Motorcycling: the fine art of thinking

Britt Santowski offers Throttle Therapy for motorcycle riders, and subscribes a dose of knowledge, taken with a full cup of thinking.

Contrary to what the term “lane position” suggests, it’s not a geographical placement but a way of being.

You can identify those not in the know. They are the ones that have heard through the grapevine that dominant means riding in the left third of the lane (position “1”). So no matter what, no matter where, they assert their (false) knowledge of dominance by mindlessly riding on the left portion of the lane.

Not correct. Dominant means holding ownership over the lane. It means strategically positioning yourself so that if another vehicle needs to pass you, you force them to do a full and complete lane change. You do NOT invite them to share a portion of your lane.

In the case of a two-lane highway, for example, riding in the left third of the lane (position “1”) when passing another vehicle opens up your entire lane for any other Tom or Dick who wants to pass as well. This massive space, now wide enough for another vehicle, invites other motorists to share your lane.

Even dividing the lane into equal thirds, as is suggested by the diagram, is misleading. When positioning yourself in the “dominant” lane position — whether left, right or centre — you’re really moving incrementally. Your position should be in relation to where people sit in a car: in the driver’s seat, in the passenger seat, or in the middle seat.

If you ride based on the location of the tires on a car, keep in mind that your body sits on top of the wheel (with knees, feet and elbows sticking out), whereas a person in a vehicle sits on the inside of the wheel.

That is (approximately) where you should be positioning yourself.

Those bikers who ride based on the tire groves of cars often have sundry body parts hanging over the centre line. Bear in mind that the centre line is also known as the suicide line, for good reason. You don’t have to be fully over the line to be fully impacted by oncoming traffic. Nosirree, only a part of you needs to make contact.

As with anything else I have written in this column, the rules are not exact. The description of the dominant lane position is intended as a guideline for the thinking person. If conditions suggest something else is required to retain dominance, or if suddenly safety precedes dominance, please adjust accordingly. Wider lanes, narrower lanes, less traffic, more traffic, gravel or oil on the road will all contribute to your ongoing analysis of where you need to be.

If you remember the point of riding dominant (discouraging lane sharing) and mix that with an ounce of flexibility and another ounce of rationality, you will almost never find yourself in that horrible situation where some moron is putting you in danger by choosing to share your lane on their own volition.

Dominant lane placement. It’s not a dogma; it’s a philosophy.