How is Your Roadcraft?

I watched this video today, narrated by Mick Doohan, multiple MotoGP world champion, and a few things struck me:

  • This is so very relevant to the crash I commented on yesterday.
  • This was filmed on the exact roads we ride many weekends (up to O’Reilly’s; Wyaralong Dam Road; Lions Road – just to mention a few)
  • Aren’t our Queensland road surfaces shocking!

Anyway, here’s the video

And here’s a transcript of the video:

When you’re riding a bike on the open road, you’re about as vulnerable as it gets.

That’s why you need to raise your awareness of everything around you to a higher level, and get in touch with your inner biking jedi.

Roadcraft is a vital part of your skill set and fundamental to developing your sixth sense.

Put simply, roadcraft is observation, speed management, road positioning and attitude.

Observing what’s happening around you can buy you precious time to react. And that means riding at a pace where your reaction time and riding ability fits within your range of vision.

A good rule of thumb is to ride 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front and try to be able to see 6 seconds ahead down the road.

You need to be constantly scanning for anything that could take you down, a concealed driveway, rain or oil on the road, gravel or leaves in a corner.

If you find you’re constantly making last second corrections, you probably need to manage your speed better.

Back off the throttle a little bit and give yourself more time to observe and react.

And never forget, weather conditions and debris on the road can play a big part in both your response times and the bike’s braking performance.

So give yourself even more time in the wet – set off earlier and take it easier on the ride. Or choose not to hit the road at all, that works every time.

Managing your speed is easier when you’re in a good road position to begin with.

Basically, the more space you can give yourself, the more time you’ve got to see what’s going on around you.

And the more chance other drivers have of seeing you.

Generally, the right hand side of the lane gives you good line of sight ahead, to the sides and behind.

But if your vision is limited, like in some corners or when you’re following a bus or truck, you need to anticipate oncoming traffic and actively manage your position to create space from other vehicles or hazards.

Anticipating road conditions is one thing, anticipating what other road users are going to do is a whole different ball game.

Drivers are unpredictable and easily distracted, so you need to be thinking several steps ahead.

They’ll turn first – and say, “Sorry mate, didn’t see you there.

This is where having a finely tuned sixth sense can make all the difference. Look for subtle signs that they’re going to make a turn or change lane – look at the car’s wheels not the car, they’ll give you the first clue of movement.

Check the driver’s head position, it will usually turn in the direction they’re intending to go.

Is the car ahead wandering around in its lane?

Maybe the driver is about to make a move.

Don’t just rely on the car’s indicators, some drivers leave it to the last second to switch them on.

And try to learn as much as you can about blind spots and how to stay out of them.

Basically, if you can see the driver’s eyes in their mirrors, they can see you.

Roadcraft isn’t just about riding skills, it’s also about attitude.

When your head’s in the right place, your bike is more likely to be in the right place too.

So if you’re tired, take a break and rehydrate.

If you’re angry or frustrated, take time out to cool down and refocus.

And if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs just forget about getting on the bike at all.

That’s why I’m a great believer in knowing your own ability and finding the training and help that can take your roadcraft to the next level of skill and experience.

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Learning Lessons From a Sad Day

Over the weekend we had sirens head past our house, and later that afternoon this came up in the updated police reports:

“Police are investigating a fatal traffic crash in Nerang this afternoon.

Initial investigations indicate that around 12.44pm police were called to a car and motorcycle crash on Mount Nathan Road.

The rider, a 46-year-old Waterford man, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

No one else was injured during the crash.

Mount Nathan Road was closed for several hours, but has since reopened.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.”

The crash was just 5 km (3 miles) from home, and as with all local motorcycle crash scenes I went to have a look a day later to see what lessons I can learn that might make me a better rider.

The facts look simple from the road markings left by the Forensic Crash Unit.  The motorcycle was in a left hand bend (the inside of the corner, as we ride on the left in Australia), ran wide/crossed the centreline and then skidded in a gentle curve hitting the car coming the other way on its front drivers quarter.  The car skid marks show that it turned away from the oncoming motorcycle, then deviated at about 45 degrees at impact.  It came to stop very soon after the impact.

So what is there to learn?  First, some confirmation of the obvious:

  • On the wrong side of the road it’s dangerous, and you can get killed.
  • It a crash between a motorcycle and a car, the motorcycle comes off worst.
  • Then some speculation on why the motorcycle was on the wrong side of the road:
  • He may have run wide as he perceived he was riding too fast to take the corner.  The road has a speed limit of 80 kph – 50 mph; and I easily take this curve at that speed.  My estimate is that with no traffic, in an unrestricted situation, that curve, and the others before and after, could comfortably be taken at 110+ kph – 70 mph.
  • He may have been distracted by something in the road and ran wide to avoid it (kangaroo, dog…).
  • He may have entered the corner planning to be wide because of an observed hazard (cyclist, ??) and miscalculated space, speed and situation.
  • He may have observed the oncoming car, and become target-fixated – riding where he was looking.
  • He may have been overtaking on a solid white line on a blind corner, and that’s why he was on the wrong side of the road.

We can probably speculate a whole lot more, but that will do us no, or very little, good, unless we apply some learning.

So here are my takeaway lessons:

  • If the situation suddenly changes, stay on your side of the road.  Running into the back of a vehicle at 60 kph is a lot less damaging than hitting an oncoming vehicle at a closing speed of 120 kph (for the techie people out there, ‘energy’ is proportional to the ‘square of the speed’.  An impact at 120kph has 4 times the energy of an impact at 60 kph.  Simply put, your body is subject to four times the force).
  • If you have to change your line, turn away from oncoming traffic.  If traffic is on your left, change your line to the right, and vice versa.  Above all – don’t run wide into oncoming traffic.  Across the centreline is enemy territory and you can more easily die there.
  • Know how to tighten your line through a corner through countersteering.  If you are unsure of this, get some advanced riding lessons.
  • Practice for the unknown before you need to use it in real life.  When last did you change line to avoid an imaginary obstacle?  When last did you practice an emergency stop?  Build you muscle memory in these key areas.
  • Brush up on your situational awareness when riding.  By being aware of potential hazards you increase the time you have to react, and your chances of avoiding real hazards increases.
  • Learn how to use Target-fixation to your benefit – always look at the gap you want to ride through, and not at the hazard.

Keith Code on Countersteering:

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Getting back into the swing of things

I recently was given a Sony FDR-X 1000V Action Cam by my lovely wife, and I’ve been having some fun with it.

One of the many features it has is the ability to ‘flip’ the video being recorded, so if you have the camera mounted upside down you can still film the right way up.  The flipside of this (see what I did there)  is that if you forget to switch it back you end up with a days filming all upside down.

This upside-down video has it’s uses, however, as you can use that video to show everyone in the northern hemisphere the challenges we have riding here in the southern hemisphere.  Our tyres/tires have to be extra sticky to stop our motorcycle falling off the earth, and we have to hold on real tight so that we don’t part company with the bike.

This video will give you an idea of the challenges we face:


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Back Again

Yep, I’m back again.  Not that I’ve been far away, I’ve just been away from the keyboard over here.

In the last few years updating through Facebook has become a lot easier, and I, like many others, started using that method of sharing.  It’s time to change back, however, as the problem with Facebook is that stuff disappears from view and can be very hard to find again.

So I’ll just ease back in by sharing a video of a recent Saturday Morning Ride…

Another Saturday Morning Breakfast Ride in SE Qld

Watch the video here

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

After heading up and accross Beartooth Pass, guess what we did next?  Yep, you got it, we rode down the other side, and it was just as awesome as going up.

I do prefer riding up on a heavily laden bike, as the weight works with you in uphill corners; whereas coming down I am putting a lot of breaking pressure on the front end (tyre and suspension) heading into steep downhill corners.  But the road is well engineered, and the surface was very trustworthy, so all was great.

Enjoy the video before we get back to the ride reporting.

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Some video links

About time I got the next few instalments written.  Before I post them, here are links to two videos so far:

In September 2012 we rode Beartooth Pass for the first time – what an awesome experience. Great road – it deserves it’s status as an All American Road. We were up front on our FJR1300 followed by Dave & Lin (who did the camera work). We were heading west to east, starting at approx 7,500 ft (2,286 m) and stopped momentarily near the top – altitude was 10,947 ft (approx 3,340 meters)

Part 2 of our September 2012 ride over the top of Beartooth Pass was just as awesome. Again we were up front on our FJR1300 followed by Dave & Lin for the 1st minute, then we waved them through to get piccies of them. You’ll see us in the mirror on left handers.

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Day 4 – A break after the scenic overload?

Cold early morning in Big Timber as we packed up and headed north.  I even considered wearing my heated glove liners for the first time, but decided not to.  Today is a transit day from the scenery and beauty of Yellowstone and Bearstooth Pass to the anticipated scenery and beauty of Glacier National Park.  Not forgetting the technical enjoyment of the roads, of course.

Montana - Big Sky Country

Montana – Big Sky Country

Soon we realize just why Montana is nicknamed ‘Big Sky Country’ – the 4th largest state in the union, but 7th least populated has far horizons and plenty of open space.  The panoramic vistas were huge, and the blue of the sky offset the golden fields.  This piccie was taken ‘blind’ by Zea over her shoulder – excellent, I reckon.

Tearing Along the Dotted line

Tearing Along the Dotted line

With the wide open spaces it was also an opportunity to let the FJR do another thing it does so well – head to the far horizon with a minimum of time wasted on the way.  In some ways we were looking forward to this transit day after the sensory overload of the last few days, but we found this to be only partly true.

The beauty was just different – rolling wheat fields with mountains in the background;

Red Farmhouse

A splash of red in the gold

quintessential American barns and farmhouse scenes; the scourge of bike riders – deer on the roadside; straight road disappearing into the distance.


Not too far into our day and we can across road works with a 15 to 30 minute wait, and a warning to motorcyclists to be extremely cautious.  Yesterday at roadworks we had the experience of the stop/go man calling us motorcyclists to the front, and today he came down and suggested that as there was still a 15 to 20 minute wait, we might like to consider an alternate route to White Sulphur Springs.  He must know we motorcyclists don’t like sitting in the sun.  A quick U-turn and off we went, following his excellent directions.

Golden Fields

Golden Fields

I had decided this morning that my rear tire (tyre) wasn’t going to make it to Calgary, and so we stopped at the first bike shop we saw on the way into Grand Falls.  What a good choice it turned out to be in many ways.  Steve’s Sports Centre at 4900 – 9th Ave South could not have been more helpful.

It may have been because Zea went in first and asked if they could help, but soon two people followed her out and took me across to the service dept.  The mechanic was about to go to lunch but he kindly stayed back and did the tire change.  They only had Metzler M3 Sportec in our size and it’s not an ideal choice for a heavily laden sports-tourer, but they had me out of there within 45 minutes and a very interesting chat with Steve Kaste.  He showed my piccies of Nick Sanders rear tire that they changed a few years back.  It had cords showing around the whole circumference plus on the sides – ours wasn’t nearly so bad.  (Nick Sanders has motorcycled around the world 7 times and up and down the Americas 7 times to make him the most experienced solo motorcycle adventurer in the world. Nick holds the record for riding around the world in 19 days and also the double transit of the Americas in 46 days.)

Steve was delightful to talk to, and I think he would have enjoyed chatting even more, but I had lunch to eat a destination to ride to.

Making Friends in Montana

Making Friends in Montana

While I was having the tire changed David, Linley and Zea were having lunch, and making new friends.  How can a state with a population of less than 1 million people have so many law-enforcement officers?

On yesterdays advice from Ken C we had changed our plans of staying at Browning, and instead headed on to Cut Bank.  This added 30 miles to our day’s total, but turned out to be an excellent choice for an unrelated reason.

Today’s 391 Miles (629 km) was the biggest day in distance so far, but while it was scenic, it wasn’t technically very challenging.

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