We have all seen people on bikes hurrying in traffic, right? The tense body posture, the hard acceleration, the cutting across cars and all of that. Ever noticed the riders who invariably turn up at the same traffic light just moments later without any of the shenanigans? No? They're the real stalwarts. Here's how to be quick without endangering yourself or being a nuisance to others around you.
When human beings try to do things faster, they physically move quicker. This isn't good for motorcycles. Jerky riding does not equal speed. To go faster, you need to be moving slower physically, but thinking further ahead. Smooth is still the fastest way to do it. Focus on reading the traffic better and choosing better gaps than on rolling on the throttle harder. That's where higher average speeds come from. And it's average speeds that give you quick commutes, not being a complete nutter trying to hold 120kmph through traffic.
How do you read traffic? The biggest tool is your ability to see ahead. The further you can see, the further ahead you can plan. When most riders try to hurry on the road, they start riding closer to vehicles ahead of them and around them. This actually obstructs your vision and pulls attention away from your scan-and-anticipate part of the brain. You start focusing on the car just ahead, in case it brakes suddenly. And you slow down. Keep space around you. Be patient. It feels slower, but you'll start picking better gaps, more passing opportunities and spot hazards earlier. All this adds up.
Dealing with slow traffic
If traffic is slowing, so should you. Not only is zipping through slowing traffic unsafe, it isn't productive either. Slow down early, get up on the pegs if you need to and get a sense of the jam ahead. Pick a smart, steady route through the jam and thread through politely, going no faster than 15 per cent over the traffic around you. Once again, give yourself space. Getting knocked off your bike by a car changing lanes isn't good for quick commutes, or your health. You can't make time in slow places, so don't bother.
Use your mirrors
There's always a chance that someone will pass you now and then even if you're super-fluid through traffic. Keep an eye on your mirrors. Knowing what's behind you allows you more options when you need to change lanes to get past a slow moving vehicle.
Turn your head
Your mirrors, though, offer incomplete information. Take the time to turn your head quickly and recheck the situation now and then, and before every major direction change. You might spot something dangerous that you will end up avoiding, or finding a new opportunity you can employ to pass faster and with less risk.