Riding skill road craft and passing your practical exam

Revised 07/05/2013 First printed 2007 : Supplementay notes to practical lessons with Evan’s Motorcycle/Scooter Training

Note: If this guide is used outside of my personal issue and supervision, please provide some feedback for my services to you, if to be redistributed please ask permission, I am yet to object to any request. Thankyou

More information here: Motorcycle/Scooter Training homepage link

Techniques:

CAR TO MOTORCYCLE TRANSITION:

In a car you were taught to not keep your foot over the clutch and not to use the brakes though corners….

Forget this advice for much of your time on your bike you will leave your hand on and controlling the clutch, and while cornering you will find use of the rear brake allows you to ride with more control. Taking off would best be described as car hill start technique with extra clutch and brake use.

REAR BRAKE:

Despite a seeming contradiction using the rear brake lightly and accellerating it is a valid technique for cornering and speed control on both motorcycles and scooters.

Attempting to control speed using the accellerator alone may work poorly and can cause you to stall the engine, run wide  or crash while cornering or turning. Control speed and smoothness better by slightly feathering on/off the friction point with the clutch and pressure on the rear brake.

The bikes nose DIVES lower as weight transfers forward with sudden rear wheel deceleration or lockup, while travelling straight this is uncomfortable, while cornering it is extremely destabilising.

Make a habit to have your  rear brake lightly on whether you need it or not to provide you with better speed control as you take off and also to avoid rolling back while moving off on a hill.

Scooter or motorcycle make a habit when you come to a stop always Left foot only down. If you need to change gears you may change your ground foot however always return Right foot to peg/board position before moving off.

To ride smoothly we should understand the forces involved and how we can change and modulate the effects through good technique, Also Engineers at high end companies like Honda or suspension tuners will generally attempt to setup the bike suspension for these forces to cancel each other out and minimise the amount of suspension movement

Question: Does the rear of the bike rise(ANTI-SQUAT) under acceleration?

Bike SQUATS when weight transfers back under accelleration

Bike ANTI-SQUATS because of wheel acceleration force

When accelerating If suspension is compressed Drive Chain generates SQUAT, if uncompressed ANTI-SQUAT, if rear brake applied while accellerating SQUAT.

This can get very technical and generally riding be feel is enough for most riders, if you would like to know a little more…or the answer to the question…

http://www.promecha.com.au/myths_misconceptions.htm

FRONT BRAKE:

Try to use whenever slowing down even if not needed to develop a well learned response and reflex action, also if a sudden hazard should appear saving you metres in distance.

Front brake should not be used while the bike is being accelerated to gain speed as this will “squash” the wheels towards each other making the bike amongst other things less stable.

Therefore do not allow your hand to rest on the brake when you are doing intricate low speed turns or while undertaking normal cornering where there should not be a reason to otherwise have to slow down or stop.

CLUTCH:

Release clutch during gear changes or taking off to friction point and control finely to allow smooth traction and delivery of power and minimal shock and wear to other components.

Do not think of yourself releasing the clutch… more transitioning it as sometimes you will be lightly feathering on/off friction point till full release and even then ready to pull it back in for control.

Use the clutch whenever power delivery needs to be tuned ie on corners and surfaces of difficult traction, unlike in a car where use of the clutch is discouraged the higher power to weight ratio of motorcycles requires this, and the motorcycle design allows simple and inexpensive part replacement, better to have clutch wear than losses of control or premature engine wear.

If DRIVEing through a corner when clutch is feathered or pulled in ensure the bike receives drive and doesn’t DIVE, straighten up before engaging clutch, if you have any doubts about your gears, correct revs or clutch control.

If gear doesn’t wish to change never force the shifter try giving the engine a quick rev up while pressuring shifter or easing the clutch out slowly till friction point (often resulting in a clicking sound as the mechanism shifts) and try the shifter again.

WHERE YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING:

You have an inbuilt tendency to travel to where you are looking during activities like walking, skiing, running and cycling.

The second point of note is the ability of your eyes to track your surroundings, looking down and close to your position the ground appears to move very fast and requires higher mental effort creating stress and duress.

When looking down or close to your position your weight distribution usually falls to where you are looking making the bike harder to balance, this often happens when distracted by concrete kerbing during low speed U turns, best practice is to keep your eyes up horizon level looking gently into your turn.

ROAD POSITION:

The following road position guidelines are based on the idea of always riding in the safest position so even when other vehicles makes dangerous mistakes you can avoid the need for sudden unplanned actions or changes in course. While most the time one could travel faster and easier using more road area, we need to concern ourselves and be ready for those times when this is not an option, as often by the time one realises a change is needed when riding in an undisciplined manner it can be dangerous or too late.

Generalisations are all well and good and a base level to start at, however the bottom line is you should learn to be choosing your position based alone on the road environment and how you feel comfortable.

Some factors will point you to the left side, some to the right, sometimes either is good other times you compromise on certain factors because other benefits outweigh the negatives etc

All riding is done in the Left or Right wheel track of where a car would travel on the road the inbetween area often referred to as the grease strip being avoided as well as the outer areas of road where tyre damaging or grip compromising debri may be found, these avoided areas are only to be briefly and gently cut across or ridden on when hazards compromise the use of the wheel track positions and the road is not of obvious greasiness or slipperiness.

You may find it helpful to study where cars situate themselves on the roads you travel to get an idea of the wheel track positions you should use.

If one is travelling too slowly and/or traffic is likely to start sitting close behind or overtaking you as often happens mainly to Learner scooter riders  anticipate this and move  to the safest side of your lane to allow for the least inconvenience or danger. Safer solutions may also include buying a scooter larger and faster than a 50cc type, which generally also have the benefit of saving you money actually using less petrol, riding smoother and lasting multitudes longer and being better for the planet.

Roads where the Right wheeltrack could put you next to oncoming traffic(hazard) (generally small suburban roads and small country backroads)

Sit left generally unless potential roadside hazards (ie parked cars <1m from road, pedestrians, kangaroos etc) or roads on left make it safer for you on the right, move back to left upon approach of oncoming cars or bends and crests on the road.

At stop signs or giveway signs consider avoiding the Right position unless turning Right as traffic can easily cut the corner or drift wide to your side of the road.

Buffered with concrete/painted islands or similar extra width single lane road:(i.e. Peninsula Ave,roads to suit trucks in industrial areas.)

Consider now using either wheel track as the Right offers safety from cars pulling out from the Left as well as visibility around Left hand bends. However be cautious not to be too far out that cars undertake (overtake on your Left) unless you are turning Right, in which case you may also ride/drive for safety on painted islands up to 50metres before a Right or U-turn.

Dual lane:

Sit in the track closest the white dividing centre line although try to be closer to the grease strip so as other lane traffic is not rubbing mirrors. If road bends or turns other vehicles cannot be trusted to stay within their own lanes so move to the other wheel track. Also consider moving to kerbing edge road positions when near wide vehicles or suspicious that a driver may suddenly change lanes etc.

KEEP LEFT:

Use left lane where possible as per the keep left rule, this allows overtaking and emergency vehicles legal and safe passage, as opposed to you causing a traffic obstruction and losing points during your test.

BLIND SPOT AND “HEAD-CHECKS”: (checking all intersections or adjacent road positions and blind-spots while riding and before you move across)

While riding normally one should be looking at every intersection they approach for vehicles that may breach rider right of way or other hazards ahead , this is often done out the corner of your eye, however for the exam and many intersections your head needs to fully turn for you to see clearly. While this is often pointless when moving through intersections at speed or you are possibly doing this after you have checked out the corner of your eye, the examiner needs you to “show” during the test. Given the above if something critical needs your attention and you miss an intersection “head-check” head movement this should be understood.

While most our attention is put to giving way through intersections, be mindful  you also look ahead before where possible and plan your vehicle path or travel through turns cautiously ready for unexpected hazards or cars stopped or illegally parked just around a corner, do not allow yourself to become complacent as our often generally safe road experiences can lull us into.

INDICATORS, POSITION AND LANE CHANGES:

MILO (Mirror Indicate Look Over (mirror blind-spot)

For moves across less than 1.5m and not crossing out of lane just check mirror and look over blind spot and move across no indication is required.

For larger distances than 1.5m or lane changes MILO, check Mirror, Indicate then TURN you head and Look Over blind spot.

Be super obvious with your head turn during MILO, turning your head and looking  is often far more obvious to other motorists than your small orange flashing indicator. Think of your head as an indicator.

Despite best intentions make it a reflex to firmly off your indicators as you START your turn, it is much easier made habit than after straightening up. Be firm with the off button and press it repeatedly when certainty is required.

TURNING RIGHT AT GREEN LIGHT NO ARROW OR CLEARED/OFF ARROW INTERSECTION:

Stay behind white line till red arrows clears, without delay check traffic coming from Right side and move vehicle completely past white line and into intersection, when opposing lane is clear or stopping (this can involve the intersection being red by the time you cross, this is legal all traffic must give way to you before they enter the intersection) continue your turn checking for traffic from the hopefully stationary red light.

If in a row of cars turning Right do not move past the white line until the vehicle in front is clearing the intersection or you will be breaking the law and entering a blocked intersection.

OBSTACLES AND SURFACES TO AVOID RIDING ON:

Adjust your road position to avoid potholes, undulations and changes of surfaces including manhole covers, painted surfaces and debris as these can cause problems ranging from discomfort and change in grip, through to tire damage due to nails, debris etc collecting on the lower area and ultimately accidents.

If you must brake for something such as a dog, kerbing or other object plan be straight on and no longer braking…. preferably accelerating to help lift front wheel. Such a technique has been known to allow even a front heavy sport bike rider to smash the rims and suspension of a bike yet remain upright, in control and uninjured, In the unfortunate circumstance of failing to notice a kerb raised traffic island.

HORN:

If traffic fails to move when it should creating frustration and potential danger, the use of the horn is warranted.

EMERGENCY BRAKING FOR DOT TEST AND PRACTICE:

The test requires you approach at 50kmh and stop in 12m(dry) or 16m(wet).

The hardest part of good safe braking is not braking hard but rather being well trained enough to feel and adjust braking force and keep maximum control and safe traction, this WILL slightly increase stopping distance and possibly result in hitting something lightly. The alternative possibly locking up and losing control as is a common tragic mistake made by panicked riders often resulting in a needless single vehicle accident or multi vehicle accident far worse injury/legally/insurance wise than should have been.

On the approach get your limb and body positioning  balanced and comfortable, attain 50kmh and hold this speed neither gaining or losing speed to maintain good weight distribution, if this is wrong at brake point abort to try again as you could lose a few metres of stopping distance and due to more suspension travel before weight goes to the front more chance of lock up or endo.

The examiners and the author are not impressed by a good recovery or almost recovery while attempting the E-Brake resulting in a <12m stop, they will fail you, impressive is smooth and keeping control, nice recoveries and short distances are simply for emergency braking gone wrong and involving potential injury or death no other time.

On sport/naked or standard bikes set the rear brake lightly for around 1% braking and concentrate entirely on the front wheel which will do 99% of your stopping, if the bike skids correct this without any further concern for stopping distance.

Front brake lock requires instant release, back brake must not be released if tyre is sliding out to the side as this can result in a flip.

Whenever approaching intersections or about to slow down/brake hard it is advisable to check your mirror to ensure the vehicles behind you can or are doing the same.

OVERTAKING:

As preference do not allow yourself to be stuck in a slower or stopped position keep aware of other vehicle movements pre-empt and overtake as a preferred option.

note: slow vehicles ie >10kmh below speed limit often constitute a road hazard in authors experience, overtake and avoid.

PARKING:

Park considerately to allow the largest number of vehicles into MC bays and always trying to face outwards for a faster/safer getaway.

If you must park or pullover briefly in a car bay or another area of road ensure you are safe and legal and park parallel to kerb.

Do not park facing down a hill into a kerb as it will be hazardous when you reverse out into traffic, stop the traffic and reverse in instead. And secondly you also may have grip issues or strength problems getting your bike out, which may result in you needing help…during a test an examiner would fail you for your poor planning.

Parking on a hill turn off engine disengage clutch and allow vehicle to roll till the engine stops it, now put the side-stand down, your bike is going nowhere.

COURTESY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:

Please embrace the concept that the road users behind you need to get where they are going as fast as legally possible, do the speed limit, move of quickly, try not to leave excessive gaps in traffic, anticipate traffic signals and be ready.

During the test however ensure you slow before a lower speed limit sign and increase only when fully through a higher limit sign, if unsure of the speed limit choose the lowest possible limit till sign post noted, exceeding limit by 10km can result in instant failure.

UNDETECTED BY TRAFFIC SIGNAL SENSOR:

Observe traffic light orders at intersections in order to be ready, if they appear to not be sensing your vehicle, turn to the examiner and ask him the best thing to do. It also helps if vehicles stop along way behind you too beckon them forward closer to the sensor before a problem occurs. Sensor is magnetic not pressure and the wires are in the cuts in the road and they are not always adjusted sensitive enough

The Authority in charge of traffic lights thoughtlessly advises cycles/motorcyclists to ride down the centre of the grease strip, which is an unsafe practice I personally discourage and is also marked against harshly or failed for by your test examiners.

You can help to prevent delays by reporting these poorly adjusted traffic signal sensor faults, crashes and hazards to the Traffic Operations Centre on the toll free number 1800 800 009, 24 hours a day (there are additional costs for mobiles).

LANE-SPLITTING:

I recommend for all licensed riders to lane split when safe to do so as it keeps you safer from being rear ended and enhances traffic flow.

Always lane-split carefully as in the event of a collision you and your bike may get seriously damaged/destroyed, also proving other party negligence will be difficult given majority road user attitudes to this technique, even if you were completely legal and correct.

If on a lower powered bike or the 2 “racecars” at the front of the lights look intimidating sit inline with the next car back and simply merge into a gap.

THE PRACTICAL EXAM:

If your bluetooth headset doesn’t work the examiner will speak to you instructions where to go, you should clarify and ask them to repeat them until you understand them and can ride of thinking more about what you are doing than where you are going, if you only remembered the first few or forget where you are meant to be going at any time you would then find a SAFE legal place to pull over and ask again, you would incur no penalties for this, it is a riding exam not a memory exam.

If you find yourself in the wrong road position (ie in a left turn only lane and the directions were for you to go straight) for the directions given do not do anything rash or illegal simply take the turn and then plan and take the appropriate actions the examiner has outlined to either return to the correct course or pull safe and legal over if the examiner is still with you. Some examiners may put you in this situation for whatever reason do not let it trouble you. No penalties are incurred for taking the wrong directions this is not a a test of directions.

During the test the examiner will usually follow very closely often in your blind-spot, do not let this pressure you. However use your mirrors and frequently observe him for instructions or cues, ie if you move across and indicate and he is doing the opposite or signaling other intents take note…

The examiner will also think by your regular mirror checks and awareness that you are also capable and safe, practice using your mirrors so as to gain this level of proficiency.

Avoid doing unnescessary activities during the test such as flipping visor up and down or taking hands of handlebars etc and maintain a high degree of awareness at traffic lights as to what is going on, try to ride a fairly normal A-B ride with a high attention to detail, think and work through things at your own pace even if that means taking longer than usual because of nervousness while being nervous can slow you down don’t let it cause you to make rash unwise decisions, the examiner wants you to pass and is happy for you to take your time as they know most people are nervous when doing the test, remember you are ready for the test, you are capable of doing this in a calm controlled manner just like in your lessons and passing.

You will also do a 6 continuous low speed U-turns (often referred to as a Figure-O) and a controlled braking exercise, all going well you will do some more general riding around then return to the licensing centre and hopefully gain your license.

COUNTER STEERING:

Please refer to website for the video links in realtion to counter steering 

You should be cautiously trained and comfortable in the skill of being able to push left handlebar(steer right) to initiate hard left swerve or desired leaning of bike for normal cornering and to COUNTER THE ACTION OF STRONG WIND. During lessons this will be covered for each individual vehicle as the design of many scooters and some cruisers may make them particularly sensitive to this form of steering and mechanical adjustments and/or extra care may be required compared to a naked/standard or sport bike

All my teachings relate to sport/standard and naked bikes and may possibly be applied to some scooters and cruisers with suitable due care and expertise and possibly mechanical adjustment.

When you first start learning to ride, you would normally be advised to ride with a relaxed grip and above walking pace steer by leaning the bike with your weight, some people will use this technique all their lives, however there is a better way.

Try gently turning the wheel in one direction at a steady pace above 40kmh and be amazed as the bike swerves the other way Try it a few times? Get the bike to weave from one side of the road to the other! ITS FUN! Convinced? something more for you to learn?

When above 40kmh+, During lessons you will notice how when I swerve/corner and the bike is leaning over,  my body is usually vertically upright giving maximum agility to swerve and change direction to avoid the many road hazards we can encounter.

You should avoid any body leaning interference if you are also to conciously learn what happens as you lightly push 1 side then the other way to tip back, you must control any tendency to lean or counter lean, try and keep your body vertical. To avoid any fear/danger just start pushing lightly where nothing may happen at first, you can then build up confidence and force till the bike starts veering with your pushes and as you get more comfortable build up magnitude till you are swerving all over the road, within minutes of starting this you should be able to do this naturally and instinctively in all your normal riding

However from watching motorcycle racers cornering you might observe combining leaning and counter steering will give greater stability and  faster cornering hence use on the race track, you may also enjoy the thrill of this form of cornering when on a good road surface and can see safely through a corner and the road ahead. Most safe road riding will however likely be done by mainly counter steering and not leaning very often at all giving us agility to avoid hazards.

Hopefully now you can understand and answer these questions in under 0.1 seconds on the road when you have to know.

Which bar to do you push when the wind starts blowing you hard from the Left?

If you want to swerve Left which bar do you push?

Did you answer Left?

Other points regarding how the bike will handle more effectively when you are no longer just a floppy weight on the seat, and instead find a way to put tension in your legs and weight on your footpegs like I do by riding with my toes on the pegs.Riding in strong wind? hopefully practice weaving/swerving in it with some safety space before you encounter wind disturbances from trucks or breaks in road barriers, vegetation or sudden gusts of wind, while in heavy traffic.

Riding in strong wind near big trucks can produce disproportionate  fear, To alleviate this I practiced riding/weaving and swerving the bike cautiously closer nearer to oncoming trucks, barriers and other areas of high wind turbulence, my irrational fears were soon displaced by knowledge of what I could comfortably handle and my abilities.

Many make excuses about their bike being hard to handle in strong wind because they don’t properly understand counter steering and seem to think because their bike does it automatically and they know this they know what they are doing as a result of poor teaching or learning.

It is not keeping your hands relaxed and letting natural instincts steer you, especially at higher speeds or in strong winds it needs to be quite forceful and very deliberate.

You will not likely be completely awesome or capable as an experienced rider straight away, ride your bike out in bad conditions for a safer more controlled testride somewhere you know is less hazardous but presenting similar conditions before you commit to riding on roads you may be unprepared for. With education, practice, experience and time most people can attain a high level of riding skills, which will allow them to ride very fast if they want or to get out of danger… or as I prefer to ride… safely, relaxed, effortlessly and enjoyably.

Another fine high level article here to read http://www.foreven.com/trackdod/NoviceGuide/

Some short videos may also benefit your knowledge

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWb3lGjF928

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrK_UsbsSro&feature=fvwrel

Need more videos? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=counter+steering&aq=f

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