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 Motorcycle Safety
 Contrary Opinions
 Putting it in neutral at stop lights
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Robus
Male Senior Member
293 Posts


Chicago, IL
USA

BMW

R1200RT, HD FLTRU

Posted - 05/17/2009 :  5:05 PM
Personally, I would distrust any hard-and-fast recommendation of that nature and make the choice based on the conditions I see in front of me. Bottom line is that you want a quick escape route--and preferably not the same route that the would-be rear-ender will choose if he wakes up at the last instant and decides to swerve. I would position myself so as to leave the best path to that escape route, taking into account other potential hazards as well (road surface conditions, passing traffic in an adjacent lane).
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bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2263 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 05/18/2009 :  1:56 AM

I believe Hough of Proficient Motorcycling fame has the idea of setting up a bit to a left angle. Here, he says his mirror is at a good position to monitor what is coming up and he could shoot out of the way heading (presumably) to the left of the vehicle in front of him and getting a few car lengths up and out of the way under ideal circumstances.
I'm guessing here his idea is based on factoring in the last minute wake-up driver being likely to swerve to the right.

~brian
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raptor5618
Male Junior Member
89 Posts


Olyphant, Pa
USA

Honda

cbr600f4i

Peer Review: 1

Posted - 05/18/2009 :  9:21 AM
I too stay in gear nearly all the time with the exception being when I have a few car cover behind me. I also always flash the brake lights especially if I am alone at the light. I actually do this when in my car when stopped at a light where the cars approach at a high speed. I always do it when traffic stops for no reason especially on the interstate. When that happens I usually flash and slow down with lots of cushion between me and the cars a head in case I need to get out of their way. When I see they have slowed then I move up closer to traffic. Not sure I would do this on a bike and so far I have not been in that type of situation.

However, I wonder how easy it would be to realize a car is not going to stop on time especially when there is a car in front of me.
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Robus
Male Senior Member
293 Posts


Chicago, IL
USA

BMW

R1200RT, HD FLTRU

Peer Review: 1

Posted - 05/19/2009 :  3:03 PM
quote:
Originally posted by raptor5618

However, I wonder how easy it would be to realize a car is not going to stop on time especially when there is a car in front of me.



That's a very good question. The only time I came close to being rear-ended on a motorcycle, I was waiting at the bottom of an off-ramp to turn right into busy traffic. It was one of those kinds of ramps that approaches the intersection at a perpendicular angle and then curves sharply to the right to allow you to merge.

I watched in my rear-view mirror as a car came down the ramp behind me. He seemed to be slowing down nicely. Once I was satisfied he was not a threat, I turned my eyes back toward the oncoming traffic to look for a place to merge. At that instant I heard the squeal of tires behind me. Fortunately he managed to stop about a foot behind my rear tire.

You all can guess what happened. I had assumed the car behind was slowing for me. In fact he was looking toward the crossing traffic for his place to merge. When he saw it, he began to accelerate, and only then noticed me stopped at the end of the ramp.

Lesson: Don't assume that a car sees you because he is slowing.

I had a friend who actually was rear-ended. He was waiting at a stop light and watching a car slowing behind him. At that moment the light turned green and the car that had been slowing accelerated again. He hit from behind before he could get up to speed. Fortunately his injuries were minor.
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raptor5618
Male Junior Member
89 Posts


Olyphant, Pa
USA

Honda

cbr600f4i

Posted - 05/19/2009 :  8:50 PM
That was the one lesson I read here that kept me from being run over by a young driver. I always had a habit of watching the driver as well as the car to see if they see you. I read just what you said about not assuming anything. This driver slowed going into a stop sign seemed to be looking at me as I was moving to turn left in front of him. I paused waiting for him to actually stop and instead he accelerated right were I would have been if I had not been reminded that even if they look at you they may not really see you. I was on a quiet street with the blinker on so I have no idea how he missed me but the key point is that he missed me because I never went into the turn till I was sure so I was able to straighten out and go behind the car.

I will certainly add the two experiences you related to my memory banks and hopefully recall them when in a similar situation.

Did you blink your brake lights? I try to do that when the approaching car was not following me into the light.
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Robus
Male Senior Member
293 Posts


Chicago, IL
USA

BMW

R1200RT, HD FLTRU

Posted - 05/19/2009 :  11:03 PM
quote:
Originally posted by raptor5618

Did you blink your brake lights? I try to do that when the approaching car was not following me into the light.


I don't recall if I did or not. This would have been around 1985 and I wasn't as safety-conscious back in those days. I do a lot of blinking now.

I think Hough makes the point in one of his books that eye-contact is no assurance that the driver is actually going to yield to you. It's one clue. He recommends that you watch what the front wheels are doing.
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The Postman
Junior Member
62 Posts


Baltimore, MD
USA

Suzuki

Power Cruiser

Posted - 04/29/2010 :  6:38 PM
I also typically put it in neutral at a long red light if there are cars already behind me.
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oldhack62
Male Starting Member
7 Posts


Columbia, TN
USA

Honda

CB900 C Cistp,

Posted - 05/01/2010 :  9:42 PM
If I can't hold the clutch in through a traffic signal, THAT is a signal that I need to take a break from riding for a little while. Lunch. Bathroom break. Whatever.
Being in neutral at a traffic light is a little bit like being a pedestrian standing still in the middle of an intersection.
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CorbinD
Male Junior Member
49 Posts


North Port, Florida
USA

Suzuki

Intruder 800

Posted - 06/20/2011 :  1:45 AM
I realise my current ride is not much, but it does not like going down into first while rolling. I had some problems with the clutch when it was new as well, 5 clutches in the first 15k miles. The shop finally realised they were assembling it wrong. During that time I became accustomed to rolling up in neutral, and planting my right foot when I stopped. After I come to a complete stop I wait until the light is about to change before placing it in gear.
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bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2263 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 06/20/2011 :  3:23 AM
quote:
Originally posted by CorbinD

I realise my current ride is not much, but it does not like going down into first while rolling. I had some problems with the clutch when it was new as well, 5 clutches in the first 15k miles. The shop finally realised they were assembling it wrong. During that time I became accustomed to rolling up in neutral, and planting my right foot when I stopped. After I come to a complete stop I wait until the light is about to change before placing it in gear.



I will (from time to time) get to a fresh red and put the bike in neutral for a quick rest of my hand but it is only momentary.
Maybe I'm too afraid I'll forget to put it in gear and get rear-ended by an anxious follower who jumps at a green. I'm of the opinion and practice that keeping it in gear is best.

If I developed the habit you speak of due to the mechanical issues at first, I'd be re-training myself. If it's still a problem going into 1st while rolling, you have the option of slowing and coasting to the light and perhaps timing it to stay in 2nd and roll on as it's green, clear and safe or stopping at the light as red and putting it in 1st when not rolling.
With a bike ready and in gear, you have options, faster execution and less thinking. I realize there may be physical limits or conditions that can be an exception though.

~brian
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DannyC
Male New Member
12 Posts


Anaheim, Ca
USA

Ducati

Multistrada

Posted - 05/09/2012 :  12:53 PM
You can say what you want about "being prepared" and "ready to go at the first instance of go" but I DISLIKE the CLUNK of forcing the gears to engage from neutral to 1st.

That just can't be a good thing for the tranny. That's why I don't do it.
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Norseman
Male Junior Member
60 Posts


Willow Spring, NC
USA

Kawasaki

Vulcan Nomad

Posted - 05/09/2012 :  4:41 PM
quote:
Originally posted by DannyC

You can say what you want about "being prepared" and "ready to go at the first instance of go" but I DISLIKE the CLUNK of forcing the gears to engage from neutral to 1st.

That just can't be a good thing for the tranny. That's why I don't do it.



That's not necessarily a true statement... Motorcycle transmissions, for the most part, are a completely different animal than their automotive counterparts. It's not unusual (depending on the design and manufacturer, of course) to require more shifting effort - and get more aural feedback - when shifting gears on a motorcycle.

It's not a case of something being good or bad for the tranny - simply a case of "they just do that". ;)
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6887 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 05/09/2012 :  7:00 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Norseman

That's not necessarily a true statement... Motorcycle transmissions, for the most part, are a completely different animal than their automotive counterparts. It's not unusual (depending on the design and manufacturer, of course) to require more shifting effort - and get more aural feedback - when shifting gears on a motorcycle.

It's not a case of something being good or bad for the tranny - simply a case of "they just do that". ;)

A minor point of clarification, since I'm not certain that the two of you are talking about the same thing.

On most car manual transmissions, if you're idling in neutral, push the clutch in and stick it into gear, the synchronizers stop the spin of the one gear that is rotating so that it can smoothly engage with the one that is stopped. Unless you're going into reverse, in which case you'll often get grinding. (The Honda S2000 had a synchronizer on reverse too so that it wouldn't do that, by the way.)

On most motorcycle transmissions there are no synchronizers to help match the speed of the two gears, so when you're sitting there idling in neutral then pull the clutch in and shift into first, one gear is still spinning and that's where you get the clunk from that DannyC is referring to.

On most of the bikes that I've ever owned, once that one gear is spinning, you can hold the clutch in for a long time and it will still keep spinning as long as the engine is running.

The clunk into gear doesn't really bother me, but I will admit that I had to break the habit of revving the engine right before going from neutral to first, because that tends to spin things faster and you get a bigger clunk.
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DannyC
Male New Member
12 Posts


Anaheim, Ca
USA

Ducati

Multistrada

Posted - 05/10/2012 :  9:35 AM
There is more to it than just a clunk into gear. There is all the drive line snatch that goes with it.

When you clunk it into gear the first gear takes the hit and transmits that to all the driveline - all the way back to the big sprocket.

Its all that "mass in motion" that is associated with the shift into 1st that I don't like.

Next time you shift into first from neutral look at your chain - it jumps. Something has to make it jump.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6887 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Peer Review: 1

Posted - 05/10/2012 :  10:10 AM
quote:
Originally posted by DannyC

There is more to it than just a clunk into gear. There is all the drive line snatch that goes with it.

When you clunk it into gear the first gear takes the hit and transmits that to all the driveline - all the way back to the big sprocket.

Its all that "mass in motion" that is associated with the shift into 1st that I don't like.

Next time you shift into first from neutral look at your chain - it jumps. Something has to make it jump.

The force on my chain from shifting into first gear from neutral is insignificant compared to the power pulses from a large single cylinder four-stroke engine or a 100 horsepower V-twin.

You're not going to convince me to start worrying this.
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HaveBikeWillTravel
Male New Member
16 Posts


Santa Maria, CA.
USA

Harley-Davidson

Softail Custom

Posted - 01/29/2013 :  7:31 PM
I leave it in gear at stop lights. The need to move out of the way can come suddenly from any direction, not just from behind. Today I was keeping a little more distance than usual from the rear of the vehicle in front of me at a stop light. Much to my surprise he rolled backwards, manual transmission. He only rolled back about 12" but it got my attention quite fast. Dont tail gate at stop lights. I also work my front brake to flash the driver coming up behind me. Some times I think it really wakes up some drivers. They appear to start braking futher back than normal. I notice some women, being shorter, appear to be trying look over there steering wheel more.

Stay Vertical
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MotoGG
Male New Member
21 Posts


Murfreesboro, Tennessee
USA

Suzuki

GS500E

Posted - 06/27/2014 :  8:08 AM
Scott, what if on that fateful day, you have done all you said, noticed a car is about to hit you, you clunk in the first gear only to discover that for whatever reason it didn't engage? Even if you have a smooth shifting bike and everything you just hear screech and barly have time to engage when you should already be on your escape path. (Assuming your rear sight line is compromised at the time.) maybe it's the even more giamt SUV that's behind the SUV that's behind you and can't see because of, all that tint and bling.
As for tiring out the left hand, it is at first but after a month I hardly noticed. It really just means your hand is building strength. As for clutch slippage, wet clutches are designed to be slipped.
And finally, what if you get hit anyway? In gear your bike will stall and topple over in a short distance. In neutral, the car that hit you as just launched you and/or your bike straight through an intersection (god forbid the left turners are using it !).
So really keeping that clutch in might seem counterintuitive, if your driving a car, but you're not. It really does cancel out a lot of potential chair reactions.

That's why I leave it in gear, not because I won't see the rearender coming (always keep an eye on my 6,but because I don't want my coat to be stuck in door when I'm jumping off the train !
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johncrosby
Male Senior Member
256 Posts


Sevenoaks, Kent
United Kingdom

BMW

GSA 90 Anniversary

Posted - 06/27/2014 :  8:18 AM
Full respect to those who do it differently but this is a pet peeve of mine. I dislike neutral. In my small 6 years of biking I've only ever put the bike in neutral when pushing it, cleaning it and during the bike test to prove I could.

At junctions I've yet to read of any good reason not to keep your bike in first gear, left hand holding the clutch in, left foot on the ground, right foot on brake and right hand on the throttle. I park it in first, start it up in first (clutch depressed of course), come to a halt in first.

You're ready to go, move, react, get out of danger, scanning mirrors and all around you at all times. Putting it in neutral, having a little break, taking your hands off the bars is something we should be doing in a lay-by not at an intersection or anywhere there's traffic and thus danger.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6887 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 06/27/2014 :  9:03 AM
quote:
Originally posted by MotoGG

Scott, what if on that fateful day, you have done all you said, noticed a car is about to hit you, you clunk in the first gear only to discover that for whatever reason it didn't engage?

I have quite a bit over 100,000 miles of riding experience and have owned more than 20 bikes so far. I've missed shifts between gears on many of them, but never, not once, have I had a bike not be able to go from neutral to first gear. And I've never heard of any other experienced rider having that problem either.

When I'm stopped at a light with traffic coming up behind, I'm paying attention from way behind me as to whether an oncoming vehicle seems to be slowing properly. If there are any doubts, I'll flash the brake light two or three times. If the day ever comes that I think I have to move out of the way, I'm quite certain that shifting the bike back into first gear is going to be much less of an issue than figuring out where I can safely go once I start moving.
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johncrosby
Male Senior Member
256 Posts


Sevenoaks, Kent
United Kingdom

BMW

GSA 90 Anniversary

Posted - 06/27/2014 :  2:22 PM
quote:
Originally posted by scottrnelson

[quote][i]

I've missed shifts between gears on many of them, but never, not once, have I had a bike not be able to go from neutral to first gear.



I've met many BMW riders who are incapable of clunking their bikes into neutral. Until recently it was almost a design quirk that they wouldn't go into neutral without rocking the bike gently forward and backwards. Wonder if Scott's ever had a BMW?
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