Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Fruitless Overtaking

Blog Date 19 August 2019

Let me make this clear from the start - not all overtaking is fruitless. But quite often it is.

As I rode to work in the pouring summer rain I was doing 40 in a 40 zone. As I approached the 60 zone sure enough the 4x4 crew cab pickup gas guzzler overtook me before the 60 zone started. I believe some people were trained to believe that the 60 zone starts when you can SEE the sign, not AT the sign. But still...

National speed limit sign whit circle black diagonal
Becoming a rare sight.

Away they went and I carried on regardless. About a mile or so along the road I was back behind the 4x4 crew cab pickup gas guzzler as it is now behind a Vauxhall Vectra. I'm not the fastest motorist on the road, nor am I the slowest. I'm average, I excel at being average, average is my thing. 

After a mile or so the 4x4 crew cab pickup gas guzzler overtook the Vectra. Neither of these overtakes were dangerousa and both were executed in a safe manner. And yet as we all entered the 30 zone we were all still together, with the 4x4 crew cab pickup gas guzzler just one Vectra's length ahead.

It's all very well being righteous, but erm, I'm guilty of doing this myself. I'm so desperately trying to get the most out of the countryside road I'm on I'll go hooning passed car number 1 only to get stuck 5 seconds later behind car number 2. I'll get passed that only to be stuck behind car number 3, and so on and so on.

a line of traffic on the mountain road of the Isle of Man
Overtake? Why not, you could get stuck behind a more interesting vehicle.

Eventually after years and years (and years and years) of riding and then the subsidence of my young man's hormones I am starting to understand the fruitlessness of unnecessary overtaking. 

If I can be sure the road ahead is actually clear then by all means I'll overtake as and when it is safe to do so. If however it is likely that all I'll achieve is getting behind another car then I don't bother. I'll settle back into the saddle, look at my surroundings and practice my road positioning. 

I suppose I'm just getting old? Probably. Even so I'm enjoying my riding more and more now that I just relax and choose when it's best to be pressing on. 

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Reader's Comments

Jim said :-
It's a funny one, this. I subscribe 100% to this philosophy when driving my car - no point in exposing yourself to danger to gain one place in the queue that's just round the next corner. I'm teaching my youngest son to drive just now and have given him the same advice. However, I've noticed on the bike I'm much more likely to take on the overtake if it's safe, just because I can. Strange old world.
19/08/2019 04:32:12 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
With power comes corruption, with absolute power comes absolute corruption. The more powerful the vehicle the easier the overtake thus encouraging the overtake because it's easy. I'm far far less likely to overtake on the 125 than I am on the 500 for obvious reasons.

I'm just more aware that it's not worth the bother to me if all I'm going to do is gain a few seconds here and there. Same at the lights - why filter to the front passed 3 or 4 cars? If there's a long queue then maybe I will but for a few car lengths? I'll just have a stretch and admire myself in the shop window.
19/08/2019 05:11:21 UTC
Borsuk said :-
So with only 49 HP I won`t become too corrupted then, Phew, that is a relief.
19/08/2019 11:42:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
49hp is more than enough for corruption. Let's face it some politicians ride bicycles...
20/08/2019 12:14:25 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Nowt wrong with overtaking. But it's recognised as the most dangerous manoeuvre you can carry out on a bike. The combination of high speed, being on the "wrong" side of the road and the difficult-to-resist feeling of "Oh, I can just take one more" often leads to grief - and that's before you factor in other road users who won't be expecting you to whistle past at double their speed (and often on the wrong side of double whites as displayed on a clip on BBC news the other evening).

When I had the mighty Tiger 955i, overtaking was so much easier than it ever had been before (or since). A mere twist of the wrist saw me past the vehicle in front before they'd even noticed me. But it was so tempting to just fit one in before that looming bend which did lead on occasion to arriving at said bend with far too much way on to be comfortable. In any case as said it often only got you to the next queue quicker. The Norton and Guzzi have broadly similar performance characteristics which means overtakes are occasions to be noted and celebrated!

On the other hand, many of the roads in the congested midlands and elsewhere are so clogged that riding becomes a chore.....
20/08/2019 04:23:21 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I truly believe that one of the joys of motorcycling is not sitting in traffic queues, either stationary or moving. When there's a gap of 4 feet and I'm 3 feet wide then it's an opportunity to make progress. Overtaking in a car is usually pointless because there will nearly always be traffic ahead. Unless of course you're on a dual carriageway etc.
I have been known to pinch a few mph to complete the overtake safely but generally ride around the speed limit. That's when passing those three or four cars by filtering makes good sense, the overtakes are done with and that's got to be safe.
I also think if you are the type that follows other vehicles it is easy to be out of the vision of other vehicles at junctions etc.
Filtering is of course different for all involved, I would like to think I'm a considerate and safe filterer but I will not sit in queues for the sake of it. When filtering I would also normally put the main beam on to increase visibility and that works well.
I find it strange when you're riding up to road works for instance with miles of stationary traffic that some bikes sit in the queue. Why. Safe filtering is not only OK, it's legal.
Just don't filter in Germany. They don't like it, they don't like it a lot.
20/08/2019 05:32:52 UTC
Bob said :-
It depends.
If I'm behind a car and I can see there are many more cars in front I might stay put. But if I'm out in the hills and there is just one or two (or three or four) cars then nothing I'll go for the overtake.
Incidentally, on a low powered bike like the KLX I've found the best overtakes are to be had on corners. The sort of corner (typically right handed) where you can clearly see that the road ahead is clear - I've noticed that most people will not attempt an overtake and therefore you are unlikely to get carved up when going for the "nail it and overtake six cars at once" option!
21/08/2019 01:49:34 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
When traversing a Highland road and I happen upon a tourist bimbling at 40mph be sure I'll overtake! While traversing a short section of countryside road between townships in the busy North West and I happen across a line of sleepy commuters I'll just slip back on the saddle and go with the flow. There's a time and a place for everything.
22/08/2019 09:08:51 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"When traversing a Highland road and I happen upon a tourist bimbling at 40mph be sure I'll overtake! "

Assuming of course it's not a single tracker with passing places and the bimbler won't let you past as happened to me many years ago......
22/08/2019 02:06:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Still happens today Ian, maybe more so as The Highlands gain popularity. I've done a couple of my talks on Scotland and the one thing I do encourage is to allow people to overtake - especially on the single trackers.
22/08/2019 02:34:59 UTC
David said :-
Other motorcyclists overtaking!! Both from behind and in front. To me this is a real danger. Sadly two bikers were killed near me when they hit each other overtaking (I think lorries) on a bend (A5 in opposite directions). Also vans and taxis making Uturns out of the blue when there is a que that is unusual for that particular road. I guess a lot depends on whether you have your wits about you at that particular time and stopping before you get weary and make bad decisions....
14/09/2019 10:39:59 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You've summed it up nicely; of course you should have your wits about you.
But not only when overtaking, from the moment you pull your helmet on to the moment you take it back off, full attention to the task at hand at all times.
But overtaking is not dangerous unless you overtake in a dangerous manner and that's a different kettle of trout.
14/09/2019 11:16:48 UTC

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