready for it.
8. Don’t lane split between two large vehicles. This is incredibly dangerous to do, don’t do this. If you must, hold back at the back of the transport trailer, when you can quickly make it through without stopping, go for it. Spend as little time as possible beside or between large vehicles. Be ready for a gust of wind to hit you once you pass the truck.
9. When in doubt stop. If you are lane splitting and you are not sure if you can make it, hold back. It’s not worth taking some car mirror off with your arm or shoulder because you decided to send it. Only go when you know for sure you have enough room.
10. Assume they don’t see you. Most drivers don’t expect for a motorcycle to zip past them while they are stuck in traffic. They are usually just focused on looking at the bumper in front of them, oblivious to everything behind them. I mean, why would you bother to check mirrors or blind spots, you’re not moving. Right? All they care about is crawling forward and checking their Instagram feed.
11. If traffic starts to move well, stop lane splitting. If traffic starts to move at a normal pace, pick a lane and start riding like normal.
12. Lane markers can be pretty slippery. When you are lane splitting, try to avoid riding right on the road markers. These do not play nicely with motorcycles, especially when they are wet. So try to stay on one side or the other.
13. Limit your speed. This is a big one, don’t get carried away with speed. While lane splitting you increase the chance of a careless motorist cutting you off or blocking your path. This usually happens at the last second. Give yourself time to react, keep your speed down. You’re already moving along faster than if you were stuck in a car, no need to get greedy.
14. Limit time spent in blind spots. Blind spots are killer, if you are lane splitting in moving traffic, try to limit the time spent in a blind spot. If you are in a blind spot, you need to make a clear and immediate decision. Go for it or fall back and wait.
15. Follow the leader. Some people will say this is not a good idea, but I like to do this. If you see a motorcyclist in front of you lane splitting and clearing the cars, follow his coat tails. Hang back a car length or two (or more depending on speed) and enjoy the clear path.
16. Avoid weaving. You’re not warming up your tires for a race, weaving only distracts drivers and confuses them on what your intentions are. Keep it straight down the line. This also goes for weaving in and out of staggered traffic.
17. Skip doing it in the rain. Poor visibility and lane splitting are a recipe for disaster. Skip it in the rain.
18. Use the clutch instead of chopping the throttle. When you want to slow down, instead of just chopping the throttle, causing the bike to lunge or surge, try pulling in the clutch slightly and dragging the rear brake. Keep the throttle the same. If you do this, you’ll notice how much smoother and better your lane splitting experience will be.
19. You don’t own the road. Some motorcyclists act like it’s their god given right to do whatever they want and when they want on the road. They forget that they are not king of the road, they do not own it. We all have to share the roads. (This is unless of course you are a third-world dictator.) All motorists are free to use the road as they see fit, provided they follow the laws and rules. They are free to change lanes when they see fit, let you pass or simply be a dick and not let you pass. Don’t take it personal, it’s not. Just shrug it off and move on or pass when it is safe.
20. Move over for a faster lane splitter. Just like we hate when someone hogs the passing lane while going slow, it can be the same when lane splitting. Move over and let faster motorcyclists pass.
21. Watch for and respect turn signals. If you see a motorist signalling their intent to change lanes, respect it. Don’t try to pass them and assume they will not cut you off, because they will. You will always lose an argument with a car. Remember that.
22. Watch ahead for merging traffic and construction. Even if you are far away. Drivers will start to change lanes and jockey for new lane position much earlier than you might think. This means an increased chance of last minute lane changes, often without signalling.
23. Get into a moving lane. If one lane starts to move normally or quicker than the other, slide over to this lane and ride it until it slows down, then get back to lane splitting. Be sure to watch out for drivers in the slower lane looking to do the same. They might do so quickly and without looking or signalling.
24. Avoid vehicles that are towing. There is a good chance that a trailer being towed can bounce or whip over into you unexpectedly while lane splitting. So try to wait for a time when the traffic is staggered and then pass. This gives you a safe escape route over to a clear lane should the trailer whip towards you.
25. Avoid rev bombing and honking your horn. You don’t need to do this, yes it will make most motorists move over, but it’s dickish. It only goes to reinforce negative stereotypes of motorcycle riders. Don’t give them a chance to hate us more, you’re already pissing them off by not being stuck in traffic.
26. Parallel cars are best for passing. If you see two cars that are travelling parallel beside each other, it’s probably the best time to pass. There is a very low chance that either motorists are going to change lanes and cut you off.
27. Filter to the front at red lights. When you are riding a motorcycle, you are safest when there are no cars around you. The best way to do this is by being first at a red light when it changes to green. So filter to the front of the line, don’t sit there like a chump surrounded by cars.
28. Ride in clear zones. If you are lane splitting and you get to a point where you have some clear space around you, like a bubble, don’t hurry ahead only to be surrounded by cars and hazards again. Ride this bubble for a while and give your mind a quick break, enjoy the ride a bit.
29.Stay alert and focused. When lane splitting it’s not the time to think about how your boss is a jerk or any problems at home. Leave that crap at the curb when you turn the key, focus on the ride ahead.
30. Give a thanks to cars that move over. People appreciate being acknowledged, especially when it’s for doing something courteous or kind. So, give a little nod, wave with your foot or hand. Something to let the driver know you appreciate them moving over. It goes a long way to reinforce this behavior so they continue to do it for your fellow riders in the future.
31. Get into a lane during sweeping turns. If you are lane splitting and you notice a sweeping turn in the road, pick a lane and stop lane splitting. Trying to lane split during a turn sucks, it’s too easy to drift over accidentally and get close to either a car to your left or right. So pick a lane, complete the turn then get back to lane splitting.
32. Avoid lane splitting between cars and parked cars. This shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, it’s just common sense, but you’d be amazed how many motorcyclists do this. Not only do you run the risk of a car cutting you off while making a right hand turn, you also have to deal with car doors opening, pedestrians darting out. So don’t do this.
33. Don’t be a dick. If you start to get pissed off, take a break. Don’t resort to flipping others off, smashing mirrors or kicking cars. It does nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes of motorcyclists. And not just for the persons who car you damaged. Everyone present seeing it as well. Not to mention online if someone records it. This puts us all in a negative light.
While lane splitting is great at lowering your commute time, it is a skill that needs to be learned. So start out slow, get used to how traffic flows. Learn to anticipate other motorists’ moves on the road and you’ll be fine.
But just so you know, when lane splitting it’s often a matter of inches that decide whether or not you will clip a mirror and crash or make it through… so make sure you are 100% confident with your slow riding skills before you set off and give it a go.
I hope you learned a thing or two, until next time. All the best and happy riding!