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Mar 24th 2016, 05:54 PM   #1
  Jan 2016

  '13 636, '14 N1k, DR650
Lane Splitting - First Hand Exp in The Bay Area

I travel to the Bay Area for work a couple times a month. Sitting here waiting for my flight to board, and I thought I'd share my experiences as being on the cager end of lane splitting on a somewhat regular basis. I see probably 20 bikes lane splitting in the short time I'm down there.

(Hoping to take my bike down in the summer to get the 2 wheel perspective.)

Some of this is going to elicit a "no shit Sherlock" type response - including anyway. This is pretty much my first time experiencing lane splitting in any capacity - so I reckon if/when this is passed in the PNW, this is what the average tard cager will go through here.


(A)Bigger bikes are quieter - I.E. RPM matters
The bikes that snuck up on me the most by far and away were liter sized (super)sport bikes and the largest cruisers. Smaller (<600 sport bikes and <~800cc cruisers) were surprisingly easiest to hear.

A liter SS bike going ~20 is probably at 5k RPM - not really making that much noise. The gixxer 1k with what I assume was a straight (or non-existent) pipe I heard for quite a LONG time.......AFTER he passed by me. Didn't hear a GD thing until he was kissing my mirror - and it actually scared me a bit because I didn't have a clue there was anything there.

A Ninja 250 @20MPH is about to red line and actually makes a noise you can hear in a car (assuming aftermarket pipe). Enough so that I was actively looking for the bike in my mirrors.

(Author's note: this one actually surprised me. In my head, bigger bikes = more noise. But I'm always traveling 45+ here in OR. Never thought at lower speeds this would be the opposite)

(B)Active vs passive

The ones that just kinda ride in a straight line at a constant speed always scared the shit outta me.

A couple riders were the exception to the rule A. One rider was blipping his throttle every 5 secs or so. Again - enough noise to make you go, "WTF is that?!? Oh, hai der, let me move over for you."

The other guy was kinda weaving back and forth as appropriate and able which didn't make any extra noise, but was enough to catch my eye. Which leads to...

(C)Being f*cking visable - versus not
Not a single rider wearing high vis yellow "snuck up" on me. Anyone in black may as well have been wearing an invisibility cloak. It was the rider that got my attention 99% of the time - not the bike. From a cager's perspective - there's no such thing as a high-vis bike - only high vis riders.

Wide bikes (full dress cruisers) didn't get my attention anymore than a more narrow SS bike. Tall bikes (touring/adv/DS) were visible for miles and miles in both directions.

I've seen only one or two riders try to lane split above ~45MPH or so. One guy had to do a quickie lane change (collision avoidance) because he came up on freely moving traffic more quickly than the traffic was expecting (IMO- that one incident the bike was at fault, not cage). Most everyone else folded into traffic once getting up to 30 or so - which seemed very smart.

It was rare that I saw a rider come up on me while I was all ready stopped at the front of the line at an intersection (bike filtering to front). Assuming at that point their RPMs were pretty low, and may also have all ready pulled the clutch in. Couple riders blipping I did hear, though hardly any of them did that.

Hope it was informative, plane's leaving - catch you guys back up in "No Splitsville".
Mar 25th 2016, 09:56 AM   #2
 albatrosscafe's Avatar
  Jan 2016

  2015 Yamaha FZ-07
Interesting notes about the high-vis gear. I was thinking hi-beams would be more of a visual cue than wearing a neon yellow vest... did you not find this to be the case?
Mar 25th 2016, 10:19 AM   #3
 mgfchapin's Avatar
  Jan 2016
  Kirkland, WA

  '15 Daytona 675R
Good notes about visibility and I agree that the rider catches my eye before the bike. Helmets make a big difference too; white or hi-viz yellow are best, obviously black is worst.
Mar 25th 2016, 10:29 AM   #4
  Jan 2016

  '13 636, '14 N1k, DR650
Originally Posted by albatrosscafe
Interesting notes about the high-vis gear. I was thinking hi-beams would be more of a visual cue than wearing a neon yellow vest... did you not find this to be the case?
High beams (or any headlights for that matter) during sunny 70 degree days didn't seem very contrasting.

I imagine on a more typical PNW gray day they would work more gooder in that regard. I also imagine most riders don't ride much during gray days.
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Mar 25th 2016, 11:11 AM   #5
 DocB's Avatar
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
I agree that a hi vis helmet seems to be the thing people see first, moreso than vests. I think it may be because our brains are geared to facial recognition, hence we tend to look at a person's head -

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Mar 25th 2016, 12:04 PM   #6
  Jan 2016

  2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R, 2014 Kawasaki Ninja EX300 CRF250x, CRF150RB. XR100
Good information and thanks Justin. When we were driving back from San Jose last June had a motorcyclist lane split us and we were doing 65-70mph in very light traffic. I did not hear his bike and my daughter noticed him coming up on us. No hi-vis gear that I do remember.
Jun 14th 2016, 04:27 PM   #7
 irish's Avatar
  Jun 2016

One major difference I have personally noticed myself is the variance in visibility. There is almost no such thing as high vis-gear in the Bay Area; we (I am a Bay Area native, San Jose) all gravitate to black and most don't wear proper protective gear.

Not to say high vis-gear is not available for purchase, but it is rather a personal choice that is often clouded by aesthetics. It is a different rider/bike culture, that is for sure!
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Edited by irish on Jun 14th 2016 at 05:58 PM
Jun 15th 2016, 08:11 AM   #8
 HalcyonSon's Avatar
  Apr 2016

My 650R is very quiet and barely runs 4,000 RPM at 20 MPH in first gear. Don't know of anything that's at redline at 20 MPH - a Ninja 250 certainly isn't.

I've lane split before, in Philly and around here. Only do it when I think there's plenty of room, and only if traffic is near a stop. You won't catch me wearing hi-viz though, or blinking my lights, or honking my horn. I'd rather cagers just keep doing what they're doing than react in an unexpected way. It's easier for me to anticipate what they're going to do and plan around the usual stupidity than it is for them to know what to do and do it at the right time.
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Jun 15th 2016, 11:49 AM   #9
 Parilla125's Avatar
  Jan 2016

The few times I have experienced people lane splitting here in Washington it has always surprised me. Or I should say 'startled me' as I am not used to it. Well, that and it is not legal...
On one of them the guy was quite lucky as I had my signal on and was beginning to change lanes. He blew by probably four cars in front of me 'at speed' after going by me in slow moving traffic.
Jun 15th 2016, 08:46 PM   #10
 Lena's Avatar
Forum Admin
  Jan 2016

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Not as obvious as you'd think. I have noticed in Cali drivers seem a lot more aware of bikes in general, lane splitting or not. Oregon is nowhere close to that kind of awareness. I guess it takes years ...
Jun 15th 2016, 10:59 PM   #11
 cgt1229's Avatar
  Feb 2016

I lane split 24 years ago on the way to WSBK at Laguna in 1992. Can't remember exactly where in California I was when I tried it, maybe 101 somewhere.

I was aware it was legal then, but was a little apprehensive to try it, being from Washington,
so I waited for other bikers to go by and show me the ropes when traffic was nearly at a standstill.

It was tough trusting vehicles staying in their lane.
It seems Californians occupy the smallest spaces if they become available and aren't bothered by slowing up the vehicle behind them when changing lanes signal or not.

It was exciting to do it, but I did manage to clip one of those old Ford or Chevy chrome rear view mirrors that stick way out with my right handlebar.

A wave of apology was all I could really do.

The race was in April if I remember correctly, and it rained 3/4 of the way there and back.
It was the one and only time I ever split lanes.
Never tried moving to the front at a stop light either, seemed like it would offend someone or create a road rage sitution.
Jun 16th 2016, 07:58 AM   #12
 jared p's Avatar
  Jan 2016

When I ride to California on my usual once yearly trip, I make a point to lane split even when I don't have to, just to get it out of my system. Drivers down there are so much more attentive than in the PNW. If it wasn't so expensive, I'd live there in a heartbeat just for the riding.
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Jun 16th 2016, 08:13 AM   #13
  Jan 2016
  Woodland, WA

I lived in SoCal for almost 30 years and rode to work just about every day. If freeway traffic came to a complete stop or was just creeping along, it was stupid not to lane split and was perfectly safe as the bumper-to-bumper cars could not change lanes. Freeway traffic is getting to be just as bad up here and if I was still commuting it would drive me crazy not to be able to lane split.
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Jun 16th 2016, 10:48 AM   #14
 tchase's Avatar
  Jan 2016

Originally Posted by jared p
Drivers down there are so much more attentive than in the PNW.

Yesterday I was in the cage, and of course a texter in front of me with 10 car lengths in front of her and she was not moving. I honk very gently and she about shit herself she was so involved with her phone...
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Jun 16th 2016, 11:30 AM   #15
  May 2016
  Port Orchard, WA

  R1200RT, DR650
Originally Posted by tchase
...a texter in front of me with 10 car lengths in front of her and she was not moving.
Oh man, yeah. This seems to be incredibly common recently (or maybe it's not new, and I'm just getting more impatient?). I'll occasionally sit through an entire green light and only two or three cars will make it through the intersection ahead of me because they're all so slow to start moving.

I really hate honking at people, but sometimes there isn't much else that will wake 'em up.

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