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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Bringing your “A” game to riding

After the recent ScooterBob posts, I’d intended to let the blog slip back into recess.  That’s still the intent but as it’s pouring down outside and thoughts turn to two rides earlier this week, it might form the basis of a worthwhile post.

Regular readers will remember the saga about the journey of Roger Fleming and yours truly to attain our Institute of Advanced Motorists advanced riding qualifications.  The Police Roadcraft system of riding was developed by the UK Police, is used by many police forces world-wide and is arguably one of the most demanding training programmes around.  Rog and I both passed after much effort and stress, going on to train as Observers (Instructors), adding further stress to our lives!  After passing those tests a couple of years back, we recently became Senior Observers after yet another test and more stress.

Mentoring other riders through to the Advanced Test and Observer levels requires us to ride to a consistently high level, which helps to stop those standards sliding which is almost inevitable unless you regularly re-skill.  However, riding well still requires effort and it has to be earned!

Last Tuesday, I took out an experienced rider for a refresher run, predominantly on country roads.  Terry owns a BMW HP4 superbike, mainly for trackdays.  He’s just bought a BMW 1200 GS for general riding and that’s what he used on this occasion.

Terry and his 1200GS - miles of smiles!

It was one of those magic days…… thoroughly enjoying each others’ company, warm and sunny, not much traffic and we were able to make (umm…to use a technical term) “good progress” on twisty country back roads.  Riders everywhere will recognise the thrill from such a ride which feels like you’re on rails.  That slightly detached feeling where your situational awareness is so heightened that control of your bike seems totally automatic and without effort – a feeling so good in fact that it’s almost impossible to describe to a non-rider.

Terry rode to a very high standard and we couldn't keep the smiles off our faces.  A well-ridden GS on twisty, bumpy back roads is a potent weapon!  Absolutely fizzing after the ride and I was so looking forward to getting out a couple of days later with another IAM member.

Up early on Thursday to meet with Lloyd in Auckland.  Lloyd is very close to taking his Advanced Test and if he did well again on this ride, I would be putting him forward for the test.  Lloyd rides a Yamaha TDM 900 with over 140,000 km on the clock and it still runs flawlessly.

Lloyd and his mighty TDM 900

This ride was to be a 100 km mix of busy motorway conditions (freeway), dense city traffic and open country roads to test Lloyd’s understanding and practical application of Police Roadcraft.  He would also be giving a detailed commentary over the helmet comms to describe what he was observing and how this was impacting on his riding plan.

The ride was going superbly with Lloyd’s commentary and bike control demonstrating that he was relaxed, yet totally aware of his environment.  This also put me in a relaxed state and when we took the wrong exit from a roundabout out in the countryside, I suggested that we simply turn round to get on the correct road.

Although it was a fairly narrow country road, Lloyd did an effortless U turn and I prepared to do likewise.  It’s at this stage that Street Triple owners will start to smile and guess what’s coming next!  The Triple is a lovely, agile bike but it has a frankly awful steering lock angle.  Without paying proper attention to the road width after seeing Lloyd get round, I started a classic low speed feet-up turn.  It was only too late in the manoeuvre and leaned right over that I realised another 6” of road width would have been awfully nice!  Almost made it but almost ain’t good enough and had to lay the bike down in the road with me grovelling alongside it.

I would like to publicly apologise here and now to Lloyd for the torrent of bad language that he had to endure over the comms.  The very sort of language that in my teens, would have had my mother reaching for a bar of soap.  If Lloyd was laughing and lovely guy that he is, he had the good grace to do it through clenched teeth so that I couldn't hear him.

Mercifully, the right hand front indicator on its flexible stalk makes a very good crash protector and the damage was confined to a broken lens cover.  The damage to my pride was, and still is, rather more substantial!

The moral of the story is no-one is exempt from a lapse in concentration and you have to be on your game 100% of the time when you ride a motorcycle.  As far as I’m concerned, it was a timely lesson to never let my guard down and hopefully, it will stick because it was entirely my fault, even though the consequences weren't serious.

As a nice ending, a new indicator has already been despatched from the supplier and the damaged one is fully functioning thanks to some thin clear plastic from a tomato carton and the application of adhesive tape.  Even more importantly, Lloyd turned in a near-flawless ride and should be taking his Advanced test in the very near future.  As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining!

Temporary indicator repair on bike owned by an idiot