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Positioning

The previous section, on Observation, covered the Information part of IPSGA.
This section will concentrate on the ‘P’ in IPSGA.

Bikes, by their very nature of being quite slim, have the advantage that they can position themselves pretty much anywhere on a road to maximise their observation. The results of the ongoing observation will often then dictate where to position your bike on the road, or in extreme cases off the road.

In all instances, your primary objective is to place you and your bike in the safest position, taking in to account everything that is going on around you.
This could mean placing yourself so that you can get a better view around a bend, staying out of the way of other road users, or just to indicate your intentions to other road users.

There are a number of factors that can effect positioning, but generally there are 3 positions that you can place the bike in:

  • To the left
  • In the middle
  • To the right

The above are based on you staying on your own side of the road.

To the left is suited to better seeing around right hand bends it is useful to get a look around a large vehicle, especially on sweeping left handers, for keeping well out of the way of oncoming traffic, or positioning yourself for a left hand turn.
This position puts you close to the pavements, parked cars, driveways and adjoining roads, so be especially vigilant of things that could suddenly appear in front of you.
In the middle is pretty much a safe area providing all around safety. I provides the greatest amount of flexibility to move around your lane, but it does not offer the maximum benefit to improve on observation. The middle is where someone who has not undertaken any advanced training would tend to remain.
To the right is the place to be for improving vision around left bends, it keeps you away from hazards at the side of the road, and is the best place to place yourself for a right hand turn.
This position does put you close to the on coming traffic, so be especially vigilant.

One of the biggest tenets of positioning is the two second rule. As an absolute minimum you should maintain a gap of two seconds between you and the vehicle in front.
Look for something on or by the road, as the back of the vehicle in front passes it count off “one one-thousand, two one-thousand”. You should not cross that mark until you have finished your count.
Some people use the phrase “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” as a measurement, but it makes me cringe.
Needless to say if the conditions are wet you need to extend the distance, preferably making it at least a 4 second rule. Icy conditions would be significantly further.
I tend to practice the two second rule a lot. Saying that, more often than not mine seems to be a 1.5 second rule. It is naughty, but on the positive side it does mean that I am acutely aware of my positioning, and I do strive to keep it to 2 seconds.

This brings me on to the positioning for overtaking. It is not about sitting right up behind the vehicle in front waiting for your chance. You are putting yourself in danger by breaking the two second rule, and you are potentially limiting your view.
You should start off in the “following position”, the distance that you would normally be, and in a position to maximise your view ahead.
As you are getting ready to overtake move to the right of your lane and close up to the vehicle in front. If all looks good, indicate, move out into the other lane and overtake.
If you become aware of a hazard ahead, you should consider moving back to the following position. This will put you back out of danger and avoid making the driver of the vehicle in front nervous and potentially doing something that will effect your ride.

I have written two previous posts on positioning for the best view, so rather than repeating them here, I will refer you to “Straightening a corner – Part 1” and “Straightening a corner – Part 2
For me, this is the most important aspect of positioning, so I hope you take the time to read those two posts.

I also mentioned positioning at junctions.
When turning left it makes sense to position yourself to the left. Not only does this help confirm your intentions to other road users (in addition to indicating) but helps to ensure that a hazard, like a cyclist, does not introduce itself on your inside.
Much the same applies to right turns.
Again, whilst you should not sacrifice safety for position, you may want to adjust your position yourself to give a better view, or other road users a better view of you.

In conclusion, position is all about placing yourself in the safest position on the road.
In the strictest sense this will most likely be on your side of the road, and in the middle of your lane.
However, given the size of a bike, you are well placed to make the most of your lane to maximise your chances of spotting and avoiding hazards.

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