Filtering advice for new rider


Can any of the more seasoned riders give some pointers or advice to a new rider on filtering through rush hour traffic?

I have recently started commuting into London and I see plenty of bikers zipping through gaps in traffic but as a new rider I am often too nervous to try to squeeze through.

Today I was heading northbound up to the blackwall tunnel and I did filter very slowly in parts but also felt like I was holding up the more seasoned riders (imagining their rage, making me more nervous!) so I found myself dropping back in line with he cars every so often to let others past.

What’s the general etiquette (towards other bikers) on this, and any tips to help a new rider get more confidence and ability at filtering?



Exactly as you said,do what you are comfortable with and do not allow yourself to be pressured to go faster than you want.Pulling over and letting them past is good practice


Aye, as Broady says, go at your own pace, don’t be pressured into going faster than you are comfortable with and let faster riders past. I’m back commuting through the Blackwall Tunnel, you will find a rhythm with experience but just have to watch out for cars doing lane changes in stationary traffic and with no indication.


That’s normal. You’re nervous because you haven’t done it much enough to know what to expect and what gaps are big enough.

The main advice I can personally give is - only filter when you feel comfortable! Never filter just because you feel someone behind you is in a rush and you’re obliged to ride faster to avoid annoying that person. If you see that you are beginning to hold someone up, just merge back into the lane, let them past and continue filtering.

Only go for gaps that you feel are big enough and don’t try and squeeze into the ones you’re not sure about. It’s not your duty to fill every gap - if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t fit. As time progresses and you filter more and more you’ll realise that you’re going for gaps you previously didn’t and you won’t even be thinking much about it.

Another thing to keep in mind is - be very careful with cars around you. Even though you might think the gap is big enough to go for it always assume that it will start closing because almost no driver pays attention to their surroundings. If a car you’re passing is stationary be prepared for someone to open the doors, if a window is open prepare for someone to throw something out, if a car is indicating left be prepared for it to go right.

In other words expect the unexpected, don’t do things you’re not comfortable with (building experience takes time and small steps) and you’ll be fine.


Much like on a rideout, ride your own ride. More experienced riders will certainly appreciate you moving over to let them past. Don’t every concern yourself with keeping up with other riders. Some will be fast purely down to their decision to take unnecessary (or reckless) risks rather than their ability.


It’ll come quickly.

Don’t worry about holding bikers up. They will be able to tell the level of your experience and most will cut you some slack. We were all new once. The only rule is to pull over and let them pass as soon as is practicable.


Pretty much echo everyone else. Ride your ride not there’s.

I’d recommend the bike safe course for a newbie will really open you eyes.

I did mine with Bromley at the Warren really good guys, knowledgeable.

Talking of which I need to do a refresher on mine.


Close your eyes, that’s what I do :grin:


Just to add to the excellent advice above, I found that the nerves went fairly quickly, even if the wariness remained. Although I’m not the quickest, and whilst I’m aware that filtering carries inherent risk, I’m much more confident after a fairly short period of time, and even today filtered for 2 miles in rush hour traffic, in the dark and on a new bike that I’d literally just ridden out of the dealership.

Practice, go your own pace and don’t do anything that you’re not comfortable doing. Also, don’t be afraid to make lots of noise, as that lets people know you’re coming.


Ride at your pace. Experience will dictate your speed. Don’t filter over 30mph as your braking distances increase exponentially. Make way when safe to do so for quicker riders. It is not a race.


If you are nervous to begin with, I would start by filtering where there is more space and where you feel more comfortable.
Dont put yourself under pressure, and dont worry about bikers behind. If there are spaces in the traffic for you to pull in and let other bikers by, do so.
I echo what has been said above, and recommend doing the police bike safe day. It is very useful and you will come away more confident.


Cheers for the advice, everyone. Pretty much in line with what I have been doing anyway, so that’s reassuring.

I have also signed up for a one day Enhanced Rider Scheme training with Phoenix locally, as well as the freebie 1:1 that TFL sponsor, so that should also help give me some tailored advice based on my current level of incompetence.


All good advice above: don’t be pressured, that will lead to mistakes.

I would also add that it becomes easier as you learn your route. On the A40 eastbound, for example, there is a section where three traffic lanes merge into two. Most bikes filter between lanes 2 and 3 but at this point it pays dividends to filter between lanes 1 and 2. Knowing this, I’ve often changed lane at the appropriate time and subsequently seen the fast boys, who had been throttle bombing me, race ahead and promptly get stuck.

If you take it slow and steady, and confidently learn your bike’s size, you will find some of the faster boys will arrive behind you, blip their throttles menacingly, but when you can slow-and-steady thread through some small gaps then look in your mirror and Mr Throttle Blipper will be stuck. That always gives me a wry smile.


Some tips on filtering here:

But yeah, what has been said above is all good. Crucially, don’t feel pressured to ride faster than you’re comfortable with. Other’s have different levels of experience and self preservation values.


ride at how you feel comfortable, you will gain experience over time, there is no true answer to filtering just
don’t try to copy what others are doing.
You will always come across faster or more aggressive riders or even both , just ride at a pace you fill is ok & don’t get intimidated by them ,let them through when its safe to do so & don’t spend your time looking in your mirror at what someone behind you is doing
you need to concentrate on what going to happen infront of you


This is good advice.

When I come across a beginner in front of me filtering gingerly, it really doesn’t hold me up much, if I want to get past it’s my problem and I’ll find a way of doing it by changing lanes, or I’ll just wait.

Your first responsibility is to your own safety. Be courteous to those behind by all means but don’t compromise your safety over it.


the amount of times i come up on slower riders & can see them spending their time looking in the mirros at me & not looking ahead
i dont get that close i perfer to be able to stop instead of a chance of becomming a wreck on a wreck


As all of the above

Ensure your mirrors are properly adjusted so that you can take regular snapshot rear obs, but don’t stare in them as Wise says!

The run down to the Blackwall is your hairiest part. If you are filtering and you see a gap in a lane: it’s there for a reason! Adjust your speed accordingly. Somebody is moving into it. Where there is one lane change, there is often another so don’t expect a Prius to change just the one lane at a time. These Uber drivers are very efficient, often saving indicator bulbs while they are at it.

The last sliproad merge toward northbound Blackwall is fraught with danger, the LCVs disguise merging motorcycles very well. Be aware that a fellow motorcyclist can occasionally just merge into your path with little warning. Try to recognise what is going on in lanes 1 and 2 as well as lanes 3 and 4 which you are filtering between. If you see a motorcyclist merging into lanes 2/3 they are going to end up in your channel. Use your horn to let them know you are there just in case they don’t look/view is obscured by a large vehicle. In fact, use your horn very frequently. Filtering round traffic lights, buses etc. It’s there for a reason. Please don’t be tempted to alert people to your presence by reving your bike. It sounds cooler but you limit your evasive options as you’ve just revved with clutch in. You dump that clutch you may well end up on your arse, and that’s just on a dry day.

When someone pulls into your path, try to stay calm with them. Quite often I’ll filter behind someone who clearly thinks their Gods gift. You will be able to recognise these riders because they seem to filtering at a hell of a lick but you’ll notice they are constantly on their brakes. They are only thinking one or two cars ahead and have no idea what they are doing. Let them go. These bikers are often caught out by a sudden lane change. You’ll see them get angry, rev the bike, smash a wing mirror and just generally embarrass themselves. This isn’t great for the rest of us as it tarnishes our reputation and honestly whenever I’ve been caught out, okay the driver in question has done something sketchy, but most of all I would have missed a warning sign.

Be mindful that when it’s dark, or there is a low sun behind you, it’s actually very difficult for drivers to see you in their mirrors. In some instances, it’s unfair to expect them to. In those instances filter in the mindset that nobody has seen you.

If you see a driver a few hundred yards up with poor lane discipline, they may well be on their phone, eating breakfast, doing their makeup, changing radio programme etc. Factor that in. Always look at cars and try to predict what risk a given car posses to you - you can then adjust your position accordingly to be slightly further from that vehicle.

Up until recently, I analysed cars with blind spot warning lights in their mirrors to be a lower risk profile but honestly I don’t think any of those drivers ever look and in traffic they seem to always be on so I don’t think they are actually much use for warning of a motorcyclists presence.

If the lights turn red or you come up to traffic you don’t think you’ll filter through don’t just stop in the middle of the back of a vehicle right up it’s arse. What happens when the Romanian lorry behind you is looking at the sat nav rather than the road and doesn’t see the red? Stop to the side or in between vehicles ALWAYS.

Sometimes, some clever Dick on bike will see that the traffic on the A2 is faster between lanes 1 and 2 than 2 and 3. As such he proceeds to undertake in between those lanes. Fine. But if you are sat in between lanes 2 and 3 while Dick is doing this, be aware that cars moving out of his way courteously in lane two will be moving into your path. Never, ever, ever, ride parallel or even close to parallel with a rider doing this - it will end badly for one of you

Foreign number plates. It’s a huge red flag. Look at number plates

Sat nav. Do they have a sat nav on? If I’m close enough, I’ll check they aren’t meant to be turning (although never make an assumption based on this, or anything else for that matter). They also probably don’t know where they are going so keep a wide berth, you can see a sat nav on in a car from quite some distance so it is an easy clue.

Said about gaps when filtering earlier. This is super important when in something like a bus lane and there is a junction on your left. It’s quite probably a car will turn across your path. A gap in the queueing vehicles in the normal driving lane might indicate that a car will be crossing you - look out for the absence of cars as well as the cars themselves!

That’s as much as I can think of for now but it is by no means an exhaustive list. Just when you think you’ve mastered every hazard there is, you’ll discover a new one

What are you riding? I come up through the blackwall tunnel on a black Yamaha TDM 900, with a silver aluminium top box at around 7.20-7.40. I’ll look out for you and give you a wave if I see you - I come in from deepest darkest Kent so I recognise a lot of the ‘regulars’ when out and about on my commute

Ride safe mate


Michael748 The above comment about riding between lanes 1,2 wasn’t aimed at you I hadn’t actually read your comment until glancing back up the thread! I have no experience of the A40 but there is a section of slip road on the A2 round Bexleyheath Way where I do as you describe, but I do find myself checking that the fast boys between lanes 2 and 3 of the main carriageway are not blipping cars out of there way, who would then inadvertently drive into my path. Once the slip road is coming to its fork I rejoin the main carriageway

Ben, traffic is like water, current, or air pressure. It’ll follow the path of least resistance. If you are in a lane with faster flowing cars next to a lane of slower moving cars there are really no prizes for guessing what is going to happen! If that speed differential gets above 10mph or so I’d advise against filtering between the two lanes but rather sitting in the faster moving lane in a defensive position so you are as far away from the danger as possible


Cheers for this, I find it all very helpful. I’m on a Bonneville T100 Black, normally hitting the blackwall tunnel around 7.30 ish but only once or twice a week. The other days I’m commuting in to near Moorgate which I actually find an easier ride as it is mainly slow moving one lane traffic as opposed to a 3-4 lane free for all. I’ll try to keep patient and not push my limits as I learn and gain experience, but all the tips and advice here has been valuable, so thanks to all who replied.