If you’ve read any of my previous motorcycling blogs, you’ll be aware that I like touring and dislike rain, therefore you might assume that my biking life is all about holidays and weekend jaunts.
Believe it or not I do also commute on my bike, and I’m doing pretty well so far this year. The bike has been chosen over the car a lot lately, even when the morning temperatures have been a bit crisp. I even got caught in a shower the other week, I’m so hardcore!
Bikers often talk about the feeling of freedom that they get from riding, conjuring up romantic images of the Stelvio Pass, Route 66, or of blatting down to Brighton for some chips just because you can.
Filtering on the A414 St Albans bypass rarely features within the same cinematic dreamscape but, for anyone cursed with a congested commute, what greater freedom is there than the freedom from having to sit in rush-hour traffic?
However, it’s not all gravy. There are a few challenges that are worth being aware of before you take to two wheels on the daily grind. Here I give you my top three tips:
Fans of IPSGA and POWDERY will no doubt be familiar with ATGATT: ‘All The Gear All The Time’. It’s a pretty sound mantra from a safety point of view, but it can add an inordinate amount of faff to one’s daily routine.
On the days that I choose to drive rather than ride, I go through a simple grooming routine. Get dressed, jump in the car and trundle to work, putting up with the traffic.
Total turnaround time: 1 hour
And on bike days my routine takes a little longer.
Yay! I then change out of all that biking gear and into my (now badly creased) work clothes, before wrestling my matted hair into submission with the help from a massive handful of hair product.
Total turnaround time: 59 minutes. Winner.
Queueing is supposedly a national pastime for us Brits. If you believe the stereotype, our unique appreciation for waiting in line is ingrained in our nation’s collective psyche.
Perhaps that’s why I find myself on the receiving end of such dirty looks when I arrive at the front of a line of stationary traffic on my bike, refusing to join the queue must make me some kind of deviant.
But why do some of those drivers then insist on trying to race me away from the lights hoping to squeeze back in front of me? Whilst others deliberately try and block my path to prevent me from filtering.
Don’t they realise that I’m helping to alleviate congestion by using the bits of road that they don’t need? Don’t they appreciate the sacrifices I’m making? I’ve faffed, I’m exposed to the elements, I’m vulnerable to impacts … still they treat me like some weirdo who’s physically pushed in front of them at the supermarket. What is wrong with people?
Sorry, I did try not to rant.
Not all of them, of course, but the aggression and impatience I see displayed by a lot of motorcyclists is a worry. Both in terms of their safety, but also for example it sets for other bikers, and the reputation it promotes. I can’t help feeling that some of the haters’ attitudes may have been informed by the type of riding they witness during rush hour: filtering at crazy speeds, tailgating, weaving and darting between lanes for no apparent reason. All are common sights.
I guess this is done in the name of ‘making progress’ but I just wish those riders could understand that the most significant gains come from being able to keep moving while other traffic is stationary, not from outright speed or gung-ho opportunism.
All those risky moves put together might only buy you a minute or two in total, but just one might cost you dearly. Rush hour traffic is full of motorists in a hurry, in a bad mood or still half asleep, and allowing yourself a little extra time and space to deal with their erratic behaviour could save your life.
In a way, I do understand why some get carried away. Exercising restraint is difficult in the face of that feeling you get from whizzing ahead while everyone else is stuck. I feel it too, but are we all crazy? Or is it the dark side of freedom?
I’d still wholeheartedly recommend taking your motorcycle to work. Why? Because I arrive feeling awake, energised and satisfied that I’ve done my bit for improving traffic flow. It saves me a little bit of fuel too and means I can always park in my favourite space here at IAM RoadSmart HQ.
Riding regularly is also a great way to stay ‘bike fit’ and if you can deal with the challenges that rush hour throws at you, then you should have no problems on your leisurely weekend rides. For more meaningful help with filtering safely, take a look at these tips.
By Gary Bates, IAM RoadSmart Marketing Manager