Welcome to the sixth instalment in our safety feature campaign series: Devitt Rider Safety with road safety journalist @djrwilliams.
We’re on a mission to create heightened awareness and debate around vital rider safety topics, initiatives and campaigns. Riders love to talk about all the latest safety and riding skills and here, at Devitt, we aim to be at the very forefront of that discussion.
Join the debate today on social media at #DevittRiderSafety
The best motorcycle riders can sometimes be clueless about keeping their bike in tip-top condition, but for those starting out, even basic maintenance can be a minefield.
Now a new series of fun videos has been launched with step-by-step guidance on how to get the basics right, and it’s aimed at those starting out on their riding ‘career’, specialising in small-capacity machines.
Dubbed ‘Mech’it Better’, the brilliant YouTube videos cover a range of topics in 10-minute chunks, covering essential pre-ride checks, motorbike and scooter tyres and wheels, how to check that the electrics and battery are working properly, and how to check your oil. Other hot topics include vital brake checks and a list of essential equipment to carry on your bike.
The videos are designed to apply to most bikes so that the skills can be learned and used by riders with all types of machine. But they only came about after a separate campaign – painstakingly planned by the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership – was torpedoed at the last minute by the pandemic.
MDF BIKE RACK
“Lots of younger riders were going around on bikes that hadn’t even had the most basic maintenance,” says John Furniss, of the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership. “It wasn’t safe so we decided to do something about it.
”We were seeing bikes in all kinds of disrepair including one with a DIY rear rack made of MDF. It was falling to bits and blocking the rear lights. Other riders had poorly adjusted chains, brakes and dangerous tyres.”
The Partnership raised funding to launch evening drop-in sessions at motorcycle stores, so that young riders could have their bikes professionally sorted out, free of charge. “The idea was that they would drop in after work and perhaps learn new skills by watching the mechanics, before going out for a ride with their mates,” says John. “It would also help us get to know the riders and find out more about them. Then Covid stepped in.”
With lockdown in place and the plan in tatters, the Partnership began searching for a new way to get in contact with young riders. They stumbled across the DIY videos, already being filmed by two Yorkshire biking enthusiasts, Ciarán Baker and John Hanson.
“We saw their YouTube channel talking about bikes and thought it was fantastic,” says John, Young Driver and Young Rider Officer. “They were giving out brilliant advice in a down to earth manner and were very professional, even though they were just doing it in their own time.”
The Partnership signed up John and Ciarán for 10 films aimed at new, or younger riders and so far six are in the bag.
“They cover all the basics and if they get to a point where something is too complicated, they advise viewers to go to a dealer, so that they can have a problem professionally sorted,” says John, who rides a Triumph Explorer 1200 and a 125cc Honda Monkey Bike.
“The great thing about Mech’it Better is that they love smaller capacity bikes – which is what younger, newer riders want. When we found them they were making films only about specific bikes including a Yamaha YBR 125. Now they’ve switched to more generic models everyone can relate to.”
Adds John: “It’s been great for engaging with younger riders during lockdown. Anyone, anywhere can have a look. If they don’t have the basic knowledge, this really helps.”
One of the most popular films is about electrics and how to use a multimeter. “Lots of riders have one but don’t really know how to use it. I watched the video a couple of times myself!”, admits John.
“It’s useful for older riders as a re-cap too – there’s no age limit but these are aimed at 16-21 year-olds. All the checks make riding safer,” says John, who is on secondment from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.
John and Ciarán have fitted the filming around their day jobs; John works in a chandlery and Ciarán recently started a new job in a bike shop. “Finding time to get together during lockdown was tricky,” says John Hanson. “We started off a bit rough, but have bought better filming equipment and they’re not quite so rough now!” They aim to film each episode in a day and the editing takes a week.
John Hanson and Ciarán are both self-taught mechanics; they were in the same year at school and their obsession with fixing things – including old cars and motorbikes – drew them together. “We moved onto bikes and started doing them up,” says John, who lives on a narrowboat with his girlfriend. “We just use basic tools that anyone might have, in my own garage; it’s nothing fancy!”.
Most of their tools are old (they’re still using John’s 15-year-old socket set) and the biggest expense was £150 for a second-hand welder. Current ‘project’ bikes include a Honda CG 125 and a Suzuki Address 110.
The videos are such a hit that the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership is considering broadening the output to include advice on carrying pillions, or luggage and on other riding tips.
“We’ve seen the condition some bikes are in on the roads,” says John Hanson. “The trouble is, at 16 or 17 you wouldn’t necessarily have the skills for your own maintenance and your mind is probably on other things. And £60 an hour in a garage is too expensive. That’s why you sometimes see bikes with badly adjusted chains, worn sprockets and so on. It’s great to know we’re helping riders keep safe on the roads.”
You can see the videos here:
Mech’it Better was revealed at Road Safety GB’s online PTW event, ‘PTW Riders: improving safety and reducing collisions and casualties’, sponsored by Devitt: https://roadsafetygb.org.uk/ptwevent/programme/
David Williams is a freelance journalist who specialises in road safety, transport and travel. He’s been the London Evening Standard’s motoring correspondent for 26 years, also contributing to the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times and various magazines. He is a Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Awards judge.
Twitter Handle – @djrwilliams