Learn how and why to maintain a safe distance while riding
The recommended safe distance when driving a car is at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front during ideal conditions. One second extra should be added for each three meters of trailer length when driving a vehicle towing a trailer or caravan. Maintaining a safe distance in a motorcycle should be even more important. Motorcycles have twice less grip due to only two tires touching the pavement, therefore the braking performance is greatly reduced when compared to a car. It is vital to pay constant attention to maintain a safe distance between the bike and other cars. Do you know the suggested safe distance a rider should maintain on the road, or have you forgotten? You may have an idea or are in doubt, but don’t worry, we will make it clear.
Leave a margin for error
Many riders don’t know the recommended distance or are just careless for the safety of themselves or others. If those riders really knew the importance of keeping an appropriate distance, accidents would reduce considerably. One of the reasons some riders don’t follow the correct distance is that they feel secure and put their trust in the lightness of the motorcycle when compared to a car. A bike will most certain be lighter than a passenger vehicle, but because of its two wheel nature and light weight, it will also be more unstable when braking.
Maintaining a safe distance should be the same when following a car as for a motorcycle. Without a safe distance there is no margin for a reaction and less visibility of what is happening far ahead. By following too close, the rider is involuntarily and vulnerably facing the same dangerous trajectory. A common situation where this takes place is when racing on public streets and highways. Racing should be done under a closed circuit and with conscious riders. And even there, any small mistake can have devastating consequences.
First, the braking reaction time should be made very clear since it is a key concept in this concern. The rider’s reaction time is the time between when the rider or driver in front applies its brake to when we apply the brakes in our motorcycle. At 62 mph, we travel at a distance of 92 feet per second and that at 75 mph, 108 feet. An experienced, conscious and careful rider is able to react within a second of any sudden braking in front. In contrast, a rider that is careless and unaware of safety measurements may take one to three seconds to react. This time could prove costly and unfortunately be too late to avoid an accident while going at 75 mph.
The right braking technique is also very important. In a bike with ABS, one should brake while pressing the clutch and both front and rear brakes with maximum strength. Without ABS, the same procedure should follow, but slightly releasing the front brakes when the front tire starts locking. With this in mind, the rider will have to leave a minimum of three seconds distance to the vehicles in front while going at 75 mph. This will allow the rider to react safely and avoid an accident, be it an experienced rider or not. Remember that being overconfident will hinder your ability to be well prepared when presented with an emergency situation. How to set a distance in seconds? It is fairly simple.
- First: Choose a visual reference from the road (light post, speed limit sign, etc.).
- Second: When the vehicle in front passes by your chosen visual reference, count how many seconds it takes you to pass through the same reference.
By doing this, you should count to a minimum of three seconds if moving at 75 mph. If you increase the speed, then you must increase the seconds. If speed decreases, you should reduce your distance up to around two seconds. By following this rule of thumb and with the right conditions, the rider should be able to survive an accident, or even better; avoid it.
Something else we must have in mind, is a motorcycle braking distance. This distance, is the one travelled from the moment the rider applies the brakes to when the bike comes to a complete stop. This distance can vary, since it will depend mostly in the kind of motorcycle and tire in use. As mentioned in other posts, the condition of the tire is essential and should always be looked at meticulously at all times. Without the proper tire condition and pressures, the following distance instructions mentioned become obsolete. For more information on tire maintenance, visit our posts Tire maintenance and how to avoid an accident and Tire pressure maintenance.
Choosing the right tire for your bike is also vital, for example, in the case of Continental, which has won with the ContiRoadAttack3 the prestigious comparative test of the MOTORRAD magazine, the tire will have better performance in all conditions. More variables include the temperature of the tire and the asphalt. Grip is greatly reduced when the tires are cold or we ride in the winter. A tire in bad condition increases braking distance significantly, but if it is also raining; an accident should be imminent. Therefore, when conditions change and it rains, the distance to the vehicle in front must be increased in any case.
Remember that reaction time must be taken into account. For example, if the rider is travelling at 75 mph, the breaking distance will be some 131 feet, but when adding a good reaction time, 108 feet are added for a total of 239 meters to come to a stop.
Now that you know how to maintain a safe distance, apply these instructions on the road and ride safer. We recommend that you go to a specialized track so you can perform emergency braking in dry and wet conditions. Apart from experience, it will give you a real idea of what we are talking about.
Until next week!