Riding Skills Newsletter

 Published by the:
New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants.

P O Box 26-036,

Email address:

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


Don't Muck With Trucks

Trucks are large vehicles. Even just being sideswiped by one of them can do a lot of damage to the rider of a motorcycle. So, treat trucks with a lot of respect. They are large, have large blindspots, and have several hidden dangers for motorcyclists.

One truck/motorcyclist story: We’ve heard of one rider who lanesplit in a very silly way. He lanesplit to the front of the queue at a level crossing. Then he sat in front of a large prime mover. You know, one of those really big things with a blindspot the size of the railway carriage in front of it.

You can guess what happened, can't you...? The train passed, the boomgate started to lift... and the truck moved off.

That bike wouldn’t even have made much of a speed hump for a truck that size.

The truckie had no idea the guy was there. The bike had lanesplit up the left hand side of the truck and parked less than a metre in front of it. Consequently, the rider would have been in the truck driver's blindspot the whole way.

Sure - the truckie should have waited till the boomgates were all the way up and the lights had stopped. But people don't.

To add insult to injury, the rider was a truckie himself, so he should have known that the driver wouldn’t be able to see something the size of a bike on the truck’s front bumper from the cabin of a truck that size.

So... if you are going to lanesplit to get to the front, then use your brains. Don't lanesplit at level crossings, because people run them in a way they don't usually run lights. Don't lanesplit and sit in front of trucks *at all* unless you are certain he knows you are there, or you know you can get away.

Another thing about trucks I quickly learned was that you don't ride up the left hand side of a big truck that is turning left at the intersection, even if a bit of it is in the next lane.

The first time I did it, the truck beside me started to turn and I discovered why the truckie has kept out wide on that corner - the rear tyres of the truck tracked further in than the front wheels and I was in serious danger of getting squashed by the back of the turning truck!

The other day at a Wellington intersection I saw a bus driver talking to the owner of a rather damaged car who had obviously been unaware of this phenomenon and had thought the gap the bus driver had left on the left hand side was just wide enough to fit his car into....

Another danger that comes with trucks is the wind they make when moving. If one coming the other way passes you closely, the bow wave it creates is enough to seriously throw your bike around. So, if you seen a big truck heading towards you in the other lane, move across to the inside wheeltrack until it has passed.

One young Wellington rider was killed by a phenomenon associated with big trucks. He came up behind one at open road speeds, went to pull put to pass it, only to clip the rear of the deck, fall off into the outside lane and be hit by a car in that lane.

What that rider obviously didn’t know is that there is a reverse wind created behind the truck that sucks you towards the back of the truck. Riders of small bikes know about this and tuck into that wind draft to be pulled along by it. In racing terms it’s called slipstreaming.

The young Wellington rider obviously didn’t take this wind draft into account as he pulled out and, consequently, was drawn closer to the back of the truck than he had planned.

Then, of course, there are the more obvious dangers a rider finds with trucks such as loose loads, dust flying off the decks of dirt trucks, animal effluent pouring from the vents on sheep and cattle trucks. And if the truck has poor or no mudguards covering the twin back wheels beware of large rocks that have become lodged between the wheels suddenly being thrown at high speed backwards as they become dislodged.
And then there are the poorly secured loads that fall off the truck.

But you wouldn’t be able to do much in the situation that happened in New Zealand a couple of years ago. On a narrow, winding, two lane road a car was passing an oncoming logging truck when a fault in one of the metal uprights that kept the logs on finally gave way. Two very large logs fell onto the passing car, killing the two occupants instantly! A good reason not to linger near large trucks…

Then there is the habit some trucks have of spilling diesel oil out of poorly fitting fuel tank caps. This can be a hazard on the road surface, can give your riding gear an unpleasant coating and can be a *real* danger if it hits you at eye height. Even with a full face helmet on, the diesel oil can obscure your vision.

Many riders will rave on about how truck drivers have marvellous headlight/indicator signals to tell you when to pass, when to pull back in, etc. The NZMSC staff are rather nervous, however, of delegating riding decision-making to another person and especially one who is not even on the same vehicle. We all agree - we’d rather look before we leap!

One of the nasty tendencies of trucks is to create snakes. Snakes are bits of rubber from the retreaded portion of a truck tyre. These can range in size to fits-sized chunks to huge pieces. Sometimes the entire retreaded tread portion of the tyre will come unstuck and off the tyre.

Why are these shedded tread portions of a truck tyre called snakes? Because they can jump out and bite the motorcyclist very painfully and occasionally fatally.

Yep, for motorcyclists trucks have many hidden dangers.

Perhaps the best idea is to stay as far away from trucks as is possible when riding!


A Little On The Light Side

The biker told the doctor that he felt weak and run-down.
When questioned about his sex life, the biker admitted he had sex with one or two or sometimes three girls most nights.
"Well, said the doctor, "that's obviously the cause of your trouble."
"Gee, I 'm glad to hear that, Doc, said the biker. "I was afraid it might be the masturbation."

Motorcycling Misquotes
We take a look at a famous quote from a famous person and make a minor gentle adaptation to show you how this famous quote would have ended up if the author had been motorcyclist:

The chassis of the Kawasaki H1 did not seem to know the value of teamwork.
George Ade, 1866 - 1944
American Humourist author & playwright.


Riding Skills Tip

Years ago there was a story in a newspaper about a guy who woke up
in hospital after a crash but couldn't remember what had happened.

He had a funny burn mark on his face and started getting back his memory of the accident - a Jaguar car....a cigarette butt...

Be prepared for drivers throwing almost anything out of the window - a despicable person was prosecuted recently for throwing a baby from the window of a moving car, and a couple of days ago we saw a passenger vomiting out of the window of a car …

The latter is another good reason for wearing good protective clothing….

Gazumping On A Guzzi

Raf tells an interesting story about jet skiing - on a bike:
"A couple of weeks ago must’ve been the worst week of my life. Trailered the Guzzi 1000SP from Sydney to Port Macquarie (5-6 hours) behind the car. In the car was the kids, wife and Spot, the dog, all heading to sister-in-law’s farm for their late school holidays. The whole idea was to drop them off and ride home, and back to work. This would save a long and boring six hour train trip and $30 in fares.... Well, things didn’t quite happen according to plan.

We all headed off north and, three hours out of Sydney, got snapped by a speed camera outside some little town. Not a good start. Got to the farm just outside of Port Macquarie, and stayed a couple of days before I started out on the home on the bike.

Up and down the Bulledellah mountains and had a ball. Then it rained. Boy, it rained!. Five kilometres outside a town called Karuah on the Pacific Highway, the rain had reduced to less than a sprinkle. I was caught behind a large, loaded truck and was being buffeted by the wind from it and the spray off its back wheels. So, on a long straight I decided to pass it. I passed the truck safely and was coming back down to 100 kph from around 120kph when the front wheel went light and the rear started to fishtail. I tried to correct it. "Oh shit" I recall myself saying as I realised it was all to no avail and bike and rider went down gracefully. We slid, and slid, and slid, around the length of a decent home block just like a GP racer. Sparks and bits of fibreglass showered me. As I slid, I felt the back of the open face helmet make contact with the ground. I reached for the visor and shut it in case I turned and slid face down. Then I remembered the truck! I palmed the ground to try to divert my slide to the side of the road. It didn't work. It’s amazing what one can think of in situations like this.

When I stopped, I jumped to my feet, surprised that I could stand up. Then I stood at the side of the road ready to leap into the bushes in case everyone went out of control since the truck was braking severely in the wet. I stood there, hands on my head, hoping the traffic would stop and that nobody would pass the truck as they would have collected the Moto Guzzi resting on its side in the middle of the road. Thankfully, nobody did.

I quickly checked myself. Hmmm. Sore elbow and knee. Is that all?! Fark, that’s amazing.

My Rivet jacket withstood the slide, albeit severely scraped on the left side and arm. But the body armour worked while the wet weather pants and rubber overboots had disintegrated. My leather pants were relatively unscathed. Good stuff.

By now the truck had stopped and the truckie helped me get the bike off the road. He reckons I hit a water-filled depression in the road that he felt when he saw my tail lights go left and right. He reckons I aquaplaned over it or hit diesel. He gave me a lift into town where I bought a spark plug and cap for $6.50 from a lawnmower shop. The shop owner gave me a lift back to the bike. He was amazed at the distance I slid as the dip in the road that started it all was a long way back. This was the first time I looked at the distance and I was equally amazed. I replaced various broken bits on the bike and it started first stab of the button. Ahh yes it’s a Guzzi!

Headed back to town for more "crowbar" work, especially to the centrestand and muffler which was fouling the swingarm. The rocker crash bars were also worn off. I finally made it back to Sydney, albeit with a cracked rocker cover and a bit of oil spraying on my left leg. The Guzzi was amazingly intact except for fairing and other bits which were extensively damaged.

Next morning back home in beautiful sunny Sydney, I used my dinky welder and re-welded the centrestand lever and patched up other bits, and replaced the rocker cover. Everything seemed to still be working.

Two days later I reluctantly made the journey back north to Port Macquarie to collect the family, Spot the dog, the car and trailer. Got an hour out of Sydney and it rained again. By the time I was three hours out of Sydney and just before the Bulledelah mountains, the rain was hitting me horizontally and semi’ trucks were passing me at 90kph. After the recent get-off I was paranoid about every water puddle on the road, of slippery dead animals, of diesel, and to top it off, it was around 7:00pm and pitch black. It was nerve racking! I was contemplating getting a motel room until morning, but I only had 1.5 hours to go and the kids were expecting me.

Started the climb back up the pitch black Bulledellah mountain and passed the semi’s that passed me earlier. Got to the top of the mountain, and clicked into 5th for the descent. Approached a 55kph corner and clicked down to 4th....uh, where’s 4th? Clicked again and found a false neutral clicked back to 5th, damn, on went the brakes ever so smoothly and took the wet corner very upright. Clicked down again and couldn’t get a gear, F#@K! Not wanting to get run over by some errant downhill semi I decided not to pull over, but to ride it in top gear. Damn! I must have broke a return spring or bent a selector fork, Guzzi’s cost buckets of money when you have to fix their gearboxes.

Thank goodness the new Taree bypass is 110kph. It was also dry! Excellent! The SP has a great fairing. I installed a cigarette lighter for trips like this. One can smoke easily on an SP (with an open face helmet, of course).

I really needed a smoke after that mountain and rain. I fiddled around getting a cigarette out of a pocket and managed to get one out and into my mouth. I was doing 100kph-ish. I pushed in the lighter, and waited a few seconds until it clicked out. Then the handle fell off the lighter and it tinked as it bounced off the tank and fairing on its way down to the road and darkness. Shit! Damn I really I wanted that smoke.

I reached the turn off on the Pacific Highway to the property, pulled the clutch half in, feathered the throttle, and got to the dirt track. It was muddy so I turned the bike off. It was really black out here. As I tried to engage gear, the bike slipped into the false neutral. Whilst seated, I bent over to jiggle the gear lever hoping I could free it...wishful thinking. But I didn’t want to negotiate a muddy dirt track in top gear in the dark. Still no go. All of a sudden, I had this urge to have a leak. You know, the kind where putting your knees together just manages to hold it back. Well, this was not going to work and I really had to go. If the kids and wife weren’t at my destination, I would have just let it happen as one would in a surfing wetsuit. I got off the bike, put my foot on the centrestand lever, and hauled the bike up on the centrestand. SNAP! went the freshly welded lever. F@#K! Bugger (haven't got a sidestand). I rested the bike against my right leg & removed my gloves. Geez, it's dark I couldn't even see my hand.

I clicked the Guzzi into 5th to stop it rolling away and fumbled under the wet weather gear, leather pants, tucked in shirt, t-shirt, thermals etc.....Ahhh! Just made it... "This trip is ridiculous," I thought.

Somewhat relieved I hopped hoped back on the bike, started it and slipped it back back into 5th. I eased off the clutch and got up some speed down the incline. By this stage I didn’t care if I crashed in the mud. I was only one kilometre from the farmhouse. Finally, I got there safely, albeit disgusted. I rested the Guzzi against a pole.

The wife’s reaction to my tale of woe - very little. And the kids were typical kids - only interested in knowing whether I had brought them Yowie’s.

Next morning I awoke depressed at the thought that not only did I have to repair the remaining crash damage, but also Guzzi’s gearbox.

Damn!! Actually I was more concerned about the gearbox as I use the Guzzi everday to go to work and didn't have a lot of money to spend on the gearbox. When I went over to the bike and looked at the lever, my mouth dropped open. The nut holding the lever to the pivot bolt had come undone and whole assembly had moved inwards on the bolt and was jamming against the exhaust (down) and the starter motor (up). My heart beating fast, I quickly got a spanner and tightened the appropriate nuts and checked the action. Well, I’ll be… It all works! All that anxiety for nothing. Next I re-welded the centrestand with a real industrial welder, tested the stand and it worked.
Family, dog, trailer & Guzzi made it back home without an incident. Thank goodness for that!

In retrospect, I consider myself very lucky in that the bike and I slid in the crash rather than tumbled, the road was straight, there was no oncoming traffic (unusual for the Pacific Highway. I was also lucky that the truckie was an experienced open-road user, saw that I was in trouble and braked early and slowly to avoid me, thus preventing another pile-up.

Thanks too to Karuah Outdoor Power Products (mower shop) and Hunter MC at Raymond Terrace for their cost-free assistance - they wouldn’t accept payment. It’s great to know that there are still good people in this world."


Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry,
Three lines, which must say all, and yet.
Some still feel hungry

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and refuel.
Order shall return.

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