Overshooting the curve because you came in too fast and are unable to correct without going down. You end up on the wrong side of the road riding right into the traffic or off the edge of the road.
Inexperienced at splitting lanes and just generally riding too aggressive for your skill level can bring you down in traffic with disastrous results. Wet roads, loose gravel, and just plain leaves on the road require experienced riding. Some of this experience can only be obtained by making mistakes. Practice in an empty parking lot, not on the road.
So how do I know if I am riding within my ability? That’s a tough question. I mean it’s easy to know when you have exceeded your ability by the immediate results (crash bang boom) but staying within your ability is a lot different.
Time Off from Riding Equals Loss of Ability
For example, I commute to work forty miles each day in city traffic. I practice all my own safety rules, I ride conservatively but I do ride like I am on a motorcycle. That means I take advantage of my smaller vehicle profile to go where I could not go in a car. I am comfortable, I feel safe, and I am confident that I am within my ability. However, after a six-week layoff during the winter (California style winter = rain) when I start riding again, I can really feel that my ability has gone soft during the six-week layoff. I am not as quick; I spend a lot more time thinking about the motorcycle which means less time thinking about the traffic. It takes me several weeks until I feel like I am back in charge.
When I feel like I am back in charge, I am not thinking about “looking where I want to go”, I am just doing it. I am going into the turn at just the right speed that allows me to slightly accelerate (roll on the throttle) during the curve and come out the other end of the curve solid and ready for the next road change.
At the traffic light, I am watching the cross traffic, the pedestrians, the cars next to me, and when the light turns green, I am moving with the flow. Not any jackrabbit starts, no surprises. I am riding within my ability.
I think you will know the second you exceed your ability. You suddenly feel some loss of control. I don’t mean you cannot control the bike, but you lose your power over the bike. You find yourself making immediate adjustments to regain your control (power) over the bike. You slow down; move over into a slower lane, you do something. When you experience this, you are learning your limits of riding ability.