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Thread: Positioning

  1. #1

    Positioning

    Positioning


    Because our bike is about the third of the width of a car, we take up a lot less room on the tarmac than most other road users. Is this an advantage to us? It can be - it can be a huge advantage. But if we position ouselves badly on the road it can also be our downfall.

    We can use positioning on the road to our advantage in pretty much any environment, and in further threads we'll cover urban riding. There will also be a hundred and one occasions when we may well want to consider our positioning on a relatively straight bit of road, (urban or not) but for now, let's look at positioning, out on the open road, and specifically negotiating corners.


    Corner Entry

    So what's the big advantage to approaching corners in a nearside / offside position?





    There are three good reasons;

    It allows us to see
    It allows us to be seen
    It increases the radius of the bend.

    Let's concentrate on those first two to start with, and now is a good time to introduce TUG - Take, Use Give. I'm loathed to talk about 'The System', but it's going to come up soon enough so we might as well introduce that now as well, and see how these two ideas work along side each other.

    The first topic on vision, demonstrated that on the road we're constantly approaching hazzards and it helps our riding plan if we can identify those early.
    The idea of Take Use Give, is that we acknowledge a hazzard as soon as we see it, use that information to our own advantage, and give information back to other road users. By and large, most of the using and giving will be down to positioning.

    The initial phases of The System are Information, Position...(Speed, Gear, Accelerate..). So it makes sense that as soon as we see a hazzard, the first thing we should be thinking is, where's the best place for me on the road as I approach this?





    By approaching a left hand bend from the crown of the road, we open up our own view, whilst giving other road users the opportunity to see us early. Hugging the kerb on the left hand bend above with the impending junction would be pretty dumb.
    Petrol Stations, junctions, carparks, you name it, if they're part of the approaching hazard, then take that information, use it and give it back. Think about altering your position and showing yourself.

    It's not just the junctions and the garage forecourts; on just a simple bend, with no other complications, good positioning allows us to see, and be seen early.




    So, when we approach a right hander, we tuck it in tight to the nearside, we use our wide angle vision to 'see' where we are in relation to the kerb whilst looking at the road ahead, and when we approach a left hander, we do the same sort of thing and adopt a position somewhere near the crown of the road.




    So what about this third idea of increasing the raduis of a curve? We could wax lyrical at this point and talk about the 'tyre grip trade off', (heard of that?), we could even talk about Keith Code, and the soft science of cornering, but the bottom line is that a motorcycle is at its most stable when it's upright and under slight acceleration.




    The wider radius, aside from improving our view, means that we can negotiate the turn with less lean angle, and that in turn means that we can go faster. YeeHar!

    *Off on a bit of a tangent here, but worthy of note, is the fact that in the first week of a standard Police, three week driving course, the instructor will conduct you to 'ease and squeeze' as you drive. Ease and squeeze is basically acceleration sense, throttle control and the knack of balancing a car on the approach into, and the exit out of a corner. No coincidence then, that if you book yourself onto the first module of the Californian Superbike school, your morning track session, up until lunchtime, will be spent in one gear only, and you're asked not to touch your brakes...*

    So, we now know that nearside for right, offside for left and opening up our view as we approach junctions is the way to go. Right?

    Let's roll the dice and see what we get...





    Great!! Ok, so what do we do above? Look into the junction or position for the bend? lets roll the dice again and see if we can't get something easier....




    Time for another kitchy driving school saying! I give you the four S's; Safety, System, Smoothness Speed.

    If there's one thing that all the books, and all the instructors agree on, it's the fact that there are very few black and whites in roadcraft. Things are fluid, they change all the time, even the book Roadcraft uses the word consider (your approach to....), consider (your horn....) in just about every paragraph.

    The four S's however, are one of the few things that are not up for negotiation. Your riding plan should always have Safety as its first priority, and this over-rules any System we may be riding to, which in turn over-rules Smoothness and finally Speed.

    So lets re-visit the junction above. It's a national speed limit, we've got a right hand bend, hatching on the right for oncoming traffic to use to turn into the garage, and traffic waiting to pull out from the nearside, and its all on a it of a brow of a hill.

    This is the perfect scenario for 'The System'! Its TUG, its the four S's, it's 'What can I see, what can't I see, what might I reasonably expect to develop', (car on the forecourt hidden alongside the inside of the lorry waiting to pull out??) Its 'slow in fast out, fast in sh*t out'....

    So what's the answer to this scenario? Do you want to use The System? Then 'consider' your position - drift to the crown of your lane? 'Consider' your speed - throttle off? 'Consider' your gear - drop it a cog for a bit of flexibility......?

    Want to use TUG? Use that information to protect yourself by putting your self in the best possible place. Look for eye contact, look for wheels still rotating on cars waiting to pull out, and give information back with your own eyes, maybe your horn, where you put yourself in the road for others to see you ...

    Want to use the four S's?...... Shall I keep my position but knock off some speed? Shall I maintain my speed but alter my position? Shall I alter my position and reduce my speed? What's safest?


    The answer to this scenario, and the next one a hundred yards down the road, and the one after that two hundred yards down the road .... is Think!! And part of that thought process should invlovle thinking about your positioning.


    Corner exit.

    We're mid corner, we've sorted out our position, our speed, our gear .... now what?





    Our corner will very rarely take us to a benign and hazard free stretch of road. Unless you're riding through Nevada you're almost bound to face yet another corner, and one somewhere after that and so on. How can we be cute and link them together in a smooth, seamless flowing ride?

    We play a little game with the paint work and the verges. And we're looking for this ..





    As I exit, in this example, a right hand bend, I'm looking to perfectly line up the hazard lines, that are the middle ground between the exit of the right and the entrance to the next left.




    If I exit a left hand bend thats followed by a right (as pictured below) then my (for want of a better word) turn in point is the point in my vision where the nearside verge lines up in my vision.




    If I exit a left into another left, then I use the centre lines, a right into another right, I stick to the verge. Clear as mud?

    So is this all a bit too cutesy? Am I in danger of spending too much time trying to look pretty rather than just getting on with it and riding?
    Yes!! Try not to fanny about on the road, being obsessed about 'nice' lines, trying not to show a brake light and all that crap!!

    But that having been said, there is a real point to this. Can I cut the bend below? My right is heading for a left, do I have to fanny about waiting for the hazard lines to straighten up in my vision?




    Cut the corner here and one day you'll pay the price with the surprise of your life..




    Ok, A very short video for you! Let me just explain at this point that this was thrown together on a whimsy on a cheap and cheerful camera held by my other half who was pillion, and we are on our way back from a night away. This is a road, I've never been down before, in Essex somewhere !

    See how we use the nearside verge and the hazard warning lines as constant reference points to link our bends together, and notice how we put our bike quite deep into the corners to avoid the photo scenario above. At about twenty seconds there is a tight right hand bend with hatching on the off side, there for oncoming to use for a junction on our nearside. See how we deliberately run deep into that corner (bear in mind that Rosy is looking over my right shoulder, the bike is another couple of feet to the cameras left..) it would be easy to run just a tad too quick into that right hand bend and end up having to cut the corner ...





    The video clip nicely shows us lining up left and right handers, all on 'our' side of the road. You'll see that we use the centre paint for our exit out of a right hander. Notice the very first, quite long left hander - on its exit we peel in quite late to our nearside verge, and we don't hit the lined up verge imagery straight on. When the view across a corner is quite limited and we're on a road we don't know, that's often the case. It's a good way of sussing out who's riding a road they know, and who's riding 'blind'!


    Lets now look at borrowing the other side of the road, and see if that changes any of our visual aids.





    There's nothing wrong in using the offside to improve our view and to straight line stuff, but it's worth mentioning a few things.

    First off, I see riders using the off side 'because they can'. It is, the other side of the road, and if it goes bent, you'll be hung out to dry and the courts and the press will be writing, 'at the time of the accident he was on the wrong side of the road...'.

    You've got to be asking yourself, (four S's and all that malarky), is this really beneficial to me? Do I need to be this far out? if you can justify it, great - go for it, but it must be safe and relevant to your riding plan. I often see riders hanging out for a left hander, putting themselves in danger, and all for what? A couple of extra yards of vision?

    Play the tape, keep it loaded and lets discus a few things..




    8 seconds. See how there is a hint of hidden road ahead, and we can make out a warning sign. 'What can we see, what can't we see' etc etc. So we push the bike deeper into the right hander just to open up that view. Once we're hapy all is well, we come out to open the view up into the left hander. Notice that we use the far right verge / white line as our reference point, just like we have been doing earlier with the centre paintwork.

    12 to about 18 seconds, we pass two 'slow's written on the road and two 'road narrows' signs, which lead us into a right hander. 'In like a lamb, out like a lion', 'Safety System Smoothness Speed', IPSGA (system), call it what you like, but we knock our speed down a bit, and we don't hang ourselves out for the left after the right - middle of the road is as far as we go.

    26 seconds+. We have a long, long right hander. Wide angle vision (look out for Mr Badger with his Samuri sword in the hedge ..!) keeps us nicely tucked in for the entire bend, whilst looking ahead, which opens up into a left hander ahead. We use the offside lane to open our view.

    Ok, Pause for thought and lets talk about an off side view and oncoming traffic.

    If you're using the offside of the road on a left hander, when oncoming traffic first sees you, their first view of you must be, you already on your way back in to 'your' lane. Lets write that another way; When and if, you're out on the offside, you can not just hang out there waiting for a reason (ie an oncoming car) to come back in. There comes a point when you must, regardless of whether the road ahead is clear of oncoming, give it up and come back in.

    The faster you're going, the earlier that process must start.

    41 Seconds, this is not too far removed from the photo of the petrol station scenario. There's something on the nearside, a right hand bend and oncoming traffic. I've decided here, to stay put on the nearside but reduce my speed. As we approach the car parked on the nearside we see the road is going round to the left. It all works out nicely and we come away from the hazard and combine our position for the impending left-hander.




    Look at the books available on the market about motorcycle riding techniques. In a couple of pages we've barely scratched the surface on the subject of positioning on country lanes and relax a little (a lot!) in the speedlimits - riders in built up areas are often back and forth from kerb to centre-line probably gaining really very little, and probably confusing the hell out of the car driver behind!

  2. #2
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    Excellent - thanks.

    Nice to see Mr Code's teachings is a positive light from a "road expert" perspective, I have often had very negative feedback about these books / schools from "advanced" riders.

    I went to a very early UK School (before they had a full time UK presence) and liked it, had a mate who had just started racing who was of the "nobody can teach you how to ride" mentality who eventually went along, and 14 years on is still instructing for them!

    I always liked the 3 A's for road riding as an easy summary of what yu should be doing / thinking, I also really liked the $10 of attention from the original "Twist Of the Wrist Book" and would recommend the CSS courses to any road rider, certainly levels 1&2 would benefit everyone. If you do not fancy shelling out £350 buy the "Twist of the Wrist 2" DVD, although some of the stuff is more useful on track, 90% of it relates to bike control, cornering and avoiding poor situations / pannicking if your in one.

    I also find modern sportsbikes just beg to be ridden up to a corner at wholly innapropriatte speeds, thrown in hard and driven out harder, vision (or lack of) seriously restricts what I can do with the GS, for me self retraint is harder than the roadcraft itself!

  3. #3
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    Brilliant

    Many thanks for making the effort.
    After 4 years on 2 wheels I still consider myself a beginner. Every year both wife and I book up a weekend of "advanced" training, and every year we learn a little more about the safe enjoyment of our favourite pastime. Information is the key, either through knowledge, experience, or the processing of observations.
    We keenly await your next instalment.

    Regards
    Dean
    "You're getting old when you don't care where your spouse goes, just as
    long as you don't have to go along. "

  4. #4
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    Thanks Giles,

    Another great post - love the pics and video which perfectly illustrate the text. (Say hi to Rosy and thanks for her great videography )

    If you ever get sick of the job you could always move to a writing career!

    Rob

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    Excellent stuff...

    Road positioning goes hand in hand with your ability to easily manouvre your bike across the available road. That is why the dicussions on countersteering are so important. When I was instructing the students that looked relaxed and understood the dynamics of their bikes were always far safer to use more of the road.

    When you are still learning to relax and "feel" in control of your riding you can use more and more of the road within reason. Following two traffics across the mountain on the IOM nearly 20 years ago when they were riding K75RT's was an eye opener on how to use the road.

    It's amazing how many riders see lots of lateral movement as a weakness not a strength. Also after advanced courses they get fixated with the "right line" without having a reason to be where they are. It has to make sense to you rather than just copying others. Far too much of that about...

    Cheers

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Wrigsby1 View Post
    Excellent stuff...

    Also after advanced courses they get fixated with the "right line" without having a reason to be where they are. It has to make sense to you rather than just copying others. Far too much of that about...

    Cheers


    Thats a very good point you make.

    Some drivers never look in their mirror. Ever! it just.... doesn't even occur to them!

    My mum will look in her mirror before she signals, doesn't really register what she may or not be looking at, and then signals and maneuvers (sp?) anyway. At least she looks, and that's better than the first driver!

    Somebody who thinks about it, will look in their mirror, register the fact that there's nobody behind them, that the junction they're turning into is clear, so they don't signal at all. That's good!!

    It's all about thinking, 'why am I doing this'


    I agree with you and another good point I see (amongst my own colleagues!!!) is positioning on a bad wet road.
    There's a couple of roads around here, that in the dry, they're fine. Spank it! But in the wet, they have that well worn 'bitumen shine' / 'stone chip went years ago' effect, that years and years of cars and lorries have created - that polished mirror like sheen - very slippery. But the middle of the lane, is in great shape - grippy and chippy, nigh on as much grip in the wet as in the dry.
    Where are they on a bend? Tip toeing on the bitumen, but yeah baby - on the right line! (Arses clenched and eyes on stalks!).
    A classis case of what you're talking about!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by giles lamb View Post


    I agree with you and another good point I see (amongst my own colleagues!!!) is positioning on a bad wet road.
    There's a couple of roads around here, that in the dry, they're fine. Spank it! But in the wet, they have that well worn 'bitumen shine' / 'stone chip went years ago' effect, that years and years of cars and lorries have created - that polished mirror like sheen - very slippery. But the middle of the lane, is in great shape - grippy and chippy, nigh on as much grip in the wet as in the dry.
    Where are they on a bend? Tip toeing on the bitumen, but yeah baby - on the right line! (Arses clenched and eyes on stalks!).
    A classis case of what you're talking about!
    I always think about this on a dark wet road.
    Where will a diesel spill be?
    Probably right on the 'correct line'
    KEA

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by giles lamb


    I agree with you and another good point I see (amongst my own colleagues!!!) is positioning on a bad wet road.
    There's a couple of roads around here, that in the dry, they're fine. Spank it! But in the wet, they have that well worn 'bitumen shine' / 'stone chip went years ago' effect, that years and years of cars and lorries have created - that polished mirror like sheen - very slippery. But the middle of the lane, is in great shape - grippy and chippy, nigh on as much grip in the wet as in the dry.
    Where are they on a bend? Tip toeing on the bitumen, but yeah baby - on the right line! (Arses clenched and eyes on stalks!).
    A classis case of what you're talking about!



    Quote Originally Posted by Timolgra View Post
    I always think about this on a dark wet road.
    Where will a diesel spill be?
    Probably right on the 'correct line'
    Hey, this is getting fun

    I have watched the people who have swallowed the book stick to their theoretical best line come what may...

    What you say also shows the value of all weather/all year experience

    I always tried to get over the point of being flexible to conditions and things like the unworn bit in the middle, or in the wet or slippery sticking more inside line at times. If you give yourself room and you do "go loose" then you have somewhere to wander before you run out of road.

    Roundabouts are the classic... diesel on the outside of the lane. Also on longish corners with a t junction. lots of worn tar at the junction to give you the sudden "loosness" of grip and possibly body! Especially in London I learnt to "see" things like the Shellgrip, road studs, flyover expansion plates and obviously manholes and ride accordingly Fun times...

    Again it's down to thinking and to confident bike control. Non of it is rocket science if you think about it but it is a little scary about how little many drivers and riders "think" about what they are doing.

    Then there is the different grip between damp or wet roads

  9. #9
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    Another great post - thanks

    A question about your example of the car going around the bend - the line it follows increases the radius. But if the grey bits to the side are trees obscuring vision, would you straight line as far as possible into the bend and then turn quite hard once you can see the exit? And if there's nothing obscuring vision you would follow the large radius and cut towards nearside apex?

    The IAM in recent years has gone right off the idea of crossing the centre line and using the offside for view. I understand why to some extent because it is difficult to explain when it is safe - its something best learned by following someone who really knows what they're doing. The guidance that I've had is that its OK if you maintain a view - so you're already offside in early approach into the bend - but it shouldn't be done to gain a view. The other problem with offsiding is that it can look really awful for following or oncoming car drivers - the rider knows it is safe and can move back well in time, but that may not be apparent to other road users -"bloody crazy motorcyclists, why don't they slow down...etc etc".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    Another great post - thanks

    A question about your example of the car going around the bend - the line it follows increases the radius. But if the grey bits to the side are trees obscuring vision, would you straight line as far as possible into the bend and then turn quite hard once you can see the exit? And if there's nothing obscuring vision you would follow the large radius and cut towards nearside apex?

    The IAM in recent years has gone right off the idea of crossing the centre line and using the offside for view. I understand why to some extent because it is difficult to explain when it is safe - its something best learned by following someone who really knows what they're doing. The guidance that I've had is that its OK if you maintain a view - so you're already offside in early approach into the bend - but it shouldn't be done to gain a view. The other problem with offsiding is that it can look really awful for following or oncoming car drivers - the rider knows it is safe and can move back well in time, but that may not be apparent to other road users -"bloody crazy motorcyclists, why don't they slow down...etc etc".
    The thing about less visibility in corners is to follow a line at which you feel you maximise vision, keep a smooth line and smooth control. Ride smoothly and with maximise visibility and you will either be able to road ride quicker and safer or at the same speed with greater comfort. There is no "one" way and it will vary even bike to bike.

    The thing about using the other side of the road is to use it in context. If you are in a queue of cars down an A road at 50-60 then it may seem a bit eccentric

    I use it reasonably sparingly but especially when it can help in more hazardous "tight spots" where view and/or smooth lines can be greatly increased.

    I am also very wary of using too much road on more blind roads with no centre line as there is more chance of getting a "surprise" with the speed, position or size of oncoming vehicles.

    The reason organisations such as the IAM have gone away from things like using all the road is probably due to the fact that many of their newer members are not experienced or confident enough to freely manouvre their bikes when necessary. That is why so many bikers still miss corners/accidently cross centre lines etc with no other road users involved. You really need to feel confident about your basic manouvreability at speed before using "all" of the road.

  11. #11
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    Positioning etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    Another great post - thanks

    A question about your example of the car going around the bend - the line it follows increases the radius. But if the grey bits to the side are trees obscuring vision, would you straight line as far as possible into the bend and then turn quite hard once you can see the exit? And if there's nothing obscuring vision you would follow the large radius and cut towards nearside apex?

    The IAM in recent years has gone right off the idea of crossing the centre line and using the offside for view. I understand why to some extent because it is difficult to explain when it is safe - its something best learned by following someone who really knows what they're doing. The guidance that I've had is that its OK if you maintain a view - so you're already offside in early approach into the bend - but it shouldn't be done to gain a view. The other problem with offsiding is that it can look really awful for following or oncoming car drivers - the rider knows it is safe and can move back well in time, but that may not be apparent to other road users -"bloody crazy motorcyclists, why don't they slow down...etc etc".
    Been reading this stuff with great interest and, well I just can't help it, I have to say something.

    Firstly, Giles is doing a great and selfless job here, and well done. I completed my Met Police Advanced drivers course around 38 years ago, and memories of it stay with me whenever I drive/ride my bike. I also completed a standard bike course.

    On an earlier course, the Intermediate, the instructor exlained the Limit, or vanishing point to me, and while I could understand it, it took at least a couple of sessions of intense instructions before I could utilize it in my driving. It needed careful explanation before I could put it into action in my drive, and I realised then that to try working it out for myself, especially on my own in a crash helmet, would be very difficult. Whenever I've ridden with others who have not had the benefit of this knowledge, someone always comments about my off siding, and although I tell them what I know, they just don't get it, having been brought up to adhere to the "right side of the road" principle. Earlier this year I undertook a Bike Safe course with a group of mates, and in the class room session, it was pointed out that off siding was not condoned any more and "just left of the centre of the road" was the accepted practice. Off we go for the country ride and where's the police instructor/observer, why brushing the off side vegetation with his right shoulder!! My oh my! My current IAM progress has also received the same advice, and I just believe that it's part of a litigation limitation process. In truth, correctly carried out, off siding is a valuable tool in our box, but get it wrong before you get it right and you're in trouble, as is the Bike Safe instructor and the IAM.

    With regard to inflaming other road users, I was taught that if your actions cause alarm or concern to other road users, then you should question why. In other words, if you're "hanging out" that left hander and not responding to grand dad coming the other way, then something about the ride needs looking at and changing.

    With regard to changing conditions, this is where the good rider excels, and why in my opinion, the Information section of IPSGA is currently shown as overlaying the whole of the system (IPSGA), because the constant intake of information naturally leads on to the flexibility of the system, adapting it as needs require. The system (as taught to me all those years ago) is of itself a flexible entity, and still some people don't get it. I was involved in a group ride recently, and one of the group was a qualified IAM member, and I was soon aware of his almost formulaic adherence to the "life saver", now called the shoulder check. We are informed that this manouvre should be considered at each change of direction, and yet it seemed that this rider carried it out as part of a rigid system imprinted in his mind, almost as if he had to carry it out, EVERY time he carried out a manouvre.

    This is a good thread going on here, and I enjoy reading it. Riding is an extremely personal experience, and in many ways, its' element of danger is part of the appeal. Another major appeal for me is that every ride is different and each one requires total concentration and application. This immersion in each ride is addictive and the analysis is part of the pleasure.

  12. #12
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    Is that petrol station the one on the A20 south side of Harrietsham? Sort of looks familiar.

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    Experience and common sense is also important, good points about surface and scaring the lemmings, I would not even have thought of mentioning do not follow "correct line" if road surface on the line is crap, just seems so obvious, probably good job I ain't an instructor as some people have no common sense and follow instructions / law to the letter even when it will obviously end in disaster.

    I rarely leave my side of the road, and when I do it tends to be just a tad, more so on really twisty stuff, but not got much near me, plenty of places in Alps and suchlike where you sort of shortcut the odd bend and it really is worthwhile.

    Often at home unless visibility is a real issue I would rather make the bend a bit more fun by not opening it up - more fun at lower speeds, sometimes I am looking to lean over more and not less, and go slower, not faster

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by JackoUK View Post
    This is a good thread going on here, and I enjoy reading it. Riding is an extremely personal experience.....
    .... Another major appeal for me is that every ride is different .. This immersion in each ride is addictive and the analysis is part of the pleasure.

    Yes absolutely.

    I work on a team that has a current Police instructor, two ex Police instructors and two IAM examiners. But there is still a noticable difference in styles. Some are corporate riders, some are serious petrol heads, (compete in events in their time off) and often we'll debrief and kick the arse out of a ride if we've all been somewhere together.
    Whilst we mostly sing off the same song sheet, there are still different opinions on subjects, and as Jacko says, That for me is part of the appeal.

    I'm not aufait with the IAM's stand point on the other side of the road. But I do see plenty of riders using the off side in a way that makes my toes curl!

    The approach to using it to straightline, but not so much to look into a left hander makes a lot of sense.

    Invicta - Yes! A20 at Harrietsham!!

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    I detest using the other side of the road personally and hate it when others do it especially in 18 wheelers but I do use it for overtaking when the road is dead flat, clear and I have vision all the way round the bend and into the next county. This is VERY rare.
    I suspect the IAM would think it is up to a persons judgement of the risk at the time which is partly what makes riding so relaxing and enjoyable.

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    Is that your issi number in pic 1?

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