Wheel alignment

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!

Wednesday 4 September 2019

With safety in mind

Got an email last week from a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists member asking whether more information could be added to our plastic membership cards.  The reason for this was that he has a clear plastic pocket on his riding jacket and carries ICE (In Case of Emergency) information in it.  He thought that ICE info on a membership card would provide a useful backup.  There are also commercial adhesive pockets for helmets which display relevant info.

I'm embarrassed to confess that although I take my personal riding standard seriously and carry a medical kit at all times, I haven't really thought about prominently displaying ICE information.  Consequently, I was really interested in what a discussion among members would reveal.

Some debate followed among experienced members about the best way to display ICE info and the question was also posed to members of the emergency services.  General consensus was that information on clothing or a helmet whilst better than nothing, wasn't the favoured option.  This was because clothing can be damaged or cut off in an emergency and vital information missed.  The preference was for a dog tag, wristband or something similar.  Here are a couple of examples.

The dog tag is made in embossed aluminium with a plastic surround.  A good range of colour choices available for both the metal and surround. There is also a choice of chain lengths.  Price NZ$19 delivered for two.  I took delivery of mine today!

The flexible rubber wristband comes in a range of colours and fastenings and depending on source, cost is between NZ$20-40 delivered.  The ICE data in most cases seems to be on an adhesive label or Dymotape.  Still thinking about getting one of these.

Today, another IAM Facebook member (thanks Mike Sutton) mentioned a feature that's available on an Android phone which I didn't know existed!  To quote Mike:

"Android phones have a built-in SOS function. It's simple, quick and very effective. Press the on/off button three times and it texts whoever you select with your GPS co-ordinates, front camera pictures and/or a audio recording. Go to Settings>Advanced features>Send SOS messages and set up from there. Of course you need data, but texts only need a sniff of reception and they send."

You can select multiple recipients and the function is now set up on my Samsung S8.  I don't know whether this feature is available on an iPhone.

I mentioned that I carry a small medical kit and it's worth re-mentioning something I posted about 18 months or so ago.  I attended a motorcycle accident talk and demo by an ex-military advanced paramedic who was a keen rider. He talked about a product called Celox which is hemostatic, i.e. stops bleeding fast. Extensively used by the military in conflict situations, granules can be poured into an open wound or there's a range of dressings and pads which have been impregnated with the special granules and can stop bleeding from an open wound.

The medikit has been supplemented with Celox gauze pads which are easy to use and very effective.  It's the sort of item you hope never to use but in a situation where there is significant blood loss, it might just save someone's life.  Got it in the car too.  Here's the item we bought and Celox products are available pretty much everywhere in the world:

A lot of us ride in areas where there isn't much traffic, both on sealed roads and off them.  We also ride solo on many occasions.  I'm really pleased that conversations over the last week has prompted some positive action on my part to take further safety precautions.