Friday, 4 June 2010

Self-Teach Advanced Rider Training

Post 3 in the set

Over the next few posts I'll be adding the 'Games' content currently on the Cooper Bike Training web space.

These allow you to train yourself without the necessity of trailing an advanced motorcycling instructor or observer along behind.

Each 'game' is intended to work on a particular aspect of riding skill, awareness, or planning.

Games for grown-ups!
Playing games isn't just for children. Setting aside the "Football, more important than life or death" theory, there are a number of games you can play to help improve your riding.

Pick and choose from the list below. You will find that some of the games build on earlier exercises, so there are benefits to working through in order.

You may also find it helps to print this out and carry it with you for roadside reference, although there are 'armchair' exercises to do in the comfort of your home!

Follow My Leader 1
One of the key points of 'Roadcraft' is that you should always have "Time To React". And one of the easiest ways to loose your reaction time is following to closely behind the vehicle in front: it's easily done - you're eager to get on, so gradually close-up, losing the gap and reaction time.

Use the 'two second rule'. The basic principle is to watch the vehicle in front pass a particular point - for example, a drain cover - then count the seconds. There's a couple of easy options: "One thousand, one, two thousand, two", or the old TV advert favourite: "Only a fool breaks the two second rule." If you pass the same marker before you've finished counting - and be honest, don't say "One thousand one, twothousandtwo" so as to finish in time - then you're still following too closely.

Then ask yourself: "Is there a benefit to me of being this close to the car in front?" If you're not looking to overtake as soon as possible, it may well be beneficial to you to increase your following distance, and create a bigger safety margin.

Improving your riding is often about honesty, responsibility and self-discipline: if there's something you know you ought to be doing, then it's up to you to do it. No-one else is to blame if you get caught out.

Follow My Leader - 2
Been practising FML 1? Now test yourself! As the car in front goes over a manhole cover or mark in the road, see if you have sufficient time to react and avoid it (usually caveats about confusing other traffic etc.). If not - you're still too close!

Talk To Yourself
Personally, I find that talking to myself is one of the best ways of getting a sensible reply. However, this variation is from typical car 'advanced' training, where the driver gives a commentary, demonstrating to the instructor how far ahead they're looking, what at, and how they intend to react to it.

Look as far ahead as you can - remember that 'Time to react', and talk - or yell - out to yourself what you can see and ("What If?" & "How Can That?") how you intend to react to it.

At first you may find that by the time you actually talk about something you're already passing it, but with practice - and looking as far into the distance as you can - this should improve.

You may also find that you have too much to think about. Two things you can do, first is to prioritise, the second to abbreviate.

Ain't no stopping me now . . .
This a game to help develop your planning. In involves keeping going.

No, that doesn't me riding through red lights or over 'stop' lines. Like using the brakes in the 'no brakes' game, if you have to stop, then stop!

What it does involve is trying to arrive at junctions and roundabouts just as there's a gap, arriving at a parked car on the left just as a gap in oncoming traffic allows you to overtake, and arriving at red lights and pedestrian crossings just as it's safe to go through - although beware of practising your slow-riding skills so much that you build a long queue of bemused or annoyed drivers behind you who just don't know what you're doing.

There's another version of this 'Tag no-stopping'. If there's two of you out together, one leads until they have to stop, then the other takes the lead.

Nodding Dog
The 'nodding dog' just sits on the car parcel shelf, permanently agreeing with everything and everyone.

Your task for this game is to shake your head. Not always, just every time there's a side turning. As you approach the side turning turn your head and look for any early warning of emerging vehicles, which might be visible through gaps in hedges or walls etc.

You can also use the same principle when approaching tight bends: look 'across' the bend, perhaps you'll see an approaching car through gaps in the hedge.

Now take this a big step further. 'Where in the World' and 'No Brakes' encouraged you to look as a far ahead as possible, but at the road itself. Now look either side, but still in the distance. Widen your view. Can you tell by the shape of fields and hedges, or gaps in trees, where the road goes. Can you see a group of trees at the side of the road, with telegraph wires disappearing in the trees? If so, there's a house in there. Houses mean people, cars, children, footballs, dogs. Where's their gateway? Does it have high hedges or walls? Is there a mirror opposite?

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