As a young pup learning to ride, it was all about the physical skills to me. I would head to my local industrial complex on my rampant Kawasaki ZZ-R250, cardboard L-plate flapping in the wind, and practice braking hard, tight feet-up u-turns and, everyone’s favourite, cornering. In my wide-open, but very green eyes, I was preparing myself as a rider. My first Stay Upright course proved how far down the wrong track I was moving.
Still on my Ls, I then turned up for the Roadcraft session of my Advanced Course (now Roadsmart 2) at Amaroo Park (around 1992 or so – man I miss that track). What was unveiled before me was a whole world of taking responsibility for myself, creating time and space around me, using my brain to protect myself, not just my hands and feet.
Spot a problem before it becomes one. Look, slow down, move away. Make yourself seen. Position yourself in a way that gives you the best opportunity to be seen, but still don’t assume you will be.
All this is the gold that’s made my motorcycling so far so rewarding and enjoyable. It’s the brainy stuff that keeps us rubber side down, mixed with some quality bike control experience.
I left that information session that night, due to return for the track component the following day, feeling overloaded, but content I knew which way to point my wheels to ride smart on the road.
Then there was the track component… I’d never seen a Suzuki GSX-R1100 do a long rolling stoppie before – that got my attention! As did the loud, funny bloke on it – Warwick Schuberg.
My attention was still focussed when he demonstrated how long it takes a bike to stop with a locked rear wheel – he came down the Amaroo straight the wrong way at 110km/h, locked the rear and fishtailed all the way to the wall, 90m away. In pre-ABS days, locking the rear was a common cause of accidents and symptomatic of poor bike control skills – but being in a bad position could trigger the whole panicky scenario in the first place.
My riding changed from that course. My two biggest take-outs were that I needed to think into the future when on a bike and that using the space around me better is more important than being able to brake really, really hard.
Accepting that ANY crash, as the motorcyclist, is YOUR fault, is a tough one. No doubt there are plenty of muppets out there behind the wheel and the mobile device insurgency is just adding to our hazards, but thinking in these terms changes how you ride. It’s worked for me.
That one training course opened a new world of riding to me and helped me get on to make motorcycles my life, both professionally and as a passion. I still learn something every time I ride a bike, either on the road, dirt, track or trail and it’s always the balance of fun and adventure with staying out of hospital I aim for.
Motorcycling is my favourite pastime on earth – knowing how to actively influence how many frights I get out on the road just makes it even better.
Stay Upright Business Development Manager