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The Rider's Handbook

Speed control

Motorcyclists need to be always prepared in case something unexpected occurs. The faster you ride, the less time you have to react and respond, and the greater are your chances of crashing—and of serious injury and death if you do crash.

Reducing your speed is the best way to give yourself space and time to react and respond to potential hazards.


Low-risk riders manage their speed to maintain a ‘crash avoidance space’ in front of their motorcycle. The size of the space is determined by the rider’s reaction time and response time.

A rider who is fit, concentrating and alert needs at least one and a half seconds to react and one and a half seconds to respond to a sudden and unexpected change in conditions.

Therefore, you need a minimum of three seconds to react and respond to a potentially hazardous situation.

Calculate a three-second crash avoidance space when following another vehicle, by using this technique:

1. As the rear of the vehicle in front passes a stationary object at the side of the road, such as a power pole, tree or sign, start a three-second count (‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand
and three’).

2. If you pass the stationary object before you finish counting, you are following too closely. Your crash avoidance space is not large enough.Maintain space to the front

3. Slow down and repeat the count again until you attain the full three-second crash avoidance space.

When driving in poor conditions, such as in rain, at night and on gravel roads, you may need to increase your crash avoidance space to four or more seconds.
It is difficult to maintain a crash avoidance space behind you, as that space controlled by the driver or rider behind you.Maintain space to the front

However, if a vehicle is travelling too closely behind you, you can slow down slightly to increase the space available in front of you. This will allow you to brake more gradually if you encounter a hazard, which will allow the following vehicle more time to stop as well.

When you stop behind another vehicle, leave at least one and a half motorcycle lengths between your front wheel and the back of the vehicle in case the vehicle rolls back or you need to ride around it. Apply the brake but remain in first gear. Watch for any vehicles approaching from behind and be ready to move off if necessary to avoid being hit.
Safe speeds

Adjust your speed for the road conditions and your ability to see the road ahead.

Slow down if your vision is reduced by:

  • a curve in the road
  • a blind corner
  • a blocked intersection
  • a crest
  • poor weather conditions.

To react properly, you need to see at least five seconds ahead. Calculate a five-second vision in a curve, for example, use this technique:Maintain space to the front

  1. Pick a fixed point at the side of the oncoming lane as it comes into view, such as a power pole, tree or sign, and start a five-second count (‘one thousand and one … one thousand and five’).
  2. If your motorcycle reaches the chosen point before you finish counting, you are riding too fast for the vision conditions.
  3. Slow down and repeat the count again until you attain the full five second vision.

Riding above the speed limit is both dangerous and unlawful. Riding under the speed limit also can be dangerous if you do not adjust your speed to match the road and traffic conditions.

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