Updated: Jan 28
No rider is perfect and whether you've just got your licence or been riding for 50 years, there's always something you can focus on to improve. You may already know your weakest aspect but, in my experience, these are the five most common areas where the average rider can improve:
1. Look Further Ahead It takes a conscious effort to look as far forward as possible. Unless you've made that effort already then the chances are your eyes have settled on the vehicle in-front or a few hundred metres up the road. You know you're looking far enough ahead when there's nothing left to see; that could be Kms into the distance, in front and to the side. Most of the time what you see isn't directly relevant but on the few occasions it is and the extra warning you get can be a life saver; literally! And if you have made that effort then keep practising as your view will naturally drift back towards you as your concentration drops. Remember not to stare into the distance though; you should be scanning far, middle, near, rear, speed and prioritising the greatest risks from what you can see, what you can't see and what you can reasonably expect to happen.
2. Position Yourself for View Now that you're looking further ahead, you can increase that view by moving your bike in your lane, as long as it's safe to do so. Whether that's keeping a wider line around bends (as this article explains), dropping back and looking down the inside of a truck you're following or drifting out to the other side of the road to see if there's an overtake opportunity, you have the advantage of a small maneuverable vehicle so you should make use of it. This position for view is different from the position for speed which is what you'll learn on a track.
3. Anticipate There's no point in taking in the view if you don't do anything with it. Once you have gathered the information then you need to use it to form your riding plan. If you see a truck coming towards you in the distance, anticipate that you'll meet it around the next corner and perhaps take a wider line, sacrificing your speed as your view diminishes. As you approach a junction, don't ride into it before you've checked that all of the vehicles waiting have stopped. As you approach a side road, check there's nothing coming out of it before you blindly drive past. Anticipating what might go wrong allows you to take corrective action before it becomes essential. If that means you slow down or move away from lots of things that turn out not to be a danger then so be it; it's the one time it does happen that you're constantly prepared for.
4. Aim to be Smooth Emergency services riders who need to get from A to B quickly talk about making progress rather than going fast. Making progress is about keeping your average speed up and to do that you need to ride smoothly. Looking well ahead and anticipating is key and then nothing should surprise you. If you're in the correct gear, you shouldn't need to brake as you can use acceleration sense to adjust your speed, rolling off as the view reduces or the bends get tighter but also having a neutral weight distribution and the correct revs ready to open the throttle as the view opens up. A great example of this is on approach to a roundabout; lots of riders will ride up to it and slow or stop but the experienced rider will roll off on approach and pick a point to merge with the traffic to keep the bike moving. Remember that "slow is smooth and smooth is fast".
5. Go In Slow and Out Fast Even the most novice rider knows you have to slow down for a bend but often the way to improve your cornering speed is to go in slower. It's a lot easier to add speed in a corner than take it away so going in screaming hot on the brakes not only gives you less room for error, it generally means you slow down more than you need to. Also, your bike is now in completely the wrong configuration to add power with weight on the front and the tyre already loaded, using some of your available grip. Try setting yourself up for the bend early, adjusting your speed using acceleration sense then adding power and speed when you're in the bend and your view starts to open. Your average speed will generally increase and you're in a much better position to deal with anything unexpected which appears on the road, like debris or traffic.
If you want to improve any of the five areas above or any other aspect for your riding then Roadcraft Australia can tailor specific training for your needs. Training on real roads with an earpiece to help you to asses road and traffic conditions is the most realistic way to improve your on road riding and make you smoother, faster and safer. Click here for more riding tips or to book on the Facebook page, please click on the logo below: