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The most underused motorcycle control : the horn

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by jekyll, Jul 14, 2008.

  1. I strongly suspect that a majority of riders fail to use their horn as often as they should. I think some of the reason are:

    * there's a cultural perception of horn honking as an act of aggression
    * almost all road users use their horns only to say "ASSHOLE" rather than to give information or prevent accidents (see previous)
    * it's not surpassingly cool, probably seems highly optional to new riders already stretching themselves to master the vehicle controls

    Still, it's easy enough to master and can save your ass. I made conscious efforts early on to familiarise myself with it, and I have no doubt it's saved me from numerous situations developing further. It's not uncommon for me to use it several times on a short trip, without raising my blood pressure or tripping other people's angry switch.

    Here's some of what the UK "police riders guide to better motorcycling" has to say on the topic (emphasis mine):

    Some examples of when you should use your horn include:
    * You are negotiating a roundabout, and car appears as if it may be about to violate your right of way
    * You are approaching a side street, and think a car might pull out and t-bone you
    * You are merging with another lane of traffic and are not certain the merging traffic is aware of your presence
    * A car in an adjacent lane indicates to merge into yours and may not have seen you
    * Pedestrians ahead are looking to see whether they can cross into your path
    * You're about to perform a manoeuvre which requires another road user's attention

    The horn is kind of like a very limited musical instrument: there is a range of expressions you can convey other than "F**K YOU!". One or two staccato bibbips can sound positively cheerful, and serve to help other road users know you're there; if that seems a bit much, cover the button with your thumb just in case.

    Most MC + car accidents are SMIDSY's (sorry mate, i didn't see you) where the car violates the motorcyclist's right of way. Your horn can prevent a lot of them from developing - though you should always be prepared for it to be ignored.
  2. Well, I can't speak for other motorbikes, but the horn on my VTR250 is pathetic. It sounds like one of those party whistles.
  3. I am an avid horn user lol

    I fitted another 5 dollar supercrap one inline with factory one. It not so much louder, but unlike the single one it does not make that high pith toy bike beep.
  4. Having a party-whistle horn probably makes people less likely to interpret you blowing it as an act of aggression though.
  5. :applause: You're dead right mate; I couldn't agree more. There was even a poll on this once :)
    Replace it with a 139dB Stebel Nautilus or equivalent :LOL:
  6. I really don't think this is good advice.

    In my experience, in these situations if you have enough time to activate the horn when you should really looking for an escape route or setting up your brakes or looking for other exits.

    Someone looks like they might not have seen me: Cover my brakes.
    Car approaches from side street: Cover my brakes, look for exit, maintain eye contact with driver.
    About to merge into a new lane: Headcheck, headcheck, mirror, headcheck, manoeuvre.
    Car in adjacent lane (and I've had enough time to notice): Reposition and look for an exit.

    In all of these, the use of the horn might be a good next step or even (if you have time, in addition too), but it should not be your first tool of choice. No point sounding your horn, ending up under the car and then shouting to driver 'Didn't you HEAR me?'.
  7. Rubbish. I have used my horn several times when people have started merging into my lane, and it has stopped them every time.

    If you can't tap teh horn and move across in your lane at the same time, well, you have bigger problems than other road users.......

    Regards, Andrew.
  8. mmm...well...Sorry...but I'm against using the horn at all...forget about it...waste of time that needs to be spent elsewhere.
    Only useful for tooting goodbye to friends after a party...

    It's my belief that you are better off putting your mental cycles into evasive riding, braking etc, since your hands are already covering the controls (or should be).
    The thought processes involved in taking ones thumb away from the clip-on/bar to toot the horn is just an unecessary mental distraction, that in a dangerous situation, cannot be afforded IMHO. Especially since in that time used to blow the horn, you have travelled "X" distance further into the danger.
    And if the horn is'nt heard and the vehicle does'nt respond accordingly, and THEN, you have to take evasive action, then you have just wasted precious time that you should have used to avoid, brake, swerve, gas-it...whatever you needed to do, earlier.
    I strongly recommend to newer riders that they forget about the horn...and for those that get big nasty horns...that's ok, but don't think it can make up for not taking control of the situation in the first place.
    Too many times riders allow their horn tooting to become or treat it as if, it is their first line of defensive riding, when in fact it is an ineffective waste of the time when compared to your primary controls.

    Sorry to disagree with you, mate.

  9. You could try yelling when someone merges into your lane instead.

    I used mine half a dozen times today through Sydney, and it got the required attention every single time. Better a blast on the horn than sliding up the road, surely :?
  10. It a tool to be used in the right circumstance. Like flashing your lights at the twat that pulls out and leaves you little room to move, the middle finger to an asshat and moving alongside that tard when he has his window down, pulling the clutch and revving it out to red line in his ear :LOL:

    Think I might invest in one of those 139db numbers :grin:

    and get one for the pushy too...
  11. Andrew, will you get down from there?

    The OP suggested that your horn is your best friend. The horn CAN be useful, but if you have enough time to sound your horn, you have enough time to move yourself out of danger.

    Please note. The OP made no mention of ANY of the points I made. This is posted in a New Riders and Tips section. I strongly suggest that a new rider should concentrate on looking on ways to NOT be in danger and look for exits, rather than relying on a signalling device that on most bikes is little more than a gentle 'beep, beep'

    As I said, no point lying on the road cursing how they didn't hear you.

    I use it after I have moved or changed lanes. But you go ahead doing whatever it is you do.
  12. I won’t use the horn in an emergency, but when I’m in a time of “I’d prefer you don’t move over†I’ll use it, but never rely on it.

    The reason I won’t use it in an emergency is because of the time it takes to wait for a response, or lack of, to see if I need to react. I just don’t trust the other road user that much. I’d prefer to act immediately to avoid any collision with all the time possible. Emergencies don’t give time to waste! And if I’m not even giving them a chance to respond – why toot? Well, unless we’re doomed without their help. But really, how do we know how they’ll react, or if they’ll panic? I’ve certainly seen situations where the person being tooted sways to the wrong side, slams on the brakes, takes off without looking… People often don’t know what the toot is for and get flustered. I’m very careful using it and will opt for no if unsure.
  13. 1st priority: ride the bike.
    Number 1 rule: don't rely on anyone else for your safety.

    I could see the whole horn thing potentially leading to failing at both these points.
  14. The conflict in the thread so far appears to be surrounding “you should be doing something else instead of using the hornâ€. To quote further from the OP’s reference, Roadcraft, p111

    “first alter your position to avoid the hazard and consider reducing your speed, then sound the horn to inform other roaduser(s)...use your horn in good timeâ€.

    The Institute of Advanced Motorcyclist’s guide, How to Be an Advanced Motorcyclist p49 has this to say: “…never use the horn as a substitute for…observation [and] planning...you may not use it often but to believe that it should never be used is a mistakeâ€
  15. Thanks D3 for taking the time to research the rest of the link.
  16. The horn is there to warn another driver of immediate and definate danger when there is no other option. Otherwise it's seen by the other driver as an aggressive gesture and will usually cause insult leading to road rage from idiots. You should always know what escape options you have in dangerous situations. Use the horn, only when you are caught out with nowhere to go. :)

    It's also a handy way to say goodnight when you leave a mate's place late at night. :LOL:
  17. Especially when leaving a mates place!! Does it have any other use!?!?
  18. Interesting objections. So far I think they basically boil down to the Opportunity Cost Argument: time taken to honk is time you aren't performing / thinking about a more useful activity evasive manoeuvre, or honking defers said manoeuvre.

    I think these are valid points, but I reference the last sentence in my OP:

    If you've anticipated a potential situation sufficiently(*), you may have options open like using your horn before it develops to the point where you have to change your course.

    If you are about to do something which other people might need to know about and you're initiating, not responding to an existing situation, you can use your horn.

    If you can walk and chew gum at the same time(*), you can use your horn, unless you need to focus 100% of your efforts on evasive actions.

    Now, admittedly these (*) are unlikely to describe very new riders - however on a LAMS bike there is usually acceleration available, so your horn is one of fewer options at your disposal.

    I've never used my horn instead of e-braking / swerving. I do use it habitually though - for example once I've entered a roundabout to turn right, I scan for traffic likely to enter the roundabout on my LHS (violating my right of way), and if I get a positive:

    1) adjust speed (usually slow down such that I can stop if need be)
    2) lock helmet on suspect, watch front wheels for movement, honk "if appropriate"
    3) adjust speed & position according to results

    Tooting is in a different phase of the incident than emergency actions - in the bit that's about information, anticipation and what might happen soon, rather than machine control skills, time slowing down and trying desperately to save your body from the business end of Newtonian physics *right now*.

    If you got the time, you may as well - it *could* stop the situation escalating.

    EDIT: while I was writing this the Road Rage Escalation Argument was thrown in the ring, to which I'll just say: depends on the horn, how you play it, and the crazy in question.
  19. SO are we suggesting that it's not possible to take evasive action, etc AND honk the horn at the same time??? I'm sure I can do that :roll:.
  20. Actually, I have for some time wanted a "2 stage" horn button: press, it toots. push harder, it HONKS.

    Anyone know if this is feasible (in terms of getting the switchgear)?