Where to stand on a motorcycle?

stand on a motorcycle

How to manage your placement in everyday life, on your daily journeys or on a solo ride, outside the city center and off the highways? What are the rules that should govern the adaptation of our positioning on the road according to the situation?

As 2WD, we have a disadvantage compared to four vehicles: we only have two wheels (or three, maximum).

But this disadvantage becomes an advantage when the narrowness of the machine, the size of the vehicle allows us to place ourselves where we want in the traffic lane.

Because we are not forced to occupy the entire width of our traffic lane, we can choose to place ourselves:

in the middle of the road,

on the right third (trace of passage of the right car tires),

on the left third (trace of left car tires),

at the far right edge (near the edge of the road, the bank line),

at the far left edge (in the middle of the road, near the center line).

How to choose ?

As motorized two-wheeler drivers, we must always keep two safety criteria in mind, which constitute the main parameters of our driving:

They are the ones who guide our placement.

For the grip part, read Knowing how to read the road .

This article deals with the visibility part.

We have already addressed the theme of placement many times, in other articles on various and varied subjects.

For example, of course, concerning the trajectory in turns, that is to say the series of successive positions of the machine during a turn or a curve.

To learn more, read Turning a bend: the trajectory and Negotiating a hairpin bend .

Also with the placement of the machine in those particular intersections that are roundabouts, generally called “roundabouts”, where traffic rules provide for precise placement according to the direction of exit.

To find out more, read Driving on a roundabout .

As well as in intersections in general: Optimize your visibility on a motorcycle .

We also talked about the importance of the placement of his machine about city traffic, compared to other vehicles and especially those with large size, which have many blind spots.

To learn more, read Driving in the city .

Or even in this particular environment that are the ring roads of large cities, especially the Parisian ring road.

To find out more, read Rouler sur le périph’ parisien and La circulation inter-files

As well as on the motorway: Drive on expressways .

Positioning on the road also plays an important role in group driving, depending on the formation chosen by the group.

To find out more, read Riding in a group: the training .

Theoretical foundations

In 1981, the 20th century’s most comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents (officially titled Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures ) was released in the United States.

The Hurt Report, named after its main author, University Professor Harry H. Hurt, studied more than 900 road accidents involving at least one motorcycle between 1976 and 1981 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (which presents the feature of including as many urban as rural areas), not to mention the analysis of 3,600 police reports and 2,310 interviews with motorcyclists.

Among the 55 conclusions of this report, which is still authoritative today (on a par with the European MAIDS study which studied 921 accidents in Europe in 1999 and 2000), there are several important points for us.

Firstly, two-thirds of collisions between a car and a motorcycle occur because the motorist did not see the motorcycle approaching and cut it off / denied the right of way.

A constant proportion that is still found today in personal injury accidents involving a motorcycle in France, according to annual figures from ONISR.

Hence the importance of making yourself as visible as possible!

To find out more, read Optimizing your vision and visibility on a motorcycle (in two parts).

Secondly, a very large majority of motorcyclists saw the accident happen, but could not / knew how to avoid it.

There is always a (short) period of time between the moment when the motorcyclist realizes that a collision is imminent and the moment of the impact itself.

In 93% of cases, this time was less than four seconds.

In 50% of cases, it was two seconds (or less).

A possible deduction would be that motorcyclists must learn to practice braking or dodging “in an emergency”, that is to say in less than two seconds between the perception of the situation and the execution of the manoeuvre.

Extremely difficult to achieve in practice.

Another possible interpretation of this conclusion is that, if half of the injured motorcyclists only perceived the risk two seconds in advance… it is above all that they were not looking far enough!

To ride safely, motorcyclists must anticipate all risks, perceived and potential, of any kind.

Most pay particular attention to the condition of the road.

But is it enough?

The ideal objective is to become ”  aware  ” – as JC Van Damme would say – that is to say, at the same time vigilant, aware, informed, informed, of EVERYTHING: everything that can impact your driving, including others vehicles, the road surface or animals.

This is the English-speaking concept of “  situational awareness ”, which is quite difficult to translate into French and which we will simply call anticipation.

Basic principles

To adapt quickly and correctly to an ever-changing road environment, you must be able to an-ti-ci-per , that is to say:



Detecting means being able to observe, so looking far away, freeing your gaze from the machine, stopping to look at your hands, the dashboard or even just in front of your wheel.

Identifying and foreseeing suppose being able to analyze the visible dangers and the potential dangers, therefore to reflect, not to be in panic, nor even in stress.

This implies being in full possession of one’s cognitive faculties: no fatigue, no alcohol, no narcotics, no medication.

And no external concerns either! You must concentrate 100% on your driving.

If you don’t feel able to think quickly and well… slow down, or even stop!

To learn more, read Riding at Your Best .

Deciding also involves a cognitive process, no longer based on reflection alone, but also on memory and experience. It’s about making the right decision based on the context.

It will be easier and faster if you have already experienced a similar situation. If not, you will have to either reflect (which takes time) or use the experience of others, what you have read, seen or heard on the subject.

To find out more, read Learn by reading and Our tips for “good” driving .

Acting means executing quickly and well the maneuver that will put you in safety… like positioning yourself or getting back on the road!

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