Don't stray offside

By: Tony Carter MotorCycle Direct Posted: May 30th, 2018

From time to time, riders pick my brains on various aspects of motorcycling, and one of the regular questions to pop up is "What is offsiding?"

They have often heard the term used, but have no idea what it is, so seeing as this has recently started to rear its ugly head again, I thought a simple explanation might be appreciated, along with the implications to a rider who still chooses to adopt this practice.

Offsiding derives from the early days of police rider training, when students were taught to maximise their view through left-hand bends, particularly when travelling at speed. By moving out beyond the centre white line, sometimes to the opposite kerb. The bike (and rider) could negotiate the bend quicker (especially in the days of poor ground clearance) and the view into the bend would be maximised. This technique was only encouraged where the view into the bend was clear, but the nearside (left-hand) lane could be returned to quickly if necessary.

Back in the day when it was introduced, there was considerably less traffic on the roads, and so it was not such an issue.

Offsiding was taught for many years in most of the UK police driving schools (both car and bike) right up until the Eighties, when senior instructors considered that the benefits of this practice were outweighed by the safety implications, especially when a spate of crashes occurred as a result of the riders being on the offside whilst negotiating a left hand bend.

Over the years, offsiding filtered through to civilian advanced rider training groups, but unfortunately many riders were injured or killed trying to perfect the technique, so the likes of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) decided that they would no longer sanction the practice. However, there are still a few independent training bodies and instructors who preach offsiding as a worthwhile skill.

Today, advanced riding students are taught in the main, to go no further than the centre white line on the approach to a left hander, as it at least provides a safety margin between the rider and approaching traffic, while civilian riders are not required to ride at the high speeds that Police riders sometimes must. However, we all offside from time to time, in particular when overtaking, when we should try to maintain the maximum gap between ourselves and the vehicles we are passing, so it is not completely obsolete.

So, what are the implications if you are involved in a crash as a result of being on the wrong side of the road?

Well, it all depends on what has happened. If nobody was hurt other than your pride and your bike, then the chances are, not a lot.

However, if a crash with another vehicle occurs, apart from the fact that you are likely at the very least to be badly hurt, the question that is going to be asked is "Why was the bike on the wrong side of the road in the first place?" In the case of an overtake, this is quite simple to justify, although it would be considered that the overtaking rider completely misjudged the situation.

In the case of offsiding to negotiate a left-hand bend, then it will be looked at as "What was the rider trying to achieve?" It may also be an indication that the rider was travelling at excessive speed. In both cases, the rider could end up not only being seriously injured or worse, but could also be looking at a court appearance for either careless or even dangerous driving.

In the case of a claim being made against you, then you are unlikely to have much of a leg to stand on, as you should not have been out on the offside in the first place, or at the very least, you should have been capable of quickly and easily returning to your own lane.

Whilst old sweats like me can understand why it is done, these days, even I would have great difficulty in justifying someone following this practice, and in reality I would not be able to defend your actions.

If you have used an instructor, group or training body who still teaches this practice, then either walk away, or at least show them this. These people are potentially causing danger to you and other road users, apart from which, they also leave themselves open to being sued for teaching unsafe practices.