I’m sure most of you have been riding for most of your lives, although some may have taken to two wheels later on. Either way there is always room to improve how you ride to make you faster, safer and help you to live longer.
This year seems to have been a particularly bad one for the sheer number of crashes involving personal friends. There doesn’t seem to be any set reason for them but I dare bet most of these accidents could have been prevented with a little bit of thought, some common sense and a smattering of advanced training. Advanced training isn’t just for geeks, it’s also for people who enjoy riding and want to get the most out of it and live to tell the tale.
In its basic form advanced training is a way to get you to ride defensively, use road positioning to get the best view around a corner, keep yourself visible and to make you faster and smoother without compromising safety. Here are a few pointers…
Is advanced training for me?
Do you find yourself getting angry at other road users?
Do you find people pull out on you often?
Do you get cut up?
Have you scared yourself in the last month?
Have you had to do an emergency stop?
Have you had a no fault crash?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’re probably a perfect candidate for some kind of advanced riding.
How do I improve?
The first thing is you need is to be open and receptive to change. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and look at our main problems, or the problems we face on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re continually getting angry at people pulling out on you, maybe if you look at your road positioning there are ways to increase your own visibility. Treat every other road user as a potential assassin; if you can’t make eye contact with them then they can’t see you either.When approaching a junction move into a position that makes you stand out to any other vehicle trying to join the road, drop back from the vehicle in front so you’re not hidden and try not to get stuck behind vans, lorries, or buses.
Keep an eye on the stationary wheels of other vehicles, if a wheel moves it will be the first sign that they’re planning on pulling out. Don’t get angry at other road users if you’ve not done everything in your power to be seen.
Other than collisions with other vehicles, cornering is another high-risk area and it’s not one that is easy to teach or perfect. Simple laws of physics mean leaning a two-wheeled vehicle around an often off camber, or bumpy corner will take more than just good luck.
If you find yourself running wide in corners, or scaring yourself and jamming the brakes on at the last minute maybe you need some help.
Basics first, you need to go into the corner at a speed that is suitable for your own skills, the competency of your bike and of course for the severity of the bend. To corner successfully you need to be able to read the road very well, is that corner going to tighten up or open up?
Positioning is a big help when cornering, if you’re going into a left hander then you should approach it towards the centre of your lane to give you the best view and an early indication if there are any unseen problems. For a right hand corner position yourself to the left.
Scrub off speed before the corner so that you arrive at a speed that feels safe for you, not for anybody else you may be riding with, or for how good you imagine you are! Accelerate steadily through the corner to balance your machine, try to keep off the brakes (especially the front) but if you want a little extra mid corner control use some gentle trail braking with the rear.
Other than road signs, what else can give us clues about the road ahead? Road signs may well warn of static problems, junctions, twisty roads, or loose surfaces but there are plenty of other clues that can help us to avoid potential problems.
Our sense of smell can give an early warning, the scent of freshly mown grass may mean there’s a slow moving tractor cutting the verge up ahead, a smell of fuel could alert us to a diesel spill. Think about your surroundings and don’t become complacent on regular routes.
Look for other clues, a line of telegraph poles or streetlights over a hedge in the distance may warn of an unseen road joining yours. Fresh mud could warn of a farm entrance. Keep alert and use any clues available to you.
A big way to reduce your risk of an accident is to check your vehicle over properly on a regular basis, especially before a long ride. Cleaning it is one way to help you notice any obvious defects, a cracked exhaust, missing wheel nut, loose suspension…
Check your tyres are ok with no obvious cuts, bulges or bald spots and check the pressures regularly. Go around the machine with a socket set to make sure everything is tight and check fluid levels are ok, oil, water and petrol. Make sure your lights are working properly.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to staying safe on the road but if you’ve read this far then you may well start to think about how you can improve your riding. Above all else get out there and enjoy yourself, two wheels are the best way to get around and have fun.
If you want to find out more about advanced riding have a look at ROSPA or the IAM, or check out your nearest police run Bike Safe scheme.