The arguments are over - ABS is a lifesaver

The arguments are over - ABS is a lifesaver

It’s time for pub bores everywhere to put a sock in it. With ABS now widespread on motorcycles there is now endless information validating its effectiveness.

Over the past decade or so, ABS has become more common on motorcycles. Especially since January 2016 when the EU made it mandatory on all motorcycles over 125cc. With such a large market insisting on it, very few manufacturers went to the trouble and extra expense of offering non-ABS versions of their bikes. Meaning the vast majority of over-125cc bikes sold worldwide have had ABS for nearly five years.

As more and more motorcycles have joined the ‘fleet’, it has given researchers ever more significant numbers to play with, and guess what? The fitment of ABS reduces injury crashes by between 24% and 34%. For serious injury crashes the numbers are even higher, cutting them by up to 42%. Who says? Well, a number of people actually. There are now several studies worldwide that have all arrived at the same conclusion, and very similar numbers.

Effectiveness of motorcycle antilock braking systems (ABS) in reducing crashes, the first cross-national study, published in 2015 by Matteo Rizzi, Claes Tingvall et al, was one of the earliest truly authoritative studies on the matter. It reviewed official data across Sweden, Spain and Italy from 2003 to 2012. So, before ABS became mandatory. Interestingly, they dug into data in smaller capacity machines including scooters, with and without ABS. The results were almost exactly the same.

In the USA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded in 2013 that ABS fitment was associated with a 31% reduction in the rate of fatal motorcycle accidents. A 2015 study by Monash Uni in Australia found ABS reduced injuries by 33% and severe injuries by 39%.

So, pinning a tail on the donkey, let’s call it one third. That’s how much the fitment of ABS will, broadly, reduce accidents that result in an injury or death. Who wouldn’t want that?

Fun factor

Some of the favourite proclamations by those pub bores include that ABS robs the rider of feel at a crucial time; that it’s heavy, complicated and liable to fail; that stopping distances are longer than without ABS which is why racers didn’t use it, and that it would ‘let off’ and let the bike ‘run on’ on the approach to a corner.

Clearly these people haven’t ridden a new bike since 2008. That was when Honda launched their compact race ABS. It added just 2kg to the weight of a CBR600RR but it set a new standard. With the front tyre squashed onto the tarmac, you could indulge in tyre-howling stops with the rear floating just above the ground while the ABS was in full operation, with the feel at the lever akin to a small amount of brake fade. The feel for grip and turn-in were undiminished trail braking into a corner on track. Within months, every major bike manufacturer hit the same benchmark and since then there’s been no looking back, with breakthroughs like cornering ABS from Bosch and Conti.

Game changer: the Honda CBR600RR from 2008 had ‘sports’ ABS that lived up to its name

Game changer: the Honda CBR600RR from 2008 had ‘sports’ ABS that lived up to its name

The most salient fact, though, is not how an ABS system can be as good as non-ABS for fun, feel and speed in extremis. It’s how it saves your life when you need it. Braking at the same point every lap, on a track you know like the back of your hand, has nothing unexpected about it.

ABS acts as an invisible hand in the background for when you need it most. When a pedestrian runs out from crowded pavement. When a car turns in front of you on a soaking wet road. When that corner ahead starts to look tighter than first thought and you didn’t see the slippery damp patch in the shade on the approach. For these and a thousand other scenarios, ABS provides a margin of safety that’s extremely helpful in the unpredictability of road riding.

Ride Forever instructor demonstrating the difference ABS makes

Ride Forever instructor demonstrating the difference ABS makes

The unprotected

However desirable ABS may be, a lot of riders are simply not going to get the benefit. Sub-125cc bikes sold new in NZ can get away with a combined braking system, linking front and rear. And as you go through the back-catalogue of used bikes, ABS fitment becomes rarer and rarer. With LAMS regs now allowing learners to ride bikes up to 660cc, that’s a fair number of less-experienced riders going without lifesaving technology on some pretty potent machines.

Can we fix it? Probably not. Retrofitting ABS to older and smaller machines would be ridiculously impractical and prohibitively expensive. So we will have to rely on a few things. One is the slow attrition of bikes dropping out of active use and being replaced by newer models. Another is that we all encourage buyers of new, smaller-capacity machines to choose ABS over CBS. And there’s one other thing that’s also proven to reduce accidents and injuries by around one third ...

Taking a Ride Forever course.

Lock it or lose it

Lock it or lose it

A spate of motorcycle thefts in Wellington has riders scratching their heads because bike theft in NZ hasn’t been as rife as in some other countries. If you want to keep your bike secure, here’s what you need to know.

Lock it or lose it

Anyone who has had their motorcycle stolen will know that sick feeling as you stare in disbelief at where your ‘bike had been parked. Nervousness about security hasn’t been a major concern for us here in New Zealand, at least not at the level riders in Europe and America have endured. But a number of recent thefts in the capital, including from parking bays and car parks in the central city, has raised anxiety for Wellington riders.

Taking motorcycle security seriously is, of course, never a bad thing, because bad things can happen anywhere, right? So, on a scale of One to London, what can you do to protect your pride and joy from nefarious crims?

Starter level

Parking somewhere that’s in open view, engaging the steering lock and removing the key are the most basic precautions. But they obviously weren’t enough for many victims in Wellington. Still, always remember these basics.

Parking in a car park can be a lottery, dependent on the security measures employed. On the one hand, bike spaces can be a bit out of the way so a criminal might not be overlooked. On the other, they might have CCTV which can act as a deterrent or even help identify the culprit. So long as they’ve forgotten to wear the ubiquitous hoodie…

Lock it or lose it

Second tier

A very basic extra precaution is a disc lock, preferably with alarm. On the plus side, they are relatively light and compact so they’re easy to stow–sometimes even on the bike. On the down side, your average London bike thief would LOL at a disc lock. For approximately 1.5 seconds, as that’s how long it would take a practiced hand to remove it with the sledgehammer he always keeps in the Transit. Mind you, should the crim not be that adept a disc lock with alarm can make quite a din if they make a hash of trying to remove it or move the bike. Top tip learned from an ex-bike thief? Put the disc lock on the rear. It’s harder to get off.

Bike alarms and immobilisers are of similar worth, even factory-fitted items. Alarms can usually be silenced in seconds if you know what to do and defeating the immobiliser on a bike you’ve shoved into the van can be conducted at your leisure with help from the internet.

Still, if the local crims are not as brazen or experienced as overseas, this level of security might stop you being a victim. Just make sure you always affix the tell-tale cord that comes with a disc lock. Attempting to ride off with the lock in place can range from embarrassing to expensive to injurious.

DefCon 3

Now we’re talking. About chains, mostly. And there’s a huge difference between the right chain, correctly deployed, and any old chain shoved through your front wheel.

First, the chain itself needs to be 15mm or 16mm hardened steel, preferably with a braided cover. You’ll need top-spec bolt cutters to get through this sort of stuff.

The lock is just as important. Some cheap sets are easily picked. You’ll pay more for a less pickable lock but why would you want this to be a weak ‘link’? Abloy claim their top lockset is un-pickable. They haven’t been slaughtered by advertising watchdogs so draw your own conclusions.

Next up is how you deploy it. Through the wheel? Maybe round the forks? Not much good. Lying on the floor? You’re just made it easy to freeze, grind, cut, split or smash it.

The best way to deploy the chain is to put it through the frame somewhere, attach it to an immovable object and ensure it is fairly taut, off the ground.

That immovable object can be a bit of street furniture if you’re away from home. If you’re at home and crave real security you’ll want a decent ground anchor to chain the bike to. The best are concreted in but you’re only likely to do that as part of laying a floor. Bolt-in ones can still do a good job.

Passive security

It’s not always about the hardware. One key aspect of security is where you park it. Parking in the same spot where the bike can be noticed and scoped out is not good. Somewhere out of eyes’ way can be just as bad if you always park there and it affords a thief privacy. So, ideally, change up your routine.

Security lights, motion-detection alarms, garage door and window sensors: they all add extra layers of security.

Finally, a joke. Two guys walking across the African Savanna are suddenly confronted by a massive lion. One of them whips out a pair of running shoes from his backpack and starts lacing them. The other guy says “You don’t seriously think you’re going to outrun a lion with those do you?” To which the first says “I don’t need to. I only need to outrun you.”

The lesson is that the security you add to your bike doesn’t always need to be impossible to defeat. It just has to look like a hassle, encouraging a potential thief to look for easier pickings.

Wearing good gear matters

Wearing good gear matters

Riding a motorcycle on the road is an enjoyable pastime that many in the world are passionate about. All good riders know that even with the best skills and experience the pleasure comes with a risk of crashing. To minimise this risk riders chose to wear protective gear but up until now the only way to tell if the gear is any good is to test it the hard way. Now we have MotoCAP – a Motorcycle Clothing Assessment Program to test gear and give us an indication of how our gear will perform in a crash. Hopefully this article will help you the next time that you or someone you know is looking for new gear.

Chris Hurren

Whilst writing this article I started listing off the different classes of motorcycles in my head. Everyone knows sport, cruiser, standard and tourer but if we drill down even further, we have café racer, naked, scrambler, classic, sports touring, scooters, dual sports, enduros and adventure bikes. The clothing we wear when riding is often selected for appearance and functionality, but importantly the gear needs to be selected to fit the bike. You are unlikely to find a rider on a big Harley cruiser in a replica Valentino Rossi race leather with matching full-face helmet, gloves and boots. You may however see them in boots, black leather pants, orange/black HD leather jacket, black gloves and a mat-black open-face helmet. Each type of bike has a style and the clothing that we wear will inadvertently fit in with this style. MotoCAP gives you the power to determine the best performers within a style.

Clothing types are now as varied as motorcycle types. Rollback time 30 years and you had very little choice as a rider as there were only leather or textile gear options available. Today, riders have a choice of a variety of clothing types including hoodies, jeggings, cargo pants, denims, mesh jackets, riding shirts, touring gear and the list goes on. With such a wide range of different types of protective clothing styles and look it is getting easier to get gear that matches the style of bike being ridden or the personal style that the rider likes. Whilst the range that a rider has to choose from has increased so too has the range of protection levels. Some of the new styles of gear can be quite low in protection so it pays to know what you are buying in advance of going into a store. MotoCAP helps you to compare the protection levels of a new product such as ladies jegging with a more known product like a pair of textile riding pants.

One of my mates always rode in a tailor made one-piece full racing leather suit, riding boots and good gloves. They nicely matched his 80’s Yamaha RZ500 and he loved the feeling of protection he got from the full leathers. He had the money at the time and chose gear that was going to give him the best value for his money. His gear matched his bike and suited his riding style which was mainly longer weekend rides for leisure. He tells me he only had the one off which was a low-speed low side due to loose stones on a corner. His gear protected him admirably from road rash. This crash was in the 90’s and his gear was pre-armour. He had bruising that a modern version of the same race suit would have prevented with its armour. If he upgraded his old suit with high quality armour and re-enacted the crash, the only injury he would have received would be to his pride and bike.

Another of my friends always wore a Brando style black leather jacket and textile gloves. He was young and money was tight so he normally wore normal denim jeans and shoes. He rode that Yamaha RZ250 everywhere as it was all he had for transport. His high-speed high side was a big crash but even so he only had abrasion damage from the waist down. The gloves, jacket and helmet had all done their job. Not much was left of his denim jeans and his road rash was significant. The slide even wore through the three layers of denim in the waistband of his pants. His elastic sided work boot on his left foot quickly parted company giving him no foot protection. Even as an experienced rider, there was nothing he could do when a log of wood that had fallen off a trailer appeared in the middle of the headlight beam. I look at his crash and surmise what the difference a $200 pair of protective denim jeans and similar priced riding footwear would have made in his situation.

Both of these examples are crashes from the 90s and are typical of what happens when we come off a bike. We have little control of if, when and where a crash will happen. Like the log of wood in the middle of a dark road, the unpredictable nature of when a crash could occur can only be counteracted by the vigilant wearing of good protective gear. Wearing any type of motorcycle protective gear is better than riding in normal clothing. Research has shown that wearing good protective gear can reduce your probability of injury by 30%.

MotoCAP is there for those who want to know about the protection levels of what they are going to buy. MotoCAP purchases gear in-store and online and tests it for protection and breathability. The results of more than 250 jackets, pants and gloves are free online for anyone to view (www.motocap.co.nz). MotoCAP is independent of manufacturers and all garments are tested in the same way so you can compare one against another. See how a protective hoodie performs when compared with a textile tourer jacket.

Spending more money does not in most cases make you more protected. When you look at the protection score calculated by MotoCAP and compare it with the cost of the garment there is no relationship. MotoCAP gives you the power to select gear that will be both protective and value for money. A three-star leather jacket worth $400 will have the same protection as a three-star textile jacket worth $1,300. When using MotoCAP remember to work out three options that you are happy with on paper. Go into a store and try them on. Pick the one that is most comfortable as you are better to have a slightly less protective garment that you wear every day than a highly protective garment you wear some of the time. Remember to try it with your other riding gear and test it in store both on and off a bike.

I know of riders that have paid almost $4,000 just for their jacket, pants and gloves. Protective gear can be expensive, but a rider can purchase good gear without breaking the bank. A good safe kit for riding out on the open road can be purchased for under $1,000. One of the best value combinations for protection is a leather jacket combined with a pair of protective denim jeans and a good pair of long gloves. There is a three or four-star option for each of these and prices are under $500 each. This combination is a comfortable, fashionable kit that would not look out of place on most road bikes. Leather is not always the best in a hot environment so make sure that what you select has vents that can be opened to allow airflow into the jacket.

To work out which helmet to add to the ensemble above look at www.crash.org.au or www.sharp.dft.gov.uk for helmet performance and comfort ratings. Crash has more Australian based helmets listed, whereas Sharp has more information on European helmets. There is not a rating site for riding footwear, so look for footwear that extends up past the ankles. Impact protection over the ankles and shins is also desirable. Laces should be avoided as they can come loose and get caught in chains and wheels that could cause a crash.

Summer is coming and the riding season is upon us. Enjoy your ride and remember to use the MotoCAP website next time you or a friend need to buy new gear.

All the gear, all the time

All the gear, all the time

Those wise words are from guest contributor and avid motorcycle fan Mike Pero. Read what he has to say about the importance of riding gear, as part of Motorcycle Awareness Month.

So, why would you spend an extra few minutes kitting yourself up before you get on your motorcycle? In the next few minutes I hope to be able to convince you to make a change, if you haven’t already. Firstly, we all know that motorcyclists are some of the more vulnerable road users. Over the past five years 261 motorcyclists have lost their lives. If that’s not bad enough around 2,500 motorcyclists have been seriously injured in the same period.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves further? Protective clothing! As long as we don’t have a roll cage or a chassis around us, like a car, we must depend upon the clothes that we wear to save our souls. Clothing and protective gear is absolutely essential when you ride, because you can never know exactly what might happen even if you don’t make a mistake. It makes absolute sense, to me, to dress for success! In other words, dress like you’re going to come back in the same condition as you head out.

This will include head-to-toe riding gear, whether you’re going down the road for a coffee or riding to the other end of the country. All the risk factors are still there, including what other road users might do. So, I will always put on all the gear all the time. I wear my full-face helmet, my gloves, my riding boots, and my jacket with my pants both of which have the protective pads, etc. All this I can get on in two to three minutes. I keep all my riding gear in our spare room. I have a chair which I use to make myself comfortable as I dress myself from head to toe. If it’s a summer’s day, which often is the case, I will wear my shorts and tee-shirt underneath and put my jandals in the panniers so, when I get to my destination, I’m ready to chill out.

Mike Pero

So, what’s changed since I was a lad, when it comes to riding gear? Heaps! I used to ride with just jeans and a jacket. No proper boots, and certainly no armour. But I can say I’ve only ever owned and worn full face helmets, since 1975. Funny when I think back to my 1975 Bell helmet. It must have weighed two or three times as much as my race helmet of today. They’re far more comfortable now with vents and nice lining.

So, simply put, I would never, ever wear an open-face. In fact, I don’t know why they are even allowed. If you’ve ever seen an open-face helmet experiment where it lands a watermelon (as a face) on a rolling road, you’ll soon switch to a full-face. Check this site out:

https://www.adventuremoto.com.au/blog/motorcycle-helmet-impact-zones-know-the-risks/

And if you really want to know about the right riding gear check out motocap.com.au.

Mike Pero

Looking for new gear? Here’s MotoCAPs Chris Hurren with his 5 top tips!

Looking for new gear? Here’s MotoCAPs Chris Hurren with his 5 top tips!

Five top tips for riders:

  1. Try gear on a bike before you make a purchase.
  2. Make sure that it works with your other gear.
  3. Make sure that there are at least two durable fabric layers in critical places
  4. Check that armour is good and upgrade if needed
  5. Check how it performs on MotoCAP

Wearing any type of protective motorcycle gear is better than riding in normal clothing. The question is, which gear is the best to buy? There is a myriad of protective motorcycle clothing options available on the market and little information available on their effectiveness, making it hard for riders to be confident in their choices.

MotoCAP (www.motocap.co.nz) is a good place to go to get the low down on clothing that you may want to buy. MotoCAP purchases clothing in store and online and tests it to assess its protection and breathability. Gear is purchased in shops across Australia and New Zealand. All results are provided free online on the MotoCAP website. Although not all gear is rated on MotoCAP the range is increasing all the time. As a rough guide when you are considering buying gear, two protection stars or better for around town and three stars or better if you are heading out on the open road.

You are best to buy gear that you are going to wear every time you get on the bike. It is highly unlikely you will wear one-piece racing leathers on a café racer for a five-minute ride down to the dairy to get more milk for example.

The gear you buy needs to match your bike as well as your style. It needs to be simple and convenient enough to put on and not hinder you on or off the bike. You are better to have a three-star jacket that you wear every time you ride than a four-star jacket that rarely comes out of the cupboard.

A piece of gear is never worn just by itself so always try on gear with the other gear that you would wear with it. This includes your shoes/boots, gloves, pants, jacket and helmet. A good example is motorcycle pants. I have tried on many motorcycle pants that will neither fit inside or over the top of my favourite riding boots.

We get gear to wear riding a motorcycle but when we try it on in store all we tend to do is walk around a bit. Gear should be tried out on a bike. When you buy that next pair of pants try throwing a leg over a bike while wearing them. If you are buying gloves try using the throttle, levers and other controls. Most stores also sell bikes and I have never been refused by a salesperson when I ask if I can try what I am wearing on one of their bikes.

When buying any type of motorcycle gear, you really need to answer the following questions:

  • Does it fit well and is it comfortable to wear?
  • Do you like the look of it? Is the style right for your bike?
  • Have you worn it with your other riding gear?
  • Does it feel right siting on a motorcycle?

Things to look for and ask yourself for each garment type

Jackets

Jackets only need to work when we are riding the bike as we can take them off and stow them at the end of a ride. Leather jackets offer the best protection from road rash, whereas textile jackets can be more appropriate if you ride in all weather conditions. Some textile jackets are more suitable if you are riding in a hot environment as they allow airflow through them to aid cooling. These include riding shirts, denim and mesh jackets.

Most jackets are supplied with armour in the elbows and shoulders. Back armour is not as prevalent and manufacturers have a habit of supplying jackets with a bit of thin foam in the back armour pocket. These thin foam layers provided almost no energy absorption in a crash and should be removed and replaced with a good CE approved back protector.

Ask yourself the following questions when buying your next jacket.

  • Is there armour in the elbows, shoulders and back?
  • Is the armour comfortable and does it provide discomfort when you move your body?
  • Is the armour too small or low in protection? If so see if you can get a deal on upgrading it.
  • Is the jacket a good fit so that elbow and shoulder armour does not move out of position?
  • Does the jacket have a CE back protector? If not ask for a deal on adding one.
  • Are there at least two layers of protective fabric present in the elbows and shoulders (textile and denim jackets)?
  • Does the leather feel thick and is not too thin, soft and supple (leather jackets)?
  • Are there zipped vents to control airflow for cooling? Good locations for vents are in the upper chest, side seams and on the back.
  • Is the jacket too short or ride up your back when in a riding position?

Pants

Protective pants pose a unique problem as they must be comfortable to wear both on and off the bike. No one wants to change their pants when they get to their destination. When you are riding the motorcycle protective pants should look and feel right and be comfortable sitting in a coffee shop or walking around all day at the Burt.

Leather and most protective denim pants give the best protection from abrasion when sliding down the road. Textile pants are more suitable for riding in a wet environment. Denim and mesh pants generally have higher breathability and are more appropriate for riding in a hot environment.

The knee and hip are at high risk of impact damage in a crash and are often the least protected part of the body. A large proportion of pants do not come with hip armour, or even the pockets to put hip armour in. Knee armour, when supplied tends to be big, bulky and inflexible. A large proportion of riders chose to ride without any armour due to comfort and look of the armour.

There are now several new flexible armours available in the market. These are highly suited to use in pants as they are flat in structure and bend with the pants, increasing both the comfort and look of the armour and pants. It is highly likely that you are going to have to upgrade the armour in your pants so be prepared for this when you negotiate with the salesperson.

Ask yourself these questions when buying your next pair of pants:

  • Do they work both on and off the bike?
  • Is there armour in the knees and hips or at least pockets to fit aftermarket armour?
  • Is the armour too small or low in protection? If so, see if you can get a deal on upgrading it.
  • Is the armour comfortable or does it provide discomfort when you move your body?
  • Are the pants a good fit so that the knee and hip armour does not move out of position?
  • Are there at least two layers of durable fabric present in the knees, sides of the legs and seat of the pants (textile and protective denim pants)?
  • Is protection provided by a second protective fabric layer in protective denims? Single layer protective denim jeans typically have lower abrasion protection levels.
  • Does the leather feel thick and not too thin, soft and supple (leather pants)?
  • Are the pants too short or do they ride down when in your riding position?

Gloves

Like jackets, gloves can be removed after a ride and stowed, so they only need to work when you are on the bike. Long gloves are better than short as they have added wrist protection and most have better wrist retention systems. Off-road or motocross gloves should be avoided as they offer almost no abrasion protection in an on-road crash.

Ask yourself the following questions when buying your next pair of gloves:

  • Is there hard armour in the knuckles?
  • Is there soft armour or a hard slider in the palm (opposite side to the thumb)?
  • Is there at least one extra layer of abrasion protective material along the outer side of the little finger and the lower part of the palm of the glove?
  • Have you selected longer gloves with armour in the outer wrist?
  • Is the fastened glove difficult to remove when you try to pull it off by the fingers?

Armour

Armour has come a long way since it first started to appear in our motorcycle clothing. Armour is designed to reduce the peak force being transferred into the hard to fix parts of our body (elbows, shoulders, hips and knees). It works by crumpling under impact, like a helmet, absorbing and spreading the force that would normally go into the body.

In the early days of armour, a garment with armour meant that it had a bulky inflexible bit of foam or plastic stuffed into a pocket. Armour could be uncomfortable both on and off the bike and as a result tended to be removed. This has changed dramatically in the last 3 years. Manufacturers are now starting to compete in the armour space and are generating new styles that breath and bend as well as absorb more energy.

If you have an old favourite jacket or pair of pants you can quickly improve their protection levels by putting in some new armour in the elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.

Websites can lack information on armour performance so if in doubt, then it is probably best to go down to your local store to make sure the armour is right. All good armour is certified so it makes it easy to sort the good from the bad. Testing is normally done at 22°C however a T+ on the armour shows that the armour also passed at a 40°C test temperature and a T- shows that armour passed testing at -10°C. Sizes vary with manufacturer. A small piece of armour will not be as protective as a larger piece of armour so aim for bigger when you can. A simple way is to look at the size differences in the installed and aftermarket armour as a guide.

Things to look for when you are upgrading your armour:

  • CE certified to EN1621-1:2012. (Look for the motorcycle symbol)
  • Where possible get CE Level 2 armour as it provides higher protection.
  • Make sure it is big enough for your body size. A rule of thumb is Size B armour is suitable for anyone who wears a large or higher shirt size.
  • If you ride in a hot environment look for T+ tested armour.
  • If you ride in a very cold conditions look for T- tested armour.

Get something comfortable that you will wear every ride. A comfortable CE Level 1 armour is better than no armour at all.

Hopefully, this advice will be of some help to you. Enjoy the summer months and being out on the bike.

Greg Murphy: Attitude is everything

Greg Murphy: Attitude is everything

Everyone is built differently and we all have varying degrees of learning, understanding and attitudes towards the things we do. Some things come more naturally or easy to us than other things and this definitely includes riding motorbikes.

I think that too many people “switch off” once they get the little piece of plastic that says “Full Licence”. It seems to be a trigger point that subliminally means there is no more to learn, that the “box has been ticked”, now move onto the next challenge.

Driving a car or riding a motorbike is something we do where we never stop learning or improving our skills and awareness and our attitude is such a key decider on how we develop – or not! The importance of this isn’t promoted anywhere near enough.

I can honestly say that during my whole racing career I never stopped learning things about driving better or more efficiently or adapting to new technology or a new car. If you stood still, you got left behind. I wish I had paid more attention to some of the information that was available during certain periods.

There are always people with differing views, ideas and ways of doing things and my advice is – you should always be open minded when there is new information to consider. Bad habits are really easy things to obtain, but really difficult to get rid of. How do you know it’s a bad habit though? This is why retraining or a course like Ride Forever is so important to check your habits and adjust your riding accordingly which may just be the thing that changes a future outcome.

Making sure your attitude is in the right place before you even get on your bike is so important. The dictionary defines “Attitude” as a settled mode of thinking. As we know, the statistics around Motorcycle crashes in NZ isn’t that great and riders attitudes are contributing factors in many of these statistics.

Thinking about your riding should start before you even buy your bike. Think about your skill level and your knowledge of riding and if you should be looking to get some proper professional training? A certain amount of confidence is an important part of being a good safe rider, but over confidence or overestimating your ability is a recipe for potential disaster. Know your limits and be honest about your level of competence.

No one expects or plans on having a crash when out riding, but obviously it still happens. You should never expect the other road users are going to always do the rights things or not make poor decisions, because people do.

Having the right attitude means creating or maintaining space between you and other road users and continuously scanning your environment for potential hazards and being prepared to react. Stay alert 100% of the time.

The Laws of Physics don’t discriminate. Understanding stopping distances and how different road conditions change them is paramount. Understanding the contact patch your tyres make with the road and how critical your tyre condition and tyre pressures are is something that should not be ignored. Just backing off the throttle slightly when you see a car pull up to a Give Way sign might make the difference between a trip in an Ambulance or not. Don’t assume they have seen you – “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you“ doesn’t make up for a broken leg and a destroyed bike.

It doesn’t matter if I am driving or riding, I am continuously scanning my environment looking for anything that could easily become a potential hazard. I know we are told and taught this when learning to drive or ride, but this is one of those things that slowly dissipates as we become complacent, more so with car drivers as they have more distractions such as mobile phones that are causing havoc on a daily basis – more reason to be extra diligent. Your attitude will define the type of rider you are and likely have a bearing on whether you add to the statistics or not. Let’s all work to reduce those numbers.

Avalon Biddle: What I've learnt from the track to the road

Avalon Biddle: What I've learnt from the track to the road

I began racing age 6 competing in mini motocross, then started road racing age 13. My life has since been pretty much dedicated to racing, spending six years racing in Europe and coming away with two European Women's Cup titles. Nowadays, I stick much closer to home (coincidently in tune with the 'stay local' trend!). In 2019 I won the New Zealand Supersport 600 Championship, becoming the first female to ever do so. I race a MTF Finance Kawasaki ZX6r, plus a KLX300R on the dirt. My favourite bike for the roads is a Kawasaki Ninja 400.

Most motorcyclists learn to ride on the road, and then later try their hand on the racetrack. That makes my experience kind of backwards! I learnt at the racetrack and then later transferred my skills to the road.

I'd like to share what I've learned while racing motorcycles at the elite level by firstly highlighting some important similarities. These include being smooth on the throttle, body position, ergonomics and riding gear. However, there are also some differences outlined below which are equally important to learn from. 

Being Smooth

I started road racing on a go-kart track. The track was pretty oily and slippery, teaching me the importance of being smooth on the throttle and brakes from a very young age. Particularly in the wet! There isn't much to explain about being smooth, other than practise, practise, practise. Constantly remind yourself that throttle application should be a smooth motion and practise being smooth on every ride, no matter how small. It's actually pretty hard to crash if you are smooth on the throttle and brake application. I find most crashes, particularly with new riders, tend to come from erratic movements such as suddenly grabbing a handful of front brake. You can brake mid-corner but it needs to be smooth! 

Make sure you turn any traction control off in order to learn to be smooth in applying the throttle, as TC will mask aggressive throttle application. It's a great tool but you want to know how to ride a bike without the electronics, too!

Cornering

Vision

Being tight, twisty and fiercely competitive, 'bucket' racing on the go-kart track also taught me the importance of always looking ahead to the next corner from early on. Looking ahead ensures that you end up where you WANT to go, not where you don't want to end up. 

Importantly, set yourself up on the bike so that you CAN look ahead. This is why I always prefer bikes with higher handlebars for riding on the road - it makes keeping your field of vision upwards and open, much easier. Trust me, having competed in a four-hour race at Suzuka, crouching down and trying to look ahead for long periods of time on a race bike is not comfortable, nor pleasant! (It is far more aerodynamic however, hence the sacrifice on a racetrack when every second matters). 

Ergonomics

As I progressed from the go-kart track to racing on larger circuits, the physical size of the bikes naturally grew as well. As a (then) 14-year-old girl, it's fair to say the bikes were far too big for me. Even something as simple as bringing the handlebars close to the seat, or raising them up slightly, made them easier for me to reach. The subsequent increase in control you have over the bike is huge! Even nowadays, when possible I will bring the gear lever in as close to the foot peg as possible to make it easier for my small feet. On my ZX6R, this allows me to brake later on the racetrack because I know I'm not going to be fumbling around on the downshifts and can give the brake levers 100% of my attention. Other tricks can help taller riders too, such as moving the handlebars forwards or the foot pegs lower. 

You have to make the bike work for you. It's equally important on the roads where you may not be riding fast, but you're on the bike for longer periods of time. So, if you are getting a sore back or sore wrists while riding, take a closer look at the position of your handlebars, brake levers, clutch lever, set and foot pegs, and consider adjusting them to work better for you. The newer the bike, the more possibilities there are likely to be for changing these positions. 

Riding Gear

Nowadays my gear is the 'best of the best', although this wasn't always the case. Ten broken bones and half a finger later, it's fair to say I learnt the hard way! Not only is the quality of the gear you select important, the fit for your body is equally important on both the track and road. I cannot exaggerate how much more you will enjoy riding in gear that actually fits! Plus, it will offer far better protection.

In the case of my missing half-finger: I was actually wearing quality gloves, they were just too big. I crashed at Manfeild and my finger must have been jammed underneath the fuel tank for the duration of the slide, grinding some of it away in the process. The glove had rolled around in the accident, and it was actually the inside of the finger that was ripped allowing my finger to make contact with the tarmac. The double-layer on the outside of the glove had done its job perfectly staying together, meaning I would have been fine if the glove fit properly.

Same goes for helmets, no one likes seeing the black liner of the helmet in their eyes while trying to watch where you are going!

Personally, I use an RST leather jacket and pants for riding on the road. Leather is very abrasion resistant and most of my riding is on open roads, meaning that if I came off I would likely be going for a slide down the road. Leather is very good for slide protection - hence why we wear it while racing as well. If you are doing lower speed riding i.e. commuting around towns, textile gear with good impact protection would likely offer better protection for the 'thud' if you were to hit the ground at low speed. At the end of the day, whether you come off or not, quality riding gear is important. Read up and invest in the best! Motocap.com.au is a great place to look for information about what to look for in riding gear.

Riding Gear

Attitude

While the skills above transfer well to the roads, there are certainly some key differences between racing and road riding. Speed being the obvious one here! In my mind however, there is one critical difference that most people overlook: attitude. Racing and riding require two very different mental approaches. To win a race, you have to be willing to take calculated risks and really trust yourself, the motorcycle, the track conditions and your competitors to push the absolute limit of tire grip. If you had this attitude on the road, however, you would be riding like an egghead - for lack of better politically correct words!

I have always been able to easily separate these two approaches by getting my 'thrills' on a racetrack. For me, road riding literally about getting from A to B safely and enjoying the bit in between. In contrast, racing isn't always enjoyable. It's thrilling, yes, but it's also hard work! The race wins and championship points up for grabs mean I am willing to push harder and race with the 'go fast or go home' mentality. It's just not the right approach for riding on public roads. 

If you want to get your thrills, definitely head to a track day near you. You can open the throttle up and feel the thrill of riding fast in predictable conditions with no oncoming traffic. On the public roads, you simply need a more sensible attitude. You have to accept you genuinely don't know what is around the next corner. A 'winning' approach for these situations could probably be summed up by being cautious on the roads and calculated on the track. 

Lines

The other major difference to touch on is the lines you take. I was very surprised at my first Ride Forever course with the lines we using. They were very different to sweepy race lines! It totally makes sense that you want to put yourself in a position on the road which provides margin for error of other road users, though. On a race track you don't have to worry about that so it was something new to me. 

For more on this topic, I'd definitely recommend signing up for a Ride Forever course. The instructors can explain the lines far better than me, guaranteed! Even after riding for over 15 years before going on a course, I gained so much and I know you will too. 

Stay Safe everyone,
Avalon

  Avalon Roadside

The insider's guide to Ride Forever

The insider's guide to Ride Forever

Ride Forever is now in its tenth year! And what a year. Injury Prevention Partners Jon Booth and Pete Daly talk about how things have been going as Motorcycle Awareness Month approaches.

Motorcycle Awareness Month has been on the calendar for a few years now. The initiative was conceived with other road safety partners such as Waka Kotahi and Police, and the month in question has previously been September. But in our topsy-turvy, Covid-affected world, this year it has been delayed until October.

For those involved, it means they’re right in the thick of things now, planning how this very particular year will pan out. Putting aside their busy workload, programme managers Jon and Pete made time to give their perspective on how awareness month and other Ride Forever initiatives will pan out in 2020.

Although they both ride, Pete and Jon are at different ends of the spectrum in terms of experience. Pete is an ex-Police rider and Ride Forever instructor while Jon is going through the process of getting his full licence. This gives the pair a handy difference in perspective on riding and riders’ attitudes.

For Pete, his journey is characterised by learning to ride in an era without professional training, and the contrast with going through the Police roadcraft system. “I used to ride a lot and I thought I was doing okay, because I didn’t have a lot of accidents” says Pete. “I think many riders are the same: because they haven’t crashed their bike they think they’re doing fine. But once I started riding to a system I realised I was no longer having what I call those ‘pucker moments’, I’m not having things go wrong for me. And that flows into enjoying riding more.” Pete used his skills and knowledge to instruct in the Ride Forever coaching programme before going into a managerial role.

Both Pete and Jon are keen to emphasise that, while the coaching effort is central, there’s a lot more to Ride Forever than the courses. Spreading good information is one example, whether that’s to do with riding, choosing and looking after gear, or even bike maintenance.

Ride Forever has sponsored the NZ Motorcycle Show for several years

Ride Forever has sponsored the NZ Motorcycle Show for several years

In more normal times staging events is a big part of the effort, ranging from roadside coffee stalls in Motorcycle Awareness Month to sponsoring the New Zealand Motorcycle Show, to organising the Shiny Side Up Bike Fests and Talks Series nationwide. These are invaluable in helping drive awareness and engagement with riders, as Jon makes clear. “It’s really about having a two-way conversation, giving people the opportunity to ask questions of us as well.” Of course events like Shiny Side Up are also treasure troves of information, “We cover the whole picture of motorcycle safety, not just the training,” says Jon. “You’ll see in summer the number of people riding around in a T-shirt or shorts, so we educate people and explain the importance of wearing the right gear.”

Suspension guru Dave Moss is always a drawcard at Shiny Side Up events

Suspension guru Dave Moss is always a drawcard at Shiny Side Up events

With Motorcycle Awareness Month taking a different shape this year Jon, Pete and the rest of the team are aiming to get creative in spreading the word. “More will be done online,” Pete explains. “The intention was always going to be each week of the month will feature a different pillar of what we do. So one week was going to be about the training programme, one week about roads and roadsides, another about protective gear et cetera, and the structure will remain broadly the same.”

Awareness of what Ride Forever does in some of these spaces is patchy. On roads and roadsides, for example, Pete highlights how Ride Forever is working with Waka Kotahi to install under-run barriers on selected sections of Armco barrier. “It’s an example of where we work with other agencies on things other than training. MotoCAP is another and we’ll feature that within the gear-focussed week of awareness month.”

So, a rather different Motorcycle Awareness Month awaits in 2020 but still plenty to look forward to. Be sure to check in at facebook.com/RideForeverNZ to learn what’s in store and send your feedback.

Ninja Learning

Ninja Learning

A young, female law graduate, Veronica Manning exemplifies a new cohort of riders taking up motorcycling. So what can others learn from her path to a full licence?

Veronica Manning

When the lights for the pedestrian crossing ahead went orange then red, Veronica smoothly braked her CB300F to a halt to let people cross. Moments later, she watched the Honda rocket off on its own down the road while she sprawled across the bonnet of the car that hit her from behind. The driver hadn’t seen her, hadn’t seen the lights go red and likely didn’t brake until the impact had already happened.

Shaken but apparently uninjured, she went to North Shore hospital to be checked over and was diagnosed with mild concussion. Clearly, even though her helmet like all her gear looked untouched, the back of her head had made some contact with the car. The lid, along with the CB, was a write-off, but Veronica could thank her lucky stars that she had invested in quality protective riding gear.

It’s a lesson in how a rider can be involved in a crash not of their own making and in what would seem quite straightforward circumstances. And in how important wearing all the gear, all the time, really is. But Veronica already knew this, thanks to sound advice from her father, an experienced rider, and from the staff at specialist gear dealership MotoMail. “I knew someone there from University,” she says. “So I went in and would chat to him about what to get for the price and what I needed it for.”

Bike choice

According to Veronica, when it comes to choosing a bike having a dad who rides can be something of a double-edged sword. “I wouldn’t say he was in complete control,” she says. “But I couldn’t go and buy a bike without his approval. My dad didn’t want me to get anything too big, he wanted something that would be good for a learner and it was really important to have something where I could get both feet on the ground.” Deflecting dad’s suggestion of a GN250, Veronica managed to reach decent compromise in the shape of a VTR250. “It was carbureted, so that was a learning curve for me–having to use a choke. It was a neat little bike but unfortunately it had engine problems”, recounts Victoria. “So I moved up to the CB300.”

The CB was a dream bike, and both Veronica and her father were very happy that it came with ABS. “I go in to work every day on the bike, even through winter, so my dad was very keen that I have a bike with ABS. He says he’d never go back to one without.” Unfortunately, after the nightmare of the crash, Veronica ended up doing just that. “I’ve now got a 2015 Ninja 300, just before they fitted ABS. I couldn’t be without a bike, no way, and it was a good buy. It’s a fantastic bike but I do wish it had ABS and whatever I have next will have it for sure.”

Easy pathway

Veronica took full advantage of the CBTA shortcuts in the licensing system, taking Ride Forever Bronze and Silver courses that eased her pathway to a full licence. She found the whole process taught her great skills while being reassuringly simple. “I even had the same instructor for my Basic Handling Skills course, my Silver course and my full licence assessment!”

She’s now looking forward to taking her Gold course. “They like you to get a couple of years riding experience in before taking it, which is understandable."

Advice to others

As someone who’s very recently learned to ride and gone through the licensing process, it’s good to hear what Veronica has to say to others thinking about doing the same. “I would just say do it at a pace you’re comfortable at,” she says. “I think I felt a bit of pressure to be a really good rider straight away. But I think it’s alright to have that learning curve and stay within your comfort zone. I’m still on a 300 and I think it’s great to learn to ride well rather than get ahead of yourself. But one day I will have that ZX6R!”