Old Heads & Young Shoulders!

If a rider has greater knowledge of the motorcycle world and local environment, then it has been a long held belief that this will enable the rider to make better decisions thus making for a safer and accident free experience.

For some years prior to writing this article, I was looking for a way in which quality, useful and relevant safety information could be made available to the masses and that would be readily accessible to anyone.

A new rider is like a sponge absorbing knowledge from various sources and primarily from their ‘teachers’. These teachers can be official instructors or they can be parents, friends and this learning may start with a road experience or it may have started at a very early age from the off road environment.

A new rider may also have sources of information that do not offer personal counselling; I am referring to magazines, the internet, TV, etc.

One of the greatest challenges is for riders to retain information long after their ‘official training’ has ended and also not to adopt bad habits along the way. In many ways this process of ‘forgetting’ is inevitable unless there is regular recurrent training or a rider engages in further or advanced rider training. Indeed there are many studies into why people forget and also how to overcome forgetfulness and retain information.

One method that has been tried and tested as an effective way of transferring knowledge is for ‘chiefs’ to mentor their ‘young braves’

As from father to son, teacher to student, mentor to protégé, the initial knowledge is transferred but then is reinforced and the rider is nurtured and guided by more experience heads.

So often many riders are isolated from other riders and gradually the knowledge and skills will ‘bleed’ away and many bad habits are adopted. From time to time all riders will require re-centring, to assess their levels and to reteach skills and information.

Across the globe there are varying licensing requirements for drivers and riders and in some countries and areas there is a requirement for periodic retesting and re-evaluation by the licensing authorities.

Whether there is this legal requirement or not to undergo recurrent training, a rider should always consider riding as a constant learning process and should seek out further training; either road or track based instruction. The rider should search in printed or online material for any tips and guidance and look for technology that may have a riding benefit.

One of the most useful sources of information, however not necessarily a source of the best advice, is by talking to other riders. Either by joining groups, clubs or just going to biker friendly places, there is more likely to be an exchange of information, but also there is the obvious social benefit. Sometimes, just by being in an environment with other riders will enable some learning to take place. Many times I have witnessed something or overheard something or even just seen a piece of equipment that I think will benefit my riding.

However, just because a rider hangs out at the local ‘biker cafe or pub’ it does not necessarily mean that what you are hearing or seeing is appropriate to benefit ‘your’ riding. If we were to ask ten riders the same question we would likely get ten different answers, that is just the nature within any group. However, we as riders should welcome all information and use our own filter to then absorb and adopt advice.

The same variation in opinion is to be found in the professional training bodies or masses of information or, moreover, opinion in the printed and online sources and press.

The key is to start with your own commitment and responsibility to your own safety and search for greater knowledge. Try to get as much information from all sources, exchange experiences and stories and to coin a well used paraphrase; ‘consider riding as a journey and not just a vehicle to a destination.’

Listen to the wise words from experienced riders but be open to new information and constantly re-evaluate methods and theories relating to your location and how that location is developing. By this, I mean, that certain techniques and information are suitable and best practice in a certain geographic location, but will not necessarily be appropriate for another location. The polar contrast will be e.g. between rural and urban riding, night and day riding, summer and winter riding, etc and all the variations in between.

Another cautionary word is that many & most riders will have different backgrounds, experiences and attitudes towards riding, and whilst there might be very good information out there, that information should be applied to your experience and level of proficiency. i.e. What may work for one rider, will not necessarily work for another!

Over many years of dealing with motorcycle accidents and the associated injuries and fatalities, I have sometimes asked myself…What has happened to the learning? Why do accidents still occur for the same reasons and why are the injuries and fatalities still largely avoidable? 

Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) my profession provides me with a tremendous amount of information into the causes of accidents and although I may have a much greater exposure to motorcycle accidents than most, my experiences are only biased by the frustration of seeing identical causes repeating themselves.

Real learning and making a considerable difference in accident prevention and outcome is largely based on one factor: that collectively, riders and riding institutions, businesses and local authorities need to have a common approach & mentality to road and rider safety. ‘We’ have to take it upon ourselves to address these issues, to adopt best practices and to seek out the best information. A singular safety scheme or short lived campaign or even a particular item of safety equipment will not, in isolation, have a considerable effect on accident statistics.

E.g. Helmets are a key piece of equipment that will protect the rider from serious head injuries under certain conditions. However, if no other protective equipment is worn and misguided and poor riding practices are repeated, then the high probability of having an accident remains and the high probability of serious injury or fatality remains.

By riders taking responsibility for their own safety and openly discuss these issues and share information with each other, we are able to demonstrate this to all road users and be an example for others to follow.

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