When my son-in-law got his bike license, I bought him a video called "Ride On", which was a rider-training video produced by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. This was an excellent video, and covered basics like checking bike condition to more "advanced" subjects like emergency braking, and so on. Not having had any formal training myself, I thought I might benefit from it too, so I also bought one for myself.
A lot of what was covered was pretty basic and common-sense, but I did pick up some tips from it. One thing they stressed was creating a safe space infront and behind. Creating a safe space infront meant traveling at a distance of 3 seconds behind the vehicle you are following. And I must admit, that was something that I often don't (or didn't) do. Now, I'm not saying that I tail-gated other vehicles (on a bike that is just asking for trouble!), but I was often a lot closer than 3 seconds. So I thought maybe I should try it.
This, in case you don't know, is how you do it. Pick a spot on the road that the vehicle infront passes and then count: "thousand-and-one, thousand-and-two, thousand-and-three". When I tried it I was like "Hmmm, okay, that's a bit further back than I often am!" Anyway I tried applying this, making sure I kept at this distance behind the vehicle infront. And it made a difference. While I hadn't felt unsafe at the distance I normally traveled behind things, I did notice that traveling at this distance was more relaxing. It's strange; I wasn't aware that I was concentrating any more, or feeling more "on-edge", in either situation, but I obviously was. It makes sense, of course. Sub-consciously, if not consciously, the closer other vehicles are to you, the more tense, or "primed-for-action" you are (or should be!). Create more distance between yourself and other vehicles and you don't (even subconsciously) feel as threatened, so you relax a bit more. And the ride becomes more enjoyable, or at least more relaxing. (Sometimes that's the same thing, sometimes it isn't - depending on the purpose of the ride I suppose). And importantly, of course, it also becomes more safe!
Okay, one other point about this. Being further behind the vehicle infront makes it more difficult to overtake, because you've got further to go to reach the vehicle before you begin the overtaking manouevre. That is one downside. Although moving closer in preparation to overtake is probably a good move in this situation.
Now, speed-limits. I must admit I tend to take a fairly arbitrary approach to speed-limits; a kind of "near-enough-is-good-enough" approach. Well, no, actually it's usually a bit more specific than that; I apply the "GST approach" - adding on 10%, just like you do with the GST! (Well the GST applies to just about everything else, I'm sure it applies to speed limits too!).
But a friend of mine who has ridden bikes for even longer than me, always sticks to speed-limits. I'm not sure why, whether it is a fear of being booked, or just because that's what the sign says. Anyway, he is someone I respect a lot as a rider, so one day as I was cruising through the suburbs, I thought I'd give it a try. And do you know what? It's just like applying the 3-second rule! Because you are traveling slower, you aren't as tense or on-edge waiting for that car to jump out or whatever. You relax more, and enjoy the ride more.
I mentioned "cruising through the suburbs", and that's the situation I'm mainly referring to here. I would be the first to agree that some open-road speed-limits are unrealistically low. Sticking to speed limits on some roads would cause more danger through falling asleep with boredom! Although the threat of losing dollars and points is a deterrent to exceeding them by too much!
Okay, I know what you're thinking; "the old fuddy-duddy is saying to keep to speed-limits and keep well away from other cars. That's just the sort of thing an old bloke would say!" And you know, reading over what I've written above, even I reckon I sound a bit lame! But it's still true! Putting that 3-second gap between yourself and the car infront does make you safer, and make you feel more at-ease. And especially for an old bloke - although I reckon it should apply to younger riders too - being safe and feeling at-ease with the situation you're riding in makes for the most enjoyable ride!
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