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Tip for being seen: SMIDSY weave

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How big is your motorcycle? As big as a car, truck, delivery van? Certainly not. One of the reasons motorcycles are so popular for commuting is their inherently tiny footprint in comparison to even the classic econo-box automobile. Unfortunately, we all know this very thing is what makes bikes more susceptible to being involved in a crash with another vehicle. Lack of steel, glass and plastic around we humans further makes this smallness more risky. But it's a risk we live with. Is there a way to be more visible? Certainly. Aside from flashing headlights, brake lights, reflective riding apparel, the rider must do whatever it takes to make themselves more visible.

While riding, angles are everything. Angles, meaning the attitude of angle the motorcycle is to a potential crash point, aka another vehicle. Avoiding a crash with another moving object is actually quite easy. Just don't occupy the same space as that object. Unfortunately, if the big object doesn't see the smaller one, physics takes over and when both come together, bang -- you're toast. More on the angle thing shortly.

One particularly problematic scenario is when the motorcycle is at a direct right-angle to an auto pulling out onto the same roadway the bike is traveling. Picture the rider, tooling down this back road, minding his or her own business. Mr. SUV driving a vehicle way above his abilities comes to a stop at an intersecting road. What angle is the big object viewing the motorcycle? Almost dead-on straight ahead. This is a bad angle. Although the headlight is the business-end of the bike, background distortions and perhaps other vehicles following the 2-wheeler can mask the headlight, so don't count on it. Otherwise, what kind of profile does the motorcycle present? Very limited. Bikes are often narrow and do not paint a contrasting picture to the background. Also, the motorcycle, headed directly at Mr. SUV isn't moving much in comparison to the background picture. Why? Because of the angle of attack. As the motorcycle gets closer and the angle somewhat changes, then the sight-picture becomes less 90 degrees and more like 60, 45 or 30 -- until the bike is parallel with the vehicle waiting to pull out. At this angle the bike is very visible because the background is passing quickly behind the sight picture of the bike.

Enter the SMIDSY weave. SMIDSY stands for "sorry mate I didn't see you." Obviously a UK or Australian origin based upon the word "mate," the SMIDSY weave attempts to break up that straight-on angle and make the motorcycle jump out within the sight picture. How? Weaving and changing the angle of attack.

A video is worth a thousand words. Check out the SMIDSY as explained on an episode of "Crash Course" from way back in 2008.

This technique works and is a great skill to drill into the automatic side of the motorcycling brain. It should be as automatic as counter-steering.

SMIDSY weave

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