How not to be a bike statis­tic

Ad­vanced cour­ses ex­pose rid­ers to the worst ex­tremes, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Bikes -

THERE are some sim­ple steps you can take not to join the ris­ing mo­tor­bike toll. Top of them is learn to ride your ma­chin­ery.

The li­cens­ing sys­tem is de­signed to give you a piece of paper prov­ing you can hold a bike up­right long enough to ride be­tween a cou­ple of witches hats at 25km/h. It doesn’t be­gin to pre­pare rid­ers for the roads and traf­fic, which is why there are so many com­pa­nies of­fer­ing post-li­cence train­ing.

Pro­grams such as Honda Aus­tralia Rider Train­ing’s ad­vanced course are as high skilled as it gets be­fore head­ing to a track. Most of the rid­ers en­rolling in them are al­ready ‘‘ ad­vanced’’ in that they un­der­stand rid­ers are vul­ner­a­ble road-users and are look­ing to min­imise their chances of be­com­ing a statis­tic.

The premise be­hind these cour­ses is to give mo­tor­cy­clists re­peated ex­po­sure to rid­ing ex­tremes, be it brak­ing, low-speed han­dling or high-speed ob­sta­cle avoid­ance. Rep­e­ti­tion is in- tended to pro­gram the mind and mus­cles to re­act in a spe­cific way to a po­ten­tial threat.

There’s no pass or fail as such and the most chal­leng­ing as­pect of the course is push­ing be­yond your com­fort zone. As the HART in­struc­tors re­mind us, the 600cc Honda Hor­nets are barred-up to pre­vent dam­age and we’ll learn more try­ing to stop in a given dis­tance at 60km/h than at 50km/h.

It’s eas­ier said than done, though, which is pre­cisely why the cour­ses are so valu­able. Too many rid­ers don’t know where the point of front brake lock-up is, or what to do when it hap­pens.

The weather also helps at our course — streaks of gravel have been washed on to the Attwood po­lice train­ing course cir­cuit in the outer western sub­urbs of Mel­bourne.

The in­struc­tors do their best to sweep them off and we ad­just our pace and line through the de­bris.

But real roads aren’t that ac­com- mo­dat­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards such as that are some­thing too many rid­ers don’t con­sider.

Statis­tics show that mid­dle-aged ‘‘re­turn­ing rid­ers’’ and new rid­ers are those most likely to crash.

It’s an is­sue HART boss Grant Carr is well aware of, which is why the com­pany has cour­ses specif­i­cally set up for both groups.

‘‘Train­ing is for all rid­ers, whether they be new or ex­pe­ri­enced road rid­ers,’’ Carr says.

‘‘Hav­ing pro­fes­sional train­ing helps not only your skills but also your mental ap­proach to stay­ing safe and rid­ing on the road. Most of our stu­dents com­ment on how much they take away from the course.’’

That was true of my group, with ev­ery­one not­ing they’d got value for money. The high­light for most was the su­per­vised laps, with the HART in­struc­tors tail­ing them and then tak­ing the lead on the next lap to point out bet­ter lines, body po­si­tion­ing and brak­ing points.

HART’s next ad­vanced course is on Jan­uary 16, but you need to have un­der­taken the ‘‘in­ter­me­di­ate’’ course to at­tend and the next one of those will be run on Jan­uary 14.

Way to go: a rider gets ex­pert ad­vice at a Honda train­ing course.

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