Already A Member? Sign In

Close this search box.

The Essential Guide for Motorcyclists when Overtaking and Filtering

The Essential Guide for Motorcyclists when Overtaking and Filtering

The Essential Guide for Motorcyclists when Overtaking and Filtering on Motorcycle

Navigating the labyrinth of traffic is an integral part of motorcycle riding. Moving through and around other vehicles efficiently is a skill that separates novice riders from the proficient motorcyclists. Central to this are overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle with specific manoeuvres that all riders will come across during their riding career.

Both are distinctive yet complementary skills that serve a similar purpose, both entail manoeuvring past other road users. However, you must understand the differences, when to utilise them and execute them safely can elevate your riding experience. 

At the same time it can significantly reduce rider risk.

The Skill of Overtaking

Overtaking is an essential manoeuvre for motorcyclists that involves passing a vehicle moving in the same direction. You must ask yourself this question when looking for an overtake – Is it safe, necessary and legal? If it is, then you should proceed to create an opportunity to overtake.

This manoeuvre offers motorcyclists an advantage over cars, given their nimbleness and smaller size. With modern machinery the motorcycle has incredible acceleration speed and as a result, riders can find gaps that cars could not use.

Safely overtaking slower moving vehicles can be executed briskly while staying in full control. This way of moving through traffic is not something that can be done just because you have passed a motorcycle test. It takes time to learn and practise.

Have you got a landing spot?

An aircraft pilot will know their landing spot before they even take off. This is vital for motorcycle riders, as they must fully understand how they are going to overtake and what method of overtaking they are going to use. But more importantly if they need to abort, they must know where they are going to go.

Just aimlessly going for an overtake with the wrong plan will certainly end in disaster. Riders may be lucky on many occasions but in the wrong hands the motorcycle will get you into a lot of trouble. This is usually because the rider uses too much throttle and not enough caution.

All overtakes should be executed with caution. It should be done safely so that you do not upset or cause other vehicles to take avoiding action. If your manoeuvre causes a car to move or brake because of your overtake, you have done something wrong.

Overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle should not be performed unless necessary. For instance, don’t rush to overtake a vehicle only to turn off the road soon afterwards. Likewise do not overtake just before going into a bend, if you have to slow down as you are going into the corner you have got it wrong.

Mastering IPSGA

Using the scenarios above as the examples, if you are not properly set up before a bend or a turn and your decision causes you or other road users to take late action you are at fault.

To master safe overtaking, the system of motorcycle control IPSGA should be used. It stands for – Information, Position, Speed, Gear, and Acceleration. It is a critical methodology and guide to be used in all situations. You must fully understand how to implement it as part of the overtaking routine. 

This step-by-step process keeps riders focused and ensures that every stage of overtaking is carried out thoughtfully and safely. Undertaking training is important to continually elevate your riding skills. Once you have conquered all aspects of the level you ride at currently, you can then seek further guidance on how to improve more.

However, not all situations are conducive for overtaking. Certain places demand higher caution or even make overtaking illegal. Narrow roads, bends, junctions, pedestrian crossings and areas with limited visibility all have their own dangers to deal with.

Use the Power of Your Brain – If in doubt, bottle out!

When overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle there are rules that you should stick to rigidly. Use the power of your brain to overtake, not the power of the motorcycle. It is a very easy phrase to remember and implement but so many riders do not use it. In a lot of cases, riders get into trouble because they use too much power when they overtake. 

This causes them more problems as they have to take off this excessive acceleration quickly when moving back in. In other words, once the overtake is complete, they have to then use their brakes to slow down. This is especially true when overtaking one vehicle at a time in a line of moving traffic.

In this type of situation, you should overtake with care and not ride too close and intimidate the vehicle you are following. Then when you do overtake, do it with respect and caution. You should not cause the vehicle you have overtaken to brake because you have squeezed into a gap that wasn’t there!

As a rider, it is vital to understand these risks and adapt your actions accordingly. 

Overtaking is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres you will ever carry out. This is because there are many things out of your control regarding what others do. But what you do have control over is that you either overtake or you don’t – If in doubt, bottle out.

The Nuances of Filtering

Filtering is the act of manoeuvring through stationary or slow-moving traffic. This is usually carried out in congestion areas such as city centres and town centres during rush hour. But there are other times when a rider will be confronted with queuing traffic, such as road works and motorways.

This skill, that is unique to two-wheelers, can be a huge time saver, especially during peak hours. Rush hour lasts for much longer in heavy congested cities, being able to filter with confidence is a must to make progress. But if you are not confident, you should not attempt to filter. 

A Safe Return Space

You are better off staying in the traffic queue if you are not sure, and the golden rule is to know where the safe return space is before you start to filter. This is not always possible in long lines of traffic but there is a lot to be aware of, this is no place for timid or inexperienced riders.

Filtering is not without risks. It requires a heightened level of care, alertness, and judgement. Having good vision and planning is essential to rider safety, as without a good plan you will elevate your risk.

Typically new and novice riders do not filter for some time until they have gained confidence and experience. Even riders who have been riding for some time still decide not to filter in very heavy traffic. This is down to confidence and bike handling skills, some people are not very good at slow control and this causes them to have anxiety about passing closely to other vehicles. 

Look Out for Hazards

There are some key considerations to be aware of when overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle. This includes having full awareness of oncoming traffic and the space you have between the vehicles on your left and the oncoming vehicles. If you have to breathe in, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!

You must have a heightened awareness and be alert near junctions. This is because car drivers let each other out and if you are filtering and have a vehicle crossing your path, you must be able to react quickly enough to avoid conflict.

You should never filter or overtake near or on lay-bys. This is because the vehicle you are passing may suddenly swerve to move into the lay-by without any warning. 

They are not always aware of what’s going on behind them if they are in queuing or in slow moving traffic. All they look at is the oncoming lane and if that is clear, they do not expect a motorcyclist to be passing them.

Motorcycle Training Instructor and student


Sign up to get Riding Tips and advice directly to your inbox

Pedestrians could mean trouble

Pedestrians can be extremely unpredictable stepping onto the road between stationary traffic. In many instances they do not see what may be overtaking as they do not encounter this very often. If there is a gap in the traffic queue, they normally walk through without looking.

If this is part of your riding plan and you are thinking “what if” and that this could happen, you will be better prepared and have better vision and forward planning to deal with it. You can sound your horn to warn people of your presence and plan to be more careful when filtering in built up areas.

Always Expect the Unexpected

When car drivers are stuck in heavy traffic, they become focused on other things. Like their phones, sat nav or music in the vehicle. 

If they are in a rush they become frustrated and agitated. There is not a lot they can do but the heat rises in the car and they get hot under the collar. It is important to realise that other people have things going on in their life and that they may not be as focused as you are at that particular time.

We have to share the road with all types of people and vehicles. Drivers could be old and unable to see well, they may not be very agile and be able to turn their heads very far, or it could be winter and the car windows still have ice on them (lazy drivers.)

We also share the road with young, inexperienced drivers, who are still learning and those who unfortunately do not have a full licence. All these types of issues require our full attention and if you cannot give your ride the full attention it requires, you should not be riding that day.

Impatient car drivers may abruptly change lanes without signalling or looking. It is your responsibility to look out for these situations. A typical place this happens is when there is a junction up ahead and no oncoming traffic. The car driver sees their chance and without looking behind, will go for it.

Recognising these potential hazards can make the difference between a smooth safe ride and a dangerous situation.

Legalities and The Rider’s Attitude

Both overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle come with legal requirements. Knowledge and adherence to these rules and laws is important to you for obvious reasons. Without obeying the laws of the road, you can be fined, gain points or have a fight on your hands regarding insurance claims.

Don’t overtake or filter if road markings dictate that it is not legal. Don’t break the speed limit to overtake as this will put you at risk with speed and with points or if anything bad happens, reckless driving. It is crucial that you learn the rules of the road and adhere to them, this is for your safety and that of other road users.

Solid White Lines

Overtaking across solid white lines is prohibited as a general rule. There are times you can overtake on a solid white line and these are highlighted in the Highway Code. Make sure your overtake is complete before a solid white line and come back to your side while the line is still broken.

Speed Difference to Traffic

When filtering, the speed difference should ideally be no more than 10-15 mph compared to the surrounding traffic. This is just a general guide and not something that should be a goal or set rule. Sometimes 5 mph is too fast for the prevailing traffic conditions.

Rider Attitude

Perhaps even more crucial than the laws is the rider’s attitude. You must take responsibility for your own actions and have good enough vision to take into account what others are doing and react accordingly.

There is little point blaming everyone else on the road for your own mistakes, poor judgement and planning.

Having a level-head, being patient and respectful can drastically reduce rider risk and does create a more harmonious road environment for you and everyone else. 

Don’t be in a Rush to Have an Accident

If you become impatient when you are riding and take risks, you will likely have an incident with other road users. Never challenge for the same road space by taking chances.

Being aggressive while you are riding and forcing your way through when others have the right of way will cause problems too. It could provoke road rage or worse still, someone not letting you have the space and you come into conflict.

Reckless or dangerous behaviour can lead to unnecessary risk and if it is witnessed or videoed could be used against you and you could lose your driving licence. Don’t ever put yourself or others in danger by your actions.

More than Just Techniques

At a superficial level, overtaking and filtering might seem like simple techniques to bypass slower moving traffic. However, they’re much more than that. 

To a trained and experienced rider they are testament to a rider’s judgement, skill, and understanding of the road. It really does set the novice from the expert and demonstrates that education is a highly valued skill. It must be taught, learned, practised and applied to become a smooth and progressive skilled rider.

They’re about being aware of one’s surroundings, predicting other road users’ actions and making good split-second decisions that ensure yours and others safety.

The Skills of Overtaking and Filtering

In conclusion, the skills of overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle go beyond merely getting ahead of others. They represent a broader understanding of motorcycle riding, comprising safety, legality, and respect for others on the road. 

By mastering these skills, motorcyclists don’t just become faster, they become safer and more responsible. It’s a journey of continuous learning and improvement. As you traverse this path towards excellence, you become not only a better rider but you’ll enjoy your motorcycling much more too.

Overtaking and filtering on a motorcycle are more than techniques, they are fundamental skills that enhance road awareness, judgement, and confidence. 

Keep practising, stay alert, and always ride within the bounds of your ability, safety and legality. Remember, the road is shared and the objective is not just to ride, but to ride to the best of your ability.

Grab our sample pack!

Want a free sample on whats included in our memberships?


Become a member today to gain access to our courses and exclusive member content* including:

* Content may differ between each membership

MRH Logo


Tell us what you think of Motorcycle Riders Hub by filling out the form below...

Sorry. You must be logged in to view this form.


Enter your your name and email to receive the tips straight to your inbox every fortnight

"*" indicates required fields