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I want to Ride a Motorbike

Costs & Kit

"The Plan"

OK, so you want to ride a motorbike, and if you read around this bit of the site, its basically steering you to THIS conclusion.

  1. Check you have / apply for provisional Motorcycle Licence

  2. But Minimal, 'Basic' riding gear of Crash Helmet, Gloves, maybe boots and water-proofs, improvising remaining riding gear with 'sensible' out-door cloths

  3. Do a CBT Course on a School Bike - get DL196 form to validate entitlement

  4. Buy a 2nd Hand, but 'newish' Yamaha YBR125 or other suitable 'Commuter' 125

  5. Get Tax, Insurance & MOT if needed.

  6. Go wobble around the local housing estate, practicing what you were taught in CBT for a week

  7. Get some 'Early' Further Training, preferably in weekly 2hr lessons

  8. Practice what you are taught in lessons, to hearts content between times

  9. When 'Ready' to take tests.... decide whether you want/can have to test on your own bike, or if you will need to use a school bike, possibly to test under DAS rules

  10. Take Tests

  11. Repeat steps 6-10 until you have a licence

  12. Job DONE - full licence in you pocket, rip the L-Plates up, place advert for the 125, and go have fun, looking for a more 'interesting' bike!

This the 'Basic' plan, and you can adjust to suit your own needs, aspirations or whatever. BUT starting on a 125, with a slow and steady approach, with well spaced lessons, and plenty of self-practice, to lay down a good foundation skill-set not JUST in preparation to pass tests, but USING that little bike for what its best at, a 'Training-Tool' to really make you crack basics of balance, machine control and being 'smooth' and progressive in your riding.

If you are keen, enthusiastic and clued up; no reason why, if you follow the plan you cant go from a standing start to a full licence in maybe just eight or ten weeks. More realistically, 3-6 months is a reasonable target to work to, but NOT planning TOO far ahead, if you figure on having the 125 a full year, and getting your licence 'some-time' in that period, is a pretty good idea. Means you can take your time, get your licence when you are really ready, not rush, and then when you HAVE the licence, ride out the last few months until the insurance expires and the MOT is due to sell on freshly MOT's and start a new insurance policy on a new bike.

Meanwhile, you can upgrade the 'improvised' riding wear with more dedicated riding kit, as you go along and can afford it; and as experience and the way you USE the bike evolves and informs what is 'more' important. WITHOUT having to do EVERYTHING all in 'one go' right at the start, or committing yourself TOO much to doing anything in any one way, keeping costs relatively low, minimising 'risks' and giving yourself opportunity for problems, slippage or general 'hassle'.

So THAT is the 'basic' plan, and what I am talking about when I say 'The-Plan'!

OK, so how much is it all going to cost me?

To get 'on the road' you need to be looking in the BALL-PARK region of £2500 +/- £500 or so. That's provisional licence, a 'bit' of riding kit, insurance, CBT. The bare minimum. To take that to a Full-Licence, add approximately another £1000. And be prepared for more, if you have hassle, problems or crash!

It's is a piece of string question, and the answer is, As much as you Let it, REALLY! Motorcycles aren't something you do for economics, not unless you are completely MAD. No-One in their right mind would put up with the inconvenience, hassle, misery and risk of injury JUST for the money that MIGHT be saved! There HAS to be some element of 'enthusiasm' to make it 'worth-while', but the trouble with 'enthusiasm' is it CONSUMES as much time and as much money as it can get!

So, VERY easy to spend an AWFUL lot of money and NOT really get much value from it, unless you keep tight reign on things. If you are on a budget, you have to be careful and you HAVE to be strategic and spend where its going to have most effect. AND depends what you want to do, REALLY

Following 'The-Plan'

This is to provide a 'ball-park' idea of costs. Hypothetical Newbie is a 25 year old male, in stable employment, living in their own flat, in a 'reasonable' suburb of a provincial town. Following advice offered here, he has chosen to buy a 3-4 year old Yamaha YBR125, the 'basic' riding gear, as a start, do his CBT and 'some' early lessons after, aiming to spend perhaps six months on the 125, before using a DAS course to get his 'full-licence'; then to ride out the last few months of insurance on the 125, before trading up to 'something' like a Bandit 600, though following advice to keep options 'open' isn't set in their ideas yet.

He has a 'start-up' budget of £700... from selling his car, which, now he is paying rent, was costing too much to run, and he had HOPED to buy, and insure a 125 for that, and hadn't thought much further, until he discovered this site! (poor, POOR fellow!) But, he has had time to digest, get a decent nights sleep, bags under his eyes have gone, and after thinking about it, decided to follow 'The Plan'. Time on a Tiddler is RARELY wasted and all that!

Following my suggestion of buying 'Cheap' and disposable helmet and gloves before his CBT, and improvising the rest of his 'kit' from wardrobe, he has bought:-

He has pulled some denim jeans out of the wardrobe, that aren't too baggy, a thick sweater that was hidden under the bed his Auntie gave him one Christmas, and is planning on wearing a heavy 'Gelert' hikers anorak he bought to go camping last summer.

He has booked a CBT course with a local School. They offer 'Guaranteed' CBT Certificate, for a fixed price of £135, including bike hire. They weren't very helpful, offering 'gear' suggesting they had 'some' but better to get your own hat & gloves... but, chap reckoned that most students complete in the day, only a few come back for a second day, but they will let you come back for a third day if you really need to... sceptical after my advice he CHECKED that if he had to go back there were NO hidden charges, he wouldn't be asked for additional bike hire of anything, and the bloke muttered something but agreed 'no' train till your pass. So he booked his place.

That has taken care of £240 of his £700 'set-up' budget, leaving him £460, which he KNOWS isn't enough to get a decent bike and insure it. Same 'School' he has booked his CBT with, offered a 4-day 'to-test' DAS course for £499, but after considering, Intensive DAS Courses' What's the score?, though the better of the idea, and has found a 'discounted' 3-Day DAS course for JUST £199 at another school... though he is sceptical of the small print, and its clear that that doesn't include the DSA Test fees, and it MIGHT cost another £200 for the 'Test-Sessions'... BUT, for now, noted, £500ish to get the tests 'dusted'.

So, looking around, he has decided that a Yamaha YBR125 probably IS the best way to go, and having realised he needs to save up a LOT of money to buy one, or take out a loan, he investigated buying new, or from a dealer on finance.

New YBR was £2500, with atractive 0% apr Dealer finance scheme. BUT considered the potential 'credit-gap' of taking such a scheme, and having a bike worth only £1800 or so, moment he wheels it out the show-room, and owing more on it than its worth until he has made six months or more's payments, as described in Should I buy New or Used?

The '3-4' year old Yamaha YBR125 DOES look the most promising prospect; and sell 'privately' for around £1300. BUT having sold the car, he's frustrated trying to track one down, and go view. Conveniently a bus-ride across town there is one in a dealer's on offer for £1600, its a bit over-priced but THAT is dealers, and at least it comes with some 'assurances'  Dealer or Small-Ads?, and saves a LOT of hassle. So, he has haggled the price down to a round £1500, and put down a £300 deposit on it, and is waiting for his application for a £1500 personal loan to clear at the bank.

He's run the number-plate through a LOAD of comparison web-sites, AND been thorough and checked the brokers that don't subscribe to them, AND done some 'ringing around' to get the best cover. He was annoyed to find that quotes went up almost 30% when he went back and checked the 'including commuting' box, on the proposal form, because he needs to use the bike to get to and from work, and never thought that would be an 'extra'. But, declaring 'Kept on Street' and commuting and not adding any security devices he hasn't bought yet, he has arranged Third Party Fire & Theft cover for £326... and taken the 'pay-monthly' option, of  £66.91, then ten months at £33.96

We are now two-weeks 'in' and our Hypothetical Newbie has completed his CBT, in the day. He then spent three days waiting for confirmation of his Bank-Loan to go through, and was over-joyed when the funds cleared in his account, and went straight round to the dealers to get his YBR125 after work that evening.

He is now 'on the road', and has spent, (or is committed to having to spend with interest charges!) £2372.50... or he would have, except while he was at the dealers, he got talking about his 'parking' arrangements.....

Bringing his total to £5 under £2500! to get OTR

And THIS has only JUST got him 'On the Road', riding on the 2 year validity of his CBT certificate! BUT, he has a £1300 bike, to show for it, and he's revelling in filling the tank up for UNDER £20 where he never FILLED his car with petrol! And seeing over 80mpg from it.

This is a LOT cheaper than the car! The insurance on that used to cost him £90 a month, and he rarely got more than 40mpg from it! But, its spring, and the weather is nice..... and he hasn't missed the heater yet!

Anyway, he's hoping that the savings on bus-fare will help him 'save' towards some lessons, and then that DAS course and tests, because he is down to £270 in his savings account from selling the car, having bought the first months insurance and the security 'stuff' out of it, and he's cautious he WONT need any of that for 'repairs' if he drops the bike at some point!

Meanwhile, he has been looking around for some 'ad-hoc' early lessons as recommended but not found anything, every-where seems to only want to sell full 'courses'.......

OK, we are now a month further on. Or hypothetical Newbie has let himself get carried away! And he gave up looking for any lessons, after being told on the forums that it wasn't THAT important and you can pass tests without training, and riding around, going great guns, thought he had it all 'sussed'... until that is, he came out of work one after-noon. It had rained earlier on, and seemed quite fine when he threw a leg over the bike.... but then it JUST went out from under him on the roundabout!

Don't worry, HE's 'fine'. Bit shaken by it, got a corker of a bruise on his shoulder but other wise unhurt. Bikes not so happy though. He managed to smash a mirror, crack both right hand indicators, break the brake lever, and scuff the exhaust!

While working on the bike, has encouraged him to do some 'maintenance'

And the 'Crash' has encouraged him to re-consider those 'early-miles' riding lessons, and he has found a school that offer two-hour sessions for £60, and booked two, two weeks apart

OK, so we are now four months in, and he's getting back in the groove of things. Cost him £2500 to get 'On The Road'. He's since had a little 'ding' and was 'lucky' and got away with only £53's worth of 'repairs' though he did them himself and spent another £49 on a Haynes manual and some service items. And another £120 to get his confidence back with those Riding Lessons he was told to get right at the start!

But he now feels fairly confident he ought to be able to 'do' his tests, but is waiting to save up a bit to pay for the DAS course to do them. Total SO far: £2700ish....

Right, SIX month mark. This is where he hoped to have his 'DAS' done and the licence in his pocket. BUT things haven't gone quite to plan. He had saved a few pennies and got his savings back up to £500, which he figured was 'just' enough to pay for a DAS course.... and he picked up a nail in his front tyre!

He took the bike to a tyre-fitters, and they looked at the state of the back tyre and recommended he replace BOTH as a pair as they couldn't 'plug' the front tyre anyway, but they agreed to do him a 'deal' price on two tyres, £95 with 'free' fitting and balancing, if he took the wheels off the bike for them to 'do'.

That set him back a month, and then when he called the School he planned to do his 3-day DAS course with for £199, he found that they had 'dropped' the offer. Calling around, best he could find, was a school, that was a one-man band, who didnt offer 'courses'. Chap simply said he charged £140 a day, £90 a half day, and if he was riding around on his own bike, he ought not be 'too-far-off' but wouldn't say what it was likely to cost, until he had done a half day 'assessment', but he'd give him an 'introductory' discount, and do it for £70, instead of £90. And Reminded him he NEEDED to get his Theory/Hazard test 'done' first.

He did a quick 'think' realised that a half day, 4 hours was twice as long as he had got for £60 doing the two 'ad-hoc' lessons and booked it! And then went and booked his Theory test.

WHICH he FAILED. Bit of a lottery that one! So he turned up for his 'assessment' having to admit that he got the Theory 'OK' but missed a couple on the Hazard perception, so had had to re-book for a week later.

After assessment, Instructor said he was Fairly 'OK', he had got a couple of 'bad-habits' but nothing major, and recommended booking a full day, to 'do Mod 1', Spending the morning doing some practice and then riding over and doing the test on the after-noon, and taking it from there. BUT had to get his Theory/Hazard passed first.

So that's what he did. The instructor telling him to book the test appointment himself, and just tell him the date so he could keep it open, as soon as he had the appointment.

Months Seven. The second Theory/Hazard Perception test he passed no problem. But, after booking his Mod 1 appointment and lesson.... he FAILED. Did all the practice great, BUT, 'on the day' bit of test nerves, he muffed the e-stop locking the back wheel! So, Two Theory tests at £31 a time and £140 lesson, + £15.50 Mod 1 fee, to little effect!

Instructor said to book it again, but he wouldn't need another 'lesson' and he was a bit loath to charge him for a full 'half day' just to take an hour out to go to the test centre, so charged him £50 for a 'repeat'. Second time round he nailed it. BUT well into month 8 by now! AND still have Mod 2 to go.... Instructor had said, to do it like the first Mod 1, and book the test himself and then he'd do a days lesson, on the day of the test, taking him over for the appointment.

HE PASSED.

Just shy of nine months from doing his CBT, he got the 'full' licence in his pocket!

Cost £2500 'upfront', give or take to get 'on the road' on his YBR125.

Then, a crash, a few repairs, a little maintenance, a couple of 'ad-hoc' confidence boosting lessons after the 'off'. Two attempts at the Theory/Hazard Test, two attempts at the Mod 1 test, two and a half Days of DAS training and one Mod 1 'repeat' fee, and then Mod 2 passed first time.

ALL UP a grand total of £3,328, excluding petrol!

So, all exited at having his full licence, and eager to get a 'big-bike' because after the DAS bike which was a Kawasaki ER6, the little 125 feels pathetic.... he has found a Suzuki Bandit N600... well, he hasn't really 'found' it, a mate at work has had it the whole time. Nice bike, in pretty good condition for the age, its an N Reg so no spring chicken, but chap only wants £600 for it, and its got loads of history, just been serviced and is taxed and tested and ready to go.... He JUST has to sell the YBR to be able to buy it.......

BIT disappointing, having paid £1500 for it nine months ago, he put it in the local paper for £1300, but with the scuffed exhaust, the few buyers that came round to look at it all tried to haggle him down saying it wasn't worth more than £1000 having been 'crashed'... which was 'fair enough' the handlebars were a bit wonky.... but last chap that came round, offered him £1100, and they eventually settled on £1175, so it was 'close enough'.

Only real 'niggle' was that when he called the insurance company to 'swap' the policy over to the Bandit, he was told the under-writers only insured 125's so he would have to 'cancel' the policy and take out another, so he'd get no no-claims bonus.

LITTLE bit of a 'smack' that one, but after a bit of contemplating, and realising that the policy was 'paid for' and he had no more installement to make, and would actually have to PAY a cancellation fee if he wanted to end the policy early, he decided to simply let it 'run'. Would have been 'useful' to have had the No-Claims to get insurance on the Bandit with, and he did look to see if he could get a month-by-month policy on it for three months to tide him over, but those three months would have cost him half an annual policy, so he took one out, figuring that when that came up for renewal, he would be able to claim two years NCB, adding in the one from the 125 when it expired, as it would still be valid.

SO, in the final analysis! Where do we get to?

We are TALKING a rough 'Ball-Park' of around £3,500, to get on the road, get some early miles experience, and get a licence, at the end of which you will have had a years riding, and a £1000's worth of bike for it.

In our Hypothetical Newbie's case, He used a bank-loan and an insurance payment plan to help 'spread' the costs a bit, and that cost him about £350. He also bought from a dealer, which added maybe an extra £250-£300 to the 'buy-price' of his bike, for the convenience and assurance it offered.

He didn't waste any money on expensive riding gear, and during the 9-months of time on a tiddler, never upgraded his helmet or gloves or bought any more 'dedicated' rider wear; and I suspect that from the 'change' from selling the YBR and buying the Bandit, he PROBABLY spent a fair chunk on some 'proper' riding gear, because I'd be pretty sure that those 'cheap' gloves would be getting a BIT wiffy by that point, while getting onto a 'Big-Boy' bike, probably felt a BIT vulnerable, 'winging it' in every-day out-door wear and a cheap over-suit!

He wasn't all that 'prudent' ignoring the advice to get those early-days lessons in, and when he DID, after his off, he probably paid rather a bit 'over the odds' for them, but some-times you have to.

The DAS training he got in the end, was not too badly priced, and the Instructor a reasonable and 'straight' kind of chap, not out to rip him off, or stretch his training any. Pretty 'Down to business' And in the end, he got almost three days of training and bike hire, for £400 which is NOT bad, and it DID the job.

He had a few set-backs along the way and a couple of unanticipated expenditures. He was pretty 'lucky' with his one 'off' on the round-about, that ONLY cost £50 to 'fix' and 'maybe' £100 of 'haggle' depreciation on the bikes re-sale value. It COULD have been a LOT worse. AND he had to fork out for new tyres, and a little servicing which he OUGHT really to have anticipated at least SOME of.

Failing the Theory test, first time only cost him £31 and failing Mod 1, really, only £65. USUALLY Failing DAS tests gets expensive, so OVERALL this chap has got away with it ALL pretty lightly.

He could have spent an AWFUL lot more money, and not had as much to show for it at the end.

He has also managed to have a REASONABLE clear run. Took him a couple of months longer than anticipated, but no real harm there, and that was mainly saving up the money he needed for tests., Just meant a BIT more 'time on a tiddler' and that MAY WELL have helped him get that extra early miles experience that helped him pass first time.

So OVERALL, he has done it PRETTY economically. He has laid down a 'good' foundation of core skills, serving time on a tiddler, then got his licence via DAS and managed to do that, without it costing TOO much.

COULD he have done it any cheaper?

Well, look at where he made economies. He made economies on KIT, and he was LUCKY, he had ONE off and didn't really hurt himself or the kit he had. He couldn't REALLY have made any more economies there.

The Bike? Well, yes, he spent probably £300 more than he NEEDED for that particular machine, buying from a dealer, and he spent ANOTHER £300 he needn't on credit charges using a bank-loan and payment plan. BUT, look what he got for it.

He got a NICE bike, which didn't cost a great deal in maintenance or repairs. He spent £50 on a service and £90 on tyres in nine months. Tyres wear out, they get punctures. And on a Learner-Legal, learning NOT to ride in the gutter where the road debris is, they ARE likely to pick up a nail! And tyre dealerships DON'T like plugging tyres, even if they aren't so worried about the tyre fitters 'codes of practice' that say they shouldn't do it!

If he had bought an 'old' CG125? Well, you would be looking at maybe £750 to buy one of them. And the only 'saving' might have been that had he got a puncture, those bikes have tubed tyres he could have fixed himself for a £2 patch kit..... but in all likelihood, taking the tyre off, he could as easily have found he needed a £90 wheel-rebuild instead! AND not had as 'nice' a bike for the hassle, and probably had numerous other 'niggles' with a bike that much older and more hard worked. And for what? A saving of £750 'up-front' money. He would probably have still fallen off, and had to sell for less than he paid.

Yes, he MIGHT have saves a bit of up-front money, and he MIGHT not have had to take such a big 'loss' on the resale. But then he wouldn't had he bought the YBR 'privately' rather than from a dealer.

Its ALL speculation, but best case; £750 CG125, lets say he sold on for £700 loosing only £50, and he DIDN'T have any major repairs to do, lets just give it £80 to replace a knackered chain and do a service. It MIGHT have cost him £300 less on the 'loss' he took, £300 less NOT using a bank-loan, and £50 less in running costs. In the greater scheme of things NOT big bananas!

So, where ELSE could he have saved money? ONLY real place is on training. In total, £135 for CBT, £120 for his two ad-hoc lessons, and £400 for his DAS lessons.

ONLY way he could have saved anything in there was NOT doing DAS..... Which as I WRITE this, is still viable. Currently you can still take tests on a 125 and get a FULL A-Group entitlement for it, though with 2-year 33bhp power restriction.

As from January, 2013, that WILL NOT be a possibility, and any-one wanting a full licence will either have to test on a 125 and follow the 'stepped licence' program which will demand a DAS style course after 2 years to up-grade to a 45bhp A2 licence and then another two years later to upgrade again to a 'full' unrestricted A-group, or wait until they are over 25 and do a full DAS course and tests.

So, THIS is pretty realistic, of what it costs now, and what its likely to cost doing it 'on the cheap' as of next year.

There isn't MUCH room anywhere to look for economies, OTHER than simply NOT doing any training and NOT going for a full licence. And THAT to my sense of sensibilities is NOT a great economy to try making!

£3000 ish to get on the road, and licensed up - ball-park, and doing it on the cheap, with a £1000 bike to show for it. So £2000 for early-miles riding and licence.

And BIG, risks along the way, that it COULD cost a lot more; especially if you try rushing and start failing tests, or you 'waste' money in the wrong places, buying a fancier bike than you need, or you have to undertake expensive repairs, either because the bike is NOT so great or you crash it.

While, obviously, big chunk of cost is insurance, and THAT is significantly volatile, and circumstance dependant. And IF you are a teen-ager, declaring yourself to be a student, and living at home, COULD be a very big added expenditure.

Our Hypothetical Newbie though DOES give a reasonable idea of what it takes.

£2500 to get on the road, £3500 to get a licence.

If you HAVE to economise, and can get an old bike for a few hundred quid, you MIGHT get yourself 'on the road' for around the £1500 mark, BUT big risk that you will NOT get away so light on running costs and repairs.

I was told don't spend big-money on a little bike?

Yes, a lot of people say that. "You don't spend big money on a little bike". or "its only to get your tests on - your not going to keep it, don't waste your money" or "Its a Learner-Bike, your only going to bend it falling off, don't buy anything 'nice' you're only going to wreck it!"

There is a lot of validity in the reasoning behind these comments; BUT, see:- 125's - Live Hard

It MAY only be a 'stepping stone' machine, not-a-once-and-forever bike, and it IS likely that you will bash it up a bit, and no, you don't want to 'waste-money'... but buying something that DOESN'T do the job, is to my mind wasting even more money.

If you buy a £300 'fixer-upper', chances are that you are NOT going to have a bike that inspires much confidence, nor that is every-day dependable and reliable, and generally 'hassle free'.

When you are 'learning to ride', THAT is what you want to be concentrating on; LEARNING TO RIDE!

You don't want to be trying to get to grips with balance and trying to figure out what's going wrong when you do the Newbie Launch wobble, and wondering whether its caused by something YOU are doing, or whether its the bike, and the head-race bearings have slackened off, or the rear swing-arm bushes 'gone'!

To make your learning as EASY as possible, and let you concentrate on THAT job in hand, you want to minimise the variables, and having AS GOOD a bike as you can get under your bum, is best way to minimise those variables!

THEN when it wobbles, wont be the bike.... be whatever YOU are doing on top of it!

Its your FIRST bike - you want to get as GOOD a bike as you can afford

You don't want your learning to be made any more difficult, or have to deal with any hassle or niggles or problems you don't have to.

NO, don't spend 'Big-Money' on a little bike, but DO spend your money wisely and get as MUCH bike for it as you can.

See:- Recommend Me a Learner-Bike! When it comes to buying wisely, not spending 'big' money on a little bike, or not 'wasting' money on anything 'fancy' points to a Learner-Commuter. Simple, Functional, utilitarian machines that don't make any pretensions to be anything but what they are, don't aspire to having any more performance than you need, but are hardy, rugged, little bikes that DO the job well, and do it economically; and buy one that is in as GOOD condition and is as 'new' and trouble-free as you can afford.

I just want a bike because its cheaper than a car.

Yes, and there are normally two main suggestions behind this. With Under 25's, the incentive is the saving on exorbitant Car Insurance Costs. For more mature drivers, who often already have a car, its high fuel costs. EITHER way, the FIRST thing is that the costs of running a motorcycle are NOT as 'Cheap' as you may expect, and it is VERY fool-hardy to presume to rely on 'Savings' to justify the case.

Cars are the 'norm', and for 'Cheap' motoring I will use the example of my Honda Civic. 1.4l its an old one, taxed under engine capacity rather than emissions. Its 'worth' perhaps £500 and has done about 70,000 miles. I've had it three years and put about 25K miles on it, and it has cost me, Oh! Well the insurance, 'for me' is about £300 a year. Under 1600cc it falls into the lower tax bracket of £135.00 a year. Costs £45 to get MOT'd, returns 'about' 30mpg 'on average', and in three years & 20K miles, has needed one tail-lamp bulb, a set of brake pads, and a battery, and could probably do with a new pair of rear dampers before its next MOT. I think I have topped the oil up once or twice, and treated it to £2.50's worth of screen wash!

SO, three years motoring, for, grand total of, ABOUT £500... and twice that again in fuel! 7,000 miles of 'boring' every day utilitarian transport, for ABOUT 20p a mile! THIS is 'Cheap' motoring. It REALLY doesn't come MUCH cheaper!

If you are young and face high insurance premiums; typically £2-3000 a year for almost ANY car, then the £2-300 a year 'suggested' you might insure a 125cc motorbike or scooter for will make a very BIG difference.

If you are more mature, and driving a big BMW, that is using a lot more fuel, then the suggested 100mpg of a small commuter bike, is hugely attractive.

BUT! We are comparing apples and oranges. Bikes are very different 'beasts' to cars. And while a bike MAY get you to and from work, cheaply, they don't have the capability to carry so many passengers or luggage or do it so 'conveniently', AND you are stepping out of 'main-stream' transport into a world where the 'bike' is more often a 'life-style' implement.

For the younger road-user, facing exorbitant insurance premiums, a motorcycle MAY be the only 'affordable' motorised transport they can realistically sustain. BUT, don't be fooled into thinking its all THAT 'cheap'.

Motorcycle's, more usually these days a 'life-style; accessory rather than every-day means of transport, those 'cheap' insurance quotes are often discounted, by 'presumed' default limitations in the proposal forms. The two main ones being the 'Including commuting' cover clause, and the 'anticipated annual mileage'.

Average annual miles on a motorcycle these days is something ridiculously low, around 3000miles, where for a car, its something like 15,000 miles. MOST motorcycles, NOT used every day to go to and from work, but coming out of the garage on Sunny weekends, they often only cover a few hundred miles a year. BUT if you are intending to use a bike as EVERY DAY get to work (or college!) transport, these 'presumed' averages will need to be revised. Adding "+Commuting" to the proposal can up the quote by 50-100% and that £2-£300 policy leaps to £3-400 a year. Upping the mileage to something more realistic, around 6000 miles, which is ONLY a 12mile daily commute, 5 days a week, can up that again, and you are looking at policy prices in the region of £6-700.

For the same USE and miles, for a YOUNG driver, the insurance difference between a 125cc motorbike and a 'cheap' car, is PROBABLY not the 10x cheaper you hope or presume, or may 'think' from inexpert quote comparisons. It will probably still be a LOT cheaper, but more realistically, only half of a third the price.

Think hard about it. It Is a big saving; BUT. Its also a 'big' sacrifice in 'usability'. Gets you too and from work, for sure, but its not got the user-friendly convenience of a car, when it comes to heading off to the beach with your mates on a Sunny Saturday, or for doing the shopping. And LONG TERM, you are building up 'Driver-Record', and hopefully accruing No-Claims-Discount on a CAR. Its ONLY going to get 'Cheaper'; but, wait it out, spend money kitting up to ride a bike, get a bike licence, and two three years down the line, decide you NEED a car... you wont necessarily be able to transfer 'Driver Record' or Bike accrued NCD to a car policy and it COULD be just as expensive, and what you have spent, getting a bike, the gear to go with it, and getting a licence.

For the more mature motorist wanting to slash costs, similar curiosities apply. Insurance is unlikely to be such a big issue, but it is still likely to be one. You are starting over, and are unlikely to be able to transfer existing car insurance No-Claims-Discount to a motorbike policy; and again, if you intend using the bike as get-to-work transport, you need to look at that "+Commuting" Clause, and the mileage allowance. Remember 6000 miles a year is only JUST enough to commute 12 miles to and from every day, wont leave much for pottering around having 'fun' or going to the shops!

Insurance for ME, on the 125 Super-Dreams is around £120 a year, but if I wanted to use it as every day transport, with "+Commuting" and a more realistic mileage allowance, wouldn't be a LOT less than insuring the Civic! And I have a full licence and uppity DECADES of riding experience! So, there's no huge saving to be found there compared to 'down-sizing' to an 'economy' car.

Annual Road tax IS only £16 compared to £135, so there is about £120 of save there, but that's small potatoes in the greater scheme of things. BIGGIE you are hoping for is the 100+mpg that will bring the fuel costs down.

Well, first off, while some DO see higher mpg's don't bank on it. The only bikes owners do regularly achieve 100ish mpg from tends to be the fuel injected Honda CBF125, and the lower-powered Chinese CG-Copy bikes. CBF achieves its economy from its sophisticated fuel injection, which, unfortunately on such a budget machine has proved to be rather unreliable! And when the Throttle-Position Sensor gets a bit 'gummed up' and the ECU defaults to 'limp-home' mode, you can kiss the economy good-bye, and open your cheque-book for a raping from the main dealer to try and diagnose and fix it! The Chinese bikes, that achieve higher mpg, do so from basically being DEAD slow!

More realistically, those quoted or suggested 100mpg figures often bandied about, often prove to be more like 70mph in real-world use. Maybe a tad better if you can make good progress, but more often a fair bit 'worse', given newbie numptiness, one of the more 'aspirational' Learner-Legal machines, or more exuberant use, trying to achieve 'national-speed-limits' trying to keep up with traffic on faster roads, where these little bikes are well out of their optimum 'efficiency' zone and struggling to deliver the goods.

Worth noting, that the 'book' figure for my Honda CB750 is 50mpg. Rarely drops beneath 45mpg, even with more 'exuberant' riding, but pottering around, at Learner-Legal velocities (Which I did a lot of, pottering along behind newbie's under training!) often got better mpg than they did, well in the 70's between fill-ups!

OK, well, 70mpg isn't AS brilliant as expected, BUT, you say, still a darn site better than the 25-30 or less you get from the car...  AND I wont argue, it is nearly half the fuel, AND as my little tally of costs on the Civic showed, I spend twice as much a year on fuel as anything else.... around £1000..... so there is a POTENTIAL real world saving of maybe £500 a year. Add that £500 fuel saving to the £120 saving on road tax, and..... give or take £600 is in the offing.

That is ONLY £10 a week.... it is by no way a HUGE saving.....

And we haven't looked at running costs of bike compared to car, or anything else.

Said, that the Civic is peanuts to run. I think I have topped the oil up a couple of times; changed the battery and replaced the battery. That is pretty much sum total of maintenance on that car in three years. Bikes? NEED MAINTENANCE, a lot more frequently.

On a lightweight bike, its tends not to be THAT expensive, BUT, little engines, they often run without a sophisticated forced-flow oil filter, relying on a simple strainer and frequent oil changes to keep the oil clean. They also tend to have 'simple' screw-and lock-nut manual valve adjustment and manual cam-chain adjustment, where cars have maintenance free hydraulic tappets and kevlar timing belts. Cars also have shaft drive to the driven wheels, where bikes have a chain, like a push-bike. BIKES need MAINTENANCE.

And a typical 125 lightweight will need a 'minor' service every 1000 miles, and a general service every 2000miles. At the minor service, you will probably only check tension, and lubricate the drive chain & control cables, and change the engine oil., At the general service, you will have to check the valve clearances and cam-chain tension, possibly the air-filter and clean the carburettor. In between times, though you ought to keep an eye on your own chain tension and brake adjustment.

In real-world commuting service, doing 120 miles a week, JUST two and from work, that's 500 miles a month, and a minor service every 8 weeks, general service every 16, or three of each a year. If you do these yourself, it's maybe a couple of hours a time, and perhaps, £20's worth of chain-lube, £50's worth of oil, couple of spark-plugs £10, and then some 'occasional' bigger items, like maybe brake pads, probably some brake fluid, and in 6000 miles, probably at least ONE tyre, more likely a pair, at £100. Already the 125 has cost MORE in maintenance in a year, than my Civic has in three..... and this is keeping it 'skinny' and DIY servicing your own bike.... and realistic service costs of £200 a year. Puts a pretty big 'dent' in that £500ish annual 'saving' on fuel, doesn't it?

If you were to have the bike dealer serviced? Well, franchise dealer would probably charge something like £90 for a minor service, £120 for a general, that's £600 a year JUST for the dealer to do the work not you. Add the 'occasional' items like brake pads or tyres, and you are looking at more like £1000 a year. Back-Street non-franchise mechanic? May be cheaper, might do a 'service' for £50 plus parts, you are STILL looking at around the £500 a year mark.

The POTENTIAL to save money is there, but, start digging into it, and the margins are NOW-WHERE near as big as you might imagine.

So, lets back up' we have £120 a year saved on road-tax, and we say we'll DIY our own maintenance, so that saving pays for that... ish. We still have £500 a year saved on fuel. That is nothing to be sniffed at....

EXCEPT... how much have we got to spend to get on the road? CBT is £150, and if you have NO intension of getting a full licence that has to be renewed every two years. Cheaper, as well as safer, long term getting some lessons and putting in for tests. THOSE alone, realistically are likely to consume any savings on fuel you may make in the first year.

BUT, keeping it 'skinny', you will probably have had to spend, something like £150-£200 on riding kit, helmet, gloves, boots and water-proofs. And this stuff DOESN'T last forever, especially if you are using it every day; and that 'Buy-Cheap-Buy-Twice' bug-bear comes back to bite you in the bum, because chances are, end of your first year, fair proportion of 'kit' is likely to need renewing.

So, you are up to the end of year two, before you are even LOOKING at a 'break-even' with what you have had to 'invest' to be able to use a bike. WITHOUT making any savings that might pay for the bike itself!

AND that is IF everything goes 'to-plan'!

Starting out, you are a LEARNER, and learners FALL OFF!

Nowhere have we factored in any cost of 'accidental' damage! If you are lucky, a small tumble doing an e-stop might do no more than crack a handle-bar lever and skuff the exhaust..... £8 for a new lever off e-bay and you are back on the road... BUT that skuff in the exhaust will have taken value off the bikes re-sale, while more significant damage can quickly start adding up. Handle-bars £25; Gear-Lever, £30, Mirrors, £20, indicator lenses £6 each. And this is just 'minor' cosmetic stuff.

Realistically, with the 'Start-Up' overheads of kitting yourself out, getting trained and getting yourself on the road, on a 'Cheap' and 'sensible' lightweight machine..... ANY savings you MIGHT find are likely to be SMALL, and the hidden costs and risks along the way, STICKING to this 'cheap' lightweight bike, its likely to be two, three years before you start seeing any real 'dividend' from the initial investment.

It will NOT start saving you BIG money straight away... and in all LIKELIHOOD, after the big 'Spend' upfront to get yourself on two wheels, getting a licence, you WILL want something 'bigger' and more inspiring, and trading 'up' is likely to bring you BACK to running costs that are equal or more than a 'Cheap' car.

My CB750, is a pretty 'cheap' bike to run, but even so. A pair of tyres are £200 a pair 'fitted', which is as much as a set of four for the Civic, and unlike the civic, I can expect to have to replace them every 5000 miles or so, unlike the civic I have NEVER had to replace a tyre on, in nearly 30K miles. Takes an oil change still every 1000miles, and demands a £10 screw on filter with it. And the £3 spark plugs? Needs four of them. For the same 'use' and same miles, my 750 is MORE expensive to run per mile than the car!

Somewhere in between, a 500cc commuter twin, that only has two cylinders and isn't quite so 'demanding'  you are likely to find something like 'parity' in costs per mile with...

BUT, apples and oranges. Bike is NOT the versatile, user friendly, convenient 'normal' every-day transport, and you are sacrificing that 'practicality' and 'comfort' and a heck of a lot of safety, for what? A vehicle that is certainly a LOT more pleasurable to use a lot of the time.... but probably NOT saving you much if ANY money for the sacrifices.

There ARE other factors that may come into play, of course. Some people factor in parking charges which can make a big difference, or they compare with public transport prices. Its all VERY circumstance dependent.

But with the very large 'Start-Up' costs, if you ONLY want a bike to save money, then chances ARE you would more readily 'see' real-world savings merely 'Down-Sizing' to a different, more economical car. Some of the super-economy hatch-backs and hybrids these days are boasting the same sort of 70mpg fuel consumption, you are likely to get from a light-weight motorbike!

And, my own experience? Well, See:- Wheezil The Deezil. Possibly a bit of a special case, but an attempt to try and 'do-it-all' with just one vehicle, but strapped for cash, I SAVED enough money taking "+Commuting" off the insurance, to pay for a second policy, with NO no-claims discount on a £250 'Banger' of an old Montego.... and saved the value of that car in the better mpg using it to go to and from work, just 8miles a day, in six months.

If you are looking at ways of economising, perversely it MAY be 'cheaper' to look at similar car based solutions, and possibly even get ANOTHER car, rather than a motorbike. Especially if you have no bike licence or 'kit' to begin with, and for other reasons STILL need to be able to run a car along side the bike.

Look DEEPER than the prima-facia MPG figures or insurance quotes, and the numbers are NOWHERE near as favourable as you may hope, and trying to use these 'economics' to justify a bike, CAN be a hiding to no-where.

Especially if its a way to get it past 'The other half'! See:- The wife doesn't like the idea, but I have told her how much money it will save... Because if you try selling the idea on the 'savings' you better bludy well be able to deliver them, and the chances are, it will be a long time before you are likely to be able to show any real saving, but in the mean-time they WILL see an AWFUL lot of 'spending' going on to grumble about!

Insurance! So confusing! So Expensive! So.... HELP!

 

This Page is Under Construction!

Please excuse 'Random' ness of layout at this time!

Probably THE most frequently asked question on the forums after "What bike should I get?" is "Where should I go for Insurance?", and getting 'cheap' insurance is nearly always the biggest factor; its a very price sensitive and also very volatile market. But lets start at the beginning!

Third-Party Insurance - This is the minimum cover required by the road traffic act to use a motor-vehicle on the public road. You HAVE to have it, end of.

If you DON'T have insurance they take the bike off you, on the spot; no questions, no excuses. And with the invention of the 'Motor-Insurance-Database', they do it on the spot, via the in car computer, and if the vehicle reg isn't on the data-base or your name not flagged against the entry - you are guilty until proven innocent. So its not worth risking it.

Making sure you are on the MID - Take note; buy an insurance policy, especially 'on-line' it can take up to a week for the insurance company's details to get 'loaded' to the MID, so EVEN if you have valid insurance, or think you have, its worth taking a copy of your e-cert or cover note, and keeping it with you JUST in case you get stopped.

Its also a precaution against modern marketing trend where you buy an insurance policy from a high-street retailer, like Tesco's, but policy is actually issued by some-one like ACME insurance; asked who you are insured with, you say 'Tesco' and impatient copper, wont find your insurance because you BOUGHT from Tesco, but you are insured by ACME, and the 'error' will be read as a 'lie' and they will be even more keen to seize your bike!

ALSO worth noting that Insurers are rather 'quick' these days to 'Cancel' insurance, and they will remove the MID entry rather a lot faster then they may enter it.

Two common reasons for MID entry removal, are either buying insurance on monthly instalments, and a direct-debit fails, or, somewhere in the policy terms & conditions they ask for certain documents from you, like a copy of your driving licence, proof or No-Claims Bonus, or possibly a Certificate of Restriction, and on a Learner-Bike, quite commonly a copy of your CBT Certificate. They don't always make clear what they want, and they often put time limits on, and if they haven't received what they expect, auto-cancel your insurance.

SO, when you take out a policy, DO NOT get all exited, and think that setting up the payment its all sorted; often far from it, and when the policy pack arrives MAKE SURE you go through the paperwork and sort out anything they ask for after giving you the cert!

What does Third Party Insurance Do? For you? Not a lot! Gives you a piece of paper and an entry in the MID that makes a policeman happy. Hopefully stops them taking your bike off you, other than that.... not much!

All it does is promise to pay for any damage you might do to other people's property, with that vehicle.

That kind of thing. It pays OTHER PEOPLE for anything that YOU cause. It will NOT pay YOU a penny for anything. You ride at your own risk. So, you ride into the back of some-one's car; thier car gets fixed, mangled remains of your bike are your problem. From getting the wreckage home, to putting it to rights and back on the road, or replacing it because its scrap. You pay for your own mistakes.

Third-Party Fire & Theft - moving along, this is the next common level of cover offered after TPO or Third-Party-Only. Basically you get Third-Party cover, and bolted on, an agreement that if your bike is stolen or burned out, then they will repair it, or reimburse you with a replacement cost. Take note, though this will often NOT be 'in-full' what you may have paid for the bike, but what the insurance company decides that your bike was work 'market' value, and then less what are called 'policy excess' charges, which I will come to later.

Fully Comprehensive Cover - Yeah, bit vague and ambiguous this one these days, but.... in principle, its minimum legal third-party cover, plus fire & theft risks, but then 'accidental damage'; ie if you fall off and bend your bike, insurance company will, less their excess fees, repair or replace it.

In days of old, Fully-Comp used to mean, IF you were in an accident; you took the bike to a garage; they assessed damage, and billed the insurance co for repairs. THEN if the accident wasn't your fault, then YOUR insurance company, having paid out to get your bike fixed, would go deal with the insurance company of who-ever crashed into you, and if it wasn't your fault, claim against their insurance on your behalf.... which leads me to....

Legal Protection Cover / Claims Assistance - this is often offered as a 'bolt-on' to other policies, whether TPO, TPFT or Full-Comp. In essence, if you are in an accident, Legal Protection is supposed to pay a lawyer to go off and fight your 'claim' against any-one that crashed into you. Yeah... if you have Fully-Comp, surely that's what its there for? Hence contention, because these days, some companies will, some wont, unless you have Legal-Protection, and you can be in a situation where if you don't have Legal-Protection, and claim against your fully-comp policy, then claim is treated as a 'fault claim' as though damage was due to your negligence or error, not whoever crashed into you. OR if you DO have Legal-Protection, and your insurer DOES claim-handle, you are paying for the same thing twice! Confusing isn't it? But that's Legal Protection; have an accident that's not your fault, SOME-ONE, supposedly a lawyer or claims specialist will fight your corner to get some money back out the bludger that knocked you off, and you are often asked if you want it with any policy you may take out.

No-Claims Discount / No-Claims-Bonus - Put simply; take out a policy, ride a whole year and not have to make a claim or have a claim made against you, then they will usually, not USUALLY, not 'always' award you some sort of No-Claims-Discount on your next years insurance policy. If you have a claim made against you, or make a claim, then obviously, they probably wont give you any No-Claims Discount. Worth noting though NCD is awarded at the END of a policy life, NOT the beginning. Make a claim during the policy life, and that extra years NCD you were banking on having to make premium price more reasonable on your next bike, and that bonus will not be awarded, and you as like will ALSO loose any NCD you already have.

Lets look at some FAQ's

Truth or Dare!

Right, that's the three types of cover, covered, lets get down to looking at filling in the proposal form. This is the declaration you make to the insurance co, they base their premium on, and what they really are trying to work out, is how likely you are to cost them money. More likely you are to land them with a claim to settle, more they will want to charge you. So tempting to be a little frugal or creative with the truth to get them to think you are less likely to make a claim and give you cheaper insurance, right?

No! Insurance companies are not 'people', they are an utterly unforgiving, unsympathetic cyborg, with all the compassion & humanity of the mutant off-spring of a lawyer and an accountant, or an ex-wife! They do numbers; balance sheets, profit & loss. They do not do imagination, and they presume that every-one is out to diddle them before they begin! Its like diving into a shark-pool with a pound of stake in your hand and calling 'here, sharky, sharky!' and hoping they will eat the stake and not you! You have been warned! You need to be very careful filling out the proposal, and make sure that you get the cover you want, and don't give any wheedle room for them to get out of paying a claim, or you have wasted your money, no matter how much of a 'bargain' the premium may have seemed.

But, insurance companies are VERY good at working out the risk of claims; so take the hint. If you are looking at a GSRZ600 super-Ninja-Rad loonie bike, are a bloke, under 24, with a fresh full licence, and are getting quotes twice the bike price; take the hint; they are trying to tell you they do not want the business, you are probably going to kill some-one! Re-Think your bike choice! Its not merely a money making skam, trying to milk you for all they can.... that's taken for granted, even if you are getting apparently daft quotes like I do, being in my 40's, ticking all the boxes suggesting low risk, where doesn't seem to matter what bike I want to insure, premium prices is likely to be around the £200 mark whether its a Honda C70 or a Super-Black-Bird! And twenty five years accident free, paying around £200 a year.... yeah.... I have given them far more money over the years than they have ever had to pay out!

Worth mentioning that under the Road-Traffic-Act and Sale-of-Goods-act, once an insurance company has issued an insurance cert with your name and a vehicle registration number on it, they are liable for any third party claim against you with respect to that vehicle, and as far as the law is concerned you HAVE got insurance, irrespective of whether you lied to get it or not, and if you are stopped by the police or are involved in an accident, they cant prosecute you for riding without insurance. BUT.... There are a couple of clarifications needed to that statement.

Common one here is the question of restriction, which for learners can be significant. Mopeds are restricted by law to 50cc and 35mph, learner motorcycles, to 125cc & 14.5bhp. Restricted licence holders, current (as I type) A>25Kw to machines less than 33bhp, future A2 licence holders to machines less than 45bhp. Commonly suggested that if you don't have licence entitlement, you don't have valid insurance, whether you have a certificate or not. This is not 'quite' true.

If you have, say a Honda NSR125, and a provisional licence; The NSR125 came in a number of variants, and some market models were offered in full power form, making around 25bhp. Ride a De-Restricted or full-power variant of an NSR125 on a learner licence and you are riding outside the terms of your licence, on a machine that makes more than 14.5bhp. If you declared that the bike was 'standard' on your insurance, when its not, then you have obtained insurance by deception, BUT the third party insurance should still be valid. HOWEVER if a third party claims against you, then your insurance company can, since you were in breach of contract making them liable for that claim, attempt to reclaim ANY losses back from you. Third party claims might be as little as a few hundred quid if you merely ding some-ones bumper, but if you cause death or disability the costs of compensation and medical treatment can go into tens or hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions. And your insurance company can come back and sue you personally for every penny they have had to pay out, plus costs!

If you have a de-restricted Moped, lets say a Derbi Senda 50. Different kettle of fish now. Still a bike you dont have a licence for, and still one you have an insurance cert which matches the registration number. BUT, the log book that matches that registration states MOPED on it. If a 50cc motorcycle doesn't meet legal moped restrictions or being less than 50cc, and less than 3.5bhp, and capable of no more than 35mph, its NOT a 'Moped'. NOW the vehicle you are riding is 'other than described on the log book', and technically its no different to taking the number plate of a Yamaha DT50, you have an insurance cert for, and sticking it onto a Suzuki Hyabusa and trying to claim you have insurance. You don't. NOW, the insurance co have the get-out that you were not riding the vehicle they insured, and can refuse to pay out even a 3rd party claim, and any-one who has a claim against you can take you to court personally for compensation, and the police CAN prosecute you for riding without insurance, as well as potentially for riding other than in accordance with licence as well as riding a defective vehicle and a vehicle that is other than described by displayed registration!

So, if you only want an insurance cert to satisfy the plod, well, pays your money & takes your chances. It may stop you getting prosecuted for riding without insurance, but that's just about ALL it will do, and you need to recognise that you you are basically insuring yourself and could be liable for any damages you cause, personally, and that could be thousands upon thousands of pounds. If you don't have the dosh to fess up to paying a high insurance premium to start with, can you afford that kind of 'hit'?

Moving on, we then get into the more mired arena of declaring modifications and accessories, security measures, and all that kind of thing. What's a 'mod'? What's a 'repair'? Is it worth declaring an alarm, or a disc-lock? Is fitting an alarm a 'mod'?

This is a NIGHTMARE and you have to apply a little imagination where the insurance companies often don't have any. Technically, a 'Modification' is any change to a machines original show-room catalogue standard or specification other than 'anticipated wear and tear'.

Strictly then, adding a rack or crash-bungs, changing the mirrors from original to after-market, fitting a non OE fit alarm, ANTHING not as the manufacturer's declared spec like that is a declarable mod. BUT, law hinges on a thing called 'reasonableness' and, swapping a pair of mirrors from factory fit to an after market pattern replacement? Yeah, 'reasonably' that's a repair for anticipated wear and tear. Swapping factory fit mirrors for after-market accessory mirrors, say fancy chrome ones with an embossed eagle on the back? Little bit 'mute', it could still be claimed a justifiable 'repair' but its an 'upgrade' or accessorisation, isn't it? Does it impair safety or improve performance? Does it effect the bikes value or desirability? Probably not. Discretion needed. Exhausts? Swapping a heavy four into two system for a lightweight stainless four into one, with noisy can? Yeah, replacing the exhaust is legitimate repair. Replacing it for one of higher grade steel? That's an upgrade. And if it improves performance? That's declariable.

Alarms? Intreguing one. Its a mod, but its usually listed under 'security', not mods. Presumeably then, if you have fitted one, its implicitly accepted as a mod by declaring it as a security measure... but what, if like me, you DON'T declare an alarm as a security feature, but still have one fitted? I work on the principle better to have and not declare security than declare it, and give them wheedle room on a claim if it wasn't in effect at the time of theft. Say I declare a heavy duty chain as a security feature; big almax, and ground anchor. Almax weighs 15 Kg! I do NOT carry that about on the bike! So if I parked up outside ASDA and left the bike on the steering lock, they COULD refuse to honour theft claim because 'declared' security was not in force.

Discretion & judgement is required when filling out the insurance proposal, and you need to think carefully about what you may or may not declare.

OK.... lets look at an insurance proposal form

 

 

 

 

 

What about Winter & Stuff?

This Page is Under Construction!

Please excuse 'Random' ness of layout at this time!

If you can see the surface, you can probably ride on it! Whether you want to or not is another matter!

Winter riding? Well, to some its a necessity, to others a matter of honour, to others, just pure insanity! A lot of it is down to personal choice. BUT, main thing is, it can be done.

A lot of people are scared of poor weather riding, and incredibly common for many to say, and believe, its 'really dangerous', and point to all the 'hazards' of ice and snow.

Yeah... OK.... go read Motorcycling is DANGEROUS! Will I REALLY kill myself?. Motorcycling is dangerous, the hazards are always there, its all about assessing them and assessing them accurately and putting risks on context, closing the gap between the real probability of having an off, and how much we fear having an off, and dealing with the hazards appropriately, not riding in devil may care, or tip-toeing around scared of our own shadow.

Winter riding is NO more or less dangerous than riding at any other time of year, really. In fact, statistically, most bike accidents happen in the summer, which many suggest is merely because more (fair weather) riders, ride in the summer, but, more of them ride fewer miles, so the average accidents per mile actually increases, and its back to the perception thing, people feel safer so they take more chances, while reality remains diesel spills are hazard whatever the weather, so balances out.

Now, when it comes to winter riding, the main worry is dark days, and reduced grip from damp, ice and snow. These worries are to a large part magnified by fear and how obvious they are. In fact being obvious ought to be a benefit making us more prepared to deal with them. As said, Diesel strikes regardless of the weather, and is utterly Random where it might strike. We KNOW when we can see frost on the hedgerows, and can see our breath misting, its cold and we can expect ice!

And Ice, like so many other hazards is merely a 'reduced grip scenario'. I ride trials. Trials is all about reduced grip situations, and its an ALL YEAR sport! We ride year round, season starting in January, ending in December. We ride snow and ice in winter, rain & mud in spring, talcum dry clay and muddy streams in summer, and back to rain and mud with greasy leaf mould in autumn. There is rarely decent grip to be found.... that's the fun in it! So if I can ride a frost covered quarry in February, then, a little November crispness, on good tarmac ought to be a breeze! a Cold breeze maybe, but still a breeze!

In the UK, there are possibly a few days of the year its not 'possible' to ride a bike; same days probably not possible to drive a car, and even walking would be a bit of a challenge. Ultimately there are days when public transport is stopped or runs a reduced service, this is life, and it's not a 'problem' that solely strikes motorcyclists.

Does vary a bit on where you are in the country, of course and some places are more or less accessible than others, but I have to say, while being a nation famed for obsessing about our 'weather' we aren't very good at dealing with it! We don't get the extremes they do in other countries, and its possibly a little less consistent here, but GEEZ! few degrees over room temperature and we behave as though we were in drought ridden Sudan! Small cold snap and you would think we were Ernest Shackleton, lost in the Antartic! We do tend to be a bit dramatic about the stuff!

Anyway, British Roads? Dangers and hazards are, for the most part OTHER DRIVERS, which, may be YOU, and is quite possibly me, ALL YEAR ROUND! Weather? Yup we get it, and for the large part, its NOT as big a hazard as people would believe; in other countries, the small snow and ice we get would be considered a 'nice day for a drive'! compared to what they get for long months of the year; and biggest 'danger' we get is people either paying NO heed to the conditions, or paying too much heed to them.

 

 

Two posts on this topic taken from recent forum postings; so I dont loose them / forget them - that I OUGHT to get round to working into something more of an 'article' at some point!

ullo! 

Posting here as any answer i receive may help other newbies 

i was wondering if anyone out there had any advice on riding on ice? there's going to be some moments where i absolutely HAVE to ride the bike this winter and as i've never rode on ice before, im a little worried! 

I binned my bike last week and it should be back on the road tomorrow, so any advice on icy travels would be appreciate

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Ice isn't 'slippery'. 

Stop blustering, bear with me, I shall explain! Ice, is chrystaline H2O, and scientifically speaking, it's not all that slippery. The slipperyness of 'stuff' depends on many things, like how smooth they are. 

Polished steel, is probably as if not more inherently 'slippery' than ice, which is why we make low friction ball bearings out of the stuff; but in a slightly more 'rough' form, we have a metal file, which is rather less 'slippery'..... 

Bearings... a device for reducing frictiontional resistance between moving objects..... have you greased your bearings lately? 

I ask because 'lubrication', a liquid or semi liquid substance that has the property of helping further reduce frictional resistance in a bearing.... essentially by 'smoothing' the surface even more from the 'smooth' polished surface, filling in the ridges and furrows of the interface at a microscopic layer and taking the smoothness down to shear planes at an almost molecular level..... 

Lubrication..... THIS is the 'Key' and what makes Ice 'slippery'. 

Curious property of Ice, is that under pressure, its self lubricating. 

Liquid water reaches maximum density at 4 degrees C, to 'freeze' the molecules have to adopt a very open crystal structure, and expand in volume to do so, which is why Ice floats in water. 

NOW, put Ice under pressure... squash it.... the molecules all want to scrunch up and compress, BUT, they are in this crystal and the only way that they can do that is to give up the nice ordered crystalline arrangement, and 'Melt'. 

So, what makes Ice slippery when you stand on it, is not that it is any more inherently 'slippery' than say, glass, or nylon, or steel... but where you put pressure on it..... the surface 'melts' and provides a layer of lubricating 'liquid' water. 

Lot of waffle to get there, but, worth noting, BECAUSE... 

Tyres are made of rubber, and rubber is, as far as materials go, pretty damn gripy..... Provided there is no 'lubrication' between it and whatever its trying to grip. 

Tyres, are made of rubber, and even better, road tyres at least have 'relief grooving' or a tread patern that is specifically designed to squeegee water out from under the tyre, so it can grip whatever is underneath. 

SO! and getting there the long way.... 'Ice' is just solid water, and the scary slippy thing is not the ice, but when ice melts and becomes water again.... 

ARE YOU SCARED OF RAIN? 

I ask, because dealing with ice, is merely an incremental step from dealing with rain. 

In the dry you trust your tyres to grip tarmac, right? Then when it rains, you get this layer of lubrication, and you get a bit worried about it, and grip is reduced, BUT you learn that the tyres can deal with it, tread squeegees the stuff out the way, and they still grip. Maybe not to the same limit, but they DO still offer grip.... and track racers lap times show that the limit of grip is not so HUGELY reduced that bikes might only go half the speed... wit lap times are only maybe 10% down on dry laps..... so the limit of grip is only dropped 10% or so in the rain. 

Back to ice... lets talk Frost first. 

The ice isn't the slippy bit, its the melt water created when you put pressure on it that's 'slippy'..... 

So, nice whit chrystaline 'frost'.... we have frozen dew drops on the tarmac surface, and when you ride on them.... they melt... become water, and the tyres can squeegee that water away. 

Light 'frost' need not be any REAL worry. As you ride over the stuff, it melts away, and its little different to a light summer shower in terms of how much water is under the tyre and how much 'contact' you have between rubber and road. 

I have few qualms riding out onto a nice what 'frosted' road. It has a certain glittery winter wonderland texture, but I can sort of 'see' the colour of the road beneath, 'whited' by the frost... which means that its crystal ice, and there's not too much of it, and when I roll over it, it will melt, and grooving in the tyres and the tarmac ought to dispell most of it. 

BIT of caution, not a problem. 

So.. non-virgin frost... same deal, but I can see tyre tracs in it from neighbors cars... confirms that there is tarmac beneath, and that driving over it melts the ice, and dispels the water..... BUT, there is now water that has been melted by previous vehicles.... 

There is here a 'worry', in that that melted water must have gone some-where, and having melted under pressure, pressure removed, it will freeze again, and THEN rather than being nice dew-ice, it will form sheet-ice, which is a slightly different animal, and get to in a second. 

BUT, as long as its not a heavy frost, then ought not be that much water, and in all liklihood, the melt water will soak into the cracks in the tarmac, and you will have 'veins' of ice around the gravel, rather than continiouse sheet, and to all extents and purposes it ought be NO worse than driving any other 'wet' road. 

So we get to 'snow'. Think big frost. 

White is good, means light and fluffy and melts easily. Falling snow, often wont 'settle' and wont even need ground pressure of a vehicle rolling over it to melt, ground heat is enough to melt it almost as soon as it touches the floor! 

We merely have another 'wet' road, and snow, less dense than water, remember, possibly less water on the surface than a heavy rain storm. 

IF it settles.... though, clue is that ground temperature is low enough that it stays frozen..... but, THEN its not a lot different to frost, and light and fluffy, when you drive over it, ought to melt and let you find the tarmac beneath. 

But depends how deep or thick it is. If its more than a few mm, then tyre may have trouble melting enough and clearing enough to get to the surface beneath... BUT, you will be making a 'rut' and what water is melted out by your tyre will drain into the snow around that rut, and the rut itself, and the snow WILL provide 'some' tyre support and grip.... not a LOT, not its not a total loss, and you CAN still ride or drive on it. 

Brings us to compressed snow.... which is more troublesome; previously squashed and melted, but not 'cleared' melt water soaks down, and can re-freeze and forma glass-like layer under the snow, so tyre compresses the surface, and melts that, but doesn't find tarmac beneath, it finds re-frozen ice. You still have the rut effect though..... 

Trick is slow and smooth... like dealing with a wet road..... only more so! 

AND the reality, particularly in this country, is that we don’t often get THAT much snow, and its rarely SO cold to so easily re-freeze.... AND we are 'lucky' that our authorities 'salt' the roads, to help lower the melting pint and dispel much of it as water.

Which brings me to RISK and PERCEIVED risk, and the frequent gulf betwixt the two, which is something I get to a LOT! 

Many things scare us out of proportion to how much real danger they pose. That's what sells horror movies. 

Its also what sells a lot of crash-helmets and over priced motorcycle gear.... very easy to make people scared. 

Very DIFFICULT to get people to accurately assess 'risk' and deal with it accordingly! Gamblers so frequently under-estimate risk, and loose money, or crash bikes or cars, ignoring the risks, the more cautious, over-estimating risks and missing opportunities not taking them. 

Sheet-Ice, where surface water, either from snow or frost melt has re-frozen or from standing water freezing, is the 'main' hazard. 

Doesn't usually cover roads edge to edge and end to end though, like an ice risk, roads have a camber so water runs to the gutter at the edges, and it's incredibly rare to get edge to edge sheet ice, over a very long section of road. 

Where you do get large areas of sheet ice is on more 'broken' roads where the cambr isn't so good, or ones with ruts that 'hold' the water in the ruts... THEN in lower lying areas of road, dips and the bottoms of hills. 

READING the terrain, you can usually spot where sheet ice is most likely to form, though.... 

So its ALL down to hazard awareness and observation, and NOT riding where the ice is likely to be 'worse'. 

And this is the 'thing'.... diesel spills, mud on the road, loose chippings, can be pretty fairly unpredictable.... yup, good chance of a diesel spill on a petrol station forecourt, or on a traffic island near a truck depot.. but CAN happen almost anywhere, and be hard to predict. Mud similar; more chance of meeting it in the country, especially around ploughing time, but I've come round corners in urban areas to discover it coming out of a building site or flung from a tractor delivering spuds or something!

ICE and where its most likely to be found, ought to actually be LESS 'unpredictable', in where and when you might encounter it.... hence be MORE 'avoidable'. 

This doesn't make it 'safe', but it DOES mean that the 'risk' the 'hazard' actually represents is slightly mitigated. 

Which brings me back to the question, "are you scared of the rain?" 

Because, what we are dealing here, is just another 'hazard' like many, MANY others we have to deal with every day. 

It reduces grip, yes, but same techniques you use for wet roads, work for snow & frost. hazard awareness, slow, smooth, progressive riding. Reduces grip more than rain, yes, but doesn't totally rob you of ALL of it. Its just another incremental notch down the scale. 

AND, taking it as a grip reducing hazard, its actually more predictable than say a diesel spill. More of it around, on more roads on cold days.... so take the hint, do you want to go deal with them or not, when that cold.... but of you do.... well, you know its going to be there... and you ought to know what to look for. 

So... tips for dealing with the stuff? As anything else, and basic advice, same as I offer so frequently for any other 'hazard'. 

- DONT let fear rule reason 

- Keep your wits about you. 

- Relax - don't stress 

- Smooth & Progressive 'Cool-Riding'. 

- And Biking is supposed to be FUN..... if its doing your head in, stressing you out, and scaring the bajeebuz out of you.... it ent fun... catch the bus!

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Just looking for any thoughts on where people draw the line on the added risks in the winter. Last winter (my first after my CBT) I was on a crappy scooter and stopped riding if it was below 3 degrees or so. After two months of very sporadic riding, I felt like a newbie again in the spring.

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There are days like today when it is frosty after rain but the roads are largely dry when I will happily but carefully go off on the bike. There are days when there are warnings on local radio of black ice or flooding when I will not but use some other means. Yesterday was a brilliant day after the rains but needed some care first thing and it was a pleasure to be out. Decent tyres and travelling a bit slower will keep you safe.

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Statistically more bikers crash in the summer...... so by that logic, what are these 'extra' risks you talk of? 
Hold on... before you say 'Ice' or 'Dark'..... dark = reduced visibility, ice = reduced grip. these are risks we face just as often in the summer... nights might start later, but we get reduced visibilitry from glare, low sun, and stuff, and we may not have cold tyres and ice, but we still have greasy roads, diesel spills, fresh graveled tar, etc... 
DIFFERENCE is that in the winter, we EXPECT the reduced visbility & grip... in the summer, its less predictable, hence more people crash. 

So..... its a myth that there are 'extra' dangers in winter. Same shit, different season, that's all. Just more easily recognised. 

So at what point dont you want to take the risks? And flipping the logic, does that mean not riding ANY time of year? 

OR, are we merely talking about the cold and the discomfort? 

Valid reasons for NOT riding; we do it becouse its supposed to be FUN, if its so cold your bollox have shriveled to the size of raisins, and you cant remember how many fingers you are supposed to have let alone feel them.... then hey, its not 'fun' and WHY would you want to do it? 

But dont try and pretend that you dont want to be called a bit of a wuss behind any flack suggesting its to do with 'safety'... you are only kidding yourself, and convincing yourself that its MORE dangerouse in the winter, over estimating the risks to excuse wussiness, you are as likely to under estimate the risks in summer, and so crash! 

Be honest; and assess risk properly and ride accordingly, THAT is how we survive.

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shereen wrote:
Teflon-Mike wrote:
Statistically more bikers crash in the summer...... so by that logic, what are these 'extra' risks you talk of?
More bikers crash in the summer because there are more bikes on the road.


How do you want to cut up the stats? Crashes per rider or crashes per mile? 

Winter weeds out the fair-weather riders, so yeah, there are less riders on the road to crash; but, summer brings out the nut-cases, who bring down the average mileage those riders cover, going out for occasional rides. The Fair-Weather rider, tends not to have the length or range of experience of the all year, all weather rider, and when they DO ride, be somewhat out of practice. They also tend to be explicitly looking for trouble, riding for thrills rather than logistics. 

Ergo; either way you cut it; Stats show that risks are greater in the summer, when the conditions may be more comfortable, but probably no 'safer'.

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Rob Fzs wrote:
Don't talk bollocks mike 

We're on about crashes according to weather conditions, not old farts wanting to take there classic cb125 benley out for a spin once every eclipse and falling off because there hips fallen out of it's joint again.


Rob.... I take a 'classic' thirty year old trialing.... in winter, as well as summer! 

We live in Britain. We get weather. Make of it what you will. 

I've competed in the frigging ice and snow, battling to put the bike where mountain goats fear to tread. 

A bit of frigging frost on the road does not make the place suddenly a death trap! Fact its cold should give you the clue its like to be there and to ride accordingly! Do so and it's no greater risk than a diesel spill in summer. 

THAT is the point, my young inexperienced friend; risks are there ALL year round. 

What specifically provides them may change seasonally, but the number of them doesn't change that much, its merely more comfortable contending with them when its warmer!

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Rob Fzs wrote:
so basically what you're saying is 

black ice isn't dangerous, compacted snow isn't dangerous etc etc compared to some idiot gong round the cat and fiddle showing off how fast there bike is, that is their fault, nature didn't tell them to ride like a cunt and come off, winter takes the control out of your hands and you come off.


No, and you know I'm not, and you are obtusely missing the point. 

Ice & Snow aren't inherently 'dangerous', and NO, it is NOT 'more' dangerous in winter because of such 'hazards'. 

Trials is an all year sport; in winter we are riding over ice covered rocks, with limited grip, in spring, through gloopy mud, with limited grip, in summer, baked clay with talcum surface with limited grip, in autumn, greasy leave strewn everything, with limited grip. 

We get reduced or limited grip conditions, and unpredictable limited grip situations at any time of year. They do NOT grantee you have to fall off or loose control. 

I'm not being pedantic, merely trying to highlight the gulf between actual risk and perceived risk, and that this sort of logic, that it MUST be MORE dangerous in winter, because the 'hazards'; are more obvious, is the erroneous logic that perpetuates the gulf between the two, and gives rise to very poor risk assessment, that leads to accidents, because people don't BELIEVE what they are doing is 'Dangerous'. 

I actually enjoy winter riding, on a clear day. Thermals under the leathers against the chill, and little risk of over heating if you stop moving; bare trees means good sight lines. Winter rain cleans the roads, and provided its not rained so hard that there is a lot of surface water, or cold it may have frozen, you can have very good grip. People staying in doors against the cold, can mean less traffic, and you can have almost 'dream' rides in the winter, on a good day. 

Its about assessing the conditions every time you ride, NOT 'presumptions', and generalities SO broad as to be irrelevant.

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Fairy wrote:
No matter what anyone says, it IS more dangerous in winter, but with proper preparation it shouldn't be prohibitively so.


Agreeing broadly, 

 
J.M. wrote:
You have to judge it every day.

Are you SURE you're only 18 & 1/2??!?!?!?!? 
Old head on young shoulders hits nail on that old head, yet again! 

But, its TOO big a generality to say that it is definitively MORE dangerous riding in winter. The hazards change, seasonally, and the nature of those hazards differ, but 'Danger' is a whole bag of different factors, and the culalative effect means that chances of crashing, what we ultimately are worried about, is not a lot different, and its probably MORE likely we will crash in summer becouse we dont THINK it to be 'as dangerouse'... which is a nice lead into saying, that there is a BIG difference between 'Hazard' 'Risk' and 'Danger'... 

Winter? Yes, cold, dark, and not the most ideal riding conditions, frequently contending with the 'hazards' of reduced grip and poor visibility.. those hazards are more common, but no 'more' dangerous just because they are in winter, rather than summer, while the risk is mitigated to some degree by the fact that we ought to be more aware and prepared for them, and them being a bit more 'predictable'. 

What's more dangerous? ICE of DIESEL? 

This is a pretty subjective argument; but bear with me. Both are bludy slippy and can make you crash. Ice though tends only to happen on cold days.... short of some freak Zambozie joy-rider incident, you aren't likely to encounter it on a hot sunny day! But diesel can strike almost any time, any-where. There are a few spill-spots around; roundabout near us by a truck depot; that kind of thing, but you can find it on a corner where a tractor has been completely randomly. 

Whats more dangerous, ICE that you expect and look out for, on a cold day commuting , or diesel that you dont expect or predict, on a sunny Sunday 'having a bit of fun'? 

This is circumstantial risk.... and the answer is probably "Well, depends how you are riding!" 

Cold winter, trying to ride like you would on a nice sunny day, pretty good bet you'll quickly come to grief. Ride Sunny Day, like you are on an ice rink... that diesel probably wont hurt you. 

So.... 'DANGER' is not the actual hazard, but whether you are aware of the hazard, and prepared for it.... 

If you are aware of the hazards and prepared for them.... then the 'Danger' is the same, whatever the hazard, whatever the time of year. 

BUT, being aware of the danger, and being prepared for them, means you need to assess the hazards apropriately and contend with them accordingly. 

And working to generalities, rather than case by case, and logical risk assessement as demanded by circumstance is where it starts. 

THAT is the real 'Danger'... NOT assessing risks properly or acurately. 

And if you START from a widely errant and presumed ABSOLUTE premice, such as it IS more dangerouse in winter, then that is a very big influence to actually get the risks properly in proportion, becouse you have bit a big immovable reference, quite possibly in the wrong place. 

Most people CRASH when they DONT think there is much risk...... 

And most commonly, that is on a good road, in good conditions in the summer, when all seems well with the world and 'nothing can go wrong'...... and they are NOT prepared for something to 'catch them out'. 

Merely acknowledging the added 'hazards' of winter riding, is likely to make you better prepared and hence in less 'danger'....

Its a twist of logic, and an argument of symantics, but essence is, we face danger all the time. 

We then get to risk compensation, which is the follow on from the guld between risk perception, and find that we ride to our own prefered level of PERCEIVED risk.... ie; we ride within our own comfort zone... how much at risk we are, then depends whether that comfort zone is apropriate to the REAL rather than percieved risks we are facing. 

Revin-Kevin, with a devil-may care ignorance of risks, can perversely be a fairly 'safe' rider, provided that their 'comfort-zone' is within the limits of real risk, they ignore! Nervouse Nancy, teriified of all the risks, can be hugely 'in Danger' consistantly over estimating risks, but making poor decisions, putting them at greater, unrealised 'danger', riding to thier 'comfort zone'. 

Its a complicated topic. 
 
ScaredyCat wrote:
Having more riding experience will make you more prepared for next winter.

Tough one.... 
Experience is ALL. 
But how do you get experience without experiencing stuff? 
How can 20K miles of summer riding prepare you for winter? 
You have to experience winter, to know, winter?!? 

There is some technique, I will grant that is some sort of preperation for winter conditions, and principles of wet-riding are much the startying point, and you dont have to get your wet riding experience in the winter, you can get some of it in summer showers..... BUT.... ultimately at some point you have to stop rehersing and get on with the main show.... and winter is happening, here and now......
 

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What Riding 'gear' should I get?

Do I Need a FULL Riding Outfit?

There is advice on the Directgov, Web-Site about:- Safety helmets and protective clothing for motorcyclists, and there is a 'Rider-Wear' guide of acceptable clothing in the DSA Test-Booking system, that requires and provides guidelines on what is 'appropriate' riding apparel, which they expect to be adhered to during CBT and tests.

During your CBT course, though, there is a whole section devoted to discussing Safety, Safety Wear, and Riding Apparel, and lots of advice offered on how to choose good riding kit.

It is quite disheartening as an instructor to be sat giving that 'lesson', to a class-room of students, half of them sat in a Rhino or Akito Brand 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit'....

To a newbie starting out, these often look very good value, and suggest they offer a LOT of 'safety' for the money; and bought all together, possibly bundled in on the finance package with a brand-new motorbike, a really good thing to get. And leather trousers, leather jacket, boots, gloves and helmet ALL for under £200 can seem a real 'bargain'.

However; lets get a few things in perspective here. You only NEED protective clothing IF you CRASH! It wont stop you crashing, and it wont even save you being hurt when you do!

SAFETY WEAR DOES NOT MAKE YOU SAFE!

It's not an 'invulnerability suit'. Best it can do... WHEN you crash, and its GOING to hurt, no matter what... is soften the blow a bit!

NOT CRASHING  - MAKES YOU SAFE!

It is the LAST line of defence, or 'Tertiary' protection. Its like a fire extinguisher. Only any bludy use if there's a fire! And even THEN, little fire you could probably put out without one; big one? Call the fire brigade! Safety wear only works between certain limits!

Fall off a motorbike at near walking pace during CBT, practicing an emergency stop, and in all likelihood you wont even hit your head. And if you DO, chances are, the 'bump' will be no harder than walking into a low door frame! In THAT case, the helmet might save you a bit of a bruise, but its NOT going to save your life! THAT was never really in danger!

If you are riding down a National-Speed-Limit road at 60mph and some-one pulls sharply out of a side turn and you hit the side of them and are catapulted over the top and into the front of a Scania lorry coming the other way? HOPEFULLY will never happen, BUT, in that sort of accident, you are PROBABLY not going to come out too well, and NO crash-helmet will save you THAT much 'harm'.

But VERY easy to be over-sold 'Safety; kit, the marketing men playing to your fears, rather than your reason. And yeah, 'protection' can be useful, and some protection is better than NO protection, BUT, lets get real here?!

First line of defence is 'See Danger - No Go there'... Safety STARTS not with what you wear, but what you SEE. Looking around you assessing the situation, being AWARE of hazards, and NOT putting yourself in danger of them!

Second line of defence, is when you ARE in Danger. You have failed to spot a hazard, or one has been thrust upon you. 'In Danger - Get Out of it!'. On a bike, that means LOOKING for your escape route and using hazard avoidance, swerving, braking and avoiding the accident, NOT letting it happen!

WHICH, is worth pondering; because this is NOT stuff you can buy in a bottle! Its WISDOM and SKILL, which comes from learning and experience! Go read "Is Formal Training REALLY worth the money?". £200 for a 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit', seems good value, but protective gear is only 'good' IF you crash, and THEN only for THAT crash. Ought to be thrown away after its done its job. IF its done its job! Further training that helps you SPOT, and AVOID countless crashes? How much has THAT got to be worth in comparison?

ANYWAY: Leathers. HAVE to have LEATHERS. That is what defined a motorcycle outfit, isn't it? ALL the 'racers' wear leather so it's GOT to be 'good' got to be the stuff for the job..... err.... yeah... hold on..... no!

Leather has ONE useful property for a motorcyclist. ABRASION resistance. Its very 'tough' when rubbed against tarmac. Racers, well, they go out to go fast, and when they come off, they tend to slide a VERY long way on the stuff, with nothing but that hide between them and the road. BUT, we are NOT going 'Road-Racing' we are going to ride on PUBLIC ROADS!

On the public road you should NOT be doing 100+mph, and if you are on a Learner-Legal, its likely to be impossible ANYWAY. You are NOT going to be going THAT fast if you fall off. CBT & Early miles, you are MOST likely to be doing ZERO mph if you fall off! But, letting that one ride, on the road, IF you come off, you will probably NOT be going incredible speeds, so you WONT be sliding vast distances on your leathers.

Even if you WERE going a little quick, though, on the public road, there tends to be a lot of 'stuff' likely to get in your way and stop you sliding, often quite quickly, like kerbs, hedges, parked cars, trees, lamp-posts and things.... they don't have these at a race track... they clear back 50 yards of ground and put wide grass verges and gravel traps in!

On the ROAD, if you fall off, you are PROBABLY not going to be THAT worried about abrasion during a 'slide' more the sudden stop at the end!

So, the ONE 'useful' property of leather, on the road, is of questionable merit BEFORE you even begin!

Ah! So ARMOUR is the important 'thing'! Well, this 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit' has CE approved armour in it! Oh DEAR!

Yup. Armour in MOST riding outfits is designed predominantly to be 'thin' so it fits snugly in a tight fitting suit, and simply spread impact energy over a wider area. Believe me, its STILL going to hurt!

However, the IMPORTANT thing is that armour and leather is ONLY any good if its where its needed. Leather, needs to be between your skin and tarmac. Armour between you and anything you hit.

In a 'Cheap' suit, if the leather is 'thinned' to make it supple, and it tears, its NOT where it needs to be. IF that armour is in a pocket inside a sleeve and that sleeve rides up, or the armour is twisted round inside the jacket, so its NOT where you hit the kerb-stone, may as well not be there!

And 'Cheap' leathers are often pretty 'poor' for protection. YES they are leather, which makes you THINK they must be pretty good, YES they may have armour and padding in them which you THINK must give 'extra' protection.

But invariably they will be 'cheap' because they use 'cheap' materials and cheap construction, and THAT doesn't necessarily mean that they WILL offer the safety you expect! To save materials and labour cheap suits are often made from lots of little panels rather than large areas of leather. Every 'seam' is a weak-spot that can burst, and to save more leather, they often DON'T use expensive 'double over' seams, and double stitching, and as mentioned, leather can be poor quality to start with.

Armour? Again, rather than high quality 'flexible' plastic which will mould and conform and move with your arms and legs, they use cheap, 'hard' plastic with a little foam in it. This will often NOT offer much protection, and CAN actually be damned uncomfortable!

And COMFORT! This is important! If armour jabs into your shin every time you try and work the brake pedal... NOT helping you have 'full control' over the machine is it?

Boots, these are probably the most 'useful' bit of riding kit you can get after your helmet. I would say its MORE so, except law says you HAVE to have a hat. Every-one SAYS you shouldn't ride in 'trainers' because they don't offer any 'protection'. But HONESTLY, I have seen 'budget' Motor-bike boots that have fallen apart in 'months' without even crashing in them.

If they are THAT shoddily made that in 'normal' wear they only last as long as a cheap pair of trainers; they are no 'stronger' than cheap trainers, are they? So they aren't going to offer any more protection than cheap trainers EITHER! They LOOK the part though.....

THIS is your 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit', it LOOKS the part, and yes, might offer a BIT more crash protection than a pair of jogging trousers and a hoodie.... BUT, made down to a price, that probably DON'T offer the amount of protection you THINK you are buying..... However... good news....

You PROBABLY Don't NEED it ANYWAY!

I'll offer the advice again; DON'T let your FEARS rule your REASON! You are riding a motorbike, and CBT and Early Miles, IF you fall off, chances are you will be going less than walking pace! Would you put on ALL that 'gear' to walk to the shops in case you tripped off the pavement?! While even if you do come off 'at speed', you ought NOT be going THAT fast!

We RARELY fall off when going 'flat out'. We fall off when we are going into a corner, or around a roundabout, or some-one has pulled out in front of us, and we will usually SLOW DOWN and often an AWFUL LOT before we actually 'surrender to the floor'.

(Think about that; imagine a soldier standing up from his dug-out putting his hands in the air in surrender... when you fall off a bike, you do the same thing, stick your arms up in 'surrender'... hence hands are often first thing to 'touch tarmac' and where we REALLY want good protection! But anyway....)

If you were on a National-Speed Limit road doing 60mph, whether you are going into a corner, or negotiating a round-about, or some-one pulls out on you, REFLEX action is to BRAKE, and in the first moment of braking you will usually halve your road speed. so even at National-Speed-Limit, 60mph, IF you come off, chances are you wont be travelling at much over 30mph when you do, and on city streets with 30 & 40mph speed limits, even LESS.

YES it WILL hurt, and protection is going to be 'useful' to lessen that hurt, but Real Risks, seldom as high as we 'fear', and the amount of protection we REALLY need no where NEAR as great.

SO, even though they probably ARE cheap and shoddy, the 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit' probably IS 'adequate' for the kind of accidents you are likely to have.....

BUT, for the protection it offers? PROBABLY not SUCH great value for money!

Buy CHEAP - Buy Twice

Its an old adage, and buying angle grinders or kettles, yeah, but.... if it breaks, buy another..... trouble with buying motorcycle safety gear, you might not GET that second chance!

And, you can get 'as much' practical protection, as a 'bargain' my-first-motorcycle-outfit, a lot more economically, being 'strategic' in your spend, and 'improvising' a little with stuff you probably already have in your wardrobe... or Dads, or some-one else's!

The 'key' bits of kit; are Helmet, gloves, boots and maybe water-proof over suit. In Tell me more about CBT?, I suggest starting out buying relatively 'Cheap' Hat, gloves boots, and possibly water-proofs and nothing more. And I recommend a VERY cheap Helmet, £20-£30, a cheap pair of trials gloves £10-£15, and 'Army' or 'builders' boots, perhaps £25, and if you cant 'borrow' some old fisherman's or walkers water-proofs, or 'industrial' wet-weather suit for nothing, £10 for something from the Army-Surplus store or £20 for a 'cheap' motorcycle over-suit from Aldi/Liddle/Netto sort of store.

The rest is Jacket & Trousers, and with a water-proof over-suit to cover-all; almost any decent 'out-door' jacket, and some thicker jeans will complete the ensemble, with jumpers and jogging trousers to provide 'layers' for warmth when needed, and possibly extra 'stuff' between skin and road for 'padding' against impact, and simply to be worn away by abrasion!

THAT is 'all in' for under £100, HALF the price of even the CHEAPEST leather 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit', and its practical, versatile, comfortable, and probably offers as MUCH practical protection.

THEN you can start buying 'better' stuff as you go along. And MY first strategic buy would be GOOD BOOTS.

Law says we HAVE to wear a helmet, and read on, helmets are good, but once you have one, buying a 'better' one doesn't necessarily give you extra protection in proportion to the cost! BOOTS, more likely to suffer foot or lower leg injury these days than head-trauma, and the 'value' in 'good' boots IS far more proportional to price.

Cheap boots, that cost £30-40 may only last six months, JUST in normal use, DECENT boots costing £150,m are more likely to last six years, and IN an accident FAR more likely to offer DECENT protection. Meanwhile they tend to me more comfortable and often easier to put on and off.

Those 'sorted' my next strategic buy would probably be better gloves; and as the trials gloves I recommend for CBT are fairly thin and not very warm or water-proof, might actually get bought before boots, and be thicker, 'all-season' gloves, that are a reasonable compromise for all-year warmth, water-proofness, feel and protection.

And when it comes to Jacket and Trousers; for general road-riding, I would be buying TEXTILE garments, NOT leathers. They are simply more comfortable, more versatile, and more practical, and usually offer as much 'practical' protection as you need for the same money!

You cant bung 'Leathers' in the washing machine when they start to stink! And they DO, when they have been thoroughly soaked, because they aren't 'water-proof'.

I do OWN Leathers, I even have a very fancy, very expensive, and INCREDIBLY crash-resistant one-piece race suit, that was 'tailor-made' for me.... BUT, never gets used on the road! I just DON'T need that much or that KIND of protection there, and its too much of a 'Faff' to struggle into and out of, NOT to have pockets to stick my wallet or keys in!

Leather, is really the LAST thing on the list, buying 'strategically'.

What Do I need to Know about Crash Helmets?

How they Work

The modern Motorcycle helmet has evolved over the last fifty years or so from the cork 'pith-helmet' to the high-tech designs available today.

BUT, principles and construction remain much the same.

They are basically a plastic 'tub' filled with polystyrene that acts as a shock absorbing 'crumple-zone' when they are hit hard.

The impact absorbing liner, absorbs impact energy, as it crumples, so that it doesn't crumple your head... or at least not as much!

After a 'smack' though the plastic shell will often 'spring back' leaving the helmet looking fairly un-damaged, but inside the shock-absorbing polystyrene will NOT spring back and there will be a cavity where its crushed, and it will NOT do the job a second time round.

Crash-Helmets are 'good' for just ONE 'accident'.

Consequently, it is often suggested you ought NEVER buy a second hand crash-helmet. It may have been dropped, bashed or crashed in, and have that protective layer invisibly damaged, reducing the helmet's usefulness.

When a Helmet is 'Crashed' or damaged, you should CUT the chin-strap OFF so that it CANNOT be used again and then throw it away, or dispose of safely.

THROW AWAY When DAMAGED

Standards & Approvals

All helmets sold in the UK for motorcycle use must either:

Taken directly from Directgov website:- Safety helmets and protective clothing for motorcyclists.

Pay heed to these references; if you are buying a Crash-Helmet in a motorbike shop, then it OUGHT to be approved for road use, to one of the above standards. However SOME helmets, particularly the "Antique or Retro-Helmet" or helmets sold for 'off-road-use' may be in the shop but NOT approved for road use, and ought to be clearly marked as such.

If you are buying by mail-order, or off the internet, particularly from the USA, Canada or other 'Non-European' country, the helmets offered may not COMPLY with UK/Euro approvals, and almost certainly wont display UK/Euro Approval markings.

Pictured Is my 'Arashi' Open face helmet. The Approval 'marking' on this hat is on the back, under the brand name, in a small panel that also provides the helmet 'size' and the helmet weight.

In this case the markings show that the helmet is approved to the UN ECE Regulation 22.05, its size 's' or 'small, that being 55-56cm circumference, and it weighs 1100g give or take 50g. (see I DON'T have a 'big' head!)

The approval markings on different helmets varies, and some-times it is on the side of the helmet, or sometimes on a sticker. It may be on a label inside the helmet, or more commonly these days on a label on the chin-strap.

Here, you can see the same helmet, and it has labelling both inside the helmet and on the strap.

When you go to buy a helmet LOOK for the approval markings.

If you are buying mail-order or on-line, CHECK that the helmet IS approved.

Apart from being illegal to wear a helmet other than an 'approved' one on a motorcycle, on the road; THAT standard is to assure that the hat WILL do the job intended in the event of an accident!

How Long Will a Crash-Hat Last?

When looking at the labeling, worth noting that the manufacturers often put a date stamp in there as well. This may give you some clue how old the helmet is before being sold.

Pay HEED, some retailers, may sell 'brand-new' crash helmets, that have been sitting on their shelves for some YEARS!

There is no age limit on how long a helmet ought to last, for 'Road Use' though some competition regulators insist helmets must be less than three or five years.

This is a 'guide' to how long a helmet 'lasts' without being crashed in. They deteriorate with use, as well as age, and 'cheap' hats in every day use, may only last a year, better helmets, used only occasionally, can last perhaps seven or eight years or so, maybe a bit longer.

BUT, much over eight years, the polystyrene will start to 'age harden' and loose some of its shock absorbing capacity.

Usual 'Tell' when the polystyrene is getting 'old' and brittle will be when the foam lining starts to 'powder' and you get 'dust' falling out of the inside of the helmet! When this happens, cut the straps, and dispose!

Do More Expensive Helmets give you more Safety

There is a 'Saying':- "If you have a $10 Head, buy a $10 helmet" but the completion of the 'slogan', "If you don't, Buy a Bell", is usually omitted! It was an advertising slogan was commissioned by the American Bell corporation, in the late 1970's, & early 1980's when some states were introducing UK like 'compulsory' helmet laws.

At the time, 'Bell' were probably the leading crash-helmet manufacturer, and made a lot of the fact that they had developed their 'helmet technology' in the project to break the sound barrier in the 1950's, and only 'Bell' helmets were 'tested in Space'! And they could justify a very high price tag on them.

Now, in 1988, I bought a Shoei; then an unheard of and unpronounceable Brand-Name, and it cost me £140, £20 more than a 'Bell - Star', at that time., reputed to be 'The Best' you could put on your head. The most common helmet of the day was probable the FM 'Galactica' an Italian 'Copy' of the American Simpson Starwars 'Drag' Helmet, that was at the time not approved for UK use. It retailed for about £50, and considered a 'good' helmet. Firm favourite was the AGV range of helmets, and they offered a Type A fibre-glass helmet with ACU Gold approval, for I think it was about £60, that was popular with many racers and road riders.

AT THE TIME, there were two 'standards' for helmet testing, the lower Type-B approval was sufficient for 'road use'; the higher Type-A approval that tested the structural integrity of the shell to higher impact forces, was deemed necessary for 'Racing'.

Consequently MANY road Riders would NOT buy Type-B approved helmets, insisting that the more highly tested Type-A helmets, like RACERS wore MUST be safer....

Now, there was a curiosity to this bit of logic, because in PRACTICE, independent testing showed that the lesser approved helmets OFTEN absorbed more impact energy than the 'stronger' Type-A approved helmets.

Reasoning behind this is pretty simple. The amount of 'shock' energy the helmet absorbs in a crash depends on the polystyrene inside the shell being 'crushed' and that deformation 'absorbing' the energy so your head doesn't.

But Type-A approved helmets, with much 'stiffer' shell construction, often didn't deform AS much for the same impact, so less polystyrene was deformed and less energy absorbed, and more transmitted to the riders head, all be it over a wider area.

In Road-Racing where riders would often fall at much higher speeds, and slide a long way down an unimpeded track, the actual 'impact' energy of a head striking tarmac COULD be quite small, essential they were falling only a few inches and the forces of THAT were pretty low, the deceleration from the speed the bike was going NOT being so 'sudden' and dissipated as they slid along the floor.

So in THAT situation, the helmet was MAINLY providing protection against abrasion resistance, and the stronger shell, useful for keeping the helmet intact for the duration of that long 'slide' and holding the polystyrene in place!

On the ROAD, bike speeds are usually a lot lower, BUT impact forces from a 'sudden stop' when encountering any of the many many objects you will find littering a public road or its verges, from other vehicles, kerb-stones, lamp-posts, trees, etc, its the IMPACT absorbs ion that's usually the more 'useful' and a 'softer' helmet shell that lets more polystyrene 'crumple-zone' do its job, CAN be much 'better' protection!

So NO, basically, there is LITTLE guarantee that a more expensive helmet is much if ANY 'safer' than a cheap one!

Or at least as far as 'impact' protection. But remember, that is last line defence! Safety comes in many forms and helmets that don't steam up so easily and let you see where you are going 'better' can also be deemed 'safer'!

Back to that Shoei in 1988, reason I bought it was it was the ONLY helmet in the shop I could put on, and breath deeply in and NOT have the visor mist up on me, well, not MUCH anyway! It was early years for more advanced 'vented' full-face crash-helmets, but that was one of the few that REALLY worked back then. Other being the Arai!

Throughout the 90's Aria & Shoei, making helmets that were ever better designed and made, with visors mechanisms that really worked and venting that did the job, really pushed the frontiers of helmet design, and with more sophisticated 'composite' shell materials, and a greater range of shell sizes, they really DID warrant their price for a long time, because they just 'worked', and for an every day rider, as I was at that time, they were worth the money, because they did the job, did it well, and lasted.

THESE DAYS, the competition has caught up a long way, and its very hard to justify the cost of a 'premier' price crash helmet, CERTAINLY not on the grounds of how much more protection or how much 'safer' they may be!

As said, there is little correlation between how much 'protection' a helmet MIGHT offer in any real world scenario, and how expensive it might be, and even helmets that MIGHT offer a 'bit' of extra protection, practically, its not a HUGE amount.

Fall off at walking pace, its often no harder 'bump' a walking than into a low door lintel, and anything more shock absorbing than a woolly hat, probably has more than 'enough' protection; run head on into an over taking articulated lorry at 60mph... chances are that the 'extra' protection of the 'best' crash helmet you can get, wont make MUCH difference to the outcome!

And more sophisticated modern 'product-testing' like the popular 'Sharpe' rating, shows that there are many 'cheaper' crash-helmets that offer as much or more 'protection' in as many practical scenarios' as many 'premier' priced hats.

What you GET for your money, with more expensive helmets is, a 'name' in many cases, and with it, a level of fit and finish, and general 'usability' that might be better, and make the helmet 'nicer' to own and wear, possibly more comfortable, and maybe slightly more durable in use.

I replaced my first Shoei helmet after three years. Not because it was worn out, though had served well for that time, but it was stolen in a house burglary! And the house-hold insurance, with a 'new-for-old' policy, kindly replaced that £150 hat with a £500 one! And I that served me probably eight or nine years, almost 'every-day' wear. It lasted really well, stayed very comfortable, and worked well.

I replaced it when the lining foam started to 'powder' with a 'cheaper' £150 AGV, which was a pretty good hat, was almost as comfy, and worked lust as well... but that only lasted about 3 years. For the riding I was doing, I couldn't justify spending £700+ for the same 'grade' of helmet.

And now, I am wearing a £300 'Sharke' Aero 'Flip' front hat as my 'main' crash-hat; again, for the amount of use, I cant afford or justify a premier range helmet;  (and I got the Sharke 'discounted!) And the 'features' are more than good enough for the riding I do these days.

For ME, how long a helmet lasts is quite important; I don't mind paying for a 'better' crash-helmet IF it lasts me, and I AM likely to get the use out of it. Not bumped my head in a road-accident in two decades, so I figure I'm not at GREAT risk of HAVING to throw the hat away, until the foam inside starts crumbling, as the last three of four helmets I have had to 'retire'!

For a NEWBIE, starting out, full of enthusiasm; FAR more likely you WILL put a Crash-Hat 'to the test' and have to chuck it away after. And it's a LOT easier to throw away a £50 helmet, than a £500 one!

BUT, fired up, full of enthusiasm, you ARE likely to want to get out there and RIDE, and quite likely to get a fair amount of use out of your first helmet!

However, on a Learner-Bike, WHILE you may be able to go as fast as any other road vehicle is legally allowed, chances are you probably wont, and certainly not THAT often. And remember, its very easy to let your FEARS rule reason, and believe that a helmet costing twice the price MUST offer twice the protection, and that AS a newbie, you will 'need' it.

Risks are MUCH the same, regardless, and while you ARE more likely to fall off, WHEN you do, risks are within the same limits and the 'amount' of protection that is 'adequate' or 'appropriate' not a lot different.

And the MORE likely Learner-Tumble scenarios's are you will fall off when stopping or travelling at little more than walking pace, and most likely NOT hit your head at all! HANDS will be what take most of the 'bump' as a learner....

So DON'T compromise OTHER 'kit' to buy a helmet 'better' than you need, and DON'T worry SO much that it HAD to be as 'good' as you can get.

What Size Helmet Do I need?

We get the modern crash helmet sizing from the system used by 'hatters', you know for the old businessman's bowler!

Measured in cm around the 'crown' of the head, so from your eye-brows and over your ears.

We then get a range of sizes;

BUT this is worked from only the ONE dimension! My crown measures 56cm, which is between a 'Small' and a 'Medium', and I find that in SOME makers helmets a 'small' fits be best, on others a 'medium', BUT curiously, I can try on two helmets from the SAME makers range, and on one model, a 'small' fits me best, while in another model, the medium fits best... more curiously, I have tried on helmets of the SAME make and model, in different colour schemes... so presumably coming from different 'batches' and has the same situation.

Our Heads are NOT the same shape, and the 'one' crown dimension does NOT define the best fit! It would be like trying to buy a pair of trousers by JUST the waist measurement! Tall skinny people would have their socks showing, shorter fatter ones have two miles of turn ups, while, I would probably end up not able to get the ruddy things over my thick-thighs!

Buy a pair of jeans and you will usually have at LEAST the waist and LEG measurement, even if that is abbreviated to merely 'Short', 'Regular' and 'Long', and THEN you will be offered different 'cuts' some more generous around the thighs, some more generous around the shin, etc etc.

Probably more important to get a 'snug' fitting crash-helmet, than it is a pair of jeans! Safety depends on it. BUT, we have VERY little to guide the 'fit' other than that one crown measurement.

There is a suggestion that people have either Shoei shaped heads, or Ariai shaped heads, and when I sold crash-hats this observation 'sort' of held true. People with more 'round' heads, and lower foreheads, best fitted Arias, egg-heads with high foreheads better fitted Shoe's.... and if a customer fitted neither....... we tried them in an FM! Its not a strict rule, and though I seem to have a Shoei shape head, I have found a couple of Ariai's quite comfy. Point is.....

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!

The 'Hat-Size' alone is NOT a great indication of how well a hat will fit! You need to try them on for overall 'fit' and comfort.

A 'good' fit will be slightly tight, 'all over', if it's loose, then it wont do much good, because any 'impact' will rattle your head in the free-space before it starts doing anything. Also, the foam will 'relax' a little after you start wearing it and 'form' or 'bed-in' to your actual head shape.

We see a lot of 'cheap' helmets on the web, but buying mail-order isn't a great idea, as there's no way to try a hat on, and check that fit before you get it, unless you're cheeky and go to a shop to size up, then order same make model and size on-line...

Small caution to that idea, remember what I said about trying on helmets of the same make and model and size made in different batches? They can be slightly differently sized. For a newbie, buying a 'cheaper' helmet, its probably not worth the 'saving'.

One last thing to say on helmet sizings, to do with 'construction'.

That 'hat-size' is measured round your temples, and is the 'size' of the inner lining of the helmet.

You then have a layer of 'comfort' foam, then the polystyrene crumple-zone, then the outer 'shell'.

There are seven 'standard' hat sizes, covering measurements about an inch apart. BUT, in the 'cheaper' helmets, the manufacturers MAY only use ONE common outer shell, and get the different sizes with perhaps three sizes of 'crumple' zone, and then in-betweenies adding more or less comfort padding.

More usually, helmet makers will work on THREE outer shell sizes, padded more or less to cover the full range, and that old 'Bell' sales slogan had ad-copy that boasted that they were the only helmet maker that had 5 different outer shell sizes, while modern ''Premier' helmets might actually have 7 Shell moulds one for each hat-size.

If you have a big head in a small shell-helmet, this can mean that the visor and venting are a little 'close', and I did have an unfortunate friend, with shall we say a 'Roman-Nose'. He only had a 'little' head, but in the smaller helmet sizes from 'better' makers, with smaller shells.... he couldn't close the visor! And struggled with 'misting' because there was little room for air to circulate around his face. Meant he tended to find that helmets from the cheaper makers were often more comfortable and worked 'better' for HIM than more expensive ones.

Similarly, little lady I knew had a head that was barely XXS, and she suffered always with having 'over-sized' helmets, that were a lot heavier on her neck than they needed to be, which in the shop, didn't feel 'too' bad, but on the road, on an unfaired motorcycle, (She rode an old Meriden Triumph 650 Bonneville), were very tiring on her kneck, so she tended to wear a lighter, 'open-face' helmet.

So again, TRY before you buy. FIT is all, and the arbitery 'Hat-Sizes' really don't mean VERY much when buying a Crash-Helmet.

Styles of Helmet

Conventional 'Full-Face' Helmet

This is the more usual 'Full-Face' crash helmet, with face enclosure and flip down visor.

Most riders these days wear Full-Face helmets. As said though, these can be more 'problematic' steaming up, or the visor mechanism or venting being more 'awkward' to use, particularly on 'cheaper' examples.

The face enclosure obviously offers a 'bit' of added protection in an accident, and you get that bit of extra riding protection from chin-piece and visor against bug-splat and stone throw.

Usually more 'stream-lined' the full face helmet tends to be more stable 'at speed', not that that ought to be such an issue on a Learner-Legal machine!

They are more closed in, though, and that can reduce your peripheral vision, and make you feel a little claustrophobic, though many riders do get used to it, if they have that initial feeling of 'choking' when they first put one on.

As these are the 'Normal' crash-helmet these days, they basically set the bench-mark. And I probably say more about them in comparing other styles to them!

Well proven, they probably are 'the tool for the job', in most cases. BUT, please consider the merits of the humble open-face helmet, especially in the cheaper price ranges.

Pros; The 'Usual' form of helmet. A wide range of helmets of different 'fits' and styles widely available. In-Built Eye protection. some extra 'face' protection.

Cons: Cheaper Helmets can have 'poor' or fiddly visor mechanisms and venting that can easily mist up and prove difficult to use. More expensive helmets can be VERY expensive for little added 'protection'

TIP: Check the price & availability of SPARE visors for a helmet before you buy! Visors DO get scratched, etched and wear out. On some cheaper hats, some-times cheaper to buy a new helmet than a new visor, while on some more expensive helmets a new visor can be as expensive as a cheap helmet!

Traditional 'Open Face' Helmet

This is a modern 'traditional' style open face crash-helmet, with 'peak', as started to become popular from the 1960's.

When the 'Compulsory' crash-helmet law was introduced in 1973, this is the kind of helmet the early approval standards were drafted around. (that and testing standards for Army hats, curiously!)

These have been a firm favourite over the years, favoured by Off-Road riders, as well as Scooter-Riders and light-weight commuters, as well as more style conscious Cruiser-Riders.

The Open face helmet has many virtues, and chief amongst them is probably that they are CHEAP and SIMPLE!

This one is a £25 Budget model, sold under the Ashishi brand, and I actually have one. Many suggest that they couldn't even contemplate riding in an open face crash helmet, the idea of falling off and landing on their face being too horrific a notion. Others appreciate the out in the open, 'wind-in the face' sensation of an open-face helmet. I am one of them, and it's a shame many dismiss the open face helmet so quickly for its 'lack of protection', because they do have many other virtues.

NOT having anything in front of your face, shielding you from wind blast, you DO get that 'wind in the hair' feeling (as well as bugs on your teeth!) but this can be a good thing. It puts you in DIRECT contact with your surroundings.

ONE of the great 'things' about being on a bike IS that you ARE 'out-side' in direct contact with your environment, NOT like in a car, looking at it through a big 'screen', that could be a TV set or computer monitor, with climate control, making winter warm, or summer cool, sound-proofing keeping the word 'outside' so you can hear the synthesised voice of the Sat-Nav interrupting the radio to give you directions!

Putting on a Full-Face crash-helmet, boxing yourself in even MORE closely and looking out at the world through a Perspex letter-box flap, then DOES rather 'diminish' that, and I would encourage ANY-ONE with the initial 'phobia' of even trying an Open face helmet to give it a go! That 'protection', remember, you ONLY need it IF you crash... what about the REST of the time?

As far as safety goes, the SIMPLICITY of an open face helmet, often MORE than compensates for that bit of lesser 'protection'.

Pretty important, in my book, to be able to SEE where you are going, and observe hazards! In fact THAT is 'Primary-Protection' - See Danger - Don't Go there! to avoid HAVING the accident that 'protection' might diminish the hurt of a bit!

And without a face shield and visor, the open face helmet offers a LOT more 'peripheral' vision. It ALSO doesn't have a visor that will mist up on you, or that WILL eventually get etched and scratched so you cant see through it, or has a 'latching' mechanism that might 'fail' at inconvenient moments, like when you want the visor to 'just' stay open a 'crack' to keep the mist off, when the venting isn't working very well!

So, they CAN be 'better' than a full-face helmet in many ways. Certainly for 'off-road-riding' where you are rarely travelling that fast, the advantages have for decades seen them the 'preferred' choice over full-face helmets, and it has taken probably twenty years for the modern 'full-face' Motocross helmet to become widely 'accepted' for off-road or 'trail' riding.

Obviously they don't offer AS much crash protection as a Full face helmet in an accident where a) you do hit your head, and b) you have impact in that portion of your head there's no face protection, but in the gambit of 'real-risks' this is one small 'chance' in many.

In USE, the lack of 'face' protection, does mean that you get bug-splat full in the face, and you might be struck by an errant road-chipping from following a leading vehicle too closely..... but I have to say that this has never been a MAJOR problem I have encounters SO frequently as to make me wish I was wearing a full-face helmet!

Having the wind in my face, and more aware of where I am and what I am doing, I find in an open face helmet I am a little more 'considerate' of my speed and road position... yeah, it makes me ride slower!

At speeds over 60mph sat 'upright' on a naked motorcycle, the peak on my open face CAN cause the helmet to try and 'lift' a little.... but not significantly, until speeds significantly over legal velocities!

For 'around town', and gentle 'pootling' about, I really appreciate the many other qualities of my 'cheap' open face helmet.

And for a Newbie on a budget, looking to buy a 'Learner-Legal' motorcycle, I really cant recommend them enough. For CBT & early miles riding, which will mostly be around town and or slow speed, and will rarely be over 60mph, and only occasionally threaten 70, they are MORE than 'adequate'.

And the small sacrifice in ultimate 'crash' protection, is more than made up for by the better peripheral vision, and lack of potentially vision obscuring 'fogging visor'.... yes, cheap full-face helmet, you WILL be shouting 'fogging Visor' on damp mornings, quite a lot!

A Cheap Full-Face, will be made down to a price, to incorporate the 'features' of the visor and the visor's ratchet mechanism, and the now usual 'venting' systems to help keep them clear. So in the under £50 price range, you are probably going to get a much better made open face helmet than you would full-face.

I have found that you DON'T really start to get full-face helmets that have visors that are more reliable, or venting that is as useful, until you are looking at helmets in the £150+ price ranges. SO, if you are on a budget and ONLY have £50-£60 to spend on a helmet? Why buy 'problems' that you don't need to?

As mentioned, my Ashisi is a REAL 'cheapie' a £25 hat. This doesn't worry me TOO much, ultimately the 'minimum' level of protection is assured by being approved to road-standards. After THAT you don't necessarily gain an AWFUL lot more real world 'protection' for the extra cost. What you do get is a better 'quality' of helmet, in terms of fit and finish, and durability.... £25, I can buy four helmets and treat them as disposable against one £100 hat!

More expensive Full-Face helmets may incorporate face shields or visors, which can be useful, because other wise you do need some sort of eye protection, and I best recommend 'goggles'. Sun-Glasses are NOT approved 'eye-protection'......

Pros; Cheap; Simple, Reliable. Better peripheral vision, 'wind in your face' sensation. 'Adequate' protection for most 'Learners' if not 'most' riders. No complex 'mechanisms' to give hassle or break. Usually lighter weight.

Cons: Lack face protection, especially eye protection; either for 'bugs' or debris, or in the event of an accident.

'Flip-Front' Helmet

Very good chance that when you do your CBT your instructor will have a helmet like this!

They are an open face helmet with a hinged chin-piece to make them a full-face helmet, and suggest the best of both worlds.

The first one I came across was in the late '80's and was known as the BMW 'Golf-Ball'. It was a design exercise and marketed by BMW, with not only the then novel feature of the flip up chin-piece, but also 'dimples' like a golf ball, that were supposed to aid aerodynamic properties and reduce helmet noise levels.... something that doesn't seem to have become common!

Anyway; with a complicated shell construction, many makers have only been able to offer ONE outer shell size. See:- What Size Helmet Do I need?. This can make 'fitting' a little more hit or miss. Again, probably more of a concern in the cheaper brands.

They became popular quite quickly amongst Police Riders, sold along-side the BMW bikes they often had, and where the idea of a helmet they could 'open' to talk to a road-user without having to take it off, seemed a good idea. Though they have fallen out of favour with the police in recent years, with suggestions in Health & safety studies that thet aren't so suitable for sustained use.

Instructors have favoured them, though for similar reasons, of being able to open the chin-piece to talk to a student, rather than take a helmet off, especially as their helmets tend to be 'miked up' for radio comms, and the wires unplugged when they remove the helmet.

As a Road-Rider, I can say its a minor advantage to NOT have to take your hat off at a petrol station or popping into the news-agents, but even then, you still get attendants that grumble!

Idea that they are the 'best of both worlds' compared to a Full-Face or open face, I HAVE to say isn't borne out in reality, more the converse, they more often offer the greater disadvantages of both worlds!

You CANT really wear the helmet in the 'open' position when riding. Debate rages on the legality of this. Suggestion is that they are 'tested' as a full-face helmet and so their 'approval' for use when riding is only valid when 'closed'. This is something of a grey area I don't want to argue. BUT, with that ruddy great chin-piece pushed on the top of your head... you wouldn't want to go very fast with it 'open' because of it catching the wind and tipping your head back, and wind whistling around the structure!

Closed, they often have MORE fiddly and less effective venting and visor mechanisms than a dedicated Full-Face helmet, and certainly one of similar price! and Open.... they often don't have such wonderful peripheral vision as a true open face, and they are CERTAINLY not 'light'.

I have to admit, that I was attracted by the 'supposed' benefits of the Flip-Helmet, but even when I was instructing and it might have been 'more' useful, I couldn't justify the price for 'less' helmet. Until 'THIS' came along! The Shark 'Evoline'

And to be honest, I STILL cant. Its a £350 helmet, which is a LOT of dosh, for the 'occasional' use it gets, and when I am riding bikes that often don't cost a lot more! But Donna found a pair in a 'close-down' sale, for significantly less than list, boxed and tagged, so we were 'convinced'! And she bought me one for my Birthday.

It's reportedly the first, if not still the 'only' Flip Helmet that is 'approved' in both open and closed positions, and with the chin-piece rotating round to the back of the helmet and cunningly 'faired in', that you CAN wear either as an open or full-face hat when riding, and at more than town-speeds. Ie it DOES actually offer some of the 'best of both worlds' and I have to say I LIKE!

It is not a hat I would recommend to a newbie though. The visor mechanism IS fiddly, as is the 'flip' mechanism, and its a HEAVY helmet, its almost 2Kg, a good 50% heavier than a conventional Full-Face helmet, AND in the 'open-face' position it is slightly curiously 'balanced'.

So, while I wear a flip, I find it hard to recommend them, and certainly not to a Newbie. They are too 'compromised' for the features, which are more likely to be a hindrance than a help to a new-rider, while they don't offer any 'really' useful advantage over a conventional open or full face hat, and are expensive for the 'quality' you get, which doesn't make them great value for money, if you are likely to throw them away after an 'off'.

Pros; Not Many to be honest! Suggested benefit of best of an open face with the best of a full face not often realised!

Cons: Quality 'compromised' for the features very significantly, so even 'the best' flip is not as 'good' value for money as a conventional helmet. Those features often 'fiddly' to use, and on cheaper helmets less reliable and robust. While the complex 'shell' structure will probably mean few shell sizes meaning finding a good 'fit' is less likely, and they are ALL heavy compared to a conventional helmet.

Motocross or MX Helmet

These are a 'wide-aperture' full-face helmet, often with a peak, like a traditional 'open-face' helmet, from which they evolved.

I said that the traditional open face helmet was popular for off-road sport for many years, but in the sport of 'Scrambling' with aggressive knobbly tyres spraying a 'rooster-tail' of mud and stones on every corner, riders often wore face guards, rather like modern 'paint-ball' masks, with goggles.

These evolved into the modern 'wide aperture' Full-Face helmet we have today, through helmets that had 'detachable' chin-pieces or face guards. I actually have an old 'YES' brand open face 'Off-Road' helmet I bought many years ago for Trials, that came with a detachable chin-piece/face guard.

Anyway, the modern Full-Face MX helmet benefits from a fully integrated chin-piece that is more rigid than detachable bits of plastic, but it is often a lot lower, to help provide that 'wide-aperture', which is provided usually for an MX rider to wear separate goggles, as well as provide a wider range of peripheral vision from a 'more' upright riding position.

Popular amongst the 'Ped-Boi' crowd, mainly as a fashion statement, the 'proper' MX helmet has evolved like the 'Adventure-Sport' genre of motorbike, and there are many 'hybrid' helmets that have peaks and visors as well as the wide aperture and low chin-guard.

The pro's and cons then vary with the ACTUAL helmet you choose. A proper 'competition' MX helmet will share many traits with the traditional open face helmet, such as the wider field of view, and that the peak, can cause the helmet to lift at speed. The long low face-guard can also effect aerodynamics as well as helmet balance, a bit like a Flip, but the other way.

More 'Road' biased 'Adventure-Sport' helmets, are more likely to be 'like' a conventional full face helmet, with the potential problems of visor and misting issues, though possibly a little more stable at speed.

CHECK HELMET APPROVALS

See 'Standards & Approvals ' As a helmet intended for 'off-road' competition use, SOME MX style helmets may NOT be approved for road use. There are many 'Full-Face' helmets that are intended for cycling, BMX racing or stunting, or for 'Junior' competition, and these are often NOT made to the standards for road use, or approved for road use, and may NOT be suitable for riding a motorcycle on the road!

Antique or Retro-Helmet

This is the old fashioned 'Pith-Helmet' or 'Polo-Hat' that was popular in the 1950's & 60's, you may see in old films or adverts. It IS basically a horse-riding hat, as Polo players wore, and probably still do, and a logical choice for protective head-gear, for riding a motorcycle, when nothing else existed.

Worked the same way as a modern helmet, too, although the shell may have been papier-mâché rather than a modern plastic, and the liner, 'cork' rather than polystyrene.

You may still find some 'old fasioned' helmets like this for sale; as an accessory for a 'classic' motorcycle; but they are rarely approved 'safety-wear' you can legally use on the public road.

See 'Standards & Approvals '

Above are three examples of 'antique' or 'Retro' helmet, currently on offer from 'web-based' suppliers; priced in Dollars they are intended for the US market and are NOT approved for use in the UK!

Left is a 'leather' open face helmet with 'antique' pilots goggles. Centre, also with pilots goggles, is a 'replica' of a German WWII troopers helmet, in chrome, and right, the 'Beanie' helmet, rather like a cycling helmet, with protection really on the top of the head and no protection extending to the rear or sides.

THESE ARE NOT FOR ROAD USE

Helmet Straps

Always Fasten Your Helmet Strap!

It is a legal requirement to wear an approved crash-helmet when riding a motorcycle, but it is ALSO a legal requirement to ensure it is worn in the 'correct' fashion (ie not back to front or anything!) AND 'correctly' fastened!

There are basically TWO kinds of helmet fastening. Buckles, and 'quick-release' fastenings. In days of yore, most helmets were fastened by a strap through a buckle; either a 'Double D' or a 'slide-bar' buckle. More latterly, 'bayonet' or 'seat-belt' type fastenings have become more common, and more recently still, the 'ratchet strap'.

The advantage of 'quick-release' straps is that they are often easier to fasten and unfasten, especially with cold numb or gloved hands! The disadvantage is that they are often less reliable, and as straps naturally 'stretch' with time, they do need adjusting to keep the strap tension correct.

Advantage of the Double-D or bar-buckle is every time you put the helmet on you set the correct strap tension, and they tend to be more durable and reliable.

When 'Bayonet' fastenings were first offered, there were a lot of doubters that said they were less secure, and less reliable, and they wouldn't trust them. I have been wearing 'good' bayonet strap helmets for twenty years now, and I have to say its a convenience I appreciate, BUT those doubters fears are not entirely unjustified. Couple of times I have 'failed' to properly fasten my helmet strap because of a worn latch, or not putting it in the buckle properly!

Double D fastenings are simple, and reliable, if a little more fiddly and take a while to get used to doing up!

The Principle of the Double D, is to thread through BOTH loops, then over the bar of the top D, and BACK through the bottom D. The Sliding bar or H buckle is the same principle, only the top 'D' is abbreviated to a sliding bar in the middle of the bottom D, works the same though, through both, then over the middle bar and back under the lower.

Most Bayonet Quick Release straps feature a Sliding bar type buckle, if not as this one, in the actual bayonet, then there will be a seperate 'adjustement' buckle somewhere on the strap.

The 'Ratchet' strap though is another system again, and uses a one way ratchet on a toothed tang. You push tank into ratchet and click to adjust, then to remove release the Ratchet. In theory, the best of both worlds, but long term real-world reliability has yet to be determined!

Its the fastening system used on my Shark, and seems pretty good, but I'll let you know its held up in ten years or so!

ANYWAY, always refer to the instructions for your helmet to find out HOW to properly fasten and HOW to adjust them. There is usually a label with diagram if not in the box, zip-tied to the strap, usually! Some even have instructions on a label inside the helmet, just in case you forget!

The principle of the Double D is how 90% of straps either fasten or adjust though so look at the diagram, and with the hat off your head, practice adjusting and fastening it until you can do it easily and swiftly with the hat on your head. 

Tell me About Boots?

ASK THE SCHOOL!

It is NOT a legal requirement to wear boots when riding a motorbike; but it is in the DSA Guidelines that students SHOULD wear 'appropriate footwear' and say trainers or sandals are NOT appropriate footwear.

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

But in the case of Boots? I do NOT suggest buying 'Cheap' motorcycle boots!

See: ?????????????? But for now....

This is an 'Traditional' Motorcycle boot, or 'Touring' boot. Basic, rugged & durable, these tend not to be very cheap, and prices start from around £80, but 'better' boots are more likely to be in the £120 region.

They are leather, and will come a fair way up your calf to provide good ankle support. They will also tend to have buckle fastenings, so there are no 'loose' laces that may flap or snag or get tangled on anything, and a 'sturdy' sole with good grip for when you put your foot down to prop the bike up.

Though there are many variations on the design, and 'sports' boots will often be shorter, and often have lots of 'armour' on them, and 'off-road' boots that are often taller and offer a lot more calf and ankle support, but are usually 'stiffer'.

 

 

 

 

 

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