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How much should I see when doing shoulder checks/lifesavers?


Miguel the Penguin
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Okay, this could be a really odd question, bear with me!


Despite doing my CBT and buying my 125 a few months ago I'm only just now getting out to ride due to a multitude of life and weather factors. I was feeling a bit nervous about being rusty so, because I don't know anyone else who rides, I did what I thought was sensible and got in touch with a local instructor who did a refresher day last weekend and back-marked me in his car as I rode my bike from my old flat in London up to St Albans today.


I was a bit nervy and obviously needs lots more training but overall I absolutely bloody loved the ride - even being blown around by the wind on the A41! I was already getting frustrated about running out of throttle once I hit 65mph so can't wait to try out a bigger bike :)


Anyway, to my point! Whenever I looked over my shoulder I found it really tricky to get a good view of what was behind me. How much should I realistically expect to see? I guess I'm comparing it to when I drive, where I take big long looks to make triple sure there's nothing there. Clearly I'm much more limited on the bike due to not wanting to take eyes off the road/balance/helmet/big jacket but I'm a bit concerned that I can't get a good enough look to be sure it's safe. If I hadn't had my back-marker today I think I would have really struggled with lane changes when the traffic was heavy.


So what's normal? Is it just a glance to the side, or do I need to be looking properly behind me? Should I look to 3/9 o clock or further back? Should I rely on my mirrors more? Is it something that will become easier when I'm more confident in controlling the bike?


Thanks in advance for any tips and sorry for the long post and all the newbie questions!

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the entire point of lifesavers/shoulder checks is to glance at your 'blind spot' - that little bit of space thats hidden from your mirrors... so, as you ride you keep and eye on your mirrors.. and just before you move.. say from one lane to another or before turning. a quick check of your blind spot to make sure nothing has sneaked up on you.. they're just that final check before 'doing'.


you can get blind spot mirrors that help.. but you absolutely MUST do lifesavers for your test. the examiner will be expecting to see them regardless of whether you have blind spot mirrors or not.

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Having a good set of mirrors on your bike and in the correct position will help you see what fully behind you, the whole idea as said of a shoulder check is to check your blind-spots a quick glance left or right of either shoulder.


The only reason you feel you're not seeing anything is because of limited experience and not knowing how far back you should be looking, a quick glance is all you need, if you sit down and turn your head side to side over your shoulders with the intention to look as far right and left as possible then that's how far you should be looking.


My instructor and I had a on-going joke during my CBT that I was attempting to be an owl because I'd try and look quite far behind me (taking my eyes of the road and not focusing on controlling the bike) that's what the mirrors are there for.


It's hard to say when is appropriate to perform a lifesaver, however a glance of the mirros before most turns (or sense where the traffic is, comes with experience) should suffice.


All in all if you want to switch lanes and after doing a lifesaver spotted the bonnet of a car it's far to close and isn't safe.


Summary;


The more you ride the more confident you'll be, at the moment you're going to worry endlessly about the small things, just be as alert as possible and learn how to be confident on your bike out on the roads, various weather, times of day, different roads etc.


Give it a couple of weeks of 3-4 times a week riding (even on the same route) and you'll be comfortable in no time and wonder what you was worrying about.. it takes a couple of weeks to settle in and get used to being out and about.

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Anyway, to my point! Whenever I looked over my shoulder I found it really tricky to get a good view of what was behind me. How much should I realistically expect to see?

 

The question you need to answer first is "Why am I looking?"


You're looking for threats to your safety lurking in your blind spot.


So the answer to "How much?" is "Enough to ensure safety."

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You should already have a good idea what's behind you from your mirrors and constant observation, and if youre about to change road position, the assumption is that its clear so your lifesaver check is just to confirm its clear before moving.

In a very short glimpse, If you see anything you didn't expect, you'll know to cancel your manoeuvre.

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As you get more confident your head movement will become more fluid and you will take in a lot more info. A good helmet will help with this as it will give you a wider field of view my first helmet was naff for visibility at peripheral so i quickly upgraded. But essentially your only checking your blind spot as your mirrors cover whats behind

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If you're concerned that you're not seeing enough when you do your life-saver checks, sit on the bike on a driveway or carpark and get a friend to walk around the back of the bike. Watch them in your mirrors until you can't see them any more. Then turn your head and you should be able to see them again. Do this several times and you should find you've got all the blind spots covered.

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Thanks everyone. It's reassuring to know it will get better with time. I guess I'm just nervous since being a new rider is the time you really want to be extra safe in all manoevures. I haven't properly ridden on my own yet either so the idea of relying solely on my own observation is a bit daunting..!


I'll practise in a carpark when I next get out, along with all my slow speed stuff.


Thanks!

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Yep, but that's part of the issue! I am always checking behind me in the car, and therefore am used to getting a good view and being very sure there's nothing there. The checks I take on the bike are so much more limited in what I see that it worries me I'm not seeing nearly enough!


I suppose I can practise smaller, quicker checks that replicate being on a bike, instead of nice big comfy looks...

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Yep, but that's part of the issue! I am always checking behind me in the car, and therefore am used to getting a good view and being very sure there's nothing there. The checks I take on the bike are so much more limited in what I see that it worries me I'm not seeing nearly enough!


I suppose I can practise smaller, quicker checks that replicate being on a bike, instead of nice big comfy looks...

 

None of the threats you're looking for will be airborne, so you actually only need to look at the bit of road that they would occupy. That realisation changed the game for me, and changed a sideways glance into a down/side glance, which is easier iyswim.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

ok I've not actually tried this on a bike, just a car, but I assume its the same (sorry if i'm talking out of my arse, I'm sure someone will correct me if i am) -

Do you know where your blind spots actually are? Sit on your bike in a riding position (ie hands on the handlebars, with helmet on too) and get a friend/instructor to wander around behind/beside you til you lose them in your blind spot. Once you know where your blind spots are, THAT'S where you need to be looking. I guess it would vary on different bikes and depending how you have your mirrors set so bear that in mind.

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  • 3 weeks later...
ok I've not actually tried this on a bike, just a car, but I assume its the same (sorry if i'm talking out of my arse, I'm sure someone will correct me if i am) -

Do you know where your blind spots actually are? Sit on your bike in a riding position (ie hands on the handlebars, with helmet on too) and get a friend/instructor to wander around behind/beside you til you lose them in your blind spot. Once you know where your blind spots are, THAT'S where you need to be looking. I guess it would vary on different bikes and depending how you have your mirrors set so bear that in mind.

Genius idea :cheers:

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  • 5 weeks later...
If you're concerned that you're not seeing enough when you do your life-saver checks, sit on the bike on a driveway or carpark and get a friend to walk around the back of the bike. Watch them in your mirrors until you can't see them any more. Then turn your head and you should be able to see them again. Do this several times and you should find you've got all the blind spots covered.

 


This is what my instructor did with me. It was a big help.

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