Keeping the Skills Well-Honed

We lost a member of the motorcycle community last weekend. I didn’t know the guy personally, but when a motorcyclist is killed doing what he/she loved, we all feel it. There were also at least four other motorcycle accidents in the province in the past week. Along with the twinge of sickness I feel in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear about a bike accident, it also drives home the fact that what we love to do is very dangerous.

When we’re riding, we are protected by only two things: Our gear and our skills. I won’t turn this into a debate of ATGATT* but personally I wear the best quality gear I can afford, whether it’s 5 degrees or 25. I realize that proper gear is not a forcefield that surrounds you, protecting you from all bodily injury. In a very bad crash, it doesn’t matter what you wear. BUT in many accidents it means the difference between walking away and spending weeks in the hospital recovering from severe road rash.

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Though not as good as full leather, textile and kevlar-lined jeans are better than casual clothing.

The crashes this week have gotten me questioning the extent of my riding skills. If someone doesn’t see me and pulls out in front of me, would I be able to get on the brakes with enough force to stop quickly while maintaining control of the bike? I’m not sure.

Most of us learn the life-saving accident avoidance skills on tiny 250’s during the motorcycle skills course. We get our license, get bigger bikes, and the next time we have to panic stop we lock up the wheels and crash because we had no idea how our own bike handles when pushed to the limit. Avalon Motorsports teach an advanced course designed for seasoned riders where you use your own bike and learn advanced brake and evade techniques. I took this course a few years ago, and the class was nowhere near capacity. I guess most people figure it’s unnecessary, which is a shame because I felt a lot more confident on my Sportster after taking the course. That being said, I now ride a Vstrom with completely different handling and anti-lock brakes. I need to re-learn my brake and evade skills.

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An Advanced Course will teach you how to handle your bike, no matter how big it is. Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_training

Let this be a wake-up call to everyone who rides a motorcycle, whether you put on 300km a year or 30,000. Print off some avoidance drills (The Battley Blog is a great site) and find a big empty parking lot on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Start off conservatively and practise until you’re comfortable. When you take the bike out in the spring, head for the parking lot again.

Ride safe everyone.

*ATGATT: Stand for “all the gear, all the time”. Motorcycle safety mantra.

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Posted on October 3, 2015, in Behind the Visor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Another great post Krista..I hope more people take to heart the importance of ATGATT and keeping (or learning) those skills.
    When I was on my trip across the US and Canada this summer, I got a lot of looks (particularly in the helmet free states) from all the “cool” people riding their MC’s, wearing their T-shirts, Converse, and bandanas, as I rode in my full face helmet, with armored jacket and kevlar jeans. I kept thinking “yeah – maybe I don’t look quite as cool as you do – but I hope to hell you don’t come off that mc at freeway speeds”.

    As far as the skills? yeah – we all need to practice them. Again, I’m thankful for the things I learned during the courses I’ve taken. They came in handy this summer on my trip. There are a lot of things that happen (and did) at 125 kph on 5 lane traffic and if it wasn’t for training and practicing…..

    We enjoy a risky and dangerous sport…and to minimize those, we need to do all the things we can. I hope more people consider training and practicing.

    Thank you for you and your articles..

    • Thanks for your comments Keith. Glad you made it back from your travels safe and sound. When I see pics of people in the US riding with no gear on I actually cringe. I wonder how many people around here would toss their helmets if you could legally ride without one?!

  2. Great post Krista. Like you, I am a full believer in ATGATT, as well as taking advanced training skills courses every year. Emergency riding skills deteriorate quickly if not used, and most are counter intuitive to our brain/body. The only way to be sure we will do the right thing in an emergency situation is to practice the skills frequently and correctly. Riders who consider slow speed and emergency braking drills a waste of time may be in for a rude awakening one day.

    • Thanks Bob. I think a lot of riders just don’t realize that keeping control of a bike in an emergency situation is a very difficult thing to do, but practising will make it a lot easier!

  3. So sorry to hear about the loss in your community Krista. You are right….we invest lots in gear, but few of us invest in ongoing training. I am adding a safety class to my spring wishlist! Stay safe and enjoy the journey.

  4. Ride within your limits and pay some attention to the speed limit. I’m not a fast rider, many could dust me off in te corners but I do go the distance; so I’ve nothing to prove.

    • My thoughts exactly! The true mark of a good rider is not getting your knee down in a turn. It’s being able to anticipate what other drivers are going to do, knowing the limits of your skill, and knowing how to react in an emergency. I find that people who do long-distance touring are among some of the best riders.

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