Skill for life: Carli’s advanced riding diary | ‘Catch, match and despatch’



Bike outside McDonalds


“The examiner would be happier to see you carrying out the plan for overtaking, then aborting and coming back in rather than taking a risky opportunity.”

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Overtaking is easy. Spot a car or slow vehicle ahead, check nothing is coming the other way and go for it – but there’s a lot more to it than that.

My fourth ride out had finished and it was off to McDonalds for a debrief with my observer, Andy G.

“A lot of riders go for gaps and get away with it – but what’s the point in getting away with it? Wait and the opportunity will come.”

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I have to admit – and those who have been following the blog will know – overtaking is one of the skills I need to work on since beginning my advanced riding journey. Not because I don’t do them, but because I don’t do them properly.

Overtakes should be just as systematic as the rest of your riding – if not more so – and should follow a three stage approach. Andy described this to me as ‘Catch, match and despatch’ and drew me a delightful diagram to illustrate the correct method. I’ve put a copy of the picture at the bottom of the post to share Andy’s artistic skills with everyone…

  1. Catch

You should adopt the ‘following position’, a suitable distance from the ‘overtake-ee’ which gives you good vision and allows you time to react should the other vehicle brake suddenly. So often you see bikes – and cars – right up the bottom of the vehicle in front. What if they slammed on their brakes? They’d be in trouble, that’s what…

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  1. Match

Travel at the same speed as the vehicle in front and get all the information you can – maintain your bubble of safety. Move into the overtake position which is close to the white line and closer (but not too close) to the vehicle in front.

  1. Despatch

Clear? Move to the other side of the road and take another good look. If safe, accelerate to overtake and return to your side of the road – ensuring not to cut up the person you’ve just overtaken. If it’s not safe or you would need to break the speed limit, then drop back in.

Your whole riding plan depends on the quality of information that you gather, use and give. When I say plan, this plan can be created in a fifth of a second and you make hundreds of these plans without even realising. Overtaking moving vehicles can be complex because the information you’re processing is changing all the time.

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Anyway, I’m not qualified to tell people how to overtake ‘properly’ and have only covered the basics above. I will be busy doing my homework and reading the ‘Overtaking’ chapter over the next few days.

Guess what else I did? I went through a ford! It might not be a big deal for other people who do it all the time, but it’s the first time I have ever gone through one and the little KTM 390 Duke did well. It was so strange riding through water after having to wait for ducks to cross… It was brilliant – I hope we get to go there again. Andy was happy with my courteousness on the road – I’d been nice and let out a reversing car on a busy road – and was impressed with my increased head movement for observations.

Four rides done and on each one I learn so much – I’ll be sad when I don’t ride out with Andy anymore. Ride out five is planned and in the diary, here’s my plan of action to complete before then:

  • Overtakes – I shall be reading up about the correct overtaking technique and then practicing whenever I’m on the bike
  • Maintain my friendship with my copy of the Highway Code – I’m actually enjoying my little game of quizzing myself on traffic signs and road rules in my helmet…is that sad?! My dog Harry thinks so…

Harry and IAM books

Want to know more?

The Skill for Life course costs £149 and can be completed with your local branch of the IAM – I’m completing mine with Lincolnshire Advanced Motorists. For more information visit the website:

Andy's drawing



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