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In IEEE 802.11 WLANs, there are two types of access modes which perform very differently under different channel or traffic conditions: the basic access mode CSMA/CA and and an RTS/CTS based mechanisms. In seeking to balance between the use of the different modes, the contribution of this paper is threefold. Firstly, we present our development of a new method capable of calculating the access delay via an analytical model. Secondly, we report a comparison of the throughput and delay performance of basic and RTS/CTS mechanisms and the analysis of which mode should be chosen to obtain better throughput and delay performance under different conditions. Finally, we propose an adaptive RTS/CST mechanism that adjusts the RTS threshold adaptively in order to achieve optimal performance in a centralized or distributed way. Numerical results, and simulation results obtained using NS2 are provided.