The Tortoise & The Hare!

Every now and again, whilst riding, I am reminded of Aesop’s Fables – The Tortoise & The Hare! and it often catches me out also.

Quite often many drivers and riders will agree that a motorcycle will get you to a destination a lot quicker than any other type of vehicle…well sometimes that is true and at others not! Let me explain!

If you are riding or driving on a specific journey and the roads are quiet or do not have a high traffic volume, then both motorcycle and ‘car’ can potentially make the same journey in the same time…whether they adhere to speed limits or not! Of course I am mainly talking about riding or driving at the speed limit or thereabouts and not talking about a speed that is excessively exceeding the speed limit…because then that becomes a race of who can go faster and who can hold a fast speed for longer…which is hardly appropriate for the road and is not something that I can publicly condone, but I will not be naive to think that it does not happen!

If you are riding or driving on a road that has a higher volume of traffic, then potentially a motorcycle will have more overtaking opportunities than any other vehicle, without necessarily having to excessively exceed the speed limit…or a motorcycle may filter through or past queuing traffic or filter through to the front of stationary traffic at a set of traffic lights (Of course this only applies to countries and regions where filtering is permitted) whereas another type of vehicle will be unable to do this.

All things being equal, this is where the motorcycle has the advantage over the other road user. It is not so much that the rider and motorcycle can go faster than any other type of vehicle, but it is more so that a rider can maintain a speed, fit through smaller spaces and continue rolling and ultimately can find a path through traffic that will cut down the journey time…and it is this where the true benefit of a motorcycle over another vehicle can be found.

However, how many times has a rider overtaken another vehicle or has passed another vehicle at high speed…and then further along the journey as the rider stops at a set of traffic lights, the vehicle that had been overtaken just eases up behind or more embarrassingly uses another lane and passes the rider.

How about on a multi lane road, dual carriageway or motorway, has a rider passed another vehicle or series of vehicles and then proceeded along leaving them all behind, but then the traffic ahead starts to slow down, which in turn causes the rider to slow down…and yes the previously overtaken vehicles ease in behind.

Or from a multi lane road, the rider overtakes a series of vehicles and then takes an exit, and on the slip road/off ramp as the rider slows, then one of those vehicles previously overtaken eases in behind.

Anytime I ride, I try to maintain a speed and smooth transition in acceleration and braking and make full use of vehicle spacing and I try to filter through queuing traffic (where appropriate),…And I will overtake if I believe there is to be a net benefit further along the road. I.e. If I know there is a side junction I need to take in a mile or less then I will probably not perform the overtake, because the chances are I will have to slow down and the vehicle that I passed will be forced to slow down as I take the exit or they will just pass by my nearside as I wait to take the exit…so was there any point in overtaking in the first place.

Many advanced riding practitioners, be those advanced riding clubs or organisations or emergency services riders will talk about …‘making progress’ or ‘progressing’ or any other term that essentially means making use of the motorcycle potential to maintain speed or optimise speed, to find space and to continue rolling through in a smooth and continuous process.

But does this necessarily cover the ‘net benefit’ or is the short term gain often neutralised by general conditions and traffic flow. 

Something I often say to myself and to others is:

“Just because I can…Doesn’t mean I should!” “Just because I should…Doesn’t mean I need to!”

This is something that affects all situations and riders are no exception. By trying to ‘Get On’ or ‘Make Progress’ may result in saving time and getting somewhere quicker…but it may also mean not!…and many times when I have not, I sometimes feel humbled and think…what was the point of that?

Getting On or Making Progress should never be interpreted as rushing to get ahead, or to take inappropriate risks just to get to a destination quicker. It should be about making the right decisions about when and where there is a net benefit to optimising the potential of the motorcycle in the road riding application.

Sometimes this may mean riding at speed on a road with good vision ahead and minimal hazards in favourable weather and road conditions, but sometimes this may mean holding back, going with the flow of traffic and making gradual advances through.

It should never be about rushing or racing to the destination, but moreover it should be about attempting to maintain a continuous smooth rolling ride, that may or may not involve higher speed.


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