Wheel alignment

Sunday 23 September 2012

Mastering the Ride, 2nd Edition. David L Hough

 David Hough's eagerly-awaited new book
ISBN 978-193548486-B
 (All photos reproduced from the book)

It's always a great occasion when David L Hough puts out a new book, even more so when the great man sends you an autographed copy, but more on that later!

We all know that there are large numbers of motorcycling "improve your skills" books on the market and without spending a fortune, choosing what to read becomes a formidable task.  I have mixed views about the title of the book.  The first "Mastering the Ride" was released nearly 10 years ago.  I wonder whether some potential readers who are familiar with David's earlier books might hesitate to buy it, thinking that it may simply be a cosmetic rehash of earlier work.  At least I'm able to publicly state here that that anyone thinking that would be making a seriously BIG mistake!  How do I know?  Well, when David was putting the material together, I was genuinely privileged to be shown some draft material and asked for some feedback.  Over a period of a couple of months, there were quite a few emails flying back and forth asking for clarification of particular aspects, sharing experiences or arguing the toss!

Some otherwise good skills books can nonetheless be quite hard going.  They can being overly prescriptive without the benefit of clearly explaining why you should follow a particular course of action.  We each respond to learning in slightly different ways but from a personal viewpoint, having some background as to why a particular course of action is being recommended really helps me to engage with what is being presented and retain that information.  It's this aspect which helps David to stand tall among his peers. In other words, he treats his readers as adults, giving sufficient background in terms of photos and clear text to get his point across with a complete absence of self-promotion.  Here is an example:

Just how much did that car driver about to cut across your lane really see?

In the chapter about conspicuity, David discusses visual priorities.  A big, intimidating vehicle may draw the eye in terms visual priority and a motorcycle being in front of it might not even register in the brain with potentially dangerous consequences.  This then leads to what motorcyclists can do for themselves  in terms of conspicuity tactics. A fascinating and insightful chapter - I learned a lot about this subject.

In a discussion on rider training, a graph of the USA motorcycle fatality rate is presented, showing an upward-trending increase.  An argument is presented that in the US, the motorcycle industry quite properly promotes getting as many people as possible to share our passion BUT that the industry's training developers created a very simple "learn to ride" course and a commensurately easy skills test.   Many new riders may feel that having been "anointed" once, this adequately equips them for the rest of their riding  career.  David then discusses independent training courses for renewing/enhancing your skills and where training can be tailored to specific needs of students at any level of their experience.   This is music to my ears having been exposed for the last 18 months or so to the "continuous improvement" environment of IAM advanced roadcraft.  You never stop learning and the moment when you think that there's nothing else to learn is when you put yourself at extreme risk.

There's a specific chapter on improving situational awareness although this topic manifiests itself time and time again in other parts of the book  when dealing with particular road and traffic conditions.

Spot the errors!

The photo above reminded me of  a ride home on my bike from Auckland a week ago.  On the Southern Motorway in reasonably dense traffic, I was followed by another rider who positioned himself too closely, and in my blind spot.  He would also occasionally switch to another lane which occasionally moved faster than the one we were in to try and make progress.  It was clear that he wasn't scanning ahead for a sufficient distance because he got baulked several times as the traffic in that lane slowed.  He would not only lose his place behind me, but to the following vehicles in my lane too.  Had he looked well down the motorway, it would have been clear what was happening.  This is what David refers to as developing "expert eyeballs".

There are many more chapters in this book dealing with other aspects of motorcycling which are treated in the same depth and background analysis than the ones I've briefly described.  However, I'd like to conclude this review by mentioning the section covering the Ageing Rider.  This is is of profound importance as coping strategies are rarely discussed in the public arena..  Consider the following table:

Quite a change in the demographics

The average age of riders continues to increase for all sorts of reasons.  Probably one of the biggest ones is the switch from a cheap form of transport from a younger person to a lifestyle choice for an older one.  This presents all kinds of potential difficulties in terms health, skill, motorcycle choice and so on and if you get that combination wrong, it could mean a world of pain at a time when you're supposed to be enjoying life.

Resulting from an earlier blog article I'd written, David wrote to me and asked when I was going to get off my arse and do something about upskilling (my words, not his but the meaning was abundantly clear!).  It was our subsequent correspondence which lead to a whole load of data collection through various international motorcycle websites about attitudes and intent.  This chapter summarises some of that material and I'm hopeful that David will write a stand-alone publication on the topic as there's a substantial need.  Really proud to have played a small part in this chapter.  Regular readers of this blog will also remember that it was the exchange of emails with David which "got me off my arse" and train with the IAM, arguably one of the world's best advanced roadcraft training courses and for that, I owe him big time.

David's pals Andy Goldfine (l) and Fred Rau (r)

In summary, no book can replace high quality ongoing roadcraft training but this one is an absolutely outstanding adjunct.  It will help prepare riders to lift their skills by better understanding the background to many issues.  It is also invaluable to an experienced or advanced rider as a refresher to help arrest that imperceptible slide in skills which happens to us all if we don't frequently work on our riding skills.

Simply put, this is a wonderful book and you won't regret buying it!


  1. How exciting Geoff!!

    Not just a great book but a great book that had input by you!!

    It looks like a very easy to follow book, I've looked at a couple when I was first starting out but have to say that after the first few pages most books lost my interest or understanding and I havent picked one up in ages. I'll have to have a look at this one thanks for showing it to me.

    The aging riding population is interesting, I do know that Australia's average age is increasing so I wonder how that also correlates to the age of riders.

  2. Thanks Brenda,
    David has a huge gift for making technical subjects very readable. When he was doing research into motorcyclist's views on ageing, I helped him out by asking a series of questions on various motorcycle websites, then analysing the responses for him. That's all it was limited to, but it was nonetheless a privilege!

  3. Thats a very interesting post Geoff. I wonder if the ever increasing age of motorcyclists is because there is a lack of young people taking up motorcycling?

    I've actively been taking note when out riding of younger riders and to be frank I haven't seen many at all when stopping at motorcycle friendly cafes etc. Its a bit disconcerting really.

    1. Steve,

      I suspect that your comments are down the right track. You can buy a decent used car for what I paid for the Street Triple and a car offers a lot of convenience by comparison when cash is tight. On the charity run which I attended last week, there were only a couple of what I'd guess to be under-21's.

      Not sure whether it's disconcerting or simply whether people are leaving their bike purchases until later on in life.

  4. I remember you blogging about the emails going back and forth. I didn't realize the book was out already. Now I need to go find it.

    This is a timely reminder to make ourselves conspicuous. Timely because I helped a friend after a crash yesterday when she crested a hill and a motorcyclist (she wasn't traveling with - she was riding on her own) did a U-turn in front of her. He never even saw her coming and now she has broken fingers on her right hand and they had to take a fingernail off. I got home from the Emergency Room at 9:45 last night. She will be fine, but I am miffed at the other irresponsible rider who didn't provide her with insurance information and left her by the side of the road in the country for an hour and a half until I could get there.

    We expect people in cages to be out to kill us but we don't expect the danger to come from fellow motorcyclists.

    1. Hi Brandy,

      It came out far earlier than I was expecting too. Didn't seem to be much of a fanfare but maybe NZ is simply a long way from the action!

      I'm really sorry to hear about your friend and good for you to help sort it all out. That's a terrible thing with the other rider completely avoiding his moral responsibilities. Unfortunately, there ARE poor motorcycle riders out there - rather a lot of them and I can understand David Hough's frustration with the baseline training in the USA. The same could have been said for NZ until a recent toughening of the testing standards. I guess that's why I tend to steer clear of group rides unless the riders are well known to me.

      Excellent post thanks!

  5. Geoff

    You are a good salesman - I'm convinced and just ordered one - you can claim your commission from Mr Hough!

    N from monsoon swept England brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  6. Nikos,
    You can't lose but I'd like to hear what you think in due course. It's David's easy style which sets him apart from a lot of other authors - a rare gift.

  7. I think you sold another copy...

    Thanks for the review.

    1. Good for you Richard! A warning though....... I don't think there's a section on surviving Alaska, haha!

  8. Totally concur re training. After 44 yrs in various saddles I always dipped in to training, some of it compulsory. I attended a machine control course a few yrs ago and considered it massive VFM. Now I'm with an IAM group sharpening up again. Seen any mad old bikers lately? No. Because the old ones aren't mad and the mad ones aren't old.
    Cheers mate.

    1. Hi Hogdayafternoon and thanks for dropping by!

      Totally concur! My early IAM training consisted of massive ego damage followed by extreme pride. The full membership test in NZ was conducted by an ex-Class 1 police rider from Northants who took 4 hours and 220 km to do it simply because he was enjoying the day out. What about the poor, stressed bugger on the receiving end though? Now in a position to put something back into it.

  9. Ps. Have you read Kiwi Des Molloy's book "The Last Hurrah"? Puts 'Ewan and Charley' into perspective.

    1. No, I know about the book but haven't read it yet. Can certainly recommend "Sons of Thunder" which I reviewed recently on the blog. That had some amazing rides in adverse conditions, right from the early 1900's until the present time.

  10. Geoff
    Sounds good.
    Where is this available - Amazon?

    On the subject of aging motorcyclists (my wife and I being such), it's scary the number of older riders we see, who obviously have very little seat time, wobbling around on large capacity cruisers. Living in a weekend motorcycling hub, we see ever increasing numbers out our way and it's rather scary......although the scariest was an older gent, with all the gear, on a Panigale S, who was waaaaay out of his depth. Add roads with unforgiving shoulders, the usual meandering weekend SUV's.........shudder!

    (from a currently showery, but rapidly drying West Oz)

    1. Howdy Jon - hope all is well!

      Yep Amazon. Absolutely no qualms about recommending it.

      That's interesting, thought you were a young fella but there again, I know several ahem.... mature people who own Street Triples and ride 'em like they stole 'em!

      I have to agree with your observations and at the risk of upsetting more than a few people, it's mature cruiser riders who generally exhibit the worst traits. To qualify that a bit further, it's the ones who dress like Easy Rider extras who seem to think it's cool to ride like complete plonkers. Guess I'm off a few Christmas card lists now.

      SUV's...... shudder indeed - tourist season is just starting on the Coromandel Peninsula.

      Also from a showery but improving NZ!

  11. Chillertek has left a new comment on your post "Only a wee bit about bikes....":

    Hi Geoff
    Woh mate thats a bit of bad luck on the soon to be patented perpetual motion machine.

    You had better be careful you old coggers tend to damage easily when you fall over. But seriously I hope your all fighting fit for your IAM ride.

    I watched the video you put up, and I haven't had a good belly laugh like that in ages. Thanks geoff you made my day.

    Mark as spam

    Moderate comments for this blog.

    Posted by Chillertek to Confessions of an Ageing Motorcyclist at 28 September 2012 9:42 PM


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