One of the greatest aspects of modern motorcycling is the access to information, training, technology and performance that was simply not available 20+ years ago.
Over recent years the engine performance and handling of many new motorcycle models is outstanding and in many ways the capability of the motorcycle is far ahead of that of the rider.
In recent years more and more advanced training, track based training and track days have been readily accessible for riders, as well as many online sources giving ‘instruction’ on how riders can improve their riding skills and performance and by focussing on elements such as: braking, body position, acceleration and gear selection, etc.
One of the fundamental problems with access to this information is that it is either used by inexperienced riders in the wrong place at the wrong time or riders gain this information by either listening to others who have attended courses or they have seen it on TV, online, etc and are not executing it properly…which ultimately leads to an accident.
There are those who believe that the skills learned from track based instruction is invaluable to develop a rider’s skill, and there are those that believe that there is a certain skill set that is required for road riding and those are not the same as those for track riding.
I would tend to believe both have merit, however it is the execution of those skills and when they are executed that is the most important factor.
The last 20 – 25 years has given the motorcycling world the affordable access to sports replica bikes which have a tremendous power to weight ratio and handling characteristics that are not too far from those developed for track based racing. It has created a generation of rider that are attracted to these types of bikes and the associated performance and in general terms are dressed in the image of their riding heroes.
As motorcycles have had the sporting influence, so have clothing and apparel had theirs, with one piece leathers being a popular addition as well as race replica helmets, boots and gloves.
One frustration is that a fairly high percentage of motorcycle accidents involve sports replica bikes and riders and one action that I witness is the rider ‘getting their knee down’ to get around a bend.
A major issue with this technique is that on the track it is used on the bend apex, the inside of the bend, to maximise lean angle to offer the best performance through the bend. However, using this on the road is actually fraught with danger as the road surface may not be suitable (wet, fuel spills, gravel, mud, etc) and using this on the inside of a bend may not offer the best view through the bend which will not enable the rider to avoid another vehicle or obstacle in a timely fashion.
A combination of using ‘racing styles and speeds’, quite often is the cause of the rider having an accident and it is usually when these styles are used in an inappropriate place.
The debate should be whether there is actually a need to use these racing styles for road riding and whether there should be greater emphasis on when and where they should be used. Should there be a warning attached to these types of motorcycles and these riding styles…‘RIDER BEWARE’
Although this type of rider and generation of rider is generally wearing more protective clothing, as they emulate the racing style and fashion, their injuries are no less severe and in many cases it does not prevent fatalities. The reason for this is that these riders are tending to suffer greater impacts forces as they have been riding in a particular style and speed that has placed them in a situation that they could not avoid.
For many riders, with a good understanding of road riding practices and good hazard perception, the use of this racing style may be perfectly acceptable in terms of accident probability but of course may not be acceptable to those involved with law enforcement.
Law enforcement may interpret the high speed manoeuvres and at times excessive speeds as being a danger to the rider and other road users and pedestrians. The ‘aggressive’ acceleration and braking, etc may be perceived as dangerous and will undoubtedly attract their attention which may mean fines, licence points and endorsements, suspension or revocation of a licence. If this style of riding, can be proven to have been a contributing cause in an accident and/or a cause of injuries or fatalities, then the rider may find themselves facing much more severe punishment.
Any rider should use any information and apply training in a progressive and structured way, so that they are able to improve their road riding performance which increases their safety and enjoyment at the same time.
Many riders who return to road riding after a long break away, should focus on the basics of riding and gradually develop their skills and proficiency. If they can focus on hazard perception and when and where to perform a particular manoeuvre first, then apply other methods in time.