I’m always interested in new biking adventures and off road riding is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. To resolve this, I recently booked myself in at the Off The Kerb Trail Riding school down in Dorking, Surrey. Off The Kerb offer a newbie friendly introduction to off road trail riding, exploring local green lanes in the beautiful Surrey Hills on Fantic Moto 250E Case enduro bikes.
Toppling over in an embarrassing fashion is de rigueur when off road
The day comes in at just over £200 quid, including hire of all the kit you need: bike, boots, full armour, top, trousers, waterproof jacket, gloves, lid and not forgetting lunch. Certainly very handy for an off road newbie with none of the gear, and at a price on par with many other off road days elsewhere. Toppling over in an embarrassing fashion is de rigueur when off road, so doing that in the supplied full armour and less precious kit is definitely preferred.
I’m sure there are few bikers who wouldn’t want to take their bikes onto a super smooth track, with no speed limits and great corners to tip into. However, I’m also sure there are many lesser experienced bikers who are a little nervous or put off booking a full on track day. If you’ve only got a little street bike for commuting or are not a confident rider, you will likely be daunted by the idea of hitting the track with loads of race replica, crotch rockets, fresh out of tyre warmers and fuelled on testosterone and macho posturing.
Undoubtedly they prefer teaching bikers to ride better, than cleaning up motorcycle mess off the roads when things go wrong.
However, a track day is a great way to improve your riding and learn what your bike can do in a safe environment. And this is the core aim of this novice Ride Skills track day I attended, run by Kent Fire service in conjunction with IAM and MSVT. Undoubtedly they prefer teaching bikers to ride better, than cleaning up motorcycle mess off the roads when things go wrong. The day included:
For my birthday my lovely wife signed me up for the IAM Skills For Life course, something I’ve wanted to do for a while which should really help improve my riding. On Sunday I attended the first day of the course – the machine control day. Out on North Weald airfield I was practising some key riding skills; low speed riding, balance, emergency stop, counter steering and so forth.
The riding was not easy, but really useful to practice in a safe environment off the road and quickly highlighting some bad habits I’ve fallen into (in particular how I cover my front brake). There were loads of IAM observers on hand to help, give encouragement and ask the right questions to aid us pinpointing our own mistakes.
This weekend I attended a taster session with the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) and a freebie too! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing their Skills For Life course for a while, to try and learn a bit more. So when the offer of a free taster session popped up, I jumped at the chance.
I was put in touch with a Observer from the local IAM group (ELAM), with whom I arranged a short ride out. After a quick natter on what I wanted to get from the session, we hit the road, with my observer following and keeping his beady eye on me. We had a couple of stops on route to natter more, before a final debrief at the end.
All in all, I found it really useful with a number of key things highlighted that I need to work on. Some bad habits and some from inexperience. Either way, it was pretty clear I’ve got a lot to work on and that’s the crux of it is, we should never stop learning.
I shall definitely be signing up for the full course in the near future. Especially as there’s a discounted rate for the time being.
Last night I finally made it along to the Oval Motorcycle Centre’s (OMC) Basic Maintenance and Inspection Course. Something I’ve been meaning to do for some time, but never got round to it. The course covers all the basics of bike maintenance, starting with electrics (switches/lights), then blitz’s through, tyres, brakes, bearings (wheel, head race & swinging arm), chain, forks/shocks and finally control levers and cables.
Although the course is pitched at complete newbies, it covers an awful lot, such that even though I’ve done quite a few maintenance jobs (changing filters, downpipes, balancing carbs etc) I still came away having learnt much. From stuff as simple as a more efficient way to lube my chain, to stuff completely new to me, like the ins and outs of different head race bearing and spotting when they’re knackered. It was also a great chance to ask questions on simple stuff you’ve seen, but were never sure if it was OK or not, like the way you hear brakes pads catching slightly as you push a bike – are they supposed to do that or are they sticking?! (They’re supposed to)
The other night I had the pleasure of attending a Biker Down night with Bucks Fire Service. For those not familiar with Biker Down, it’s a great (and free) course run by a number of local fire services aimed at preparing you to deal with a traffic incident when first on the scene.
The bulk of the course content covered first aid that would be directly relevant to the trauma that would be common in a biker off. This including checking airways, circulation/bleeding, providing reassurance with a brief rundown on techniques such as CPR, dressing bleeding wounds and how to safely remove a helmet. I know this last item is a controversial one, however the presenter argued it was better to this earlier, whilst a biker is (hopefully) conscious and before they go down hill (say if they’re loosing blood etc). He argued the first thing a paramedic would do is remove it anyway and he showed us a two person technique to carefully remove it and support the upper spine. If it’s a full face helmet and there’s issues with blocked airway, it’s arguable more critical to get them breathing again regardless.
On top of that, we got a brief rundown on managing an accident scene, from where to park visibly to warn other vehicles, yet not leaving yourself in danger should a trunk hit your bike; to delegating tasks to other members of the public and handing over to emergency services. We also got a quick bit of information on staying visible on the road, covering stuff like positioning and some debate on hi-vis.
Overall it was a very informative and useful evening, I learnt a lot of stuff that I hope never to have to use, but invaluable should the need arise. I can highly recommend you sign yourself up for the course, it’ll cost you nothing and is now being run in many other parts of the country as well as just Kent and Bucks. More info on the Biker Down Facebook Page or google for info on your local fire service.
It was exactly a year ago today I began my adventure in biking. One year ago I took my motorcycle theory test, the first step into getting onto two wheels. Granted I could have done CBT first, but I knew from the off I wanted a full bike license and a big bike.
Looking back, I can’t believe how fast time has flown, how much fun I’ve had, for how long I put up with the stinky, hot, crowded tube! Most definitely not looked back, (other than the odd ‘life saver’ glance over shoulder!)
Booked myself onto the BikeSafe course run by the local police force. Everyone I speak to recommends it, and at just £35 for a days tuition, whose to argue? That said, that’s Romford price, in central London it’s £45.
In an effort to improve my riding I have picked up this book. Universally well regarded and the manual for police motorcyclists. It is jammed packed with advice, tips and lessons to rider better and safer, in all manner of situations.
I managed to pick up a second hand copy off the Amazon Marketplace for less than the price of a couple of beers. There’s a lot to read and learn, with many lessons backed by simple diagrams. I’ll report back, once I have finished reading it, but do check it out yourself in the mean time.
As of 19th January 2013, the rules around motorcycle tests in the UK have changed considerably, Trying to fathom how this affects you is no mean feat. Today I’m going to attempt explaining the changes in a clear and simple way.
Hopefully you will be able to choose the best route to get riding, as taking the wrong test could cost you more in the long run and limit the choice of bike you can ride.