It’s not all about adhering to posted limits. Speed is one of the most important factors in riding technique. It affects pretty much everything else, from braking and cornering to overtaking and how your pillion feels about the ride. Here are some things to think about.
A safe speed in one place can be incredibly dangerous in another. So, in a way, speed is relative to the situation. But the simple fact is that increasing your speed carries exponential risk.
You don’t need to be a mathematician to understand this. The faster you are already going, the more any increase in speed has an effect. It’ll take further and further to stop. And the consequences of impact grow quickly, from inconsequential to painful to almost certainly fatal.
Any given situation has a right speed. The right speed is one that let’s you make good progress, allows you to take in the situation and cope with the unexpected. The clearest rule of thumb here is that you must be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. Even then, road riding means all sorts of unexpected things can happen.
Always ask yourself, ‘What if?’. What if there’s an animal behind that hedge and it jumps out? What if the road around the corner is covered in animal slurry? Or diesel? What if the corner tightens up, or someone is stopped on the road?
Speed affects how your motorcycle behaves in lots of ways. First, it takes further to stop. And, as we’ve observed, it’s not a linear relationship. Doubling your speed will make your stopping distance five times longer.
Speed, or certainly acceleration, has its upsides on a motorcycle. Sure, it’s exhilarating. It also ensures you can get out of potentially dangerous situations quickly.
Overtaking is a prime example. Once you’ve committed to an overtake you want to get it done in as short a time as possible. That requires maximum acceleration, while ensuring your terminal velocity doesn’t become, well, terminal.