REVEALED: Experts’ Top ‘Secret’ Riding Tips

                   How do riding professionals aim to stay safe on the roads?

Every biker has their own hot riding tips for better, safer riding on the road, ranging from tricks learned on track days or off-roading, to advice picked up from other riders, from bitter experience, or on BikeSafe days with the police.

But what if you had a direct line into Britain’s most experienced motorcycle professionals? Experts who honed their skills in the saddle, who built up years of hard-won experience on the road – and who have reached the top of their trade?

Now – thanks to Devitt – you have.

We’ve done the work for you and spoken to seven leading riders to find what goes through their minds when they’re riding, to keep them safe and sound.

We asked each to provide tips that aren’t widely known, tips that they rely on, tips that are often forgotten or ignored –  and that could transform your riding.

Our panel of experts are some of the best-known in the industry, with skills ranging from the race track, to the lecture hall and classroom, the road, law enforcement – and writing.

Each has shared their top two tips designed to help you become a better, safer rider, almost instantly. Don’t get us wrong; we know that developing a safe riding technique takes years – and that you never stop learning and improving.

Many of you might be familiar with the tips here, already. But do you remember to use them?

Safe, expert riding depends on a wide range of skills – as well as the right attitude – so these tips won’t turn you into a master rider overnight.

Study what our experts say, work out how to incorporate their advice into your own daily riding, put them into practice – and be sure to let us know what difference it has made to your riding, below.

Expert: Kevin Williams

Background: Full-time advanced rider coach at Survival Skills Rider Training. Founded the Science of Being Seen project. Has released a paperback on the subject, delivers talks to riding groups and clubs, and writes about motorcycle  safety.

Riding Tips
Kevin Williams

Lifesaving tip 1:

“Anyone who’s done any post test training is likely to have heard of the Limit Point – it’s the furthest we can see along the road, and we should be able to stop ‘well within’ the distance that’s clear.

“But how sharp is the corner itself? So long as you can see the broken hazard line disappearing round the bend, here’s a useful trick – count the number of lines that are visible.

If you can see ten or more, the bend’s easy – you might not need to slow down.

If you can see half-a-dozen, it’s likely you’ll need to roll off and go down a gear. If you can only see two or three, it’s time to get on the brakes and get the speed off. It’s sharp!”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“We all need to be aware of poor surfaces – metal access covers, worn out patches, lumps and bumps, repairs, damp or icy areas and so on, and that they are best avoided, particularly when changing speed or direction.

“But have you ever thought about why high grip anti-skid surfaces are where they are? You’ll often see them on the approach to pedestrian crossings where drivers and riders are braking late and hard.

So if you see them approaching a junction or a bend out on a rural road, assume that vehicles may emerge unexpectedly, or a bend might be sharper than you think.

The implication is that other people have got it wrong at that point and the high grip surface is to help prevent skids.”

Expert: Inspector Colin Reid.

Background: Head of Road Policing and Driver Training, Police Scotland. Advised on the new version of Motorcycle Roadcraft, the Police Rider’s Handbook.

Police rider colin reid
Colin Reid shares his top tips

Lifesaving tip 1:

“When positioning for corners, think about positioning for safety but also to help the bike do what it’s designed to do; corner well.

If the road bends left, position more to the right (but consider oncoming traffic). If the road bends right, position more to the left (but watch for nearside danger).

This simple tip to position gives you an early and better view into the bend but it also increases the turning circle which is safer.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“Look at how much road you have between you and the hazard ahead. If you have less road, reduce your speed. If the road opens up and you see more of it, you can apply more speed (up to the speed limit, of course). Less road = less power. More road = more power.”

Expert: Richard Gladman

Background: IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving & Riding Standards. Career police officer with specialisms in accident investigation and driver and rider training. Passionate about riding – with a smile on your face.

Riding tips from Richard Gladman
Riding tips from Richard Gladman

Lifesaving tip 1:

“Ride each road as if you are riding it for the first time. It will make you think, and a thinking rider is what we are aiming for.

Do not use ‘always’ or ‘never’ when assessing your own ride – each decision should be relevant to the information you are taking in, not relevant to what you knew yesterday.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“When does filtering become overtaking dangerously? Filtering is mentioned in the Highway Code, cautioning car drivers to watch out for it, and motorcyclists to take care when doing it.  Keep your speed differential in relation to the traffic that you are in, low (no more than 10mph).

Don’t continue filtering when the traffic is moving at more than a very slow pace (20mph). Just because your motorcycle fits doesn’t mean you want to put it there.”

Expert: Mike Abbott

Background: Mike is a time-served automotive engineer with Ford, and served his apprenticeship at Dagenham, AVO and Boreham, and spent many years working in Automotive.

Mike Abbot
Mike Abbot

He passed his bike test in 1967 and started road racing rather late in 1989 on a Yamaha TZ350H, finishing 4th in his first year, getting the FRC (Forgotten Racing Club) ‘Novice of the Season’ cup – at 38 years old – retiring from racing in 2005. Mike got the ‘Bridemaid’s Trophy ‘in 1994 having come consistently close but never winning a championship.

He qualified as a RoSPA Advanced Motorcycle Instructor in 2009, and a DVSA Post-test Trainer in 2010. Helaunched the Superbike School with much help from friends in 2011, and in 2015 qualified as an ACU Road Race Coach with ‘The School’ subsequently accredited by the ACU as ‘excellent’.

Lifesaving tip 1:

“Practise emergency braking. Find somewhere safe, away from traffic. Use both brakes, gently squeeze the front initially – don’t snatch, then once the front of the bike sinks as the weight has been transferred forward, you can squeeze as hard as you like even without ABS – even on a wet road you can get the rear wheel in the air.

If the ABS comes on you’ve done it wrong (unless you have a tilt sensor when it will come on as the rear wheel lifts). You need to gradually release the rear brake if you can remember to do this (not vital) to stop the rear wheel locking. Braking follows a square law. Twice the speed = 4 x the stopping distance.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“Use the ‘limit’ or ‘vanishing’ point when cornering – and look where you want to go, not where you don’t. Scan ahead for potholes etc. and use your peripheral vision closer up.

Given a fairly decent road surface you can lean a bike until something scrapes, and then a bit if you lean off, so look around the corner and simply hang on – it’s panic that causes the vast majority of collisions on bends.

Mid corner – use the rear brake – not the front – far safer. Practise rear braking gently when banked – with care.

You can actually trail-brake quite hard into corners with front and/or rear (racers do it all the time) – but applying the front brake for the first time mid corner will likely result in a fall, as much of the weight isn’t on the front tyre, and you’ll have to wrestle the steering as the wheels will try to line themselves up.

Trailing it in keeps the weight on the front, but you have to gradually release the brakes as your lean angle increases. It’s not sensible on the road unless in an emergency.”

Expert: Tom Killeen

Background: Founder and owner of i2i Motorcycle Academy, that specialises in changing behaviour – and ‘putting the fun into riding bikes’.

Tom is also certified IAM, ROSPA and BMF advanced rider and tutor. He’s trained police, collision investigation officers, off-road at all levels, Supermoto at all levels and track and road at all levels.

He calls on statistics for collisions and fatalities in the UK to inform key areas on which to focus training. He focuses on why some riders feel anxious.

Riding Tips
Riding Tips from Training Academy owner Tom Killeen

Lifesaving tip 1: 

“Learn to lean the bike quicker. Most riders lean slowly causing them to run wide if they don’t slow down a lot, which is not needed if they just lean quicker. Use more pressure while applying steering inputs (counter steer) which will achieve a faster lean rate.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“Steering should be applied with both hands, making sure the push and the pull is consistent with the direction the bars go, not downwards which can make the bike feel and react slowly, hence why most riders take a long time to move a bike from 30° lean in one direction to 30° in the other direction.”

Expert: Mark Jaffe

Background: Mark has been running Phoenix Motorcycle Training – which has 17 locations across the south of England – since 2010. It is the largest provider of motorcycle training in the UK.

He is the chief motorcycle examiner for the DIA (Driving Instructors Association) as well as being on a number of steering committees with the DVSA, DfT, and the Motorcycle Industry Association.

He works closely with the behavioural change teams at Transport for London. He is an IAM RoadSmart examiner and a National Observer assessor.

Mark Jaffe
Top Tips from chief motorcycle examiner for the DIA, Mark Jaffe

Lifesaving tip 1:

A crash can only occur when two vehicles are in the same space at the same time.  As long as you plan not to be in the same space at the same time as another vehicle, you won’t be involved in a crash.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“COAST – Concentrate – Observe – Anticipate. This will give you SPACE and TIME.”

Expert: Steph Jeavons

Background: Steph is an author, journalist and adventurer who, in April 2018, completed a solo around-the-world trip that took her to all seven continents.

She logged 53 countries and over 74,000 miles, over nearly four years, on a 250cc Honda named Rhonda. In 2018 Steph led the first group of all women bikers to Everest Base Camp in Tibet.

She now focuses on her company Moto Junkies, which offers the best of Wales and beyond on two-wheels through off and on-road training, tours and adventures.

top riding tips
Steph Jeavons

Lifesaving tip 1:

“When riding abroad, take time to find the method in the madness. It‘s often there, once you get into the flow. Riding as you would at home, or assuming you know how traffic will behave, is not always wise. Watch, learn, and adapt your style.

Some countries indicate to tell you it’s safe to overtake them, others that they are turning. Some give right of way to those joining the road, others don’t! Some use their horn to say ‘I’m here’, others to say, ‘move over, I’m coming through’.

Even the most (seemingly) chaotic of countries have a system. Some are harder to spot than others. It reminds me of a plaque I had on my bedroom door as a kid which said ‘This may look a mess, but you don’t understand my system’.

Sometimes you might feel like a hooligan because it is so different to our UK style – embrace it! It’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.”

Lifesaving tip 2:

“Even if you have no intention of taking up off-road riding as a hobby, take some off-road training. Just a day could make all the difference to your skills on the road.

Learning how a bike handles on different surfaces will make you better prepared for those slippery moments on the road when you feel your back wheel sliding. It’s often our own input that causes the fall.

Get comfortable with your bike by experiencing as much variation as you can. It will also open up a whole new world.“

I’m not a riding expert writes David Williams – as a journalist, I consult those who are, when researching articles on skills and safety. But – like most riders – I’ve built up my own armoury of life-saving tips, many based on riding in central London where I live.

Here are two I try to remember to put into practice.

Lifesaving tip 1: 360-degree awareness of what’s happening around you in fast-changing city traffic is crucial – and that’s especially true of vision.

I’ve reviewed countless helmet/goggle/visor/sunglass combinations, including many designed for fashion above performance. I now routinely use helmets offering the widest field of vision; it’s alarming how much ‘information’ you lose with a narrow helmet opening – or thick goggles/sunglasses – that produce ‘tunnel vision’.

Lifesaving tip 2: Watch the wheels! Drivers do the daftest things in traffic – including suddenly launching themselves from the kerb or junctions. It can be hard to spot the initial telltale clues.

To give you the edge, try to make eye contact – while also watching their front wheels, which betray movement – and direction – faster than any other part of the vehicle. Split-seconds count in traffic!

 

Do you have any ‘secret’ – or perhaps widely forgotten or ignored safety tips you’d like to share with other Devitt followers? Take part in our discussion below – and let us know!

And remember – always ride within your own personal limits and stick to the rules of the road. If unsure about any of the advice in this article – or elsewhere – seek professional assistance and explanation before attempting to follow it, or putting it into practice.

A great starting point is a police Bikesafe course. If in doubt, ask!

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

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