Visit the Department for Transport “THINK! Motorcycle Safety” website Here
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Take control: give your machine the skills it deserves
It's a jungle out there
Every year bikes get faster, more complex and more expensive.
Every year the roads get more crowded with boy racers, white van men and lane-hogging trucks.
Every year you need to be sharper, more aware, at the top of your game every time you pull on your leathers and hit the starter button.
Unfortunately every year most of us get a bit lazier, a bit more complacent and our skills get rustier. Instinct and quick reactions on their own aren't enough - the road is dangerous...
You need to THINK!
It doesn't matter if you've been riding for years or if you've just come back to biking - what you need is up to date bike handling skills, inside information and a head stuffed with riding know-how. Get that lot from somewhere and you'll ride safer AND get more out of your bike.
But I'm already a good rider - it's other road users who cause the problems
Oh really? Does any of this sound familiar?
- I often find that corners suddenly tighten up on me.
- I sometimes find I only just get away with overtaking manoeuvres.
- When I ride with my mates, I seem to have to thrash my bike to keep up, although I know they're not going any quicker than I usually do when I ride on my own.
- People are always pulling out on me and forcing me to take avoiding action.
- I'm not sure how to set my suspension up for the kind of riding I do.
- I worry about how secure my bike is, even when it's locked up.
- As soon as it rains all my confidence disappears.
A different approach
They're all common complaints, and its easy to blame most of them on outside influences. In fact they're mostly problems that can be solved with a different approach.
For example, corners don't suddenly tighten up - if it's tighter than you thought it's because you didn't THINK! and pick up the clues early enough to assess what was coming up.
Similarly, when people pull out in front of you it's often not because they haven't seen you, but because you were going a lot faster than they expected - the average car driver has no conception whatsoever of the performance of a modern bike.
Putting the emphasis on yourself to avoid trouble rather than on others to avoid you is the first step towards getting more out of your bike, and keeping it shiny side up. The second step is improving your riding skills.
So you need to learn, and there are three ways to get the skills you need to control today's bikes on today's roads.
1. You can learn from your mistakes. But every mistake hurts. Life's too short, and likely to get even shorter if you take this option.
2. You can learn from your mates. But how good are they anyway? How do you choose what's good and bad advice?
3. Or you could learn from an expert. Someone who spends all day every day in the saddle, who knows every trick in the book AND who knows how to pass that knowledge on to others. You might even end up with discounts on insurance, clothing and accessories.
Ok, so what do I do about it?
Before deciding on a training course, it's worth finding out just where you're at and what you need to know, and there are plenty of organisations that can help. Assessments are carried out by professional riders who know how to analyse your riding and come up with a programme that's right for you - no point learning how to get your knee down on a track day if you're a died in the wool two-up tourer, and vice versa.
Be assessed by the best
Any of these organisations will point you in the right direction for a professional assessment:
- The Police's "Bike Safe" programme (www.bikesafe.co.uk)
- The Driving Standards Agency (tel: 0115 901 2500)
- The Motorcycle Rider Training Association (tel: 01788 538303)
- British Motorcyclists Federation (tel: 01274 545552)
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (tel: 0121 248 2099)
- The Institute of Advanced Motorists (tel: 0208 996 9600); or check The Yellow Pages.
Once you've been assessed, you'll have a better idea of which areas of your riding will need working on. You can then focus on finding the course that's right for you.
For most people the bare minimum is a refresher on road positioning, planning ahead and what to do if someone you're riding with has an accident. However, there's always plenty more to learn, and look at it this way - you may be going back to school but the homework's going to be superb!
But how much does it cost?
How long's a piece of string? A couple of one hour sessions could cost you less than a tank of fuel, or a residential course over several days could run into hundreds. Whatever level you go for, it'll be the most cost-effective way of spending your biking pound this side of renting a time machine to get next week's roll-over lottery numbers.
Every year you need to be sharper, more aware, at the top of your game every time you pull on your leathers and hit the starter button