Riding Tips

Tips for leading successful Group runs

A series of tips aimed at new Green Badge holders, intended to help them organise and lead a safe and enjoyable Group ride.  To be read in conjunction with Doc. 010 Guidelines for Run Leaders and Back Markers.
If any SAM member would like to contribute to this list, please would they send their tip(s) to the Group Rides Co-Ordinator.
1 Ideally you will have planned and ridden the route beforehand, to be aware of the best and safest positions to place markers.
2 If there is an unexpected large number of bikes on the day, with the cooperation of another volunteer to lead, consider splitting the run into two more manageable groups with similar rider ability.  The “quicker” group could leave first, with the “slower” group following.
3 When setting off, remember to mark the first junction or roundabout, as this will help give confidence to 1st timers.
4 There should be no need to stop and regroup during the ride if the marker system is working properly.  If you run out of markers for your immediate needs, then of course you will need to stop until the next rider has caught up before setting off again.
5 If you notice that the following group is not complete at any time, then regroup at the earliest and safest opportunity.  Ideally, wait until you reach a spot where the whole group can pull off the main carriageway, so as not to be a hazard to other road users, or risk the safety of other riders.  Do not stop too soon after a junction or roundabout, where a mass of bikes slowing to regroup could hamper following traffic.  It is illegal to stop and regroup on a motorway hard shoulder.

6 It is crucial to observe good lane discipline at all times, especially at roundabouts and one-way systems.  Where there is a choice of lanes, take up position in good time in the correct lane for the direction the group is to travel.  Avoid confusion within the group caused by last moment lane changes, resulting in riders being stranded in the wrong lane.  This may cause the group to split up, or worse, leave riders and other road users in a dangerous position.

7 Before joining a fast A-road, dual carriageway or motorway, ensure a good number of riders, preferably the whole group, is in view before accelerating to the speed limit.  In not doing so the group can become fragmented.  Also, riders can feel pressured to exceed the speed limit, simply to catch up.  If the group is incomplete, maintain a reasonable minimum speed on the carriageway which allows riders to catch up but does not cause a hazard to following traffic.

8 Before reaching your exit off an A-road, dual carriageway or motorway, or when approaching a quick succession of course changes, try to plan ahead for the number of markers you will need.  Such situations may quickly use up markers.  For instance, an exit slip road immediately followed by a couple of roundabouts may call for at least four riders, including one to follow you onward.  To avoid running out of markers, if necessary, slow down so that they are at hand when you need them.

9 Besides the Guidelines for Run Leader and Back Markers, Doc. 010, also be familiar with the Participants Guidelines, Doc. 011, in case you are asked about them.

10 Exchange mobile telephone numbers with the Back Marker, and offer your mobile number to other riders in the group, in case the group gets split and you need to contact each other.  Radios might not cover the distance

Riding Tips - Motorway Management



Motorways are not something I relish on a bike; they’re usually just a means to and end

Yes, you can cover distance quickly but they are so boring. Whilst they are by far our safest roads in terms of casualties overall, that’s not necessarily the case for motorcyclists. Come off your bike on a motorway and you may find yourself sliding on your butt through dozens of moving vehicles. The dangers of being hit by one of these are obvious. But even if another vehicle doesn’t get you then the road furniture will. Barriers, whether Armco or wire are all biker-unfriendly and to be avoided at all costs.

The biggest cause of accidents on motorways is fatigue. By their nature, with few junctions or other hazards, they seem purpose-built to lull you into a coma. Keeping space around you is important, look for dozy drivers and avoid getting in front of them.

Probably the biggest offenders in the fatigue world are truck drivers. I make a point of not being in a lane in front of them. I have seen too many squashed care, trapped between lorries that failed to slow when the traffic queued, to ever want to be the meat in that particular sandwich.

The monotony of motorways causes vision to drop to the back of the car in front; so many drivers only react to problems when the car in front reacts. It goes without saying that this is usually too late. One advantage we have is that we are perched higher than a standard car so we can look over the top of them and increase our view ahead or we can move laterally within our lane to extend vision.

This should ensure we can increase the time we have to react to events ahead, by dealing with them before the driver ahead has even reacted. This will allow gentle braking rather that emergency braking and smooth lane changes rather than last second swerves.

Motorways lend themselves to high speeds but they also lend themselves to speed enforcements. While cameras are a rarity, there is a host of other technology aimed at catching you. Never be the fastest vehicle on the road, allow the sales rep in the BMW to pass you and flush out the copes lying in wait ahead. Watch out in roadworks with temporary speed limits as camera vans and fixed cameras infest these areas as the pickings are so good.

Riding Tips - Looking Ahead


Do you have days when no matter what you do your riding isn't clicking? You're on your favourite stretch of road, you know it well but by the end of the ride you're frustrated rather than on a high. It happens to us all and I have been suffering from this feeling for the past couple of weeks.

To try and cure this I got a day down at the ultra fast, ultra bumpy Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire but an afternoon of riding only made my frustration worse. I was getting on the throttle early, I was turning the bike quickly but still my lines were inconstant and my lap times slow. The harder I tried the worse it got.

On the road a week later I was running wide on the exit of roundabouts and corners because I was stalled on the throttle mid turn. I knew all the things that were going wrong but I couldn't figure out why. Then, a few days ago on a Brands Hatch race practice day it came to me in a flash. Eyes. Or to be more precise, vision.
All the problems in my riding were because I wasn't getting the information I needed until it was too late. I needed to look further ahead.

It sounds so damned simple doesn't it? But it's so easy to forget. Your body is designed so you can run at a maximum of roughly 15 miles per hour. At this speed you can look in front of you and avoid just about any hazard without too many problems. Your brain and survival reactions are working in harmony. So what happens when you triple or quadruple the speed? Let's make it even more difficult and add some lean angle, and a throttle, and brakes. It's a modern miracle that we can get around a corner at all! When we get overwhelmed or frustrated with our riding our vision goes back to its 'safe' 15mph. This means we are looking about 20 feet in front of the bike and riding to reaction rather than planning ahead.

This creates even more problems and it's a vicious circle. The more we stall on the gas the worse the line gets, the more we run wide, the more tense we get, the more our vision pulls in, the more we stall on the gas etc… Try this little experiment if you don't 'see' what I mean. Run along a kerb. Run as fast as you can. Run looking ahead of you, as far as you can see. It's very, very easy isn't it? Repeat the drill. Now, at some point during your run, look two feet in front of you. What happens? Did running suddenly become harder? Did you feel like you had sped up? Did you feel a little sick and disorientated? Did you run off the kerb or find it harder to keep on the kerb. Now try that at 50mph. Get the idea?

Once I realised what I was, or rather wasn't doing my riding INSTANTLY took a turn (sic) for the better. Even on this horrible wet day at Brands my lines tightened up. My throttle control improved. I went faster although it felt a lot slower and the grin behind my crash helmet got bigger and bigger. It was wet and I was loving it. I would have stayed out all day if I had the chance because I was enjoying my riding all over again. It was like someone had waved a magic wand, the only thing was, I knew the trick already but had forgotten its wonder.

I have included a couple of pictures again this month. Take a good look at them.

Active ImageActive ImageThe left shot shows a rider looking well ahead of himself and as a result he will be fast and smooth. He can plan ahead. He knows exactly when he will be on the gas. He knows exactly where he will be on the track. He knows where to turn, brake and exit. Just for looking ahead.

The right shot shows three riders all at a different point in the same corner. The rider at the back is looking ahead of the furthest rider in front. The second rider is looking about 20 feet in front at the rider ahead of him, while the last rider is looking a little further down the track but still not as far as he could or should. Who will be the fastest on the exit?

Pick your head up, look further ahead and you will be amazed how this simple technique will improve your riding on the road and the track. Enjoy!

 Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Ibbot of the California Superbike School

Riding Tips - Bend Lines

I have always kept training stuff out of the website, mainly because of the problems involved in learning a practical skill from the written word, but as a result of feedback asking for some, here we go.

Most of us, even without advanced training, know that for a right hand bend we get over to the left and move to the right for a left hand bend. Sounds simple enough but if only it was.

Lets take a right hand bend. The key to getting the bend spot on is assessing it as early as possible. As soon as you can see it's there, you need to be on the correct line. This is where most go wrong. If you are still trying to get on line as you go into the bend, its already gone wrong. Get your machine on the most accurate line that you can, and once there focus on looking through the corner.
What most newcomers say after a demo ride is "I can't get the bike that close to the side of the road" Like most things its practice that makes it slot into place. The reason you feel uncomfortable is obvious: It's the thought of hitting the kerb. Done correctly I promise it won't happen! Firstly, we need to do all of this on the straight approaching the corner. Get the bike as close to the verge/kerb as you feel comfortable. Once there you must look where you want the bike to go, i.e. to the right; the bike will always follow your eyes; look at the exit of the bend and it will come off line to the right. Simple! Well no, don't expect all this to slot into place after two corners. The thing that makes me laugh about new riders now, is that they want to be so good so quickly. Give yourself time to become fluent. Once you have this accurate line, make sure that you are always riding at the view, it easy to stay on line too long and find yourself riding all the way round the outer edge of the curve. Not the right way at all.

Bends should link together with a flow from one line to the next. If you find yourself wrestling the bike to get it on line early enough then you have done it wrong. People have fewer problems with the line for left-handers. Riding in the middle of the road is easy. There's not much around you so you feel safer. We often get asked how far to the right can I go? Well yes if you rode in the offside gutter you could see further round the corner. But the drag is in this country is not all the roads are one way! .

You may know why you are on the wrong side of the road but what about the guy coming the other way? You are putting a lot of trust into a guy you have never met! Yes he may do nothing but he could swerve to your side of the road. It can at least look tacky, at worst be dangerous. Rapid's policy is; go as far as the hazard line but don't cross it simply to increase the view. This doesn't mean you can't straighten out bends where appropriate, because there you already have the view.

Remember bend lines are meant to be flexible. Compromise your line and your speed for situations that you see. Don't ride through potholes in the gutter or close to oncoming traffic.

There is more to bends that I could ever hope to cover here but remember, the more you practice the better you get!

Rapid Training -

Riding Tips - White Lines

When we are trying to introduce students to the principles of Hazard Perception one of the thrusts that we use is the, "more paint more danger" principle. For those of you who haven't done any training, in short: Where there are no hazards you normally just get a lane line in the centre of the road. Where things get worse (junction etc) the line lengthens. When things get even worse (no visibility) the lines become solid. A simple principle which even if you don't know the theory will actually prick the sub conscious.

That was then and this, as they say, is now. Bucks, where I live, are now employing something known as "ladder hatching." This is the metre wide hatching in the centre of the road that goes for miles. They are putting this everywhere. In fact the A413 from Aylesbury to Buckingham (a great biking road) is now completely covered in this stuff, or solid white lines for its entire length. Its aim is to put people off overtaking.

Its not illegal to cross these lines. The Highway Code says, "If the area is bordered by a broken white line, you should not enter the area unless it is necessary and you can see that it is safe to do so." Necessary - well if it's necessary to overtake then its ok to enter them. The problem is the miles and miles of these things just bring the whole system into disrepute. They are on long straights, where even cars can overtake in safety. There is now less paint at junctions as the nearside line disappears to make a turning right slot. There is no extra warning of bends or hill crests. This is pitching traffic signs at Plankton level.

As time goes by and people see cars regularly overtaking on these lines (and we do in marked police cars and bikes) they too will have a go, probably choosing the wrong place; a junction or hill crest to perform this manoeuvre. You can't teach people how to safely overtake simply by trying to put them off doing it.

Yes, before anyone writes in I know they make a handy bike-overtaking lane! I'll just get down from this soap box now.

©Rapid Training - 2002



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