Updated: Mar 18, 2021
During Q Ride or basic rider training, you're taught to ride to a series of drills. This is because it's easier to teach and you have a simple template to follow to keep you safe in most situations while you're learning your craft. There is nothing wrong with riding to this system forever, but you can enhance your safety and enjoyment by developing your skills to advanced levels.
Once you have more experience, there's no need to rely on set drills which are only right most of the time, as you can apply basic principles to each situation and decide on a riding plan suitable for that specific circumstance. Even when riding the same road, the weather, traffic conditions and your skill and concentration level may be different so you may need a different approach every time.
There are lots of definitions of Advanced Riding but this one is my favourite:
Advanced riding is a deliberate, skillful and responsible riding technique admired by others. As an advanced rider, you are able to anticipate and control situations to reduce your risk of a collision. An Advanced rider is equipped with the knowledge and skill to ride safely and make progress in all conditions
There is much more to good riding than machine control, although that's obviously an important building block. The difference between a competent and excellent rider is their mental approach; constant learning, analysis and critical reflection. The biggest factor is the anticipation of the actions of other road users and, in my view, that can only be learnt on the road; training in a sterile environment is limited to machine control only.
The basic principles of advanced riding are:
The system of motorcycle control At the core of Advanced Riding is the system of motorcycle control. This is applied to riding in all situations and helps the rider take a systematic approach to all hazards, including bends. The systematic approach enables riders to assess each hazard individually in the conditions which apply at that moment to create the most appropriate riding plan which minimises risk and maximises progress where necessary. As discussed in a previous article, making progress isn't about top speed but is about maintaining an appropriate average speed to get you to the destination safely, sometimes described as riding with purpose. Unnecessary variations in speed, harsh braking, acceleration or cornering puts loads on the bike and rider which can be avoided and increase risk, wear and tear and fatigue.
Keep as far away from potential hazards as possible This is often referred to as maintaining a "safety bubble" or "cushion". Once you have identified a hazard, which is generally based on what you can see, what you can't see and what you can reasonably expect to happen, you should position the motorcycle as far away from the hazard as practicable. There are often multiple hazards, especially in urban riding, so you need to stay further away from the most dangerous ones. If there are so many that you can't avoid riding close to a hazard then slowing down to an appropriate speed is the only option. A typical example is a road with parked cars; if you can be at least a door's width away then the hazard is small and you can probably maintain speed. If an oncoming car, a bigger hazard, forces you too close to the parked cars then you probably need to slow down to be safe.
Always be able to stop in the distance to be clear on your side of the road This sounds obvious but doesn't only apply to riding on a highway but also in bends where most people tend to ride way beyond their ability to stop. Following this principle also helps you to prioritise positioning for view, as being able to see further ahead allows you to go faster safely. Practising your emergency braking will also increase your safe speed as you'll have a better ability to stop. A big mistake people make is knowing how far their bike will stop in a straight line in the dry but not extending that distance in bends or in the wet.
Your motorcycle is at its most stable in a straight line at a constant speed Maintaining a smooth, consistent line and speed gives you the greatest flexibility when dealing with anything unexpected. Harsh acceleration, braking or cornering will use up some of your available grip and reduces your options when you need to change your plan. Straightening a corner, known as the racing line, will allow you to increase your cornering speed or give more flexibility at the same speed. This should only be done when there are no safety concerns and you can see all of the way through the corner. A common mistake is to apply that line to every corner, often because training has been conducted on a track.
The UK Police, who take the global lead on Advanced Riding, produce a manual called Motorcycle Roadcraft which is used by Police forces and private individuals throughout the world, including Australia. This manual is produced by a committee of experienced Police motorcycle instructors, crash investigators and academics and is updated every few years to keep pace with technology and changes in road conditions. I have been lucky enough to work with some of the advisory panel and they are some of the best and safest riders and instructors in the world.
Not all advanced riders will make the same decision and ride in exactly the same way, but they will all have applied these basic principles, although prioritised hazards differently based on experience or their individual circumstances. An advanced rider will, however, be able to explain their decision making and have a considered response to their riding, listen to other opinions and reflect on their own mistakes. A reason for a riding decision should never be "because I was told to do it that way" or "I've always done it that way" as the rider hasn't analysed the situation deeply enough. The manual, Motorcycle Roadcraft, is a fantastic reference as the learning of thousands of other riders can point you to the safest and most effective riding style.
If you want to reflect on your own riding, learn new techniques for safe motorcycling, such as cornering, braking, observation, anticipation, limit point analysis, overtaking and any other aspects then I would recommend reading Motorcycle Roadcraft. Better still, you can take training with Roadcraft Australia who will tailor a course based on your current skill level and the aspects of riding you wish to improve. Click here for more riding tips or make a booking on the Facebook page by clicking the logo below.