February 01, 2024 3 min read

The system of motorcycle control


I’m sure if I asked any member what the acronym is for ‘The system of motorcycle control’ they would be able to rattle off the 5 letters and what they stand for, but I thought I’d write an article on the letter that seems to be forgotten about by quite a few riders. If you look online you’ll find any number of articles and forum posts about

I for Information

Your observer will have discussed all the various ways to gather information and then go on to use it, and of course how to give information.

P for Position

We talk about positions 1,2 & 3 or, nearside and offside of your lane and middle (sump line for the oldies reading this!). Again, there’s a wealth of discussion and articles on how, and why, we position our bikes for safe road riding.

S for Speed

Getting our speed right before the hazard using acceleration sense (use of the throttle with finesse) and the addition of some brakes if needed.

G for Gear

Yes, eventually your observer will hopefully have stopped telling you to select a gear AFTER you have adjusted your speed on approach to the hazard.

And that seems to be where System stops for some riders. They forget about the A for Acceleration. What does Roadcraft say about this phase?

“Apply the correct degree of throttle to negotiate and leave the hazard safely. Taking account of your speed, other road users, and the road and traffic conditions ahead, choose an appropriate point to accelerate safely and smoothly away from the hazard. Adjust acceleration to the circumstances.”

I’ve added some bolding to that definition, as that is the bit I see is missing from some riders riding.

Lets’ look at some real world examples where I see the A forgotten about:

How many times are you riding along a road and a vehicle pulls out of a side road ahead of you and then proceeds to dawdle away from the junction causing you to slow (probably muttering to yourself inside your crash helmet) and all the vehicles behind you bunch up? This isn’t safe for the vehicle that has pulled out, and isn’t safe for you, as the vehicle behind you may not be looking that far ahead. Yet I see a lot of riders do just what that exiting vehicle has done!

Out of the junction they pull, only to then amble away. Get your observations done and make sure you have the space to join and accelerate away from the junction. This keeps you safe and it also helps with traffic flow. This can help everyone in day-to-day travel and can also help on social rides where perhaps more than one person can exit the junction. I often find that because the rider ahead has not cleared the junction it isn’t safe for me to exit. Just an observation.

Then we have changes of speed limits. How often are you tailgated through 30/40 limits because you are sticking to the limit that is place? Again, get your observations done early, choose a lower gear (if needed) and at the imaginary line between the two limit signs you can accelerate away. This is your opportunity to put some space between you and the tailgater. I’m not talking about massive acceleration waving the front wheel in the air, but some controlled, brisk acceleration. Again, this is improving your safety and aiding traffic flow.

Finally bends. We will have often had to lose some speed on approach to a bend, depending on the view that we have. Once we are through the bend, and the view opens up again, we can accelerate back to the level we were at before (assuming there are no new hazards). Instead, I see riders lose some speed for bend one and fail to accelerate afterwards, then do the same at the next bend, and the next. They then suddenly ‘wake up’ and accelerate. The vehicle behind you is likely to then be too close.

So don’t forget that danger can come from behind and sensible use of Acceleration can maintain/create space behind you, aiding your safety and helping with traffic flow. I’m not trying to suggest that everyone should be racing about everywhere, but that they should be using one of the benefits we have of riding motorcycles, which is that all but the smallest have excellent power to weight ratios. And isn’t that one of the reasons we ride them? Next time you are out riding, take some time to re-analyse your use of System and don’t forget about the poor old letter A at the end of IPSGA.

Mike RobertsIAM Roadsmart National Observer

Catch me on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@mikeroberts

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