On Bike Behaviour
Bike behavioural tips written by riders for riders. Every month, we sort through the tips you send us, and publish a selection here.
We invite you to write a tip for us. Winning submissions are awarded a new pair of protective riding gloves.
Practice your Riding Skills, and get to Know your BikeBy Dietmar Hildebrand (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
This is best done in an area without public traffic such as parking lot or a paddock - ideally both. Learn to handle your bike at very low speeds, go in very tight circles until you can handle the bike with virtually locked handlebars. Try to ride at walking pace or slower. Practise pushing your bike, lifting it on the centre stand, lay it flat on the ground and lift it up again.
Practise emergency braking at various speeds. If your bike is fitted with ABS then test the ABS, learn to brake at full force with ABS kicking in. Finally take your bike into a paddock and experience the rear wheel skidding. Try a few drifts - this will eliminate the shock when it happens on the road.
Lane Changing across Tram Tracks (Video)
By Jason Bult (2009 rider safety tip competition winner)
By Nicholas Trainor
Look after the Buffer (Video)
By Phil Rigoli
Ride Limits (Video)
By Andrew Stephenson
Driver Ahead (Video)
By Wendy Reynolds
Strike Zone (Video)
By Dave Fraser
Braking in the Wet (Video)
By Don McCarthy
Not planning to come off the bikeBy Matty Dee of Maidstone
Of course we do give much consideration to what might happen if we do come off and, therefore, choose to take measures to protect ourselves in the event of a spill. But we don't (and can't) plan when or how we might come off the bike (imagine if we could though. I bet there'd be no fatalities or serious injuries and just think how cheap our insurance and rego would be). So does that mean coming off is inevitable (as those who see motorcycling as dangerous seem to perceive)?
In my humble opinion I say absolutely not! Of course there is bad luck. But bad luck is a plane falling out of the sky and landing right in front of you causing a collision. Bad luck is not being hit by some idiot driver who turned in front of you and claims he didn't see you. Nor is bad luck a system or component malfunction of the bike. And bad luck most definitely is not misjudging corner entry speed or angle or both.
Yes there are some things that are out of our control and we can't really plan for them and probably shouldn't worry too much about them. But if we are serious about our own health and safety then it is our responsibility (and ours alone) to ensure the following:
• If some drivers (by no means the majority) are not going to look out for us and respect us as road users, we need to keep out of their way. Although we might be more nimble, if they catch us, they will hurt us. (Remember, the only rights you have are the ones you can defend).
• Make sure your bike is safe and roadworthy at all times. If it isn't, don't ride it. There are some safety checks that should be done before every ride. Others need to be done at least weekly. If you don't know or are unsure what they are, find out!
• Always think about where you are and what you are doing and remember that some things need to be considered before you do them (cornering is a perfect example).
• Be proactive in everything you do on your bike. Your reflexes and reaction time might be quick but, like a goalie in soccer, they are your LAST line of defence and won't always save you.
It is also very important to remember why we ride and to enjoy the whole experience of motorcycling. Never mind the increasing costs of insurance and registration. Never mind the risk, or actual injury, permanent disability or death. Never mind time off work and loss of income. Never mind expensive repairs or replacement costs and even higher insurance costs. Think about not being able to ride. Doesn't really matter how long for, be it a day or the rest of your life. Just think about not being able to. If planning to stay on my bike means I can ride for the rest of my life, then it will be worth the time and effort.
Good luck. Ooops, I mean good planning and happy riding to you all.
Single vehicle bike crashesBy Ian Dodds of Ferntree Gully
That's bloody difficult to do when you suddenly realise that you're going into a bend too hard.
Maybe it's not my fault, such as decreasing radius corners, or maybe it looked right for the car, so I thought it would be the right speed for the bike.
The adrenalin starts pumping when I get caught out like this and I must admit that playing follow the leader in a car for a living gives me some bad habits for riding. Looking at the car in front, or looking at where my headlights shine up the road is one of the worst habits I get roped into sometimes.
Then I get on the bike and sometimes forget that my reasonable skills aren't up to the million or so kilometres of experience I have in the car.
I'm one of those idiots that spent half his budget on rider training and only a smallish amount on the bike itself. The result is quite clear though, I've gotten into some scary situations on the old motorcycle at times, yet I've managed to remember the "Look where you want to go" rule each time.
If any single piece of rider training has kept me upright, in all of the times that I've made that slight error of judgement, it has to be that one phrase. It is indeed the truest single fact of driving any kind of vehicle.
Where you look is where you'll go
Given that I totally believe this to be true, I wonder how many single vehicle bike crashes could have been saved if the rider stayed calm and simply looked to where the road straightened out. The pro's tell me that the bike will look after itself and if I don't make any nasty changes, like stand it up or hit the brakes, there is every chance that the bike will go where I look. That, of course, is where I want it to go.
I can't pretend to know the details of every single bike crash, and I really don't want to. I'll even bet that some of the crashes were just not recoverable situations.
But I'll also bet that some were.
Yes, I'm sure that the tyres may have been slipping for some, the road may have been dirty for some, but I'm also sure that some of the best things I've done on the road have been to simply look to where I want to go, and hope.
It isn't easy. Tearing your eyes away from the danger is very hard. The adrenalin makes it even harder. Not knowing how close the danger is, and not seeing the thing that you were about to hit go past, is a scary thought.
It works though!
Pillion PassengersBy John Stap
Whenever you carry a pillion passenger there are some things that you should consider. Is the passenger you are carrying lighter or heavier than the rider is? This is important, as their weight will greatly affect the way the bike handles particularly when cornering.
If you are a pillion passenger try and keep your body in line with the rider staying vertical to the motorcycle, the pillion passenger should think of themselves as part of the motor cycle and must not under any circumstance try to control the bike. It is the job of the rider to control the amount of lean for cornering purposes.
Also when you are a pillion passenger make sure you hold onto the rider or some other fixed part of the motorcycle, as there is nothing worse than a passenger who has lost his balance and is now trying to get their balance back.
[Ed's Note: Remember that just like the rider, pillion passengers should wear full protective gear at all times when out riding.]
Weighty IssueBy Andrew Robertson of Canterbury
People who have had a break from the road for a number of years will relate, and those who have been on bikes for their entire lives may have noticed a subtle change, this can be a dangerous cocktail.
Weighing up my pride
I left work on my bike which I had just completely rebuilt, traveling towards the local 'T' intersection which was frequented by trucks and other vehicles. It was a fairly heavy industrial area so traffic was constant. (There was light rain after a heavy downpour)
As I approached the "T" intersection I remember applying the single piston front disc brake.......it seemed to lock up........STRANGE I THOUGHT and it felt like the hair on my neck stood up.
The next thing I remembered was watching my bike, sparks flying of the newly polished pipes skid down the road in front of me as my helmet bumped along the road surface...........
I was shocked as I watched it slide just past the white line if the "T" intersection.
I immediately jumped to my feet, picked it up and pushed it into the gutter just as a car buzzed past me.
I was shocked and annoyed, I surveyed the crash site and discovered that there was a spray of asphalt gravel which was washed onto the road by puddles probably driven through by trucks.
The bike and I weighed close to 200kg and I misjudged how quickly I could stop without seeing the gravel scattered across the road with the addition of the light rain.
My second bike and I had a combined weight around 250kg+ this I discovered adds 'additional' stopping distance, especially when wet.
Coming around the round about towards work, the bike just seemed to take a path of its own, road surface and heavy rain again contributing factors.......luckily I ended up in mud on the footpath side of the round about before gaining control and taking it back onto the road once again.
My new Kawasaki Vulcan and my combined weight is in excess of 420kg. This is nearly 3 times the weight of my very first bike and believe me when I say it takes a heck of a lot longer time to pull up safely both in the dry and wet.
The last incident involved uneven road surface, on the way to the Phillip Island Super TT GP, low spots in the road had filled with water (heavy rain conditions.
My younger brother was riding behind me when my rear tyre slid from side to side like I was doing an uncontrollable fishtail. I eventually brought it under control by releasing the accelerator and gently applying the rear and then front brakes in sequence.
My brother said that he felt as the blood rush into his legs as he turned white. This ride was shortly after he had just come out of hospital after a single motorcycle accident where he had a punctured lung and several other serious injuries, he still has the scars to remind him of that day. I consider all of us to be lucky riders.
I feel that the road has become a much more dangerous place for riders. It's fact that most people have both partners working.
They are both working longer hours to make ends meet sometimes up to 12 hours or more a day. And amongst all of this chaos are the ever aware motorcycle rider, unaware that the people who are driving today are at least 5 times less patient that the people who were on the road 10 years ago, it's not that hard to see why more experienced motorcyclists are being injured and or killed.
Leave 10 to 30 minutes earlier that you normally would if taking your bike during rain.
Check the weather forecasts on the news and get up 30 minutes earlier than you normally would you'll have a much more relaxing journey to work.
If you are running late for anything, PLEASE phone ahead and let them know that you will be 15 - 30 minutes late (I am sure that your friends/family/employer/or biker mates would rather see you ARRIVE ALIVE than not at all!)
Weigh up your options when you travel and give yourself additional stopping distance and additional time both in wet and dry conditions especially when you are riding a heavier bike or someone else's bike.
It pays to practise emergency riding techniquesBy David Brain of Northcote
Not only is the theory behind these skills important, riders must also know when each manoeuvre should be used. This is just as important as being good at the individual skill, because a moment’s hesitation in an emergency situation can be fatal.
A tip I would give to all riders is to practise emergency braking and counter-steering regularly. You don’t have to go out of your way to practise these skills, but if you are riding home late at night with no cars on the road, why not simply pick a spot on the road to dodge around, or brake before.
[Ed's note: Preferably practise these skills under supervision at a training facility.]
These skills need to be practised from different speeds as well, because they may be needed at any time whether it be a residential area or going down the Hume. So try a slow counter-steer then work your way up. Try one at 5-10 k/ph faster each time, until you are comfortable that you would be able to do this at high speed if need be. The same goes for emergency braking, but don't brake so suddenly that you lock the front wheel up.
Of course, you would have to make sure there was enough room to do this, and that your sudden movement is safe for other road users (ie. there is no one around).
If you practise these skills enough, they will come naturally when you really need them. It could save your life, or at least your fairings!
Never Ridden In The RainBy Leigh Knight of Frankston
If you live in Melbourne there is a good chance that sooner than later you will get caught in the rain. When that happens, how will you know how to respond? The same traffic situations arise whether it's wet or dry.
Cars will still cut you off, open their doors, pull out without looking and all the other things they do that tighten your grip on the seat. If you have only had dry road emergency experiences, you will soon find yourself lying beside your bike admiring the rainclouds above.
In the past 12 months, as a returnee on my Ps, I have added 15,000km to my little Suzuki. Obviously, not all of these have been perfect-day-for-a-ride events.
Before I got to commuting seriously (180km each week). I went out on wet weekends, found a new housing estate where the roads had been paved and discovered how both the bike and I reacted in the wet under brakes, in a turn, even accelerating.
I don't think I have been nominated for World's Best Rider, but I understand the signs the bike is giving me from a wet road and can compensate for it before something happens.
It all comes down to practice. The more time you spend on your bike, the less likely you are going to be lying beside it watching clouds.
Read more about Rider Safety.
Spokes offers tips from fellow riders on riding and improving your on road motorcycle behaviour, motorcycle riding skills including space, positioning, buffer, and riding techniques.