Stayin’ Safe: Wheel He Or Won’t He?

wheel he or won't he
Will this truck pull out in front of you? Watching for the front wheel to begin rolling is a more reliable predictor than making eye contact with the driver.

For those of us on two wheels, the most likely clash with another vehicle would be at an intersection with an approaching vehicle turning left across our path or a vehicle pulling into our lane from a side road, parking lot or driveway. How can we know if the driver will pull the trigger and shoot point blank into our immediate path of travel? When it comes to the anxious driver poised to pull out from our right or left, is there a way to detect the driver’s intent?  

If there’s a wheel, there’s a way. Determining if a vehicle is beginning to move forward is most practical if we look to the car’s front wheel. Our brain has a much easier time detecting even the subtlest wheel rotation than it does trying to discern if the mass of the vehicle itself is moving slightly from right to left (or vice versa). See the wheel of that vehicle to your right beginning to rotate counterclockwise? Be ready; the vehicle is about to enter your lane!

But what about eye contact? Even if a driver appears to be looking directly at you, he or she may be looking beyond, never even noticing you. And, even if the driver does see you, they could easily misinterpret the distance and speed at which you are approaching, believing that you are farther away than you are.


Always anticipate the move. Even if you are confident that a driver will not pull out, be ready when they do. The way to do that is by managing your speed. Ask yourself if you could smoothly and safely stop your motorcycle to avoid contact if that driver began to pull out. Looking and anticipating while still carrying excessive speed takes away your options and limits the space and time you have to work with should the driver enter the lane ahead of you. He wheel. I mean, he will. 


  1. Entirely correct!

    The front wheel is the key, even in side-by-side travel. I always keep an eye on the front wheel as I approach and pass another vehicle. The same goes for anything else I drive, not just motorbikes.

    Good tip.

  2. Add to the front wheel tip, look for a way around the errant driver, outside or inside. Keep enough traction for turning, rarely is a full stop necessary.

  3. I’ve been riding for 50 years; until now, never learned to look at the front wheel rotation. One more survival tool in the box. Thanks! What I have learned to do now, habitually, is to slightly serpentine my bike (and by default my headlight) as I approach a vehicle that’s ready to depart its lair, every time I’m given stink-eye as I ride by I know it’s worked. However, what we really need is a device that causes cell phones to explode in moving vehicles.

  4. A trick used by cops to determine if a vehicle completely stops or does a Beverly Hills stop. If the wheel stops rotating the vehicle has stopped.

  5. Also, cover the front brake watch the front wheel of the other, and use your peripheral vision to watch the oncoming traffic, they might left turn into you.

  6. Been doing this for years as a result of an MSF course back when Fred Flinstone was my instructor. It’s also the reason I hate the current trend of black wheels. Harder so see the rotation.

    • the one closest to you! Yes I watch the wheels for years. In addition I also watch the cager. YOu get a sense if they are going to step on the gas or not. Ride for awhile you start to develop that sense of stupid action. The closest example I will use is watch a wild deer, watch its face, you can tell when it will move. I had to use both senses this week at an intersection. A cager in the middle attempting to make a right and I was moving towards to make a left (we are moving in opposite directions). The cage starts to turn, since I was not at the corner I slowed down. The cager stopped. I dropped down to 1st gear to a near stop. THey cager sat there. I watched the wheels the where not moving, I started to creep. Then I watched the driver, the cager (like the deer) decided to dart. By then I had my feet down in the middle of my turn.

      Keep your knees in the breeze.


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