Traffic. It’s the bane of every motorcyclist on the planet. No one wakes up in the morning and pops on their helmet, walks out to their bike, and thinks, I sure hope the highways is packed this morning. It’s the exact opposite of what we like about bikes.
Commuting on a motorcycle seems like fun at first because you’ll be that cool dude walking into the cubicle farm carrying a helmet in your arm. With an Italian sport bike jacket slung over your shoulder. You’ll kick open the door. Walk in feeling like Steve McQueen only to realize no one cares and you suffered for nothing. Let’s be real. Sometimes commuting on a bike is cheaper, so you have to put up with riding through traffic just to save a few bucks, which you’ll promptly blow on rim tape or some other tasteless mod.
Well, luckily for you, I’ve got five tips that’ll make riding in traffic actually bearable. It won’t be fun, but hey, at least you won’t wanna off yourself.
Let’s dive right in with number one, buy lighter gear. If you’re mostly a weekend warrior, chances are you’ve got some quality gear that’s designed to be safe, and stylish, but probably not flow as much air as it could.
When you get stuck in traffic between the heat of the sun and the engine and you being crammed into a leather jacket, you’ll probably start feeling a little bit warm. The best thing to do is simply have lighter gear, leather jackets, and gloves cool and offer the best abrasion protection in the business.
Even perforated leather gear only works so well because they need to balance the airflow with the structural integrity of the jacket. Instead, grab a lightweight textile fabric item by their very nature textiles flow a lot more air thanks to the weave of the fabric, but they’re usually built with mesh in the chest and across the back to maximize air.
If you’re thinking that you’ll sacrifice slide time and impact protection by going with textile over leather, you’re really not. Textiles have come a long way and now offer comparable slide protection to leather, and it’s the pads stopping the bump from hurting you.
They’re the same across most jackets. Also, are you wearing that leather jacket because you’re worried about a long slide or that one impact you’re gonna feel if you hit a car? You really don’t slide that far on the. Also, you can get textile gloves that have leather palms and mesh backing with the same level of protection and more articulation with a better feel on the controls.
Same with boots and pants. Personally, I suck it up and wear perforated leather boots, but they do get really toasty. And you know, my thoughts on pants, an added bonus of switching from leather to textile is the material. Physically lighter so you won’t be carrying as much weight on you while you ride.
Now while we’re talking about gear, one way to make traffic less insufferable is to mod your helmet. I’m not suggesting that you take a drill to your lid and cut a bunch of speed holes in it, but you might want to consider taking off your face shield. Since I tend to wear dual sports-style helmets. When it gets hot, I just pop off the face shield and wear goggles.
You get all the airflow you could possibly want, keeping your head cool, and if you’re wearing earplugs while you ride, which you really should, it’s not gonna make it significantly. That being said, you will be able to hear horns, sirens, and old men shouting at clouds a lot more clearly. If you’re thinking about getting a helmet specific for commuting, I would highly recommend a dual sport helmet.
They tend to be lighter than sport bike helmets, but they’re just as safe.
It’s better to be stuck in traffic with music going rather than sitting with your own thoughts for extended periods of time. You don’t need to get yourself a top-tier one, just anything that’ll play music. It really helps keep you sane.
Leave a lot of room between yourself and the car in front of you.
It’s pretty simple. Just don’t ride up the butt of the car in front of you. The first thing that this will do for you increases your braking distance. If the car in front of you jams on its brakes. Normally on a motorcycle, you can see over most sedans and through the windows of SUVs in front of you. But even so, you can’t predict when a driver in front is gonna drop their clutch, and slam on the brake before the five-second rule expires.
If you’re right behind that car, you don’t have time to react, but if you leave some space, you can come to a nice, safe stop and quietly contemplate the various places the driver may stop. The second reason is so that you don’t have to keep coming to a stop and working your clutch, which can be a pain.
After a while, it’ll require having some good slow speed balance, but after a while, it’s just like second nature. Leave enough room in front of you so that when everyone comes to a stop, you can keep rolling slowly to catch them. Use that rear brake to keep the bike stable. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to keep the bike rolling with just idle throttle and no clutch.
Occasionally you will need to feather the clutch if people slow down too much, but I just turn it into a game and see how long I can go without coming to a stop. Part of the reason stopping and traffic sucks so bad is that both you and the bike will get crazy hot. So keeping yourself moving means constant airflow.
Now, occasionally you will get some true smooth smart guy who thinks that moving one or two car lengths up by cutting into that space you leave is going to save them a bunch of time. And when that happens, just slow down and rebuild the gap.
Don’t wear a backpack.
Nothing sucks more than being stuck in traffic with a heavy-ass backpack weighing you down and digging into your shoulders, blocking the airflow from the back of your jacket, and pressing your laptop’s power cord deeper and deeper into your kidneys. I used to wear a backpack when I commuted to my office.
It was the worst thing I ever did. It made me loathe getting on my bike at the end of the day, but the solution was really simple. Get a tail bag. Tail bags are great, man. Nice and easy. I had one on my VFR that was big enough to fit a full-face helmet in it. Mine was literally designed for the bike, so it had luggage loops that hooked straight to the passenger seat.
But you don’t have to find one that’s made specifically for your motorcycle. Just get one big enough to hold all the crap you need to carry and then strap it to the back of your bike. No must no. I have a KTM dry bag that I hook to my bike with four carabiners so I can quickly detach it whenever I get where I’m going.
I bought KTM because it adds plus one horsepower for each orange part on the motorcycle. It’s not the biggest thing in the world, but I can cram a sub, chips, cookie, and a soda in there, which is enough. For me, but if for some reason you need to haul a bunch of crap, just get some throw-over saddle bags.
They’re a bit more cumbersome to attach and remove, but they’ll hold everything. And then some, most spikes won’t offer saddlebags from the factory, but universal throw overs are a solid choice.
What about something cheap? May I suggest Not getting into motorcycles, if you do, bungee cords are the way to go. I once strapped a whole rice cooker to the tail of my Harley with nothing but bungee cords and it costs me 15 bucks. You’re welcome.
Driving a motorcycle on the highway can be a daunting task for even the most experienced riders. However, by following the tips outlined in this article, you can stay safe and sane while enjoying the open road.