Better Riding: Time your ride
Sounds weird, but all days of the week, month and year aren't the same, riding wise. Drivers behave differently - enough for you to be aware of the day, date and take either advantage or precautions as the case may be.
Saturdays and Sundays
Generally speaking, traffic happens to be less on these days. Which means you can go quicker. However, beware of the Sunday driver. In many cases, people who don't normally drive - they either commute by public transport or are driven - are out in their cars. These drivers tend to be much less aware of traffic around them, and even more distracted during driving - children in cars, used to using cellphones on the move - so you need to give them a wider berth. This is also the time when vehicles are more loaded with luggage than usual - which means many of these cars can't see traffic coming up behind them. Be extra careful if you see the inside rear-view mirror is blocked.
Many of us use the weekend, long or otherwise, to plan trips out of town. The highway is fraught with extra danger at the beginning and the end of long weekends - you've been warned. The same drivers we mentioned above also use the highways and so the same brand of distracted, unskilled, bad driving. Be extra careful when overtaking - both of the car you are passing and oncoming traffic.
Most people appear to be in an extra hurry to get to work after the break. This is perhaps the day when the average drive is likely to be the most aggressive.
Despite our cops' admirable efforts to curb drunk driving, this is a stressful time to be out riding. Remember always that you are gen- erally safer riding 10-15 per cent faster than traffic around you. And that you are immensely vulnerable when you are being passed by someone. Keep a weather eye on your mirrors and be prepared to take evasive action in a hurry.
Just after the rains
This is when our roads are at their worst. This is also the time when the driver of the car/auto/truck ahead of you is most likely to try a sudden, sharp direction change to avoid a pothole, bump or stone on the road. Scan the road ahead of you for hazards, and be aware of other vehicles around you coming up on hazards as well. Expect the drivers to not look in their mirrors before swerving. Watch their front wheels for signs of sudden direction changes, or hang back till you see a smooth road to pass. Personally, I also consciously enter the bad patches to pull swift overtakes - it's the one place the vehicles tend not to swerve towards.
Fog reduces contrast which makes it harder for drivers to judge their speed and distances. It also reduces visibility, of course, which makes most drivers approach closer to the vehicle ahead. Bikes are easy to miss under these conditions. Be extra careful, wear reflective kit if you can't avoid riding in the soup altogether.
Some festivals generate their own traffic. Gokulashtami (aka Dahi Handi) in Mumbai, for instance, means large groups of two-up motorcycles belonging to various pot-breaking clubs on the roads. Groups like these like to stick together and will often resort to all manner of weirdness in traffic to achieve that goal. Look for a safe place to pass. Pass slowly through the whole group, rather than trying to fly by in a one, swift shot. Id, similarly, generates its own traffic. Know your town, know its festive calendar. If the festival - like Ganapati Visarjan and Chhat Puja in Mumbai - causes major traffic re-routing, ride slower than normal since you will be using roads you know less well. Hurrying along won't get you there faster, just make the situation more stressful for you.
The festive season
If your commute takes you through a market, the entire festive season is a time to be more circumspect about passing through it. Excited shoppers do not look at traffic, just the sale signs across the road. You are expect to avoid them, and not the other way round.
The hours before and immediately around dawn are pretty risky. The unholy mix of the not completely awake, didn't get enough sleep and we're-getting-out-of-town-before-the-city-awakens is pretty complex. It means inattentive as well as aggressive drivers are out on the roads. This is also the time when the garbage trucks - notorious across the country for rash driving and causing two-wheeler accidents and fatalities - are out on the roads.
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