DIY Advanced Rider Training

This series of 'Games' has been on the web for some time, gaining literally thousands of views. They 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.

You might find it's easiest to cut and paste them into a document, then print a few to take with you when out riding.

If you're an instructor or observer involved in rider training - and that need not be at 'advanced' level - you may find them useful to, planned into your training session.

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.

Also, there are 'armchair' exercises to do in the comfort of your home!

Where In The World?

If you've recently taken a CBT or test-level course, then you will probably have been encouraged to ride about a metre out from the kerb, or in the centre of your line. Real-world riding suggests that moving across the lane width can have significant benefits - but also serious risks.
Enter, two mantras:

• Safety - View - Advantage

• Safety - Stability - View
It doesn't particularly matter which you use, as long as you understand what you can gain from each.
Safety. Children are warned: "Run away from danger". For you, a grown-up, thinking rider, this means keeping as far away from danger as reasonably possible, e.g. if there's a car in the junction to your left, move across to the right of your lane. If there are two hazards (add an oncoming car to the example above) then separate them either in time, i.e. change your speed so that you only encounter one at a time, or distance, i.e. go equidistant between them.
Stability. Choosing the best surface to ride on, i.e good tarmac rather than oil, gravel, horse . . . 'dust', or sunken drain covers.
View. See and be seen. One classic example of this is following HGVs, several of which now sport warning signs: "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you". Try to make eye contact with other road users; if the driver at the junction mentioned above can't see you, it's far more likely that he will pull out! A more extreme example of 'View' is positioning for corners, which is really beyond the scope of this 'game'.
Advantage. Again, this is slightly more involved, but one example is adapting your following position to overtake when leaving a bend, using the advantages of an earlier view and the bike's superior acceleration.
In the second version: Safety - Stability - View, Ask yourself how you chose the position in the lane width you're riding in. Then 'project ahead' and choose - or plan - where you want to be, rather than deciding when you get there - by which time it's really too late to decide that you really ought to be somewhere else!

Mark My Words

Councils often go to great lengths to help road users, by erecting signs, placing 'cat's eyes' and painting markings on the road. Unfortunately, those same road markings may not give quite as much grip as good tarmac.

This game involves accuracy in your riding, as well as forward planning. Building on 'Where In The World', start to really choose the exact place on the road for you.
If you're riding towards a hazard for which the council have painted 'SLOW' on the road, ride between the painted letters rather than over them. After all, if you're braking you may need the best grip available.
Of course, to avoid these markings you will have to read them . . . and ponder on why exactly the council have bothered to paint 'SLOW' on the road. Don't get so engrossed in the game that you forget to watch what's happening in front!

Keep Out Of Line

As a variation on 'Mark My Words', when changing lanes try to avoid line markings or 'cat's eyes'.

P.S. With both these exercises, don't get so fixated on the road surface that you ignore everything else happening around you!

Pick A Gear, Any Gear

Keeping your speed constant, change up and down the gearbox. 2-3-4-5-4-3-2

By careful choice of revs, and care with the clutch, you should be able to make your changes without any noticeable change of speed. This exercise is good for extending the life of your chain, sprockets and clutch. It will also improve the journey for your pillion passenger.
Give yourself a mark from 1-10, for how smooth each gear change is, and try to be aware of what affects this.

Ink Bottle

Building on the smoothness of 'Pick A Gear', imagine that there's a bottle of ink on your pillion seat - without a lid (and that's not 'without a safety helmet').
Try to ride smoothly, so that the ink won't get spilt. Gentle acceleration, smooth gear-changes, ease the brakes on and off, come to a halt carefully avoiding that sudden, fork-compressing stop as you lose the last few mph. Known as 'taper braking', it involves gradually increasing and easing off braking pressure.
Again, this will also improve the journey for your pillion passenger.

Coal/Ink to Newcastle

So you're getting smoother at carrying that ink around, now start to reflect on your riding at the end of each journey: where could you have been smoother?

Spot The Difference

If you've taken any type of rider training, or driver improvement course, you will probably have been told 'Improve your observation'. Well that's easy, isn't it? Here's one way of 're-training your eyes':
Most of the time you 'see' things, particularly detail, with just the very centre of your field of vision. Around the edge, your peripheral vision, is very good for spotting movement. Are you aware of how much you can 'see' around the edge?
Sit comfortably, then look at a mark or point on the wall opposite. You will notice that most of what you see in detail is in a very small area. Without looking away from that point - although you are allowed to blink! - gradually be aware of everything around that point, and move your concentration further out.

When riding, use that peripheral vision to attract your attention to objects that are away from your main 'view'. But remember: where you look is where you go, so if you look at a hazard for too long you'll steer towards it! Look for an escape route instead.

Drive Yourself Around The Bend!

One of the easiest ways to improve your cornering is to 'drive' the bike around each corner. There's two elements to this:

1. You need to finish all braking or gear-changing while the bike is still upright and traveling in a straight line;

2. Opening the throttle as you lean into the corner (remember that cornering with the throttle closed is effectively braking around the bend).
Using these two points means that you brake while the bike is most stable, and corner with the throttle open, which gives good weight distribution (taking weight off the front so it's less likely to slide) and can increase your ground clearance.
To achieve both 1 & 2 you may find that you have to brake earlier and more firmly than usual.
Whether or not you are comfortable with opening the throttle is one way of judging the accuracy of your choice of speed for the corner.
To start off, just notice whereabouts you open the throttle, with the bike still upright and in a straight line, just as you start the turn, or do you corner with the throttle closed? Does this vary between corners, perhaps 'open' or 'blind' bends? When you change the point where you start to 'drive', does the bike seem more 'comfortable'?

No Brakes?

When you've got 'Drive Yourself . . . ' off to a fine art, build in an additional element of good forward planning. Try to identify hazards (actual or potential danger) earlier so that you don't need to brake, just close the throttle, then arrive at the corner (or other hazard) at the correct speed and ready to to open the throttle.
As before: use the brakes if you have to, remember that 'engine braking' means using the engine to slow you - not the gearbox, only change down when the revs have dropped, then use the throttle to match the revs with your road speed.

Funky Chicken

"Tense, nervous, headache." Remember the T.V. advert.? Well, tension in your shoulders while riding a motorcycle will initially cause discomfort, then pain. Worse still, it will adversely affect your riding as you will not be allowing the 'bars to move when the bike wants to balance itself. Another potential problem is that if your shoulders are tense you are far less likely to steer easily, and you will tend to feel that you are 'fighting' to get the bike to go where you want it to be.

Unfortunately, you can't stop tension happening, or just make yourself relax. What you can do is 'mark' your tension level, on a 1-10 scale. By being aware of tension you can start to overcome it.

So, you need to watch for the signs of tension - a 'death-grip' on the bars or straight arms and tense, raised, shoulders, for example - then tense even more and release. If in doubt, do the 'chicken' to check: your arms should be 'loose' enough that you can 'flap' your arms!

Although the easiest way to explain counter-steering is as a 'push' an the bars in the direction you want to turn, it's often better if you can keep that arm relaxed and pull back on the other bar. When cornering, try to keep your arms relaxed, particularly the arm on the side you are turning to, the 'inside' of the turn. It may help if you lean slightly forwards as you start your turn. Depending on your bike, you may be able to sit slightly further forward, which will also help to avoid the 'straight-arm syndrome'.
One instructor I've met calls this sort of thing 'Zen motorcycling'. Another well-known instructor will chant "Relax, relax, relax . . . " through your earpiece, in a soothing voice! At Cooper Bike Training, during our 'Born Again' courses, we encouraged riders to have a comfortable, relaxed, riding position. To remind them we quoted the American expression 'Loose as a goose'.
Are you uptight, chicken, Zen or goose? Keep a check while riding!

All Together Now: 'Drive', 'No Brakes' & 'Funky Chicken'!

So: at the start of the turn, turn your head and look where you want to go. Press - or pull back, you choose which works for you - on the bars, and roll the throttle open, all the time keeping 'loose'.


Occasionally the council will paint direction arrows on sections of road. Usually they'll be on the approach to junctions to indicate which lane you should be in. In other locations they probably suggest that drivers could be confused by the road layout, and might head the wrong way. However, they may have an unintended benefit for you as they can be a great place to practice counter-steering (see 'Funky Chicken') at 'reasonable' speeds. Don't scare the daylights out of other road users, please!

Time To Spare?

Here's the one for a quiet few moments at home: You will require a comfy seat, a watch, and a good memory.

Think of one of your 'best' roads, the one you regularly use for a 'clear the cobwebs' ride. You're going to ride a few miles of that road from the comfort of your armchair! So sit down, check the time, close your eyes and imagine riding down that road . . . . . . and when you get to the other end, check the time again. Did it take as long to imagine the route as it would to ride it?

If not, what have you missed? Go back and 'ride' through it again, this time in detail and in 'real time': think of each gear-change, braking point or throttle movement, every change in the road surface, every side turning, change in camber, bend & twist, any pub, shop, school or house entrance, all signposts, road markings or diesel spill.

The armchair ride should take at least as long as the real ride - if it doesn't, where are the 'blanks', the sections of road where you've not noticed the details? Next time you ride for real, slow down and fill in the gaps, seeing the detail is the key to good observation. Then ask yourself "How could that affect me?"
If you're interested in becoming an instructor, this 'ride recall' is probably an essential skill to develop, in order to discuss and assess a trainee's riding. It's also a great way to improve your own riding, rather than just sitting there without a full awareness of what's going on around you.

What If?

This game has been around for many years, but is about to become well known as a result of a recent pair DSA videos (one for car drivers, the other for motorcyclists).

It's a variation on the Roadcraft 'Observation Links', and involves asking yourself one question, many, many times. Whatever you see, ask yourself "What if . . . ?" For example, as you approach a blind corner, and are about to try and get your knee down, ask "What if there's a broken down car around the corner?" and choose your corner entry speed accordingly.

Another variation is:

How Can That . . . ?

As in "How can that affect me?" Try to be as imaginative as possible. Could a low flying aircraft have any effect on you? Probably not, but if you've noticed it then other drivers may have done too. Are they still looking at it? is it taking their concentration away from you?
So ask "How can that affect me?

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' as a guide to a minimum distance. 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?

Way out, man

It can be a good idea to have an 'escape route' planned before you need it.

This develops the 'What If?' theme, and rather than just concentrating on, for example, being able to stop within the distance you can see is clear, brings in those situations where you don't have enough time to stop.

So, if that car driver sat waiting in a side turning hasn't actually seen you, what are you going to do if he drives out? Can you stop, or swerve (do you know how to, have you practised?), or will you hit the car whatever you do?

Can you look for a 'soft' option? In 'car' terms this means the front or rear of the car, the crumple zones, rather than the mid-section crash-cage. Is there an escape route which might involve a hedge, rather than hitting a car?
How about jumping? This is likely to be a far better option than hitting the car! See elsewhere for more on this.
To an extent, this is 'last ditch' stuff - but if you leave it too the last moment you won't have time to look for an option and put it into practice, so it has to be planned before you need it! You have to be a pessimist - expect trouble and plan for it, then be pleasantly surprised if the driver doesn't pull out. But realism says that drivers can, and do, pull out, so have a continuously-developing plan in place.

Wondering where all these 'games' are from?

'Drive around the bend' originates from the MSF (in the USA) who teach 'Slow, Look/Lean/Roll' for all cornering. Add in the 'No brakes' game and you may have Keith Code's Day 1 from the California Superbike School!

'See and be Seen' is also heavily emphasised by the MSF.

SSV & SVA depend on which Police driving school you listen to.

'Keep out of line' is in one of Dave Jones' books.

'No Brakes' has been around for years . . . but often without clarity as to 'why' - often leading to a belief that it's the One True Riding Style rather than a training aid.

The ink bottle originates from Jackie Stewart's Formula Finesse 'balls on the bonnet', via Sir John Whitmore's RAC Superdriver. (CSM had a good variation: blu-tak an egg cup onto the rider's helmet, place one fresh egg, set rider off around tightly-cornered cone layout, stand well back)

'Loose as a goose' MSF again;

'Zen' is from a 'Rapid' instructor;

'Chicken' is from . . . ?

'Time to spare' based on Keith Code's track version in Twist of the Wrist. As with so much in his books, track techniques can be adapted to road riding, but you have to be sure about what you are trying to achieve.

'What if?' again, originally from MSF, now the title of DSA videos.

'Spot the difference' is part of the 'Smith Cumming Sherman visual road search system', from the Driving Instructors Handbook, and possibly elsewhere. The SCS is a five-part system, which can be expanded to six with a motorcycle-specific 'keep level-headed' prompt, i.e. although you may be leaning your body into a corner with the bike, keep your head upright.

Spotting tension and awarding a 'mark' is from cognitive behavioural therapy, another type of CBT!

'Ain't no stopping' from Steve Fox (of Kestrel FM fame), who I managed to beat by cheating - using a long-cut (as opposed to a 'short cut') which bypassed an awkward junction.

'Swoop-de-woo' suggested by Gerry, am ex-Hampshire police traffic officer.