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I want to Ride a Motorbike

Early-Rider Advice

Introduction

Early-Rider advice. Well, this feature is basically a mish-mash of fairly random tips and advice, often offered on the newbie boards of the Forums. Some tips and techniques that may help you get over some of the common problems and quibbles suffered by newer riders, once they start doing it for themselves.

Now, the headings here, are in many cases, 'Mantras' I repeat quite frequently. But I really do NOT like Mantras; they are the fools philosophy; an entire way of thinking distilled down to a few words that sound profound and fit on a fridge magnet!

They are useful, and aid memoir to the real lesson, but they are NOT the lesson itself; which is where the danger in them lies, as so often, the Mantra is repeated, without the meaning! So, this is largely to expand and explain the Mantras and give the lessons behind them. But as a starting point:-

BIKING IS A STATE OF MIND

A lot of the advise and ideas I am offering here, not so much about how to ride a motorbike, but how to THINK! And not just about the business end of making a motorbike move. The philosophies, and approach; its all about keeping a clear head, and making clear decisions, based on good information and taking control. It's a way of doing stuff, that translates to a lot of 'life', not just making motorbike move.

So lets get on with it...... and after saying that this is all about 'thinking' say.....

CONTENTS

 

Stop Thinking - Start Riding

As a child, maybe four or five years old, when we have only just mastered propelling ourselves along on our own two legs, we get given our first proper bicycle, with stabiliser wheels. And pedalling that is just a natural progression from the little scoot along, ride on toys we had before, and its not long until we are pedalling along like fury with the stabiliser wheels lifting off the floor.

Then Daddy comes along and takes the stabilisers OFF… and even though they were doing nothing for us before, we start to worry, and we fall off….

But after a little encouragement and a few tears, we get the hang of it, and are soon tearing about, seeing how fast we can go, or what stunts we can do.

Two things in there;

STOP THINKING – START RIDING

Very easy, approaching learning to ride a motorbike to get all over wrought thinking about it TOO much!

The Worry Warehouse and the Fret-Factory

Right, this little analogy is quite a tidy one. People worry. Some worry more than others, but we all do it, and the trouble is not so much worrying, or how much we worry, but whether we are in fact worrying about the right thing!

Elsewhere, and its a frequent theme, I talk about the gulf between real risk and perceived risk. Coin has a real world probability of falling 'heads' of about 49.9%. Same probability it will fall 'tails' with a very minute possibility that it will land and rest on the edge, or fall down a drain or something else! That's the REAL risk.

But gambler, watching a coil fall heads up ten times in a row? Well, for the next flip, they will estimate the risk as being higher or lower?

We perceive the risk to be different to what it is. And we can drive ourselves insane, fretting over that dilemma of the coin falling ten times heads, and wondering if that means its more likely to fall tails this time, and completely forget WHOSE coin it is....

Revin-Kevin; worrying about his power band, and how fast he can go, not ovloV likely to SMIDSY him. Nervous Nancy; worrying about NOT going too fast and the ovloV that is likely to SMIDSY her, and NOT the frustrated car behind tail-gating her and trying to pass without giving her wind-room!

Worry is all well and good, but not if you are worrying about stuff that doesn't matter, and not worrying about stuff that does.

And this is the tricky bit for a newbie, KNOWING what is worth worrying about!

So, lets back up a bit, and start at the beginning, before you even have a bike, and look at this Worry Warehouse and the Fret Factory.

I want to ride a motorbike, where do I start? Well starting point is, 'I need a motorbike' and that becomes the focal point for worry. What bike is 'best'? How fast is it? How expensive, and we go round the houses trying to discover the 'perfect' motorbike for our needs, and paying heed to the advice I offer or not, we discover other considerations like the motorbike licence, insurance gear etc.... and that starts putting 'Stuff' into the Worry Warehouse, which we can pull out and mull over and fret about in the Fret-Factory.

At this stage, there isn't all THAT much in the Worry Warehouse to actually worry about, and much of it is all pretty academic because we haven't committed ourselves to anything yet, and its all just ideas and worries. BUT there are a few ideas in there, and researching the net, reading a load of stuff on here or the forums, we have a lot we CAN think about and mull over and fret about, and we have all the time in the world, and can devote all of our biking energy to nothing else BUT 'fretting' about these little nuggets of worry we are starting to stock up and store in the worry ware house.

THEN we go do CBT. CBT is a great thing, but one thing is it not very good at is alleviating worry! And while it is designed to answer an AWFUL lot of newbie questions and give you an awful lot of advice and guidance, and give some relevance to what you are told with actual hands on riding......

Well, this worry-warehouse is a very big place, and its almost completely empty. You have a few bits and pieces of knowledge or information stored in it, probably fairly randomly, and have been able to get in, look at them, consider them, move them around and put them down again, pretty much anywhere you want. And there isn't very much organisation, and doesn't need to be.

Now you do CBT, and that worry-warehouse is hit by seventy five articulated lorries FULL of 'stuff' for you to take in, consider, put on the shelves, organise and make sense of! You are NOT going to do it ALL in a day!

And a lot of stuff that is probably quite important will be packed away with little regard, because it doesn't make much sense or seem that important right now; other stuff, will get a lot more time and attention because it does, but MOST stuff, will just be rammed in wherever it will fit, to be fretted over later, with more than a little stuff, 'lost' in the unpacking or damaged in transit!

But now, you have a half filled warehouse and an awful lot of stuff to process through the fret-factory, and really get your teeth into and worry over. And THAT is not a bad thing. As you go through that process, you will weigh up all of the raw 'Data' and be able to make sense of it, assess its value, and put it into some kind of order and ranking in amongst all the other stuff you have to worry about.

This is 'Learning', and part of the fun. But we KEEP learning, and every time we read a bit more about bikes, or go out and ride one, we gain more data to put into the worry warehouse and process in the fret factory, and get straight in our minds.

Sometimes this stuff will come into the worry warehouse faster than we can process it in the fret factory, other times we will have nothing 'new' to put in the ware-house and can process stuff from the shelves we haven't really paid much heed to yet.

Now, the two big dangers are, being over-awed by everything in the worry-warehouse and NOT processing it at all, OR, working flat out all the time, in the fret-factory, reconsidering and over thinking everything that you have already processed from the worry warehouse.

Another mantra..... "Its ALL about Balance"...... keeping stuff in context, in proportion and neither being lazy or neurotic!

So.....

RELAX! - Its supposed to be FUN!

Riding a motorcycle is supposed to be FUN. Being stressed out, tense, wound up, NOT FUN! Actually its TIRING and not fun, and can even be painful!

I have known newbies SO stressed and tense, such big butterflies in their tummy, they have been almost in pain, and made themselves sick. this is NOT good, and NOT fun.

Many many years ago, I took ice skating lessons..... err.... extracurricular "activity" afternoon when I was at college. We could do soccer, or hockey or swimming, woodwork or gawd knows what. But Ice Skating was a top choice; mainly because the Ice rink had a video-games arcade and a licensed bar, and once there, all the lads skived off to grab a pint and stand playing 'Asteroids' all afternoon!

Yeah.... unfortunately, I am 6'2" with unruly red hair and freckles, and the Skating teacher was my physics mistress! "MICHAEL!"... I stuck out like a sore thumb, and "We need a MAN!" she said..."But you'll do!"  Oh what a wit she had! But I have to confess, I was 17, and while all the lads were getting drunk or broke, holding a plastic joy-stick, staring at a TV screen set into an MDF box that ate 10p pieces..... I was being mauled by half a dozen GIRLS who needed an ice-dance partner...... I have to admit I was no Christopher Dean.... far from it; I have all the style and grace of a drunk gorilla, apparently, and that wag of a Physics mistress, when we came to cover Newtons laws of Gravity went as far as to make a point to mention to the class that they apparently did not apply to ME, when I am on ice skates!

But pearls of wisdom....

SMILE :-)

Smile. It was her mantra. Smile, LOOK like you are having fun. And she would kid and joke, and make fun of me, to make every-one SMILE, and THAT made them relax! And THAT made them SKATE.

Tense and nervous. taking everything too seriously, you tense up, go rigid and your movements are all mechanical, jerky, laboured. Nothing flows smoothly, and its all hard work, and not very comfortable, and not very controlled. You have to let it flow, and go with the flow, and you have to relax and NOT tense up.

A LOT of new riders complain of aches and pains and stiffness after their first few rides, as well as tiredness. And a LOT of it is simply being too tense, and not relaxing. Having the handlebars in a death grip. Hunching up shoulders and rigidly tensing the neck muscles, all working FAR too hard for no real reason.

Then as we'll get to later, doing FAR too much work, and making far too much work for yourself, doing too much unnecessary work, TRYING TOO HARD.

Its supposed to be FUN. Relax, take a breath, smile, and laugh at yourself for being 'silly' and being wound up.

DON’T RUSH – it is a Quick way to get Hurt on a bike!

Spirited riding can be an awful lot of fun; but if high speed thrills on a Sunny afternoon are all you are after; then is the Public Highway REALLY the best place to go looking for them?

We used to say save it for the race track; and there is all manner of club sport for the enthusiast, from slow speed trials to high-speed road racing, where you can get all the thrills you want, in relative safety, without worrying other innocent road-users.

And at the end of the day, the 'Thrill' of fast-riding on the road is a rather 'empty' one. What do you get for it? An adrenaline 'rush' and maybe some tales or daring do to brag at a biker meet.

In organised 'sport', there's a point. You get a lot more 'fulfilment' from it. How good you are is measured by the lap-times, score sheet and 'placing'.

Even if you don’t want to take it so seriously, you can do ‘Track-Days’ or practice sessions, and come home with some pro-photo’s and maybe some lap-times. It can also be cheaper! Especially as you wont get points on your licence and a wopping big fine for going ‘too’ fast!

On the public road; well, the destination is always the same. Back home we hope! What matters is the journey. So take your time and ENJOY it! Look around, take in the scenery. See the sights. Stop! Have a cup of tea or coffee. Talk to people! This can be as much fun as tearing around aimlessly. Sometimes even more so.

And its NOT just about looking at speed limits; and geographic travel, its about your whole attitude & approach to riding, and the 'journey' from newbie to experienced biker. The wonderful voyage of discovery, self discovery and 'learning' as you go.

Rushing into things, not just hazards you may encounter on the road, but the hazards of picking and choosing a bike; selecting riding gear, and how you go about 'learning to ride', there are as many dangers there OFF the bike, to be found from 'Rushing in' as there are going 'fast' on a bike!

DON'T Panic!

OK, so advice so far has said

Now I say Don't Panic. All much of a much really, the same or similar things. Chill, be calm, be cool, go with the flow. And yes, that is pretty much how I approach riding, and how I suggest you do.

But Don't Panic? Well, common sense really, isn't it? Headless chicken act, un-thinking, reflex reactions, rarely achieve any good, and certainly not in the sort of crisis that stimulates them.

One of the hardest things to do though, stay calm in a crisis. Panic is itself a reflex response to fear or uncertainty.

Chosen to illustrate this tip with the picture of Dad's Army's Corporal Jones; whose comic response to panic was to run around wildly, telling the rest of the troop "Don't Panic", because apart from the irony, it's something the military have learned to deal with pretty damn well... since well, probably the ancient Greek phalanx, really, but probably perfected by the Romans. And their answer was DISCIPLINE & DRILL

War is a rather messy, and pretty scary business. Facing up to a fight, when you know that the chap opposite you probably wants to rather brutally kill or maim you, takes rather a lot of bravery or foolishness. Natural reaction, and what any sensible person would do, of course, is RUN AWAY!

I suffer from panic attacks, and physiologically, what happens is you get a fear reaction to a perceived danger, this triggers a huge surge of adrenaline, your heart-rate increases, and your body shuts down 'non-essential' functions, which can include the faculty of rational thought, getting ready to 'fight or flee'! Basically, you panic, you DON'T THINK STRAIGHT, but the important bit is REFLEXES TAKE OVER.

Natural survival mechanism; put into a 'threatening' situation, our brains get switched off; because if we had time to think about stuff, by the time we had thought about it... probably be too late. We'd have been eaten by a hungry sabre-tooth-tiger or something.

Back to the Romans, or the modern army; Discipline & Drill. They take a normal, rational human being, and put them through boot camp; make them run around a lot, do lots of physical exercise and yell at them a lot, getting them to respond to orders and significantly NOT think for themselves; then they drill into them, stuff they want them to do, until they can do it half a sleep without any conscious thought.... its 'reflex'... "Ten Hup!" and old soldiers, even though they haven't been in uniform for a decade will STILL instinctively stand to attention!

THIS is something that can make formal motorcycle training INVALUABLE. Yeah, you can learn to ride a motorbike by doing. School of hard knocks. Falling off tells you pretty well what don't work, and experience can teach you what works better or worse. Bit of reading? Trial & Error? Yeah... you can learn that way. But its a slow way to learn, and the suck-it-and-see approach is likely to either never 'devolve' your riding to reflex, you will constantly be having to think about it, and find out what does and doesn't work; or you are as likely to devolve to reflex, 'bad habits', doing stuff wrong, or not as well as you could.

But, this is the ultimate objective of learning to ride a motorbike; to 'habitualise' the practices of riding; making your observations; footing as you pull away or come to rest; changing gears; braking, cornering, signalling and road positioning, 'drilling' the discipline so that it becomes reflex, instinct, something you do WITHOUT thought.

Stop Thinking - Start Riding

This takes us in a loop, back to where I started. And, learning to ride a motorbike has a LOT of 'around the houses' learning loops, where you go round in circles, each time, hopefully becoming a better rider.

So Back into the Worry-Warehouse & Fret Factory.... as you start to progress; and you start to 'stop thinking and start riding, as more becomes devolved to 'reflex' so, you find it becomes easier, and next time round the loop, well, you either start to worry that you have nothing to worry about... you must have forgotten something or missed a trick somewhere, or you become blase and think that that's all there is to it, and you don't HAVE to worry....

COMPETENCE vs COMPETENCE!

Accidents happen when Confidence don't match Competence.

Confidence is good. Over-Confidence isn't so good, but then neither is Under-Confidence. Both can be dangerous. Its like I said about worrying about the RIGHT things, rather than how much you worry or don't. There are lots of 'stuff' in riding a motorbike we may or may not have so much confidence in. Pulling away; doing our observations; changing gear; going round corners. Entirely natural for some people to have more confidence in some areas than in others.

BUT, the crunch always comes when your confidence is far above or far below your actual competence.

And, while easy to see Revin-Kevin's overt over-confidence and eagerness to go quick as obvious example of an accident waiting to happen; actually, the over cautious rider, less confident of what's around them, paying too much attention to not really hazards, and not paying so much attention to what really IS can be just as likely to be riding for a fall. And ironically, the more likely to get more hurt.

Revin-Kevin? Unfortunately, when he has his inevitable 'off'; chances are he'll be piling into a bend too fast, panic, brake and slide off into a hedge. It will hurt; but in all likelihood, he'll bounce back up and soon by trying to convince every-one it was actually quite a laugh, as it will have taught him you CAN crash a motorbike and live to tell the tale, and he'll probably go do it again!

Nervous-Nancy? worrying about everything and anything, riding over cautiously, worrying about every little potential hazard and consistently over-estimating the risk they pose... unfortunately, when THEY have their off, it's more likely to be a bit more drastic. Unlike Revin Kevin who's likely to slide into a hedge at probably 40mph or so, something relatively soft, and stationary; Nancy is more likely to be in a built up area, holding up traffic, and she is more likely to do something 'a bit daft' like swerve round a mini-round-about; because you ought to go round them, not over them, and they can be a bit slippery and are a big bump... and car behind, thinking her swerve means she's turning left, accelerates into her, going straight over the mini-roundabout just as she swerves back to go straight on.

It's ALL about BALANCE!

I like this one. Its a motorbike, it has to be in balance or it will fall over. Nice little metaphor though for everything else.

Riding a motorbike, is ALL a big balancing act; balancing the bike; balancing the clutch and throttle and brakes and steering; You are in the middle of a thousand competing forces, all trying to shove you this way or that, and your job, is to keep everything 'in balance'.

One of the things I love about riding a motorbike; is feeling that harmony when it IS all in balance. Its a metaphor for life itself. Most of the time its shear chaos, competing demands and worries; BUT there are times when things just seem to go 'right', and that is when everything is just clicking into place, everything is in balance and working together as it should. Its quite 'zen' actually, but I digress.

So, big lesson motorbikes offer is about balance, and keeping things in proportion.

Its not about how much you worry or don't worry, but about keeping your worries in proportion and worrying about the right things, in the right order.

Its about thinking, but not over thinking. Thinking about the things that matter, letting reflex take care of the mundane and inconsequential; paying enough attention to hazards but not obsessing on them; watching where you are going, but not being so focused you cant take time to enjoy the scenery.

Balance. Harmony. Wha. Keeping things in their proper place. and not letting anything dominate.

WHILE, and has to be said, accepting that while we may be in the driving seat, we may 'think' we are in control, because we have an engine at our command... actually? We are in the middle of chaos, with so much going on around us that we have absolutely NO control over what-so ever, and we just have to try and plot our way through or around it, as best we can, balancing those things we CAN balance.

Riding a motorbike? Like life. Just one big balancing act!

Stay "karma" - Attitude & Approach,

When I learned to drive/ride umpety decades ago; all that the Highway-Code had to say about driver attitude, really was in the introduction; It said something along the lines of "All Road Users should show due courtesy & consideration to other road users at all times" It probably still does. But it goes into a lot more detail about 'Driver Attitude' these days, and there are a lot of questions in the modern Theory Test about 'attitude'.

Something of a sad reflection on society, that in twenty five years, the comment 'Be Polite to each other' is so insufficient, that it requires so much more elaboration; but there you go.

Now, an awful lot of what I have been saying so far, has basically been, indirectly, about attitude and approach. Getting your head in the right place.

Relax, don't rush, don't get over exited and carried away, don't over think and worry yourself into the grave. Take it easy, find the balance, get in the groove and keep your wits about you. Stay karma

BUT, after getting to grips with riding a bike; actually hands on making the thing go where you want; biggest bit of the job for the road-rider is dealing with all the IDIOTS out there! and believe me, there are more than enough to go around. Stay karma

And of course, the ingenuity of mankind knows no bounds. Every time you think, "No, NO-ONE can be THAT stupid!" or they make something so "Fool-Proof" they cant possibly do something daft... yeah... the human condition reacts by creating a better idiot, to prove you wrong! Stay karma

So THIS is probably the biggest bit of the gig. Dealing with dolts. But, if you have followed the advice so far, and can keep your cool, when all about you are loosing theirs... you stand a pretty good chance of going a long way on a motorbike. It IS difficult... but if you have your attitude dialled in ready, you can cope with it. Just stay karma!

Don't Panic, Don't get angry, Don't 'react... predict and accept. Get Zen. Be fatalistic, shit happens, put up with it! And don't go out of your way to make any more of it! STAY KARMA!

Show due courtesy & consideration to all road users... whilst expecting them to show you little or none! .... stay karma :-) ... remember... SMILE... it's supposed to be FUN!

Just let the positive thoughts flow; and STAY KARMA! ... that idiot that JUST nearly killed you? Smile... they DIDN'T!  Shaking your fist at them wont make the situation better, it can only make it worse... they might stop and have another go at you! Just smile, and remember... no matter how big an idiot they are... there are dozens more, and probably even more idiotic than them, who, at some point that idiot is likely to run into.... Stay Karma... what goes around, comes around, they'll get their just deserts at some point.

Your safety is your first priority. So.....

Get-Off: Get-Safe: Start Over

GET-OFF. This is the unequivocal 'I have a problem' hazard warning lamps for motorcycles. It's also the start of a 'stay-safe' procedure for many many situations on a motorbike.

But lets illustrate it with an example; Our Sammy had a real problem, stalling at junctions, when he first started riding; and this was the advice I gave him; not too long before I was witness to an almost text book example of every 'panic 'fault' in traffic at a junction; goes like this.

Bike in question was a very new YZF-R125, and the rider a teen-age lad. He approached a T-Junction onto a busy road near the centre of town, that is often grid-locked and stop-start both ways, but on this occasion in the worse condition of moderate 'flow' with large queues of traffic travelling at higher speeds, between obstructions like traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and one box controlled intersection, around about five close spaced turn offs.

He approached the give way line, indicating to turn right, spotted a gap, and eager to get into the main flow, I'm not sure if he opened the throttle and bogged in too high a gear, or muffed the clutch; but he stalled just OVER the give way line.

The car behind him, predicting him clearing the junction, has now slammed to a stop, so lad cant go back, and he is half over major roads left hand lane, with cars bearing down on him, and cars closing the gap in the right hand lane, he was turning into, approaching to block him off.

Foot down, startled bunny eyes peering up the road at cars closing on him, and frantic prodding at the starter button.... bike catches and he waves at car slowing for him from left, (me, incidentally) drops clutch and lurches towards tiny gap in right hand flow, stalling again! Because he was still in too high a gear, or he had realised gap wasn't big enough, and panic braked. 

Even bigger bunny eyes as he takes in the situation, and in utter panic, and fear, frantically prods starter button, and tries to get bike running and race into now absent gap, because he's holding up three columns of cars.

Every lurch, every unpredicted unexpected action, making matters worse, NOT better, making drivers around even MORE impatient with the 'idiot' as their hopes of moving again are dashed each time he makes secondary cock-up.  This is what he SHOULD have done:

GET-OFF

Soon as you dismount the bike, driver's in their sanitised little arm-chair, living room extension, universal horizontal conveyance pod, who are too insular to be able to hear that your engine has stopped running and too imperceptive to spot that smoke is no longer coming from the exhaust, will, the second you throw your leg off the bike, and dismount KNOW that you are not ABLE to go anywhere in a hurry and have a problem.

it is the unequivocal 'I have a problem' hazard warning lamps for motorcycles

And immediately this can completely change other road-user's attitude towards you; and instead of engendering anger and frustration and bewilderment, from an ego-centric point of 'What the heck is that idiot DOING? Why cant I get where I want to go!?" their question is answered and "Oh, poor sod's got as problem!" and JUST that is likely to engender some sympathy and they are more likely to be 'Helpful'.... remember stay karma!

Strangely it IS human nature to try and help other people, we don't see it very often, BUT, it is in our genes; but its how the 'Help' gene is triggered.. and getting off the bike, making it clear and obvious you have a 'problem' rather than angst, anger paps and cars trying to drive over or around you, you are as likely to get their hazards come on, and some-one getting out of the car offering to help push your bike to the side of the road, or even have a look and see if they can fix it! So GET-OFF... then...

GET SAFE

The next step, look around, see where you can go. Find a 'safe place' to wheel the bike to, and sort it there.

DO NOT sit there in the middle of the road, trying to clear the fault. Whether you have stalled; run out of petrol; or want to throttle a pedestrian who you have just had to do an e-stop for because, when they came to cross the road, they looked for 'cars or no-cars' not motor-bikes.

First you will be holding up following traffic, and making a hazard for yourself and other drivers, but also, the likelihood is that in a PANIC, you will NOT clear the fault, but just make a lot more consequential or compounding errors, making matters worse, not better. Remember, fear engenders panic; panic turns off your brain. So you, GET-OFF - GET SAFE... then....

START OVER

At the side of the road, on the pavement, somewhere you are NOT a hazard..... take a breath, if you smoke, have a fag; if there's a shop, go buy a pack of gum or a drink, or some boiled sweets, take a time out, reset the calm, clear the panic 'over-drive'. STAY KARMA!

Now, re-approach the bike, and go through usual pre-ride start up process. Remember your CBT pre-ride checks! Do them! If for no other reason, than to time out and get your brain working again, thinking rationally, and doing something you CAN do, not likely to frustrate or panic you any more.

Check petrol, check petrol tap. Check kill switch. Check brakes. Check steering. CHECK the bike is in neutral.... NOW start the engine. Hat - Gloves, CHECK.... deep breath.... look around, and as if on test..... 'manoeuvre machine to side of the road, at a safe place from which to move off into flow of traffic......'

That's how to do it. Stay SAFE. Its your first priority. Not whether you will be late for work. Not whether the chap behind might be a bit annoyed; not whether they will think you a bit of a dork; not how angry you are with some-one for doing something stupid, or being a bully or a twit.

  • GET-OFF

  • GET-SAFE

  • START-OVER

Its the Ctrl-Alt-Del, 'reset' for motorbikes! and it WORKS!

Yeah.. if you have just bogged or stalled, and a quick prod or a quick blip will clear it, get-off, get safe, start over, may be unnecessary, BUT it IS the 'safe' way of dealing with the situation, and many other besides, whenever you are likely to panic.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

Say it over and over, and drill it in your head until it IS the first thing that comes into your brain when you start to panic, or get angry, or other wise just 'loose it'.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

And use it. Its all about managing the situation safely. I say it all the time, riding a motorcycle is about 'control', and that starts with self control? Panic turns OFF the brain! We CANNOT think rationally, we CANNOT make rational decisions;  we are not  'In Control'.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

Its a mantra for control. Its something to do when you don't know what else to do. And it keeps you SAFE. Gets you BACK in control, and in terms of the 'idiots' around you, goes a long way to managing THAT wider situation too, giving clear emphatic indication YOU are in trouble, and NOT giving false indications of what's going on or might going on, and showing that you are not needlessly holding them up, but doing the right thing, and engendering a totally different response and attitude from them, than going into blind panic.

We moan about idiots an awful lot, from a bike saddle, and there are a lot of more moronic specimens out there, who colour our judgement of the herd in general; but to be fair, a fair bit of the time, idiot reactions, are generated and stimulated by our own, and if we handle situations a bit differently, so often so will the idiots!

Tail-Gaters - Back-Off

This one crops up ever so often on the forums, especially from L-Plate newbie's, who have suffered a tail-gate incident, or are worried about it. And I have to say that the L-Plate doesn't help, and does tend to encourage other drivers to try and bully new riders to start with. But what to do about it.

Remember, on a bike YOU are the vulnerable one. Car driver has a metal box around them; side impact bars, seat-belts, crumple-zones, air-bags... to keep THEM 'safe..... 'You?.... You have a crash-hat and your wits! That REALLY is about it!

So,  STAY KARMA... tailgaters are just another 'idiot'. Keep your cool. SMILE, if you haven't seen it all before, you will! Time and time and time again. So, how to deal with them?

OK, well the VERY first thing is the Fret-Factory. You have an 'idiot' behind. Unless you are on your own drive way... THIS is a perpetual state of being on a motorbike! There is ALWAYS some twit behind you! Only difference is this one is RIGHT behind you, and a little closer than you might like, and it's intimidating, and you will want to try and do 'something' about it..... That is where it starts, and where it far to often starts to go wrong.

Remember the fret factory, its not about how much we worry, its about what we worry about, and worrying about the stuff that's most important! Idiot behind you. Its a constant state of being, it is NOT that big a deal; and you KNOW about this one.... so

STOP STARING IN THE MIRRORS!

You know the idiot is there, and you know they are an idiot! Watch Where you are GOING! There are hundreds of bludy idiots on the roads, worry about spotting the ones that HAVEN'T made themselves known to you yet! And all the other hazards you ought to be worrying about. DON'T obsess on this ONE twit, you already know about!

You have an idiot behind you, and for all I have said about the ingenuity of idiocy, there is still only a limited number of things that idiot can do to actually hurt you.   Many many more things you can do to hurt yourself, doing the wrong stuff, because you are worrying more about this one idiot than the stuff you should be.

Two types of tail-gater; the first I think of as Mr McGoo. They are simply myopic and agoraphobic. Short sited and scared of open spaces in plain English. They probably don't consider themselves 'tail-gaters'... they just drive close to whatever is in front of them!

They probably don't have any negative intensions towards you and don't mean to intimidate you, but, well, they probably struggle to see further than the end of their own nose, and rely on cars in front of them to know what to do; they aren't looking any further than the car in front's bumper, and watching it's tail lights.....

Yes.. you are on a motorbike. This IS a problem for them! See "the INVISIBLE biker! ". In that I look at the matter of 'Conspicuity' and the 'SMIDSY' or "Sorry-Mate I Didn't See You" accident where car drivers just randomly drive into us, as though we are invisible.... which is a little bit beyond where we are at here, but, it's the same phenomena of driver behaviour. Car-Drivers tend only to deal with other CARS.

Only 1% of road traffic in the United Kingdom is bikes. We are not a common sight on British roads, so car drivers don't see us very often, and don't really know what to make of us when they do! And used to following cars, with a big broad back end, they are familiar with it, and they can judge distance easily. Bike? 1/3 the width of a car, and an irregular shape? AND with only one tail lamp? The car-driver doesn't have the same visual clues, as following another car.  And very, VERY common; natural instinct, car-driver behind, will look for the visually 'familiar'... the car in front of YOU!

You are on a bike? Probably around six feet long, less than half the length of even a fairly short car. Very VERY easy for Car-Driver's gaze, trying to make sense of the unfamiliar pattern of the back of your bike, to gravitate to the much more familiar 'pattern' of the back of the car in front of you. And we'll get to this phenomena later, but 'Where you look is Where you Go".  So following Car-Driver is VERY likely to close up to the car in front of you, and follow THAT, and you become a mere distraction in the middle!

Okay. I'm going off a bit here; but; understand thy enemy! And MrMcGoo is not deliberately 'out to get you' they are merely tending to ingrained reflex and not really paying close attention to what they are doing. You don't need to get all hot under the collar about them. Stay Karma!

So, you know they are there; you shouldn't obsess about them, and spend more time worrying how close they are, paying more attention to them in your mirrors than you do what's going on ahead and around you. They are NOT the only hazard on the roads.

They aren't even THAT much of a hazard. Too close? What's the worst that can happen? You have to slow down in a hurry, maybe do an e-stop or swerve... and they are going to have very little time to react and brake to avoid nudging you from behind.

BUT, you are on a motorbike; and while motorbikes tend to be light and responsive, and can stop very quickly; cars, especially modern cars, can often 'out-brake' them. They have twice the rubber in contact with the road for a start, and cant 'fall over'. And they have big, powerful servo-assisted brakes, usually with Anti-Lock-Braking mechanisms.

Might not be 'ideal', but they are probably an AWFUL lot less likely to hit you than you think!

It IS a very very common problem on modern roads; driving 'too close' is probably THE most common driver error there is; BUT actual rear end 'shunts' are no-where near as common, and seldom THAT catastrophic.

But as a learner rider; on the road, you will almost certainly feel a lot more vulnerable than you have as a pedestrian, a cyclist, or as a passenger or driver in a car; and just as MrMcGoo's unused to dealing with motorbikes.... so are you..... YOUR special awareness, your depth perception and pattern recognition is not accustomed to dealing with things from the Rider's 'point of view' either.

And.. looking in the mirrors.... Used to be etched into the glass of mirrors on American cars, I don't know if it still is, the words immortalised in the title of a Meatloaf song... "Objects in the Rear-view Mirror may be closer than they appear"....  first bit of advice I gave was 'Stop staring in the mirrors', apart from obsessing on the not so big a hazard behind and not paying attention to any others, mirrors DO give a distorted view of what's behind you.... its back to front for a start off!

However, as said, you are riding a vehicle, probably less than half the length of a car; there is NOT very much bike behind you to begin with, and that is likely to make it seem that anything in the mirror is closer to your number-plate than it possibly actually is. More so if you are an existing car driver... used to, what? An extra ten feet of metal, between where you are sat and your rear number-plate?

Large vehicles? Vans in particular. They are tall and wide, and FILL the rear-view mirrors, even if they aren't actually all that close; the wind-screen is also almost at the front of the vehicle; big exectutive or conventional saloon car? There's probably five foot of bonnet stuck out in front of the driver... and THAT is what you subconsciously look for; we are genetically programmed to seek 'faces' in any scene we look at.

But point is, these things can conspire to exaggerate, our perception of how close a following vehicle is, and significantly add to our over-estimation of the risk they actually pose!

So STOP staring in the mirror; don't obsess on them. Get used to it! Its the most common bit of idiocy you will have to deal with. Stay Karma. And do a shoulder check, when safe to do so, to re-evaluate the situation; DON'T rely on the mirrors! (Probably a whole separate topic for advice there, but we'll get to that when we get there.)

DON'T REACT - DON'T ENGAGE

You know the idiot is there, and you know they are an idiot. It's nothing to get all irate about. Remember, Stay Karma. Most important thing is YOUR OWN SAFETY, and staying in control... which means SELF CONTROL.

DO NOT tap the brakes to make your brake light come on. DO NOT tap the brakes and make the bike 'dip' as though you are braking, in the hope it will make them react and brake and give you a bigger gap.

This will NOT WORK! At best, they may slow down sharply, and open the following distance slightly, and briefly; but as soon as they have realised you are NOT 'really' braking.... they will just be annoyed; and they will close the gap back up again, and probably get even closer than they were before! Worse, they will now NOT be so likely to react should you brake again; whether trying the same trick, or GENUINELY having to slow in a hurry.

Gesticulating; making rude hand signals> Turning round in the saddle and shouting at them? I have heard of many many ploys to express ones annoyance with a tail-gating idiot. NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD!

Any such overt 'reaction' to following idiot; will only increase the hazard and the risk to yourself.

Which brings us to the second kind of tail-gater, the Bully-Driver. MrMcGoo? Just a bit Dozy, and no real threat, and not deliberately 'out to get you'. Bully-Driver? They can be.

This breed of tail-gating idiot, want to influence your actions, in some way. They probably want you to go faster, or get out of their way, doesn't really matter, though what they want... YOU are the one in the driving seat of YOUR vehicle; YOU are the one in command of it; YOU are the one who has to make the decisions, NOT THEM!

But, the Bully-Driver can go to inordinate lengths to express themselves in their attempt to influence you. They might flash headlamps; they may pap their horn; they may lean out the window and yell at you; they might swerve from one side of the road to the other; or slow down then accelerate hard up to your back wheel, possibly repeatedly. they have many ways of offering intimidation and harassment.

Bottom line; they are merely a 'hazard'. And a KNOWN one. And STILL not a very big one. Same rules apply; Stop Staring in the mirrors, wondering what they are going to do next, DON'T React, and DON'T engage.

There is a big leap, from responding to a hazard, to reacting to intimidation. Responding to a hazard, is taking control and applying it appropriately. Reacting to intimidation? Well, its letting the Bully-Driver CONTROL YOU! And if they are controlling you, how can YOU be 'in control'?

So you do not react. Let them get on with whatever they are going to do. React? Try and influence THEM? Same deal. You are supposed to be controlling a motorbike, and worrying about riding that. You cant be trying to drive some-one else's car, at the same time. Try controlling them... and you are not effecting 'self control', and so will NOT be effecting control over YOUR bike.

But worse; you are engaging in a battle of wills. One YOU CANT WIN!

Remember, all that you have for protection is a crash hat and your wits! They have a big metal cage, with impact protection systems, air-bags, crumple zones, safety belts and all that jazz. Comes to the crunch? You ent going to come off best, are you?

So, what SHOULD you do?

Get Out of the Gutter!

Get out of the Gutter, will, undoubtedly become another piece of advice I'll elaborate on later, when I get around to it, explaining 'road presence' and how to be assertive to ride defensively, and to 'command' your road room. But for now? Make yourself ROOM. You hug the kerb, leaving room on your off-side, you are encouraging the tail-gater to try and muscle past you in an over take where there is not space for them to do so safely.

Move away from the gutter. Give yourself space BOTH SIDES, that you can swerve or veer into, if you have to, and take away that half open door for the tail-gater to try and barge past in.

INCREASE GAP AHEAD

Next again, to make yourself road-room, and gradually, open up the following distance between you and any vehicle in front of you.

This gives you more 'road-room' so that if you do encounter a hazard, YOU have more time to react and more space to react in. This means that you should not have to react so suddenly that tail-gating driver is so likely to run into the back of you.

SLOW DOWN

You do not need to slow to a crawl; or to slow down suddenly. But, reduce speed slightly to open up the gap ahead, then IF tail-gating driver persists, you MAY reduce speed a little more; not to 'punish' them, but again; if you have to react to another hazard, slower you are moving, less severely you ought need to respond, and in any 'collision' slower you are going, the lower the severity is likely to be. Going faster, NEVER reduces risk!

And finally;

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

Ultimately, contending with a tail-gating twit; Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over, can work. Remember, its the reset. Its the Don't-Panic over-ride. And if you have a car driver harassing you; it is the ultimate way to deal with them. Pull over, and stop; GET-OFF the bike, GET-SAFE, out of the way, and START-OVER.

If after, I don't know, a mile or a few junctions, the tail-gater is still tail-gating you; and particularly if they are a more aggressive, 'Bully-Driver'. Pull over, let them by. Time lost? Well, probably adds as much to your journey as a pelican crossing being against you. Moments.

It's just not worth perpetuating the risks. Not necessarily of the tail-gater actually doing you harm, but the more likely risk of you doing yourself harm, reacting wrongly to their influence.

Watch for safe place to stop; indicate in good time; manoeuvre smoothly and predictably; STOP; Get-Off; Get Safe; Start Over.

ROAD RAGE

Tailgating has taken us into the realms of 'Road-Rage', so may as well see this one through. Road-Rage can be prompted by any manner of 'idiocy' on the roads, escalating to actual conflict.

However, it is NOT actually all that common. Where it does occur, though, there is almost ALWAYS some element of 'antagonism' involved, 'Victim' engaging and reacting to the road-rager.

And on a motorbike you are far more at risk. So you DO NOT REACT, and you DO NOT engage with an antagonistic driver. Just let them get on with it. Whatever it is.

Bully-Driver, getting ever more enraged; deliberately nudges you and brings you down. It's a vehicle collision, Covered by Traffic Law, and dealt with by traffic police. Might result in a prosecution for Causing harm by Dangerous Driving; but the investigating team will, at best be three uniform coppas with a tape measure and a note-book; and taking statements from both parties; unless tail-gating idiot admits to trying to kill you, on purpose, their entire case will be one word against another and get no further than them checking you have swapped insurance details.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

IF, a Road-Rage incident 'develops'; Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over; Pull in, Park up; have a fag, have a boiled sweet, whatever! Most likely outcome is that antagonist will drive on, and leave you be.

Might wave a fist at you, or even yell out the window. But doesn't really matter. Adds moments to your journey, maybe as much as a pelican crossing being against you. And the 'Problem' is likely to just GO AWAY.

If it doesn't? Well its incredibly unlikely; but IF the Road-Rager doesn't just clear off; and they DO stop; its a totally different kettle of fish, legally. Now, its no longer a motoring matter; get off the bike, and anything they do is covered by civil law; They punch you, that's common assault. They come at you swinging a crook lock? That's aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. These are criminal offences; instead of three traffic coppas with a tape measure; you get a full crime scene unit, in white suits and a marquee, and a team of plain cloths detectives.

You have seen the headlines; Bloke who kills some-one drink-driving gets a 12 month driving ban and hours of community service. Bloke that bashes some-one round the head with a base-ball bat, goes to prison. Its that big a difference. Take away the Vehicles, and the risks shift HUGELY in your favour.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

It's incredibly unlikely, if you stop, that the antagonist will too, but if they DO, well, bizarrely psychopathic, steering wheel gnawing Road-Rager, frequently turns back into a normal person, as soon as they get out of the car! Might be an angry one; but even so, they are unlikely to do anything but shout and swear and turn red in the face. Stay Karma. Smile. Find the funny side.

At EVERY stage, of a Road-Rage incident, escalating, it is incredibly unlikely to escalate unless you engage and aggravate the situation.

And once you have got off the bike; and its a face to face confrontation, its a very different situation, on a personal level, not the impersonal one between machines; and it takes an awful lot for the situation to become 'life threatening'.

As long as you are on the bike.... the situation can be 'life threatening'. So...

DON'T REACT - DON'T ENGAGE

Don't let the situation escalate.

Get-Off; Get-Safe; Start-Over

Adds moments to your journey. Diffuses the situation. Reduces the risk levels.

YOUR SAFETY is YOUR PRIORITY

And we are going back around the loops; and everything is contained in a few very simple bits of advice, keeping control, through self control, and staying karma, keeping cool, keeping your wits and worrying about the right stuff, and keeping everything in proportion and balance. RIDING IS A STATE OF MIND,

NEAT-FEET

 

NEAT-FEET 

wobble's start becouse of small corrections as you transition from balencing the bike to the bike gaining auto-stability; and the newb-wobble is almost entirtely down to conciousely trying TOO HARD. 

Neat-feet. 

An experienced rider, can, have thier feet up on the pegs and planted almost before the bike is moving. In fact, I often DO have them up before the bike is moving. 

Try it. 

Sit the bike, and lift feet off floor, put them on the pegs. bike will stay upright quite a while before it decides which way its going to topple and you have to put a foot down again. 

Try it. 

Get a feel for how long you can manually balence a stationary bike. 

Not looking for motorycle acrobatics of a pro- stunt rider endlessly track-standing the thing.... but get to the point of lift, count, one, tow, three, Ah... foot down! And you will realise how much stability the bike has without moving. 

Now use that to counteract what you are probably doing, which is lifting feet slowly, hovering feet over the floor, waving legs around, NOT getting them up on the pegs until the bikes moving.... 

Actually setting UP a 'wobble' which you magnify, trying to counter it, shifting your weight over the top of the bike, waggling the bars etc. 

Get your feet planted, and planted quick. Eliminate a variable; less to make you wobble, less to counter. Any wobble you get, will be got under check more quickly. 

BUT, trust the bike, that it will hold you up almost as soon as the wheels are turning, you need not get a wobble at all.... 

Though on lightweights, you probably wont eliminate it altogether, and it is a case of minimising the frequency and duration of 'wags'. 

But key is to stop flapping legs and get them feet on the pegs firmly, quickly. 

NEAT-FEET. 

Other one? 

 

Where You Look is Where You Go


WHERE YOU LOO IS WHERE YOU GO! 

Head-UP... look where you want to be, NOT where you are. 

When bike wobbles, you look down to where you are, you shorten your ahead view, and start looking where the bike is GOING not where you WANT it to GO. 

Bike will track where you look. 

Look where its going and it will go there, becouse THAT'S where your looking! 

Resist the urge to change your gaze, from looking where you want to go, to where the bike is trying to go, and it will go where you want it to, not where it wants to! 

Neat Feet - HEADS UP - Where you look is where you go! 

And 9 times out of ten, them newbie wobbles, will start dissapearing!



 

Use the Revs, Not the Gears!

YBR125... you have five gears, and round town suburban streets where you are likely to be aproaching roundabouts or give way T's... you only need three of them to get to the 40ish speed limits, IF that. Should do over 30 in second. 
1st you only need really if pulling away from dead stop. 

SO! If you are following advice of CBT and using 'apropriate' and 'responsive' gear.... we should only be talkking of a down shift MAYBE from third to second.... 

Two days on the bike? I bet you are clumping right the way to top gear and making the motor labour and not using the revs, and I'll lay smartie bets that these 'down shifts, are rather 'jerky' which is why you are asking whether you should be using the brakes.... 

Am I far off the mark? 

Its a 10bhp commuter single, it only makes 10bhp at 10K rpm, and below 3K it will have less power 'available' on the throttle than a strimmer.... THAT is why you feel its unresponsive and you HAVE to change down 'incase' you have to accelerate.... becouse you are in too tall a gear to begin with. 

I know its a geared bike, but you dont HAVE to use ALL of them, or straight away! 

You are making work for yourself and not getting best out of the bike. 

Will take some aclimatisation to get used to the tortured straining sounds of little one-lunger seemingly reving its berries to beyons, but THAT is what it ought to be doing! 

Use the FULL rev range!

advice on cornering......

It's not necesserily 'all in the mind' and just because a 125 will go round a corner at 50 dont mean any other bike, bigger, smaller, 'better' on whatever way, MUST be able to go round any faster. 

Check the lap-times & average race speeds and you will find that the differences in lap-times between bigger and smaller bikes is no where near as big as the difference in their performance specs. 

The old 125GP bikes, with 1/4 the power of the 500's and half the 'speed', would typically post times, within 10% or so of the bigguns. 

Go figure..... OK, I'll help. 

Speed gun readings on teh straighs would show that the 500's could get up to speeds over 200mph at the faster tracks; the 250's could often get to 170 or so, the 125's would be topping out probably around 140. 

So, IF the big-bikes can accelerate out the corners, twice as fast and reach a possibly 50% or higher top speed before they have to brake for the next bend.... over two or three miles.... how come the average speed is no more than 25% higher? 

ONLY place the lightweights might make up time on a bike that can out pace them for acceleration and top speed, is on cornering. 

Kinetic energy, what you 'dump' when you brake is mass times velocity squared. The lightweights, when they reach a corner are going slower, and they are carrying a heck of a lot less KE... so they can carry more speed further, before they have to start braking. 

But, being lighter they can also tend to carry a higher mid-corner speed; so they are faster 'in' to a corner, and faster round the middle, and its only coming out, where the big-bikes can put down more power, that the lightweights start loosing out. 

SO... 10mph lower 'entry speed' for a corner? That doesn't sound TOO 'wrong'. 

Thing with braking is, you do get into a little self defeating cycle; you slow down, bike reacts to braking by trying to resist turning input, so as you are braking, it doesn't want to steer, you you naturally try and slow down more because it doesn'f feel like it wants to turn... slowing more or braking harder, makes the sensation worse, and feel even more like it wont turn,,, and so it goes on until a completely over-wrought rider comes to a complete halt.... hopefully before the hedge! 

On a bigger bike, carrying so much more wight and inherently more 'stable' because of it, so the 'newb' will find teh difference so much more ponounced, especially if where they had been going just 60mph on a tiddler, they are now going 70-80 on the buggun. 

And the big barrier is the 'tip in point' where if braking, you have to come OFF the brakes, and doing so, you get counter intuiative sensation, that the bike is 'speeding up'..... making turn in raggy' as you hesitate and 'hang' trying to get things to balence... 

CONFIDENCE. 

Army mantra; indecision is more lethal than the wrong decision. 

BE DECISIVE. 

Now... corners you would have been taking at 40 on a 125... I am going to hazard a guess, were 50mph or NSL roads... so you weren't having to slow much, if at all for them.... and you probably just rolled off, and rolled into the corner..... no brakes.

How are you doing it now? 

Bit of braking happening there? (Because you are going a bit faster before the corner on the bigger bike?) 

Yeah. This is how people forget the lessons they learned on a tiddler and start squidding. Over braking for corners they could hapily get round at much higher speeds on a small lower powered machine, and making up accelerating hard out using bigger bikes power; all making it a high drama, high force experience, and convincing themselves because its so dramatic and they are working and working the bike so hard, the MUST be a riding ace and must be REALLY pushing the envelope going 'quick'...... Rolling Eyes 

A good rider arrives at a corner at the speed they want to go around it... 

The good rider, tips into the corner and almost imedietly starts to ACCELERATE 'gently' AROUND the corner... 

Its ALL in the wrist. 

Roll off, coast to the corner, tip in, and almost as SOON as you have the thing turning, KILL that hesitancy period, with SMALL throttle to put everything back under load, and PUSH you round the bend. 

Gentle acceleration creates a bit of Centrifugal force to hold the bike up, as you lean... 

Another contrary sensation; you slow down, and without centrifugal forces, you wont want to lean the bike over too much as it feels like there's nothing to stop it falling over. 

But bikes STEER by LEANING... sure you can turn the handlebars more, but increasing the angle between the wheels, means that the back wheel will be trying to 'scrub' or push the front wheel more, which, like braking, the bike will react more too, trying to 'pick up'.. back to the cycle, making you want to back off more, and turn the bars more to make the same corner. 

Track riding wont help you with these fundementals of technique very much. 

A track is just a road, without road-markings, street furniture. Its a very surreal experience for the first timer; as you loose so much sensation and so many visual clues over how fast you are going or where corners are bending to, and they tend to be three or four times the width, making them very bizzare compared to a public road. 

And, yup, you can get up to some very high speeds on a track, but the environment you achieve them in, when you get back onto a public road...... you are as likely to go EVEN SLOWER, as suddenly the scenery 'closes in' on you. 

So, for where you are, and what you want to learn.... learning to do it better where you WANT to do it better is the place to learn it! 

ON THE ROAD. 

First Exercise. BACK OFF GO FASTER. 

Sounds perverse; but; back off stop trying so hard. Don't try going so fast down the straights, don't try accelerating so hard out the corners. STOP TRYING to go faster. 

Relax, let it flow, find the rhythm, go with the flow 'cruise'. 

'Stop thinking - Start riding' 

Let it come naturally. And like as not you WILL actually go FASTER not trying to go FAST. 

First Exercise: BRAKES ARE FOR LOOSERS 

Brakes. A device that turns kinetic energy into heat, and 'wastes' it, warming the environment. 
Engine; a device for turning potential energy in a fuel, and turning it into Kinetic energy making you move. 
Ie: you have a complicated engine, turning petrol into motion.... and brakes that take all that hard won motion and THROW IT AWAY! 

Worse than that; they wear out service spares in the process! so every time you brake, you are throwing away fuel, and you are throwing away brake lining and its all costing you speed, AND money, AND safety, would you believe? 

Braking be BAD I tell you! Wink 

OK... that high drama 'squidding'... feels fast because of all the high forces generated. You accelerate hard to get to speed, big forces... lots of load on the engine, transmission, chain, wheel bearings & suspension, then the back tyre. Lots of force, means lots of wear and tear on the bike. Followed my more. Hard braking. Forks compress, front tyre gets hammered, hard won energy is being wasted, and brake pads and rotors being worn out... 

ALL whilst applying high forces to the machine, adding to wear and tear and service costs, AND increasing the risks of something 'letting go' under the strain of those high forces. 


TYRES: all thats between you and oblivion. They can only transmit SO much grip. You can use that grip to transmit braking force OR steering force OR acceleration force, but the limit is the same. Use it ALL to transmit braking force, you wont have any left to transmit steering.... if you DONT BRAKE you have it ALL available to transmit steering force.... 

AND back to leaning as oposed to turning the bars... more you lean, the less 'scrubb' so the more steering force you can get for your grip. 

Arrive at a corner at the speed you intend to go round it; DONT BRAKE... roll off earlier and 'coast' to the tip in; accelerate gently round; remove the hesitancy zone; get back on the throttle, GENTLY and use THAT to make the bike steer. with LEAN. 

Low drama cornering; low force cornering, maximum grip available for the job of cornering, maximum margin for safety, AND less wear and tear on the bike, less fuel 'dumped' by the brakes, and MORE SPEED. 

Following first exercise; stop trying so hard.... if you are going to think about it, think about the right stuff, and try to do it better, and use the brakes less, and corner 'SMOOTHER'. 

Third Exercise: SMOOTH & SWIFT 

Bringing it together. Dont try so hard. Relax, be 'cool'. Let it flow. Eradicate 'Drama' fro your riding, it shouldn't be hard work. Let it flow. Do it ALL 'on the throttle' as much as you can. 99% of everything is in the wrist, and tiny, tiny, little adjustments at the right time; Cool-Riding, in miles Davis cool-jazz' manner, maximum effect for minimum effort. IN the WRIST! 

Aim for smoothness above all things. Fast will follow. Smooth, reduces loadings on everything, including YOU the rider. Mental ANd physical. And it stops being so much hard work, or so frazzling or worry some and a lot more enjoyable. 

And you will pick up speed, and you will do it with bigger margins of safety... 

AND you'll save money in more mpg and less wear and tear and servicing on the bike to boot! 

Its ALL WIN. 

Don't take a race track; don't take fancy lessons; don't take a big book of tricks or to be 'enlightened' into the mysteries of Keith-Code 'Counter-Steering'... it just takes a LITTLE attitude adjustment, to STOP TRYING SO HARD... and then a lot of practice... that OUGHT in consequence to be a lot more fun rather than even more 'frazzling'. 

BACK OFF- GO FASTER 

Just get zen with it and find your 'groove'... don't worry about it, it WILL come if you have your head in the right place to let it, and DON'T WORRY about it. 

And remember... just because 'that' bike can go round a corner that fast, don't mean any other can. Likewise riders. Just because one rider can hustle a bike through a corner at such a speed wont mean you can... 

Which is a warning about trying to 'clone' other riders techniques. 

Big danger, that if you go out with other riders, and try to do what they do... 

They are on a different bike. there's 1001 things that might make what they do work for them... but might NOT work for you. 

Always ride your OWN ride.... never try copy some-one elses. you don't know what they are doing that might get you in trouble! 

Next up; theres nothing to say that what THEY are doing is 'right' or even better than what you are, let alone better FOR YOU. 

Always ride your own road! 

Big problem with trying to learn from 'more experienced' riders, is that you will clone their riding style, faults and all, and few riders are THAT good. 

At best, you might pick up a few 'ideas' you could try; but that's for you to try at your own pace and adapt TO SUIT YOU. 

If you want some-one to 'Teach' you to ride a motorbike, go to a motorbike teacher. That's thier job, and they ought to teach you 'only' good stuff, and give you ideas and techniques for you to adapt and develop to help you create your OWN 'good' riding style. 

But here and now; just relax, back-off - go faster. aim for smooth, build your OWN confidence, through practice. Find your own 'groove'... then worry about the next step, when you NEED more inspiration and ideas to take it further.

 

 

 

 

 

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Motorcycling is a very diverse and exiting pass-time and can be many things to many people. Some ride as a cheap way to get to work or college, others merely for pleasure. There are many different disciplines of motorcycle 'sport' that do not use public roads, where you do not need a UK driving licence, while there are many events held around the country for more enthusiastic road-riders, from informal rider-meets, to big multi-day rallies and shows.

 

This bit of the site is intended as a Starting point for any-one who wishes to gain a UK Motorcycle Licence to ride a motorbike on public UK Roads, and is compiled from all the more commonly asked questions I have fielded from new riders during CBT and Rider Training as an instructor and from those asked frequently on the Bike Forums, and I have tried to distil all that into the 'contents' listing for this section of the site, here:-

 

FAQ's  All the things you might ask.

 

But before we get to the things you probably want to know, a few things, I would like to tell you!

 

Advice offered here, is for potential new riders, on the UK Mainland. European Community Member states share much common legislation, but there ARE regional variations. As there are within the UK, where Northern Ireland, and other off-shore islands have 'special' rules of their own. Advice offered here is for guidance only. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure you ride in accordance with local laws in force where you ride. Check them before doing so.

My credentials for creating this bit of the my web-site? Well I have been riding motorcycles over thirty years, deeply involved & passionate about the pursuit.  I have been involved with off-road trials competition since I was a school-boy, engaged in road racing and all manner of other disciplines as well as immersed myself in road-riding and the 'social' side of the pursuit. This lead me to become a volunteer Motorcycle instructor, teaching Compulsory Basic Training and road-training for UK Practical tests, for some years, and have been offering this advice, usually well regarded, on Forums & bulletin boards for many years. Much of what I offer is my own PERSONAL opinion, but it is well informed, and I try where possible to offer alternative view-points where debated. So lets get on with it!

Lesson 1: STOP THINKING – START RIDING

As a child, maybe four or five years old, when we have only just mastered propelling ourselves along on our own two legs, we get given our first proper bicycle, with stabiliser wheels. And pedalling that is just a natural progression from the little scoot along, ride on toys we had before, and its not long until we are pedalling along like fury with the stabiliser wheels lifting off the floor.

Then Daddy comes along and takes the stabilisers OFF… and even though they were doing nothing for us before, we start to worry, and we fall off….

But after a little encouragement and a few tears, we get the hang of it, and are soon tearing about, seeing how fast we can go, or what stunts we can do.

Two things in there;

STOP THINKING – START RIDING

Very easy, approaching learning to ride a motorbike to get all over wrought thinking about it TOO much!

Motorcycling is dangerous! Its difficult! You have to balance the bike! There’s LOTS and LOTS of ‘stuff’ to worry about. Well, there CAN be…. If you let it bog you down!

Lesson 2: Biking is FUN!

Riding a motorcycle is supposed to be FUN. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t do it! So if its NOT fun, you are doing something ‘wrong’ or you are doing it for the wrong reasons!

Before you even START to try and ride a bike, first ask yourself WHY you want to do it.

An awful lot of very ‘daft’ justification is spouted by newbie’s for wanting a motorbike, and a lot of it is to actually hide the simple fact that they THINK it is going to be ‘fun’!

Thing is there is nothing wrong in admitting that; you don’t NEED any other reason, but kidding yourself that it’s a good way to maybe save money, that it’s a quicker way to work than a car, or that it’s more reliable and convenient than a bus, could put some hard lessons in the learning process.

Bikes are not ‘cheap’. Fuel economy may look pretty attractive on a lightweight commuter, or even many middleweights; but the numbers quoted in the specs aren’t always realised in the real world, and even if they are; savings can be hugely eroded by the maintenance costs on a bike, and for a learner, the set-up costs of training, tests and buying ‘essential’ riding ‘kit’, like a helmet, gloves, jacket and water-proofs.

Meanwhile, ‘togging up’ to ride each morning can add more time to a journey than it might save; and riding in all weathers, battling with the half awake, or frustrated queue hoppers in cars, can be anything BUT ‘fun’!

You may SAVE Money, You MAY Save Time, but on their own these aren't good enough reasons to ride a bike. You ride a bike..

BECAUSE YOU ENJOY IT!

Anything else is just 'Bonus'. But; you CAN have too much of a good thing; looking JUST for ‘Fun’, well; very easy to get carried away, and get lost in the red-mist of high speed thrills. This can be great ‘fun’, but so easily ends in tears, when the inevitable ‘spill’ results in a bent bike and a dose of painful gravel rash.

Lesson 3: DON’T RUSH – it is a Quick way to get Hurt on a bike!

Spirited riding can be an awful lot of fun; but if high speed thrills on a Sunny afternoon are all you are after; then is the Public Highway REALLY the best place to go looking for them?

We used to say save it for the race track; and there is all manner of club sport for the enthusiast, from slow speed trials to high-speed road racing, where you can get all the thrills you want, in relative safety, without worrying other innocent road-users.

And at the end of the day, the 'Thrill' of fast-riding on the road is a rather 'empty' one. What do you get for it? An adrenaline 'rush' and maybe some tales or daring do to brag at a biker meet.

In organised 'sport', there's a point. You get a lot more 'fulfilment' from it. How good you are is measured by the lap-times, score sheet and 'placings'.

Even if you don’t want to take it so seriously, you can do ‘Track-Days’ or practice sessions, and come home with some pro-photo’s and maybe some lap-times. It can also be cheaper! Especially as you wont get points on your licence and a wopping big fine for going ‘too’ fast!

On the public road; well, the destination is always the same. Back home we hope! What matters is the journey. So take your time and ENJOY it! Look around, take in the scenery. See the sights. Stop! Have a cup of tea or coffee. Talk to people! This can be as much fun as tearing around aimlessly. Sometimes even more so.

And its NOT just about looking at speed limits; and geographic travel, its about your whole attitude & approach to riding, and the 'journey' from newbie to experienced biker. The wonderful voyage of discovery, self discovery and 'learning' as you go.

Rushing into things, not just hazards you may encounter on the road, but the hazards of picking and choosing a bike; selecting riding gear, and how you go about 'learning to ride', there are as many dangers there OFF the bike, to be found from 'Rushing in' as there are going 'fast' on a bike!

But now I’m rushing! We haven’t even got to choosing a bike or kit or anything yet!

Lesson 4: Put the Licence Before The Bike!

An awful lot of Newbies try jumping straight in at the middle. They want to learn to ride a bike, so they instantly think “I need a Bike” and head off from there, thinking “What kind of bike do I want” and asking lots of silly questions about how fast they are or how comfortable they are, and how good they look, or how reliable they might be!

STOP! Back up!

Before you can ride a bike you NEED a licence!

OK, so for a 125cc ‘Learner-Legal’ you only have to have a ‘provisional’ licence validated by a CBT Certificate…. I’ll come back to that. But you STILL need a licence. And the ‘Learner-Licence’ of Provisional +CBT is ONLY that, a LEARNER LICENCE. Offered so you can do some learning!

Time and time and time again, I am telling people to stop worrying about what they WANT a 125 to do in top speed, or what they want one to look like, or whether it would be any good for 50 mile a day commuting.

Bottom line is that what 125’s do BEST is let you LEARN and help you get to a FULL Licence.

When you have THAT, you can have pretty much ANY bike you like, and as much style, as much performance or as much comfort as you can afford or handle. BUT your FIRST bike doesn’t HAVE to have it all!

In fact, backing up; NOT rushing into things and putting to many expectations on the poor little bike; ONLY thing your first bike has to do is LET YOU LEARN.

Yet, so many newbies with nothing actually tangible to get their teeth into, before they 'start' spend their time looking at all the minute detail of everything and anything, that often really matters not one bit, and NOT getting on with it! 'Stop Thinking - Start Riding'!

The ‘Boring’ advice so often offered, to pick a bike that’s NOT stylish or fancy or fast; because you WILL fall off, is very valid.

Most newbies WILL have a ‘tumble’ practicing an e-stop, or u-turn or having a ‘panic’ going round a corner, which is far more common that statistics suggest, but thankfully rarely result in little more than a slightly shaken and maybe grazed and bruised newbie, and a few skuffs to the bike.

So multiply out the odds against you, and the oft made suggestion you WILL fall off at some point, and most likely in your first three months of riding, at LEAST once, is not often proved wrong!

‘Boring’ learner bikes not only tend to be cheaper and easier to fix when you have the inevitable ‘Newbie Tumble’; the sit up, learner commuter, with no concessions to style or speed, DOES offer you the ‘best’ seat as a learner for all round visibility, and good balance and machine control, so while your chances aren’t great, you DO have a ‘better’ chance of NOT so easily getting into trouble in the first place.

And while you might not be able to do much about being perhaps an under 25 year old male, or having less than three years road experience, or the basic odds of being more at risk being on a bike to begin with… you CAN do something about that incredibly high EXTRA risk of being on L-Plates… and work to get your licence!

I say don’t ‘rush’; you can go from a complete noob, to qualified rider in a week via an intensive DAS course, and that’s another ‘Rush’ I often advise against; but NOT rushing, you can go from a complete noob to a full licence ‘comfortably’ in three to six months, IF you set that as the goal, AND get some decent 'grounding' and machine control skills, that wont 'just' get you a licence to ride a big-bike, but give you some 'skills' to help you get the most out of it.

That’s a good period of time to get some early miles experience under your wheels, and lay down a basic foundation skill-set, which riding a 125 is very good at helping develop, even if you actually do your tests on a ‘big-bike’ under DAS. DAS or intensive riding courses, unfortunately pander to the impatient, and they tend NOT to help you develop that basic foundation skillset, all too often they ARE 'Crash-Courses' and do little more than give you a licence in a hurry so you can go crash in a hurry!

Lesson 5: You're are ALWAYS a 'Learner'

It doesn't END with the licence!

Those risk multipliers say that you are 'most' at risk as a Learner' on L-Plates. But they also say that you are still a LOT more at risk as a 'New-Rider' until you have got a good three to five years riding under your wheels.

The 'Learning-Curve' is a pretty steep one, to start with. When you first start out there is an AWFUL lot to 'learn', and you need to get to grips with an awful lot of it quite quickly. One of the reasons I say DON'T-RUSH. Very important to get the 'basics' nailed down tight, and have a secure foundation to build your skill-set on.

Easy to jump on a bike and get going, and you do 'OK', and get ahead of yourself. And frequently people get a LONG way ahead of themselves and build CONFIDENCE a lot faster than they build COMPETENCE. And the crash-point comes when one seriously outweighs the other.

Starting out, doing CBT, you will quickly get to grips with 'basic' machine control, moving away, turning left & right, changing gear, stopping. And move on to the stuff you need to know for road riding; observations, lane positioning, and dealing with 'traffic'.

Very EASY to 'forget' the basics, and not go back and perfect them.

I've been riding 'Trials' since I was a nipper, and I am STILL trying to 'perfect' those 'basics', that is what the sport is all about. So TAKE your time, and DON'T ever think that you have 'mastered' it. It can take a life-time, and when you have that full-licence in your pocket, that is only the START of your real 'Learning'

And remember, DON'T RUSH, enjoy the journey! Learning to ride a bike, its like a meal; you can grab some fast food, doesn't really fill you up for very long, and there's no real sense of pleasure in it; its just refuelling. But, take your time, sit down to a proper dinner... ENJOY it... much more satisfying.

Lesson 6: It's ALL about BALANCE - Go with the Flow!

Yes, bikes 'fall over' but that's not the ONLY kind of balance I'm talking about. Physically, riding a bike is all about balancing forces; the force of motion, in a quite complicated 'equilibrium', between machine and rider and nature.

But again, its allegorical. You need 'balance' in your approach and attitude to riding. You have to find 'balance' in all your decisions. Balance between price and performance, costs and economy, Safety & practicality, 'Fun' and safety, and so on.

Its ALL about balance, and I actually relish that Buddhist 'wha' of experiencing the 'harmony' of being in the middle of all these 'balances' when I'm riding, THAT more than anything is where I personally find the 'thrill'.

Generations have discovered this joy, and so many set out on journeys of self discovery on a motorbikes, and it need not be an epic adventure across undeveloped continents, could just be popping to the chip-shop.... in fact, on the bike I will regularly ride a couple of hundred miles to find a chip-shop... just for the journey!

But that is for you to discover for yourself on YOUR journey. Meanwhile, advice is to RELAX, remember, Stop-Thinking, Start Riding, Don't-Rush, RELAX, its supposed to be FUN, and enjoy the journey!

Far too easy as a learner to try and FORCE things; and the typical learner will simply work TOO hard..

The 'Learner-Wiggle' is a typical example; you get on the bike, and at rest, have to prop it up, you know that when moving it will hold itself up, but as you get it moving you will hover a foot over the floor, 'paddle', walking your legs as you start moving, and waving your legs around not sure whether to put them on the foot-pegs yet...

Waving your legs around, YOU will be making the bike 'wiggle' and wobble, as it tilts it will turn, and you will try and correct that turning the bars, and that will make you tip the other way, so as you start off, you will be waving legs around wobbling, trying to correct the wobble and the tilt and the steer, and everything will be ALL over the ruddy shop!

Experienced rider will make it look 'easy'. Clutch will come out and as soon as its found the biting point, feet will be coming up, and by the time the clutch is 'out' and the bike moving, feet will be on the pegs and everything will be neat and tidy and smooth....

This is something I call 'Neat-Feet', I'm sure I will get to in more detail later... BUT for now, TRUST THE BIKE! And go with it!

DON'T make extra work for yourself, DON'T make it any harder for yourself 'wrestling' with it trying to FORCE the balance... just go with it, and FIND the natural balance... it WILL come! Cool-Riding.... another mantra... minimum effort, maximum effect!

So, get the 'attitude' right, right at the start. Be 'Cool'. Stop-Thinking, Don't Rush, go with the flow.... ENJOY the journey, and HAVE FUN!

Lesson 7: Don't let Fear Rule Your Reason!

Or Lack of fear! Either way, good riding, fast and safe comes from making clear rational decisions. Whether its whether to over take a lorry, or what bike to buy, or what crash helmet.

Good decisions are made on GOOD information, NOT guess work!

Riding a bike, you will learn very early on we need to be looking EVERYWHERE all the time. During training they don't drill 'observations' into you because they like to be sure your neck works, its because those rear-observations, shoulder checks and forward observations will SAVE your neck. Observation, SEEING what's going on, so you can make decisions how to deal with it! We don't GUESS what's behind us, we LOOK.

Very easy to let fear rule your reason, though, and a lot of 'safety wear' is marketed on people's fears. Crash -Helmets, leathers, boots, etc, very easy to conjure images of carnage and gore in your mind, to make you put a higher 'value' on what you are being offered, than the 'risk' of that 'protection' really being needed really warrants.

Similarly, very easy to chuck 'reason' out the window, choosing a bike, and being sold on the 'performance' to believe that those extra 3bhp or 5mph are a really BIG deal, when in the real world, for the use they will ever get, they probably aren't.

And on the road? Over-Confidence, very easy to 'blindly' take stupid risks, simply because we are having fun, or in under-confidence, to 'dither' and put ourself in danger through NOT taking any action.

Back to 'Balance' and finding the middle ground, keeping it real, and THINKING. We LIVE on our WITS on a bike. Which means using your head, not sticking it in a hat and thinking we have safety 'covered'.

Good decisions are based on GOOD information; so you do your research you watch what's going on around you, and you get as MUCH 'intel' on what's what as you can to INFORM your decision BEFORE you make it.

Doesn't matter whether you are buying a bike; choosing a helmet; planning an over-take, negotiating a junction; or planning a transcontinental tour.

KEEP IT REAL

 

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