Defensive ridingAlways ride defensively anticipating potential hazards whilst maintaining good safety margins. Try to ride with an invisible bubble around you which subject to the road and the overall environment, speed and potential hazards can be enlarged or reduced. If there is a greater or growing threat from the hazard, then respond with greater margins, i.e. slow down, allow more space – this allows you more time to react to sudden and changing hazards. Always think ‘what if’.
Always position in such a way that you maximise your position on the road to make you and your bike as visible as possible to other road users. Don’t just think about what you can see, but how it works in reverse. The chances are if you can’t see them, they will not be able to see you. Nearside junctions create great risk to motorcyclists so ride accordingly placing more effort and attention to your approach line. Correct positioning for bends is also essential.
Avoid target fixation, e.g. on the left kerb on right hand bends because where you look is where you will go, also avoid turning out of a right bend too soon this will result in an exit line near the centre of the road and into oncoming traffic. Entering left hand bends too quickly can have serious consequences through drifting into the opposing lane and colliding with oncoming traffic. Enter corners a little slower and accelerate out; think slow in fast out as this is safest on our cluttered and variable roads!
ProactiveWe should always be riding proactively rather than reactively. Do not wait for the car to appear at the junction before engaging a defensive mindset, you must try and use all the information available much sooner. On approach to a junction you will invariably see a hazard sign, changes in the white lines, changes in kerbs and eventually the junction itself, as soon as you see any of these you should start looking for the junction and negate any threat well before you arrive.
Machine controlMotorcycles are an extension of your body and the more we can work in harmony the better the machine will respond. On the approach to any hazard be in the correct gear which provides you with good engine braking /acceleration if required. As a rough guide mid way through the rev band is as good a place to be. And whilst you don’t need to understand the physics of counter steering, having a basic knowledge will be advantageous so you don’t try and make the bike do something that it wasn’t designed for.
Reading the road
Junctions are a real risk to motorcyclists, as are Left & Right Hand bends on rural and de-restricted roads. A bend is a hazard so correct gear selection on the approach is important. The size of a motorcycle means we can adopt a far more flexible position on approach and our entry, mid corner and exit positions. You should always be on your side of the road looking to achieve an early view through and around the corner, and so maximsing your view and safety margins.
Being able to consistently and correctly read the severity of corners is an art and whilst there are multiple ways of gathering information to assist us with this, the use of the limit point is an invaluable tool for gathering information and judging the bend/corner. Your entry position followed by approach speed versus severity of the bend will all make the limit point move faster or slower. Being able to apply this skill will assist in maintaining a good flow to the ride.
Slow ridingAvoid at all cost using the front brake for any slow speed maneuver especially if turning. Always aim to cover the rear brake, which means getting into a ‘mind set’ to always put your left foot down (modern machines). When slow riding a gentle application of the rear brake can also stabilise the machine. Always ride managing your space, by that we mean you can’t influence other road users but you can influence yourself. Through correct anticipation of the movement of other traffic should mean less stops and a better flowing ride.
BrakingWeather conditions and road surface have their part to play. In winter months the colder climate has to be considered whereas in the summer months new surface dressing is in abundance. Know the capabilities of your brakes and even practice in a safe environment. Don’t wait until you encounter a hazard that needs heavy braking before knowing how effective they actually are. On cornering always reduce your speed on the approach as mid corner braking is to be avoided.
Progress v restraint
By far the hardest competency to master. A cautious rider who always maintains deep follow positions will find making progress (overtaking) difficult. On realising an opportunity to overtake has occurred this over cautious rider first has to close the gap on the slower vehicle, which means speeding up towards the rear of target vehicle while following behind and often when about to initiate the overtake the opportunity is lost as they are that much further down the road and the situation has changed and opportunity lost..
Riders who have an ability to overtake at will tend to follow too closely, completely sacrificing their safety margins for the sake of making progress. There is an art to correctly anticipating when a potential overtake is occurring. The movement from the safety of a follow position into a pre-overtaking position requires great flexibility and constant concentration because if the opportunity doesn’t develop, the rider must drop back to the follow position again. All planning should be exercised from the safety of the following position. Profiling of vehicles and negating any off side dangers has to be included in any strategy.
ObservationsUsing all the information available is essential if we are to be a good motorcyclist. This is why it’s the all encompassing feature of Road Craft and the System of Motorcycle Control. Knowledge is invaluable. Some information is more obvious than others and with experience even small pieces of information add to a clearer picture and safer riding.
Additional TrainingAs riders we must not become complacent and must never stop learning. While there are opportunities to learn from books and the internet, nothing substitutes for practical on road training. To improve your riding post test and to make yourself safer we suggest you look for courses run by your local I.A.M. (Institute of Advanced Motorists) group, or RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) group, these are cost effective and will improve your riding no end. And these groups are not all run by hi viz anoraks, most are exceptionally quick and safe riders.