Lane Splitting 101

Billy Bartels
by Billy Bartels

The Breakin' the Law crew have been sprung from jail and are at it once again: The latest installment -- Lane Splitting 101 -- carries on the quest to bring you the finest in immoral, unlawful (in most states) and idiotic motorcycle entertainment.

As always children, don't try this at home (even if you do live in California) or at least don't do it because you saw it here. We have good lawyers and we'll chain whip you if you sue us because you got hurt doing something stupid. It wasn't our fault, you were an abused child or something. Basically, the voices in your head aren't ours. What follows is a work of fiction, and all visual representations were rendered using our really big, air-cooled SGI computer that makes a scary humming noise like the ones they used to make dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park".

In some of the heavily congested areas of the world, motorcycle commuting has mutated to cope with obscenely high traffic levels. This perversion is known as lane splitting, which is legal in California thanks to CHP motorcops. Although developed from necessity and the desire to travel faster than 15 miles per hour on a four-lane highway, a few have developed the form into an art. Among the brave (or insane, depending on your view) are the couriers, thrillseekers, and motorcycling commuters of the world that split lanes on a regular basis. In order to survive, they have honed their bodies, minds and machines to razor's edge sharpness, but mostly they're just nuts.

On the freeways of Los Angeles during rush hour, against the advice of our mothers, we have risked life and limb to bring you this special report.

Step 1: Choosing Your Equipment

It is best to choose a motorcycle both inexpensive and powerful. We decided to do neither, and instead opted for a dang-near bone-stock 1987 Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster with all of 50 horsepower at the rear wheel. We chose another high-potency mount for a chase vehicle, a MuZ Skorpion Tour. Next, choose proper protective gear including, but not limited to: Full face helmet, leathers, skid pads, steel toe boots, and (especially in Los Angeles) a DuPont® Kevlar® Vest. Our test subject's body armor consisted of: A No-Name-Polycarb brain bucket, T-shirt, five-year-old Doc Martens, and bermuda shorts.

Last, and most important, do as little as possible to annoy the heavily armored beasts that can ruin your whole lane splitting experience: The Car Drivers (hereafter referred to as 'cages'). We decided to push the envelope on all counts, and made sure our tester was adorned with a ratty biker t-shirt and hadn't shaved for three days. As an extra added bonus, we installed an exhaust pipe on the bike that does close to 200 decibels at full throttle. Loud pipes save lives. Well, maybe not, but they sure do irritate cage drivers and make a nice Last Act of Defiance before some Buick cuts lanes and mows you down whilst lane splitting.

We decided to push the envelope on all counts, and made sure our tester was adorned with a ratty biker t-shirt and hadn't shaved for three days.

Step 2: Choosing a Place to Practice

The first time you attempt this, you may want to find a straight and familiar road. This will let you concentrate on keeping yourself from becoming a hood ornament (that really sucks). Our tester, having lost his mind to exhaust fumes years ago, picked a route through one of the busiest sections of freeway in the world: Interstate 405, Southbound before the 10 Freeway. Most authorities consider this the most traveled stretch of road in the world. While scenic, it is also riddled with potholes, plagued by rough asphalt and populated with frustrated commuters and semi trucks.

Try not to sneer at the cage-drivers as you pass, it annoys them.

Step 3: Doing it!

Top Ten Things We Learned:

Yes, they are trying to kill you. They hardly ever sue for broken rear-view mirrors. 'Accidently' obscure your license plate. BMWs are really wide bikes. Carry 10 #4 ball bearings (ask some old biker what to do with them). Try to watch 10 cars ahead. Use the lower gears to keep your bike in the power band. Watch for motorcycle cops. Have Fun! Motorcycle mirrors get the best of a collision with a car mirror. Try not to sneer at the cage-drivers as you pass, it annoys them. Our survey goes to 11.

Concentrate, Grasshopper, focus yourself mentally and you can visualize what it will be like to lane split. Or you can take the easy way out and watch our on-board footage as we split traffic on the 405 during rush hour in this downloadable video clip. Either way you can get a feel for what it is like to run the gauntlet with the caffeine-fueled cage drivers that reside in our lovely hamlet of Los Angeles.

Okay, so the video is from the MZ. Hey, it's not our fault the dang rubber-mounted handlebars on the Harley shook the video camera to near oblivion. And the thing was so darned loud, the audio blew out, so there's no sound with this clip. You wouldn't have been able to hear anything but wind over the motor noise anyway. As compensation, we included a snap of the Hog in action.

Any day that you return home from lane splitting on the freeway among the masses of pent-up cage drivers is a good one indeed. Where's the bar...

Billy Bartels
Billy Bartels

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