Being prepared for hazards will help you to spot them early and take action in good time to keep you and other road users safe.
Getting a clear view
While you’re riding, it’s important to keep scanning the road ahead and around you so that you can spot potential hazards in good time: the sooner you spot a hazard, the easier it is to take action and avoid an incident.
There may be things along the road that limit what you can see, such as parked cars or overhanging trees. If you cannot see clearly ahead, slow down so you can deal with any hazards that appear from behind the obstruction.
Wearing a helmet and visor will restrict your peripheral vision – that is, what you can see at the edge of your vision. Because of this, you’ll need to move your head to check all around you.
Reading the road ahead
By looking well ahead of where you’re riding, you can anticipate problems. For example, if you see a parade of shops ahead you should be ready for vehicles stopping or pulling out; there are also likely to be pedestrians who may want to cross the road.
Different environments pose different hazards – on rural roads, you might find slow-moving tractors or mud on the road; in cities, there are lots of different road users close together so you need to be careful to give others enough space.
Vulnerable road users
There are times and conditions in which other road users can be vulnerable, such as
- other motorcyclists, cyclists, vehicles towing caravans and high-sided vehicles in windy conditions
- learner drivers and newly qualified drivers
- drivers overtaking you
- disabled people using powered vehicles
- older drivers.
Watch out for these road users and allow them extra space when necessary.
Aquaplaning and skidding
The road conditions can cause particular hazards, particularly in wet weather. Remember to change your riding to suit the conditions.
When there’s a build-up of water between a motorbike’s tyres and the road surface, the tyres can lose contact with the road and your motorbike slides on a thin film of water: this is called aquaplaning. It’s a particular risk when you’re riding at speed in very wet weather.
To avoid aquaplaning, keep your speed down and avoid riding through water pooling on the road surface, if you can do so safely.
If your motorbike begins to aquaplane, slow down by easing off the throttle. Do not try to brake or change direction until there’s grip again.
Conditions that can cause skidding
Skidding is caused by a number of factors but it’s more likely to happen on slippery road surfaces, such as where there’s
- loose gravel
- oil or diesel
- ice or packed snow
- frost in shady places
- wet mud or leaves
- metal drain covers
- painted road markings
- tar banding
- patched areas.
If you’re riding in these conditions, keep your speed down. See the Steering and manoeuvring section for more information about why skids happen and how to control your motorbike in a skid.
While you’re riding, there are often things that pull your concentration away from the road, such as talking to a pillion passenger, using a satellite-navigation system (sat nav) or listening to music.
Losing your concentration, or even just taking your eyes off the road briefly, can quickly cause an incident. It’s up to you, as the rider, to keep your concentration on riding.
To help you do this
- programme your sat nav before you start your journey
- if you have a passenger, remind him or her to sit quietly
- do not play music loudly.
It’s illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while you’re riding: being distracted by your phone could cause a serious incident. Although you can use a hands-free kit to speak on the phone, it’s still best to avoid using a phone at all.
- Turn your phone off or put it on voicemail before you start your journey.
- Wait until you’re safely and legally parked before you use it.