Motorcycle training falls into 5 distinct levels, each one reliant on the other to bring about a competent riding experience.
This is the most overlooked factor. Checking the bike before each ride requires diligence on the part of the rider. Most people simple cannot be bothered to do so, yet it is these checks that bring peace of mind to the rider as well as ensuring all safety critical items are functional. In all too many cases riders have arrived for training with badly adjusted chains, incorrect tyre pressure, rear lights or indicators not working. Think through the ramifications of these so called minor items:
Incorrect tyre pressure = poor handling, = an unsafe bike.
Badly adjusted chains: too tight = lack of suspension travel = poor handling = unsafe bike, too loose = snatchy throttle = poor handling = unsafe bike.
Lights/Indicators not working = other road users are unable to see your intentions = unsafe bike.
Safety Gear (ATGATT)
In SA it is illegal to ride without a helmet. Yet just last week there were news reports of an accident where neither rider nor pillion was wearing a helmet. Rider died at the scene of the accident, pillion in critical condition. Safety gear is paramount to your own personal safety. Helmets excluded, the gear will not necessarily save your life, however it will in all likelihood prevent nasty road rash and having to have road dirt scrubbed out of open wounds. I use a simple analogy to show people the usefulness of proper gear – lie down on the road in your jeans & T-shirt & let me drag you along the road for 5 metres. Inevitably the answer is “NO WAY”. Obviously, because it will hurt! Yet these same people are happy to risk sliding down the road at 120km/h plus? I advise all trainees to research the relevant TUV & CE standards & to then make informed choices about safety gear rather than to rely on “a friend said brand x was the best”.
I’ve also found that a trainee with safety gear is more able to focus on their riding & learning as the constant fear in the back of their minds about falling injuries is diminished.
Basic Motorcycle Operation
This relates to gears, indicators brakes, throttle etc. Sounds easy? It is, mostly. Yet it’s still important to ensure these are done correctly all the time, every time. Riders need to know how to emergency stop. Riders need to know to be in the right gear for the current situation. Many riders experience the brief locking of the rear wheel when changing down a gear, caused by releasing the clutch too quickly. This often causes newer riders to panic, therefore matching engine speed to wheel speed by blipping the throttle is an important skill to learn.
Riding Techniques & Crash avoidance
Countersteering. How many times have we all heard that phrase? Yet very few riders actively countersteer. This is one of the most vital techniques a rider can learn, however as with all techniques it needs to be practiced before it becomes habit. Likewise the oft stated “look where you want to go”. Sounds easy, yet this is also a skill that needs to be correctly taught & applied until it becomes habit.
On road scanning & strategies. This is probably the most neglected skill by riders of all ages and experience levels. Yet it is the most important skill to master. Once the 4 skill levels mentioned previously have been mastered most riders believe they are now skilled and adept at riding a motorcycle. Unfortunately accident statistics prove otherwise.
Placement within the rider’s lane to maximize their line of sight through corners, reading the road surface to spot any changes such as gravel, sand or diesel spills. Scanning ahead to spot potential hazards and applying the SIPDE principle – Scan for the hazard, Identify the hazard, Predict what the hazard may do (car may turn in front of you, dog may run across the road etc.), Decide on a course of action & lastly Execute your decision (slow down, move around the hazard etc.)
Each of these skills is interdependent on one another – you cannot master Roadcraft is you have not accomplished Basic Motorcycle Operation, Riding techniques & accident avoidance may well be compromised if your motorcycle is in poor condition due to the fact that you have not mastered the Motorcycle Checks. It may be argued that Safety Gear is up to each individual to decide for themselves, however those riding with little or no gear tend to have a far greater sense of bravado, which often leads to reckless riding as there is little or no awareness of personal injury. This in turn often leads to accidents due to the greater recklessness.