When is the right time… how do you know when you’re ready?


You’ve got yourself a road bike and you’re learning to ride. Let’s assume that you are car licensed and are aware of the road rules. You have had some riding lessons, with an accredited instructor


You’re wearing the correct protective gear and you’ve been having extra practice in the local car park.


When will you leave the safety of the car park and venture onto the public roads?


We all learn at different paces, so someone riding around a car park for three weeks, may not be as good as someone who’s just whizzed around for two days… some progress quicker than others.


The bare minimum:


Woman rider BMW Australia


As a rider, before getting onto the public road, it is imperative you know, without a second thought, the location and controls of the motorcycle and be able to manoeuvre them into place, by just feeling… without looking.


If your eyes immediately look down at the controls when you need to operate the indicator, the horn, clutch front brake, or change low/high beam change, then stay in that car park until you can execute these movements. These NEED to become second nature to you… their precise location and how to operate them is, by feel, not by looking.


This kinda stuff can be done with the bike parked up even. The importance is to practice, practice practice. If you are unsure about what and where everything is, take a squiz at the manual and familiarise yourself with it all.


Start and stop, with control:


‘With control’ is the significant lesson here. If you persistently stall the motorcycle when you’re starting or going slow, this needs to be corrected before you get on the public roads. If you’re feeling off balance and the motorcycle feels like it’s leaning to one side or the other, stay in the car park and practice some more, until you feel comfortable taking off, riding slowly, without stalling. Making any of these mistakes on the street can be life-threatening.


We’ve all been tailgated at some stage… not good if you’re on your bike and you stall it in front of an impatient driver that’s too close up ya rear!


Precision cornering:


OMG… I shake my head at the number of people writing to their peers in the socials saying that they don’t know how to corner and that they are Woman motorcyclist crash Augustascared when they see one and slow right down to get around it. They’re on the roads already and they don’t know how to corner? Get the coffin ready! Sooo very dangerous.


So many single-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen because the rider was incapable of controlling a corner with precision.


What is precision cornering?


Commonly, a rider learning in the car park, makes wide sweeping arcs, without any dramas… there’s open space, no trees or oncoming traffic or structured road shapes to be confined to. Now, mark out two lines, spaced apart, onto the car park. There is now a whole different type of effort involved in staying within those two lines.


If you’ve not learned to control your bike in a structured layout in the car park, then to learn that skill on public roads is a scary confrontation you seriously don’t want to go through. If you drift wide out of your lane, you could easily end up in a ditch, barbed wire fence, head-on into an oncoming vehicle or off-road heading for the scrub.


So knowing that costly penalty, the realisation that precision cornering is quite a big deal. Learn it in the car park first, please. When you better understand push/pull counter-steering and can put that into practice, precision cornering will come more naturally.


The definition of counter steering is initiating a turn by pushing on the inside handlebar to lean a bike into a corner. Simply, push left, (with your right hand,) to go left and push right (with your left hand,) to go right. Counter steering generally works at speeds above walking pace due to the dynamics of the bike, and it’s the primary method used to steer a motorcycle.’ 



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Another biggie for precision cornering is to look through the corner.


Your head, eyes and nose are all pointing in the direction that you want to go. You hear this all the time and it’s a technique you need down pat if you are to survive out there. It is huge for navigating corners with precision.


When you’re becoming familiar with this skill and understand the technical side of why it works, it is safer to practice in the car park. Focus on learning this and when you’re on the road, it will be second nature… you will not be thinking, ‘oh, I need to push the handlebars this way or that…


What’s with these damn U turns?


To be efficient with successful U turns you gotta have excellent clutch and throttle control.


Get a comfortable and accurate technique happening when turning your head and eyes. Know which brake to use and how and when to apply it. Your slow speed skills will develop, which will ultimately help you keep your bike upright.


Dropping a bike in traffic, due to poor rider skills could put you in a dangerous and potentially costly scenario, not to mention downright embarrassing.


Woman on Harley Davidson Australia


What’s the big deal in the traffic?


When in the car park, you’re in a fairly controlled environment. If you take a spill, it’s no biggie, no Mac truck behind you to run you over. So run wide in the corner… it’s all about learning and fine-tuning those techniques.


It’s a game changer, however, out on the public roads. In the car park, you learn your techniques/skills; on the roads, you fine-tune your road strategy.


Good road strategy tips:


Woman riding cruiser Australia2 -3 seconds following distance

See up the road far enough to be proactive

Be seen by others


Your road strategy can be practised while driving your car. I got my bike licence before I learned how to drive, so I’ve always driven, using the road strategy tips above. They’ve saved my bacon on numerous occasions.


The potentially damaging consequences of not having a good road strategy in place are way greater on a motorcycle.


I’ve been riding for 30-plus years… I still practice obstacle avoidance and emergency braking each time I ride. As a motorcyclist, these are two skills you need to live and breathe, because when you need them, you need them NOW, not after a few seconds of trying to remember the technique taught 2 years ago at some training school. Having this as part of my being has definitely saved my life on numerous occasions and I’m talking split-second, hair-width close calls here.


So it’s not uncommon to find experienced riders like myself, return to the odd car park and practice a few U turns, coz I’m crap with them and with two big, heavy, long cruisers I need to upskill that skill set.


Once you know the techniques, practice, practice, practice…


If you only use a couple of these life manoeuvring techniques once or twice… then that’s definitely a bonus, coz you’re still here, right?!


In summary:


Open road motorcycle ride

If you think just seat time on the road is all you need to train, think again.

Skills are developed in the car park where you focus on correct techniques and practice what you’ve learned with your accredited trainer. Why I say accredited trainer and not just a shadow buddy is because not everyone that has ridden all their life, rides well and many pass on their bad habits to the newbie. I’m certainly not perfect and even though I was once an instructor in Hamilton, I would only ever guide someone who has asked for help and recommend they get a few proper lessons in as well.


Perform and focus the skills you learn with consistency until they are second nature, then you’re ready to move out into the slower local residential streets and practice the road strategy. Slowly as your confidence and skills develop, move onto some more challenging traffic.


I always say to be confident, not cocky.


If you’re not confident in the car park, you will be worse out on the streets… if your technique is deficient somewhere, this makes for a dangerous situation and decisions you’re unskilled to make, could potentially lead to a life-threatening situation.



Ride safe out there…



Iri Griffin

Ngāruawāhia, NZ


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