THE SECRET TO STAYING ALIVE: Avoiding the Blind Spot!

Ride lazily and you will eventually pay the price.

death spot illustration

Where you place the five street-riding priorities we are presenting in this Ride Craft series depends on where and what you ride, plus your experience and skill level. We aren't going to rank them because we feel each priority can be extremely necessary at certain moments of a ride. I have been personally reminded of what really counts on a street ride by my friend Gary Klein. He recently began his riding career at the age of 50, and that gave me a chance to sift through the habits and priorities we rely on to survive and enjoy street riding.

This priority is blind spots and death spots. Veteran riders allow their avoidance of blind spots to rule their entire ride. Your throttle, brakes, and steering controls should be devoted to keeping you “in the mirrors” of surrounding traffic. That should be your number-one goal: staying out of blind spots. You will be safer. The definition of a blind spot? The other rider or driver can’t see you directly or in his mirrors. We’re assuming the driver looks in his mirror or over his shoulder... Are you laughing yet? Me too. If and whenever you begin risking your life by assuming a driver will do the right thing, you should quit riding motorcycles.

And that gets us to the death spot: the heart of the blind spot. While a blind spot may extend more than the length of the vehicle, the death spot is anywhere directly alongside a vehicle. If the driver swerves/changes lanes/flinches/spazzes/darts...you get hit. Make a plan right now to move through blind spots and death spots with alacrity. Make a plan to hover well behind a vehicle, positioned in your lane so you can be seen in its mirrors, if you can’t get past quickly. Make a plan to ride behind a vehicle in the left side of your lane so the driver has a good chance of seeing you in his interior or left-side mirror.

Let’s say you’re approaching a van one lane to the left on a multi-lane highway. Use your lane position to stay in the van’s mirrors as long as possible, and as you get into its blind spot, move your bike across the lane to give yourself the most room possible should the van abruptly change lanes.

If you aren’t taking maximum advantage of lane position to place yourself “in the mirrors” and then “far away from danger,” you are riding lazily and will someday pay a price. “That guy swerved into me,” you will say from the hospital bed. We’re telling you it’s safer to tailgate than sit in a blind spot, and you should never tailgate. Safer to speed for a moment than sit in a blind spot. Better to accelerate full throttle up the on-ramp than to enter the freeway in someone’s blind spot.

You need to develop a Blind-Spot Warning Buzzer in your head. I have one, and everything I do in traffic in a car or on a bike is aimed at keeping this buzzer quiet. When I’m riding as a passenger in a car, this alarm clangs. The worse the driver, the more the buzzer sounds. Closing thought: If you use your horn a lot, if you constantly curse other drivers’ lack of awareness, or if you’re constantly infringed upon by surrounding cars, you are riding in blind spots.

Fix it or pay a price.