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The Perfect Ride

In Victoria, on-road riding is the most popular type of motorcycling, with the majority of riders spending at least some of their riding time for recreational purposes. Over 80% of riders ride for recreation on a Saturday or Sunday.

The TAC's claims data highlights that the peak times for motorcycle crashes requiring hospitalisation is on weekend days between noon and 4pm.

It's important for all people that ride motorcycles to manage personal risk and to use strategies which will improve safety, reduce level of risk and ultimately, personal harm.

There are five key safety issues that recreational riders encounter and can contribute to a crash:

  1. Speed
  2. Cornering
  3. Road position
  4. Road surfaces and foreign objects
  5. Other road users/objects

Riders can learn more about ways to reduce hazards through our Perfect Ride tutorials. These videos will help you to plan for your ride, learn about different riding environments and finally how to get home safely.

These four short videos show a group of mates going for a recreational ride as Rick Williams, a motorcycle  riding instructor with seven years experience, leads the group as they discuss their plans for the ride and what they see and do on their ride.

We want to:

  • Reduce the number of motorcycle rider and pillion passengers killed or injured on Victorian roads.
  • To educate riders on the risks they face riding recreationally and provide them with risk management strategies they can adopt to improve their personal safety when riding recreationally and,
  • Contribute to a sustained and long term objective of reducing fatal and serious injury road trauma among the Victorian riding community.

Before The Ride

In this video, Jarrah, Beau and I discuss the day's ride ahead.  You will see that the ride I have planned is a long one.  When I was just starting out riding I went on rides that were much shorter than this, and built up to these longer rides over time as I gained more experience.

The Ride Plan:

Going for a recreational ride involves some planning, even if just an informal chat over a coffee.

I like to have a plan for a ride as it helps make sure I am prepared for what could happen in the ride ahead.

During a ride the unexpected can happen (e.g. changes in weather conditions).  When something happens that causes the ride to go 'off-plan', it rings alarm bells in me and I like to re-think and, along with the other guys on the ride, adjust the plan if necessary.

When going for a recreational ride, especially by myself, I always let someone who is not going on the ride know what my plan is and approximately when I can be expected back home.

Route Selection:

Central to any ride plan is making a decision on where I will be riding to and how I am going to get there and back.

When planning the route, I always make sure to plan scheduled rest breaks.  When riding in a group, all the guys know that these planned stops are also our meeting points in case any of us get separated during the ride.

I always make a habit of checking the weather forecast in advance so that, I have the right gear with me, and I know that the ride isn't going to be too long for the conditions ahead.

There's good information about riding for conditions if you want to know more.

You will see in the video that I am carrying a small backpack.  In it, I have some light wet weather gear in anticipation for the showers forecast for later in the day.  I also have some water, because I expect to lose fluid wearing my leathers on such a long ride.

I try to avoid carrying a backpack if I can.  However, if I do, I make sure it is light because a heavy backpack can over-balance the bike and cause my shoulders to get tired.  I also make sure there is nothing sharp inside that could injure me if I was to come of the bike.

Bike Check:

I always give the bike the once over when I go for a recreational ride.  Like, Beau in the video, even if your bike is relatively new, it is a good idea to check out its basic mechanical condition before each ride.

Here's a checklist to help you do your own check.

It seems like an obvious one, but I also remember to check that I have enough fuel to get through the ride and plan where I may need to fill up along the way.

From time to time I will be on a new or unfamiliar bike which I have borrowed from a mate.  When I have done this in the past, I make sure I know where all the controls are (e.g. indicators) and how they work before I head off, because they can be different from bike to bike.  I'll also take the ride easy as the dynamics of the bike are almost always different to what I am used to.

Self Check:

You will see in the video that the guys and I are wearing gear that suit the conditions ahead, and will give us the best possible protection.

There's a comprehensive section on Protective clothing which can help you to choose the gear that's right for you.

I love to ride, so once a ride is planned I really look forward to it.  However, there have been times when I have been feeling ill, tired or I have been frustrated or upset about things that may have happened during the week.  As disappointing as it is, I have often decided to reschedule the rides on these occasions.

Group Riding:

The only thing better than going on a great ride, is sharing it with mates.

But, when I do, I remember that each rider has different levels of riding experience and familiarity with the route.

For this reason I encourage the group to ride to the abilities of the least experienced rider.

At the start of the Coastal riding video, the guys and I decide that Jarrah should take the lead given that he has had the least amount of experience on the road ahead.  By doing this he is able to set the pace and ride within his limits.

Many clubs and associations organise larger group rides and generally have their own specific ride procedures and guidelines that you will need to be aware of if you join their rides.

Pre Ride Checklist:

There's a simple pre-ride checklist to help you prepare for your recreational ride.  It summarises many of the things discussed here and in the video.

Country Riding

From the Great Ocean Road we now head in-land.  As the guys and I point out in this video, it is surprising how the road conditions can change so much in such a small distance. While many of the issues here are similar to riding on coastal roads, country riding presents additional factors for riders.

Road Surfaces
Changing road surfaces can create more challenges for motorcycle riders than other road users.

Factors that alter the road surface and present risks to riders include painted lines, wet roads, mud and gravel from driveways and entrances, loose gravel edges, potholes, and leaves and debris from overhanging trees.

I find that the best way to manage these risks is by selecting the appropriate lane position and speed for the road condition.  Also by planning and discussing the ride in advance, Jarrah, Beau and I already have a good idea where we may encounter these issues and we are prepared for them.

Check out the Riding for conditions page for more information.

Early Detection Of Risks
Identifying potential hazards and risks is critical to my safety on the road.
To do this I like to apply the OBSERVE-ANTICIPATE-RESPOND sequence:

  • Observing is the ability to continuously observe the road and what's going on around me.
  • Anticipating is being able to anticipate or predict what might happen that could be a risk to me.
  • Responding is being able to take appropriate action early before things become too risky.

If I am successful in applying this sequence then I should be in control and am less likely to be caught in situations which require me to brake suddenly or swerve sharply to avoid a crash.

If you want to brush up on your hazard perception and decision making skills, you might want to check out the online product called, Ride Smart.  It is especially useful for new riders, but can also be valuable for more experienced riders.

Coastal Riding

The first part of today's ride is planned for along Victoria's iconic Great Ocean Road.  This video highlights some of the issues we face here and that can be common to other coastal areas too.

Other Road Users:
Coastal roads can attract tourists and holiday makers as both drivers and pedestrians.  With this in mind I assume that many of them may be unfamiliar with their surroundings, and that their behaviour may be unpredictable and possibly create a potential hazard for me.

So, I constantly try to anticipate the possible actions of drivers and keep control of my own safety. Some of the ways I do this are:

  • Being prepared to take evasive action.
  • Covering the brakes with my fingers in those places where there is a lot going on around me in case a quick-stop is needed.
  • Maintaining awareness by doing frequent head checks and rear checks.
  • Being seen, by using my headlights and choosing a good lane position.
  • Changing my road and lane position as needed to maintain survival space around me.  I talk about this more in the following section.

Road Position:
Choosing the right position on the road and preserving my survival space is something I think about continuously throughout every ride.

Keeping a safe distance from other road users, parked cars and fixed objects on the side of the road helps to give me more time to see a potential problem and to respond if something unexpected happens.

Changing my position on the road or braking slightly to slow down, are some of the ways I maintain my survival space.

When following behind other vehicles, including other riders in my group, I try to leave a gap of at least three seconds, more if the conditions call for it.

You will see in the video that the guys and I ride in a staggered formation.  This helps us to maintain our survival space.  Even though, I may be following another rider, I still ride for myself and within my own limits and am prepared to break from the staggered formation when I need to.  For example, I still need to pick my own line, speed and gear when cornering.

As my speed increases, my ability to react to emergencies is reduced and stopping distances increase.

So, I always aim to ride within the legal speed limits, be guided by advisory speed signs, and adjust my speed so that it is appropriate for the conditions.  Sometimes this means I travel below the speed limit, such as riding during adverse weather and road conditions.

There's more on  demonstrating how taking control of speed can affect rider safety, and how controlling speed is important to help deal with unexpected or other road users' mistakes.

Coastal roads are known for their corners and curves which add to the enjoyment of a ride and attracts riders to them.  But,  they can present their own of set of issues for riders.

Often when riding you can't see all the way around a curve.  In these situations I often don't know what I'll be faced with on the other side of the curve, or whether the road surface will change within the curve.

What I like to remind myself when cornering is:

  • Start wide, finish tight, and stay out of the head-on zone.
  • Enter at an appropriate speed and with the correct gear selected.
  • Travel at a speed to be able to stop within the distance that I can see through the bend.

Cornering is covered in more detail if you want to extra information.

Heading Home

After a great day's riding, it is time for us to head home.  In this video we discuss some of the issues of heading back into city and suburban traffic.

One of the major risks after a long ride is when I start to feel tired.

Fatigue can impair my ability to perform critical functions of riding and in some cases can lead to being complacent with regards to identifying and avoiding risks.

Check out the page about Fatigue where you can learn more about the symptoms and how to manage them.

City Traffic:
As the guys and I head back to the city, there is more traffic and more happening around us.  I am conscious of staying aware of what is happening around me by doing frequent head checks and rear checks.

As the conditions are turning from twilight to darkness, I try to adapt quickly and make sure I am in a lane position which will give me the best chance of being seen by other road users.  Some of the things I do to achieve this are:

  • Maintain at least a three second gap to vehicles ahead.
  • Adjust my positioning and buffering as light fades to stay out of blind spots.
  • Anticipate and respond early to merging traffic which may not give way.
  • Always stay in the right position, at the right speed and in the right gear.