Defensive Riding Techniques | Street Savvy

Check your six

Really good riding tips-ones that literally can save your butt-can't be over-emphasized. And so it is with the time-honored "check your six" adage, a bit of advice we last covered years ago in these very pages.

Racers hear the old "Don't look behind you, dummy" bit all the time, usually from their dads, and there are plenty of reasons to heed that advice on the track. But street riders can pretty much ignore it, for keeping a close eye on what's behind you-without taking your attention off what's in front of you, of course-is a key part of their longevity.

It's easy to forget how often we actually do "check our sixes," or how necessary it is. Most of us aren't even aware of doing it. As a key part of what's known as The Scan, checking behind you while riding and while stopped can literally help keep you alive.

Why do so while moving? Aside from checking for sneaky revenuers, checking your mirrors allows you to keep from mistakenly lurching into the path of potential overtakers, and gives you a general sense of what's going on aft. The trick here is not to dwell on the rear view for too long; quick glances in the mirrors followed by the remainder of a proper 360-degree scan can keep that Buick turning left in front of you from taking you out.

The biggest danger from behind, however, comes when you're stopped at a stoplight or stop sign. Watching your mirrors as you wait for the green light (or your turn at a sign stop) will allow you to spot a vehicle that isn't slowing, and keeping your bike in gear while you wait will allow you to blast out of the way if it doesn't stop. Having an escape route in mind as you wait will help tremendously, of course.

Also, with today's sportbikes offering a sometimes limited rear view due to narrowly spaced mirrors, it's a good idea to come to a stop at a slight angle to your direction of travel. Doing so will expand your rearward view without you having to pull in your elbows.