Motorcycle observations (CBT)

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Essential motorcycle observations

Novice riders must shift their attention

Novice riders must learn to shift their attention from their motorcycle controls and the road just ahead of their front wheel, to effective awareness of what is happening ahead, behind and to the sides. They must develop the skills to adjust position for optimal safety, good observations and to react according to what they see.

Rear motorcycle observations

Rear motorcycle observations are required before signalling, changing direction, altering speed and on approach to hazards. They involve turning the head to look behind into the motorcyclists’ blind spot, along with the effective use of mirrors. Blind-spots are the areas to the sides and slightly to the rear that tend not to be visible through a motorcycles mirrors.

Rear observations ensure full awareness and allow riders to assess that it is safe to continue with their plan. They also inform other road users of an intended manoeuvre. Rear checks are required when indicating, slowing down or stopping, changing lanes, overtaking, moving off and negotiating road junctions.

New riders must develop the skill of correctly timing their rear observations and recognise when such observations might be hazardous. They should also avoid getting into the bad habit of looking over the shoulder too frequently or at the wrong time. During rear observations, riders can momentarily lose touch with what is happening ahead, plus run the risk of veering off course. In heavy traffic, whilst travelling at speed or when overtaking – poorly timed or excessive rear observations can be hazardous.

Novice riders must also understand and learn that in certain situations, failing to use effective rear observations can be especially dangerous. Examples include – when turning right into minor roads, when altering course and manoeuvring in congested urban situations.

Lifesaver checks

Lifesaver checks – Are final over the shoulder observations to the left or right into the blind spot area and before fully committing to a manoeuvre. When performing lifesavers, new riders must take care not to adversely affect their motorcycles balance or steering which may alter their course.            

Motorcycle observations - forward, rearward & lifesavers

Forward motorcycle observations

Forward observations – Are as safety critical as rearward ones and new riders must develop the ability to constantly interpret what is happening ahead. As well as looking directly in front, observations are extended to the middle and far distance, as well as implementing good forward scanning techniques. Skilled riders will constantly use ‘extended’ forward vision and observations – using them to influence their speed, whilst ensuring sufficient space to manoeuvre safely if required or stop if necessary. Effective forward observations empower effective awareness and planning – with the scope to flexibly respond to the changing circumstances and future developing hazards.

Parked vehicles, road ‘furniture’, hedgerows and other obstructions can block a rider’s view. Skilled riders use good vision to anticipate, decide on a plan and safely adapt a new riding position to maximise their view. Riders must extend their observations to anticipate the actions of other road users and then position to maximise their opportunity of being seen and give more room for error. This is especially important when approaching road junctions where other vehicles are waiting to emerge and may not have seen an approaching motorcyclist.

In moving traffic, a rider’s observations must extend to being aware of other vehicles mirrors and blind spots – whilst ensuring a road position that mitigates the risk of not being seen. In all cases, the use of high visibility motorcycle clothing and the use of dipped headlights, even in daytime riding is advised. Effective observation also includes using clues to anticipate potential hazards. For instance – for vehicles parked outside a school, there might be a risk of children suddenly running out, of car doors opening into the road or of vehicles suddenly pulling away. Skilled riders anticipate and plan for such hazards.

Developing better observation is essential to increasing rider safety. The key to improving these and other skills most commonly relies on rider responsibility and recognising the importance of investing in ongoing professional motorcycle coaching. With this commitment to training comes higher levels of competency, increased safety, greater confidence and a vastly enhanced riding experience.

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Get free access to the CBT audio guide

FREE membership includes:
CBT essential audio guide

CBT tip sheets

Rider basics
Key skills
Junction guide
Road rides

Resources do not substitute professional motorcycle training and are subject to our terms.