Riding Skills Newsletter

 Published by the:

New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants.
Level 1, Costa Mora
Rokewa Way,
Johnsonville, Wellington.

Email address:

Phone 64-4-478-5024
Fax 64-4-478-6197


A few thoughts from the NZMSC Riding Skills Development Division:

The thing most experienced riders seem to overlook when talking about how to make predictions when riding - what that car, dog, kid, load, road, corner, etc will do - is that predicting is a mental skill.

It is not a physical skill that requires physical practice and mastering.

Predicting is not only a mental skill but it is usually a subconscious skill as well. It is this subconscious aspect that causes many riders to close the throttle before they consciously "see" the hazard that made their subconscious nudge their brain into ordering the wrist to close the throttle.

Subconscious skills are usually well-grooved skills - they take either a major event which fixes the required skill in the subconscious or continuous repetition to become grooved as a subconscious skill.

So, something bad doesn’t have to happen to you in a situation to make your reaction to it subconscious. Subconscious skills can be grooved into your brain by continuous use. For example, if you read or are warned about dangerous loads on trucks and decide to keep an eye on truck loads in future, and do so, one day in the future your "habit" (subconscious skill?) will mean that you will identify a loose load, your subconscious will alert your brain and, hey, your "sixth sense" will make you go for the brakes or countersteer hard around that piece of wood as it falls off the truck!

Just like Gary who avoided a car driver concentrating on a turning van and who thus didn’t "see" Gary, If you make a habit of scanning for and focusing on specific things such as situations where the driver is likely to miss seeing you, this will train your subconscious to identify *and react to* situations where cars won’t see you - but *only* if you get into the habit of looking for and identifying these situations.

Just to keep this short then, basically the secret to predicting is to learn about hazardous situations in riding and then put a concerted effort into establishing the habit of looking for those situations.

Learning and developing mental skills is an ongoing thing. You must read books and pick other rider’s brains when you are off the bike, and when you are on the bike you must practice, practice, and practice. Too many riders are both lazy and unfulfilled riders in that they do not give their complete attention to learning to ride, whenever they ride.

The megarider is ALWAYS learning, developing habits, looking for clues. S/he looks everywhere, at everything, tries new things and new ways, looks for new sights, listens for new sounds, etc, etc.

It is this TOTAL involvement in riding that makes motorcycling so special for the megarider - and makes the megarider the megarider s/he is.

Question Of The Day

Q. Why don’t blind people ride Kawasaki ZZ1100Rs?

A. Because the dog can’t keep in front..


On one of the Microsoft Network’s motorcycle newsgroup Joanna Strohn recently wrote that a tale of a motorcycle crash "Reminds me of the dippy little teen who looked straight at me whilst pulling into the street."

That got us thinking that it’s interesting how many riders say "looked straight at me".

The next time a rider (especially a new rider) uses that expression, correct them by saying "Looked straight *through* you." "Looked straight at me" usually refers to establishing eye contact and, establishing eye contact and being seen can often be two different things.

Too many riders think that the so-called "establishing eye contact" means that this will ensure that car driver sees them. Yet how many times have you been thinking of something else while walking along, looked straight at a friend - and looked through them? That could well be what that car driver is doing to you.

If the driver is busy thinking of something else, leaving his/her subconscious mind to make the "give way" decisions, the rule "The One Who Gives Way Is The One With The Most To Lose" is more likely to apply. And, if the driver’s subconscious decides that eye contact has been established with you, it may well decide that YOU have seen him and therefore YOU will give way - as you have the most to lose.

But, if you don’t establish eye contact, the driver’s conscious (or subconscious) mind can’t be *sure* you have seen him/her and thus the driver is that much less likely to try to force right of way.

Not establishing eye contact also makes the rider more wary. If a rider think he/she has established eye contact, he/she is more likely to assume the car driver will give way.

Those who don’t establish eye contact but, instead, look down at the car’s front wheels (which give early warning of the car’s movement and direction of travel) are less likely to be caught out by a car driver who looks "straight through you".

So spake the instructor.....

Allan Kirk
New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants



Motorcycling Misquotes

We all know that motorcycling changes us. It's the thrill and the challenge of riding that ensures that, once captured by the adventure of riding, we stay captured.
Then motorcycling becomes part of our life and very persona. And, because the motorcycle invades its rider's life so completely, have you ever wondered what the words of the great literary figures of the world would have been like if they had been motorcyclists.
We did, so we took a look at a famous quote from a famous person and made a minor gentle adaptation to show you how this famous quote would have ended up if the author had been motorcyclist:

"The optimist proclaims that we are currently enjoying the peak of motorcycle performance, and the pessimist fears this is true."

James Cabell 1879 - 1958
American Novelist


Riding quickly isn't about stopping and going. It's about going. Look at it from a point of view of physics - "The object in motion tends to stay in motion".

He who rides jerkily is forever changing the bike's motion. He who rides smoothly keeps the bike in steady motion - and is faster.


Two bikies were having a quiet drink and arguing about religion.

"What do you know about the Lord’s Prayer," said the first one. "I’ll bet you five bucks you don’t even know the first line."

"You’re on," said the other, and put his five dollars on the table.

"And now I lay me down to sleep," proudly recited the first.

"You bastard," said his mate, pushing the money across the table. "I didn’t think you knew it!"


Unfortunately, we think this is true of many places in the world, not just here in Wellington:

"There are claims today that, in Wellington, legally blind are being granted drivers' licences.

The Royal Foundation for the Blind has issued an alert to eye specialists in the capital, after several members were passed for driving as long as they didn't drive too far.

Acting chief executive Frank Claridge says that while doctors may think that they're doing the sight-impaired motorist a favour, but they're actually putting others at risk.

Mr Claridge believes doctors found guilty of dishing out dubious eye test results should face disciplinary action."


There are Seven Secrets to handling strong crosswinds while riding:
1. To deal with a constant wind you simply countersteer away from the wind so that the bike leans sideways but you keep going straight. It may feel freaky at first but you soon get used to it.
2. Try to relax. If you tense up, you tend to put opposing reactive inputs into the handlebars and the bike swerves around a lot. If you relax, you will countersteer naturally and the bike will go straight. Consequentky, if you tense up, it feels as theough you are getting blown all over the road..
3. Gusty winds are worst because you are constantly making corrections and this doesn't make for enjoyable riding. An important thing to do when riding in a crosswind is to look for channels down which wind may roar and suddenly hit you. Big buildings on the roadside may protect you from the wind for a while but if you reach a gap between them, the wind will roar through it and hit you and the bike with a vengeance.
4. Slow down if you have to. On the other hand, if you *increase* your speed in wind, you actually generate more gyroscopic force which helps stabilise the bike more. Not only is this true but it's also what I've told a couple of cops who have pulled me over for speeding on a windy day or two - and it's been *real* useful so far...
5. Another little trick some riders use is to stick their knees out & the wind will catch whichever knee it wants and keep you going straight. Women riders may not consider it ladylike to ride like that but...
6. Remember to keep looking where you want to go and NOT to where the wind is pushing you. This helps you input the correct amount of countersteer for the situation.
7. Finally, it helps in really vicious crosswinds to reduce the profile that is exposed to the wind, so crouching down a bit on the bike can have a marked effect. Don't, however, crouch down so much that it restricts your ability to control the bike!

Of course, winds are one thing, rain is another. But high winds when its raining and the road is slippery is nerve wracking stuff. Going straight while at an angle in the wet just doesn't feel confidence inspiring!

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New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants
PO Box 26-036, Newlands, Wellington, New Zealand