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Saturday 14 May 2011

A Review and a Related Ride

Sorry about the alliteration in the title, I love corny stuff!

The Review
As many regular readers know, fellow Kiwi blogger Roger Fleming and I are both taking formal steps to raise our game in terms of riding ability.  Both of us have shared our practical training so far through the blogs as well as reviewing some very good motorcycle books which support our practical work.  David Hough's "Proficient Motorcycling, 2nd edition" is HERE and Roger has just completed an excellent review of "The Police Riders Handbook to Better Motorcycling" HERE.  The latter book which Roger reviewed is also required reading for my Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) training programme.  The other publication which I'm using for the training programme  is "Advanced Motorcycling - the essential guide", produced by the IAM.

Approximately 10 pounds from Amazon UK plus postage

Advanced Motorcycling complements the Police Rider's Handbook and although although the subject matter is naturally similar, the content in terms of detail and presentation is sufficiently different to make owning both absolutely worthwhile.

The content of Advanced Motorcycling is broken down into 3 broad sections:
  • Preparing to ride.  Everything from clothing, riding position, how to check for blind spots etc.
  • Basic principles of advanced riding.  Gives the underlying theory of advanced riding and demonstrates how individual techniques link together to form a system of advanced riding which allows you to be in total control, all the time. 
  • Riding techniques in action.  Through the aid of photos, diagrams and clear language, the theory of advanced riding is translated into practical, everyday situations you'll encounter; enabling you to absorb and apply them without great difficulty.
The photo below shows an example from the book covering Riding Plans.  This is how you assess what's going on around you and how you act on that information.  It covers both what can be seen and what can't be seen but what you can infer from clues.  That's the sort of thing which is critical in taking your riding to the next level.

The secrets of careful observation

I'm finding this book superb and in terms of readability, it sits nicely between "Proficient Motorcycling" and the "Police Rider's Handbook".  As with the latter book, it's aimed at reasonably experienced motorcyclists wanting to take their riding to the next level rather than raw beginners who need foundation work first.  However, that's not to say that relatively inexperienced riders won't get something out of the book because they most definitely will.

None of the three books mentioned in this post are about riding fast, racing lines and so on.  They are about advanced roadcraft - staying safe on the road through the application of a range of techniques.  The last two books link these techniques into a system of control.  I wouldn't be without any of them - they are literally life-savers and highly recommended to anyone who cares about their riding.   David Hough's book is American and the other two are British.  Just to reiterate what Roger and I have mentioned previously, these books completely transcend which side of the road you ride on.

The Related Ride
Regular readers will remember the recent highly stressful observed ride I took in the company of the Chief Examiner (motorcycles) of the NZ branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists HERE. I've just had an email from him saying that an IAM Observer has been allocated who will be responsible for guiding me towards passing the advanced motorcycle test following a whole series of observed rides which will progressively become more demanding.  That means getting off my butt and putting in a lot of practice before I get the call!

Today offered a fine window in what has recently been pretty dire weather overall in NZ, so the opportunity for a ride and to practice some of the techniques couldn't be passed up.  A 200 km loop of the Coromandel Peninsula was a good distance but not having ridden for 3 weeks exposed more than a few shortcomings.  I thought of our fellow bloggers up in northern USA and Canada who have such long weather-enforced lay-ups.  Must be really hard to dial in again!  In fact, using the IAM examination criteria, I made quite a few blunders on the first half of the ride and was quite disappointed with myself.  However, it's amazing what a break and a bit of food does and a pit stop at Tairua did the trick!  Sitting near the harbour in bright sunlight munching on a pork and salad-filled roll settled things down nicely.

Weird old boat on harbour edge

Old 2 deck ferry converted into a cafe

Even wearing the hi-viz!

Leaving Tairua, everything suddenly felt "right" - I was relaxed and dropped straight into the groove, holding it all together nicely for the rest of the trip. Amazing how a break and a rethink can completely alter a ride.  Personal assessment for the first half  5/10, second half 8/10.  Lots of room for improvement before the next IAM observed ride!


  1. Excellent Geoff, your comment that none of the books pronmoting 'fast riding" is bang on, it is some thing which has really stuck in my mind while reading the books. Davids book is just full of common sense, perhaps that is why it was so easy to read and relate to.

    I have ridden with other riders, and been freaked out at how fast they are ridng considering road conditions etc....happy now just to ride with in myself and use MY common sense.

  2. Roger:
    Whilst the book doesn't promote fast riding, it does give to the insights of when you can press on a bit and when to hold back. I think that's the point you made in your last para!

  3. All right, between you and Roger I'm going to need a bigger bookshelf!

    It's funny how some rides everything comes together, but other rides nothing feels right. Sometimes both on the same ride. Annoying!

  4. Geoff, sounds like you are taking this up pretty seriously! I did the course through an IAM affiliated branch and the we were given precise instructions as to when to perform life savers at every sort of road situation. This got to a point where I was stressing to much about it.....the common sense approach is best. The other aspect to mention in my experience was that I was allocated a different observer for each ride and some of them were riding just too damn fast duing their demos! Keep up all the good work and ask what the difference is between a lifesaver and a shoulder check . May all your lifesavers be 'considered'! N

  5. My recent membership to my lady's motorcycle club offers me a whole new world of books and videos promoting better riding. The first one available was The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel, and I can't wait to study it.

    Lovely pics. One day I hope I can do the Coromandel again... until then patiently waiting for my company to pay another trip for me.

  6. Kari:
    Sorry about that haha, but they're seriously good books! I've thought about that problem at length and in my case at least, it's usually trying too hard too early that stuffs things up. Far better to relax into a ride and take things easy first up.

    You have it in one. Fear of failure I think - wonder what a psych would say about that??? There seems to be huge debate on the net between what is a lifesaver and what is a shoulder check. I will ask next time but it may still be open to some degree of interpretation between Observers. I just have a darned good look when I think it's appropriate so far! BTW, are you going for Observer status or have you reached it?

    Decisions, decisions.... there are so many books available, aren't there? Getting the right one is the problem. The NZ Motorcycle Atlas is our bible for touring by bike in NZ.

    I certainly hope you can do Coro again - so many out of the way places at the northern end to show you!

  7. I guess I will have to hit the books too, one can never have too much knowledge specially when it comes to motorcycles :-)

  8. Hi George!
    As I get older, extending my lifespan on the bike by any means becomes a more pressing issue :-). Reading, riding - all fine with me!

  9. It's good to know these books are out there Geoff. I've only read David Hough's fine book but this one looks good too. I agree on the riding lifespan point - extending it would be great! Nice post!

  10. Thanks Mike, it certainly is worth buying. Actually, I have an awful lot to thank David for is it was my correspondence with him that triggered a holistic look about raising my game, rather than a piecemeal approach. It's like a new lease on life!

  11. Hi Geoff excellent write up (as per usual). Yet to read 'Profficient Motorcyclist yet will have to get a copy ordered up. Should hope that your designated Observer is living a little bit nearer than last time!

  12. Nikos.....in advanced motorcycling training there are three degrees of rear observation:-
    a) Liferaser, the classic roadcraft/police rider over-the-shoulder glance before turning left or right.
    b) Shoulder Check, a less pronounced rearward glance to check the offside or nearside blind spots, used to back up a mirror check.
    c) Mirror check, self explanatory.
    The Lifesaver is put in just before 'A' in IPSGA and Geoff will explain that!

  13. I have not progressed to Observer mainly because my current IAM group seems to have far more observers than trainees on tap! To be honest I don't particularly gel with this paicular group who see to be very cliquey.....anyway I have Mrs N to observe and so I can practice my slow riding and U turn skills quite frequently...
    Best wishes from rainy Kharkov.

  14. Howdy Dylan and thanks! If you hold off for a month or so, I might be able to tell you about an update with a contribution from yours truly :-). Will send an email.

    Yeah, put me on the spot with Nikos, why don't you? Is this a long range exam? (hehe)

    Nikos: When you're in the right gear (G) for whatever manoeuvre you're about to perform, you do a lifesaver right round into your blindspot(s) to look for potential hazards early enough to to take corrective action if there's risk. Mainly done in high volume traffic areas. But you knew all that, didn't you????

    Hmmmm.... cliques are a universal problem. Perhaps less of one because NZ is a pretty egalitarian culture, but still happens. The local motorcycle club is a bit like that and it pains me to bring up a normally overused cliche, but most of them are H-D riders.

    Hey mate, you sure get around - when do you find time to do real engineering work? :-)

  15. Excellent review! As I've mentioned to Raftnn...more books... Yay! Mr Oilburner doesn't like that as I have a very large collection of books of all kinds. As long as it has pretty pictures, though, he is ok. LOL!!

    I'm glad the second half geled. It's all about training and muscle memory, man. You'll get there. And even the best have their bad days once in awhile. :)


  16. Thanks Lori - it's a great book, even if the opposite side of the road is involved. Jennie and I are both book-a-holics - they're scattered throughout the house and we're also heavy users of the town library.

    BTW, had an email from David Hough yesterday. He'll have a new riding book out by the end of the year at latest and he's also working on one to extend the riding career of ageing riders. Not that the latter applies in your case but David's asked me for a contribution to it!!! He must have been drinking when he asked :-)


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