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Saturday, 14 September 2019

Back to school

Nearly a year ago, I made a post about an NZ training initiative to reduce motorcycle injuries called Ride Forever which has been pretty successful to date.  That post is HERE .  Since then, a further incentive has been introduced whereby attending two of these courses allows the rider to claim $200 against the cost of registering their motorcycle.  Given that an 8 hour Gold-level course is only $50 and sometimes free, what's not to like?  That's what you call proactive!

The courses use the principles of the UK Police Roadcraft system, although to a less intensive level than the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).  Yesterday, a Gold level course was being held on the Coromandel Peninsula where I live and because there's no such thing as too much training, I enrolled a few weeks ago.  It also helped that the course supervisor was one of my friends from IAM and it was nice to go along and support him.

I was talking about the course with one of my neighbours who rides.  He's an experienced motorcyclist but had never attended any formal training.  He had little idea of what his riding was really like so decided to enrol too.  He also pressured some local mates of his who were in the same boat to come along too!

So yesterday, the local contingent met early at the village fire station ready for the 50 km trek to Thames where the course was due to start from.

An early morning gathering

There was a good mix of bikes.  A Honda PC800, two Suzuki V-Strom 650's, a Triumph Tiger 800,  a KTM Duke 790, a KTM 1290 GT and a Yamaha FJR1300 belonging to Rob.

Meeting instructor Rob at a cafe in Thames, the first hour was spent doing introductions, discussing the days' programme and fitting comms to everyone's helmets before setting off.  The day was to be spent on a mixture of town work, open highways and tight technical country roads.  

Getting ready to depart Thames

Everyone took turns up front with Rob just behind doing some coaching over the comms link, occasionally going up front do demonstrate a particular point.  Every so often, the group would pull off the road for discussions.

To be fair, I didn't expect to learn much from this part of the course because of my higher qualifications but it was both instructive and pleasing to see the rate of improvement by the guys who had not previously attended any training.  Using just one example, taking the correct line into corners, using a combination of throttle control and gear selection instead of brakes took a bit of getting used to but by the end of the day, it was starting to become instinctive.  After initial and understandable reserve, you could tell how much fun everyone was having by the banter over the comms.  A lot of this was down to Rob's training style.  Ego-free (as opposed to the drill instructor approach), quietly spoken, endlessly patient and always encouraging. 

The Ride Forever Gold team (courtesy Rob Van Proemeren)

Whilst I didn't learn a lot on on the earlier part of the ride, it was still hugely enjoyable as a refresher and simply riding in nice weather with not much traffic.  However, the later part of the day was where I got a lot out of it.  Having only bought the KTM in March and what with travelling overseas and local crap winter weather, I hadn't got round to fully exploring its performance envelope.  Slow speed riding was one of these characteristics.  The KTM is the first bike I've owned in about 20 years that hasn't had a limited turning lock so my low speed U turns on narrow roads were a bit rusty.  The KTM is also a little snatchy at low speeds so some practice with onlookers was a good incentive to get it right.  No pressure then!  All went very well and I pushed the KTM harder than I would have done on my own - brilliant!

The second thing I hadn't tried on the KTM was emergency stopping from the open road speed limit (100 km/hour).  This is something I enjoyed trying on my previous bikes.  We found a deserted side road with a nice straight to practice on.  On the first run,  I gave it about 70% of full braking and there were no dramas whatsoever.  It just squatted down beautifully with nothing getting out of shape.  The next run was close to a full bore stop and again, no dramas at all.  After that, the gains were incremental and I'll keep the practice up because one day, it might make the difference between escaping injury or serious harm. 

Following that, it was back to Coromandel Town for a final debrief and the handing out of certificates and badges. 

The final debrief

Certificate and lapel badge

Any day on a bike is a good day but it's especially good when you're in excellent, fun company who have fantastic attitudes towards improving rider safety.  Oh and there's that matter about a decent discount off my next bike registration costs.....  what's not to like?

Addendum:  Following comments below from my Aussie mates expressing disappointment that a similar scheme isn't available over there, there MIGHT be light on the horizon.  I'm given to understand that the NZ Govt dept responsible for the R4E programme are in discussions with Vic Roads regarding the introduction of a similar programme in that state.  Fingers crossed guys!



14 comments:

  1. Glad to see that you got a fair bit out of it Geoff. As always these courses are very dependant on who delivers them as well as the riders who attend. As you say any day on the bike is usually worthwhile and it's good to see that you got something out of it.

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    1. Understand where you're coming from Lee and perfectly correct. Rob is in a great position with his quals, experience and personality. Having a bike that turns on a dime is a nice change and it stops pretty fast too - not much mass to counter!

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  2. That is a great program Geoff! Once again, you Kiwis are light years ahead of us Drongos.
    I recently read an off-the-record quote by someone involved in road safety in Victoria that said the Vic govt don’t want riders or drivers upskilling because of perceived over confidence in their new skills then getting them into trouble! I kid you not! This is the type of idiotic political correctness that pervades all sectors of Australian government these days. For a great insight into how it is over here these days look into the ABC series “Utopia”. So unbelievable but so scarily accurate. ;(

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    1. Hiya Dave,
      I'm surprised that Oz hasn't adopted it as both countries normally work closely together on these matters. One of my good mates (and fellow rider) spends a lot of time in Oz working with your officials on transport matters. I can only assume that you're spot on with it being some dickhead policy maker in a position of power who totally has the wrong end of the stick. I'll look up Utopia. Back out tomorrow delivering some coaching - it's a tough life mate :-) .

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    2. We really are in an era here in AU where if anyone says “safety”, it is the trump card that shuts down EVERYTHING - rational discussion being the first casualty. Unfortunately everyone just goes along with it because if you try arguing any case after the “S word” is uttered, you are seen as an agitating, militant, anti-establishment, radical baby murderer that needs removing from whatever position you hold.
      JonL, I am not a govt. employee but I was concerned that Utopia might be a little too real. As a country, what hope have we got with this b.s. playing out across the nation? ;(
      P.S. Sorry to hijack your post comments with a call to rationality arms Geoff. Great post and topic though. ;)

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    3. Dave,
      Those are good comments, not a hijack at all! It's not just AU that suffers with misuse of the "safety" word, or even "environment". It seems to be the same right across the world. They're topics which are so important but are used as excuses for either inaction or "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" solututions which aren't solutions at all, just punitive.

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  3. Hi Geoff
    If only there were something - anything - similar to that over this western neck of the woods. Instead, it's the usual "big stick and fine 'em til it hurts" approach, with traffic police who are neither friendly nor particularly knowledgeable at their job other than pedantically policing speed limits...there is a West Oz Road safety Initiative being conducted at the moment, with everyone being invited to put in their two bob's worth, and lots of online questionaires we've all filled in, but no one holds out much hope that it won't just be more of the same, with a "we consulted with the community" tag attached.
    Utopia! The missus can't watch it - she says it's just too much like where she works (Public Transport Authority)........

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  4. Hiya Jon - hope you're well! As I said to Dave (Flyboy), I'm surprised there isn't something similar given the normal high level of interaction between the state servants of both countries. I'm sure it comes down to individuals and their peccadilloes rather than good logic. Having been on one now and seeing the impact on the guys who came along with me, I don't need any convincing of its value. Next step for me is to watch Utopia!

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  5. There's no harm in taking more training, there's always someone better than us to learn from, and it reminds you of the student's perspective.
    I'm glad other riders joined you, convincing friends of more training is worse than pulling teeth. I don't know if it's ego, fear, embarrassment, cost, or all of the above. Riders will spend thousands of dollars on gizmos, gadgets, farkles, and accessories for their bikes when the best investment and greatest return is on the rider themselves.
    I just recently took another Advance Rider Training class, and I learned that I'm still learning. That and I get a discount on my insurance if a take a class (although I don't as an instructor... eyeroll).

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    1. Hi Brad - absolutely! We never, ever, stop learning and re-skilling stops us from sliding back into old habits. Looking at training through a student's eyes is essential to being a decent mentor. I think fear of the unknown or worried about being shown up is a definite barrier to older iders in particular being reluctant to take up training but they become the best advocates having done it.

      Sounds like your insurer is proactive in offering discounts which is excellent. I get the same. 100 bucks off for passing my Advanced Roadcraft Test and being an IAM Observer

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  6. A great read, thank you for sharing. I have done both silver and gold, and sent y bank details to ACC who will deposit funds into my account.

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    1. Thanks Blacksheep, a great way to raise our skills. If you're keen to upskill even further, perhaps consider joining IAM if there is representation in your province. Have a look at www.iam.org.nz

      Every good wish for safe riding and enjoying it!

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  7. Good write-up Geoff. As you well know, I completely credit RideForever training (especially emergency braking techniques) for saving my life on September 11 2017, when a pickup truck stopped in the middle of the road in front of me after pulling out of a driveway on the open road. I thoroughly commend RideForever training to any and all motorcyclists - as you say they are practically paying you to spend a day riding your bike!

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    1. Thanks Simon! We all tend to be cynics about new initiatives by bureaucrats but kudos to the ACC team and others who got the ball rolling. The difference between this scheme and others being pushed by the government is that it directly addresses the root cause of accidents as opposed to being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Why can't the principles be extended to other road users if we're so concerned about the road toll?

      Thanks for taking the time to respond mate!

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