Apart from a couple of brief runs dodging thunder clouds and a few nice days last weekend and earlier in the week, it’s not been ideal biking weather. Summer days with perfect road and weather conditions are few and far between in Scotland – especially this year!
My preference is to leave the bike in the garage when it’s really wet and a lot of that is more to do with having to clean the bike for hours on end afterwards. Mind you, any of us can venture out in glorious sunshine and thirty minutes later it starts to rain…it gets worse and before you know it the roads are awful, you can barely see out of your visor and you’re wet through.
I learned to ride with more confidence in the rain on an advanced cornering techniques course. John Macdonald of Pro-Scot looked at the skies and offered us the choice of the short or long route. We were enjoying the course so much, we suggested the long route and that’s when it really started to rain.
John kindly wrote a testimonial on this web-site suggesting that was the day I became a biker but the truth is - that was the day I learned a new skill, a skill that enables me to ride with more confidence in inclement weather conditions. We were taught to scan the road surface and to increase our observations as tar-banding and road paint markings can be lethal when wet. It just brought all the things I know about riding a motorcycle to the forefront of my mind.
My weakness was cornering, particularly left hand bends; frequently going in too fast and then in all sorts of trouble. I learned “slow-in, fast-out “, and how to properly use the limiting and vanishing point to help me corner effectively.
Since then, I’ve made a point of going on at least one advanced riding training course each year. As well as further enhancing my enjoyment of motorcycling, the skills I learn at these courses make me a better, safer motorcyclist.
At Kelso Bikefest earlier this month, I met a motorcyclist whose wife had gifted him a motorcycle advanced course for his Christmas. He had been riding for years and it’s not that he had necessarily picked up bad habits he just wanted to get more out of his motorcycling. He wanted to lean the bike. He wanted to be smoother in and out of corners. He achieved all of that over the two day course. He went on to say it was by far and away the best experience he had ever had on his bike. He learned how to properly handle his bike and get the most out of it. He also said he never imagined it was possible for a bike to lean over so far safely. Indeed, he told me the newly-acquired skills recently saved his life when he had a near miss.
To me, the benefits of advanced rider training include:
- Learning more about my bike
- Learning more about my motorcycling abilities – and improving and adding to these
- Improving vital road skills such as observation and hazard awareness
Advanced training isn’t all about blokes with high viz vests on telling us where we are going wrong. In my experience, the cornering techniques course run by John Macdonald of Pro-Scot taught me how to ride with more confidence in all sorts of conditions. Also, the course was great fun and, as John is also a former seven times Scottish Road Race Champion, he passed on a few tips for superb cornering even though my bike still yawns occasionally as I am going into a left hand bend. Those chicken strips seem to be gradually narrowing which is a sign I’m improving!