Riding skills: Filtering like a courier

By Ped Baker -

Riding Skills

 09 October 2009 14:25

It's difficult not to be impressed by a seasoned courier skilfully carving through gridlocked traffic.

Squeezing through the narrowest of gaps they have an almost Jedi like awareness of what's around them and seemingly make life-or-death decisions with a nanosecond of glances.

What we don't usually get to see is the countless number of accidents our courier suffered in order to get to such a high level of control and awareness.

But we can still learn a great deal of transferable skills from observing a good courier's riding style.
Brisk and safe filtering is almost certainly the most useful skill for the majority of riders in cities.

The control of the bike comes from mastering two different disciplines: observation and balance.

By looking way ahead, a good courier will be able to spot potential hazards well in advance.

Wide vans and lorries could restrict possible filtering routes so you need to assess and plan another possible route past well in advance.

This may mean cutting across lanes in front of other traffic so supreme traffic awareness is needed if you're going to avoid being sideswiped.

When changing lanes it's also essential you look out for other motorcyclists who¹ve spotted, and are going for, the same opportunities as you.
We've all witnessed couriers effortlessly scrape through the tightest of gaps, barely an inch either side of the bars with not even a hint of wobbling and paddling feet.

They achieve such a state of balance by exaggerating body movement and minimising the use of the front brake.

The slower you travel the more you need to move you body in order to balance. When you approach a line of traffic try to loosen up by moving your body on the bike.

Shift around on the seat and feel how the bike behaves underneath you. Below walking pace using your body weight as opposed to the bars help to keep the bike stable.

Using the front brake alters the geometry of the bike and shifts weight from the rear to the front, a sure way to upset the bikes balance. At slow speeds predominantly use the back brake.

Only use the front if you have to stop quickly.