Now that you’ve started to consider your riding let's look at how we can improve. How do you currently deal with problems encountered on the roads? Do you consider everything that’s going on around you? Do you even notice all the dangers that there are for a motorcyclist out on the public highways? In this section we will look at how we can deal with the day to day hazards that we may come up against.
Firstly, what is a hazard? For most people the obvious choices are other vehicles, junctions and junctions. But for the more educated rider they should include everything and anything that may come into contact with us on our bike. The police definition is that a hazard is "Anything which is potentially dangerous". This is broken down into three main areas:
- Physical features – This can include the road, it's layout, any junction, bends, hills, bridges, roundabout and anything near it, such as walls, hedges.
- Those created by the presence of other road users – This would include the position of other vehicles. Where they are parked, where they are on the road. You would include horses, walkers and pedal cycles in this list. The movement of any of these road users could cause us a problem and this should be considered.
- Any changes to the condition of the road or the weather – Rain and poor visibility can affect both the rider and the road. Pools of water can cause problems when braking and badly maintained roads are a constant problem to the modern rider. Look at what you're riding on and consider how it might affect your bike and it's handling. Shaded areas could hide damp spots and areas of mist or fog. Bright sunshine may blind you just as you're committing yourself into an overtaking manoeuvre.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s a guide as to what you should consider. To write a full list would be impossible and take up many pages. Think what this represents and you will see that it covers everything that you might meet on the roads. You should now start to look at everything and everyone as a potential hazard and start to plan accordingly.
The skilled rider should not expect others to plan around them. They should see a problem before it causes them a problem. Once you see a hazard you can then plan around it and deal with it. Looking for the safest option, both for you and others. Learn to prioritize each hazard and deal with them in the correct order. SAFETY is always the objective.
Once you have identified and prioritized your hazards we need a plan to deal with them. We use the Police System of Motorcycle Control as a safe way of dealing with such hazards. It is based on simple and easily understandable principles. It allows the rider to plan a way through all hazards, whilst leaving nothing to chance. It will also give you time to react, should events change.
The course is broken down into five phases.
1. Information Phase
This is always first. It is the time when the rider looks, listens and takes in what’s going on around and ahead of them. They should look for warnings and signs of changes and intentions from other road users. They should consider the road, its layout and course. At this point the rider should know where they want to go and start planning their route. They should also consider where they need to be to maximize their safety and any improvements in their view of the road.
What is this home made sign telling you? Angry farmer? I collect old cars? Wrecks disposed of, no questions?
Or could it be warning you of the farm entrance round the bend and the fact that the farmers sick of people crashing into his vehicles crossing the road. Don’t ignore these sort of warnings. They may be more relevant and valuable than you think.
We should also communicate our intentions where needed. We do this by using our signals and road position. Make sure others know what you are about to do. Don’t leave it to chance. If in doubt let them know. Don’t forget your Lifesavers.
This phase continues throughout the whole cycle of the system. It is a continual process. Events may change as we approach a given situation. We need to see it, plan our actions and then change our actions in response to it.
Remember we TAKE, USE and GIVE information.
2. Position Phase
When we position we do so with one main consideration. Our SAFETY. If we can gain another advantage then all the better, but safety is paramount. When we position we do so to maintain or enhance our safety. We can also position to obtain improvements in our bike's stability and the available view. By making slight changes to our road position we may be to see a problem before it's too late. This is especially so when riding on fast roads in rural areas. Here vehicles can be easily hidden behind hedgerows and walls. Sharp bends are not just a problem because of the course we may need to take. They may also hide a danger that remains unseen until it's too late.
By slight adjustments to our riding position we may enjoy an early view of a danger. We can then plan how to deal with it and make any adjustments to our speed and course that may be required. Remember, "Opposites attract". By positioning to the left for a right hand bend and vice versa for a left hand bend we can increase our view around the bend and beyond. This will give us the earliest indication of a problem ahead. It will also allow us the maximum time to make a decision and any changes that may come about. We will also be well within our section of the road and in the safest position relative to the surroundings.
3. Speed Phase
Every hazard has a safe speed at which the rider can negotiate it. Beyond this there is little room for error and your safety may be compromised. When you see a hazard consider the correct and safest speed at which you can deal with it. If you are going to fast then slow down. If you need to speed up, such as when overtaking, then do so. Bends have a critical speed above which they cannot be negotiated. Riders should always ride within their limits.
4. Gear Phase
Once you have identified and selected the correct speed for the hazard ahead you should now consider the correct gear. When entering a bend or overtaking you may want to accelerate away from the hazard. If you are in the wrong gear you will have a slow and lackluster pick up when you open the throttle. Decide which gear will give you the best performance and select this gear early on so you avoid rushed changes that may affect the stability of your machine. Make all changes smoothly and try to match your engine revs to your road speed.
5. Acceleration Phase
Now you are in the right gear and on the right course you will want to come out of the hazard and away to the next one. If you’re cornering you will lose road speed. If overtaking you will want to pass quickly and safely. Opening the throttle will allow this and you should make adjustments to your speed as this is affected by changes to your course and situation.
Make any changes to your speed smoothly. Jamming the throttle wide open at the first opportunity could cause you to lose traction and put you into a skid.
Once you have worked through the five phases of the system you can return to the beginning and start the process again. You should carry out this process for each and every hazard you encounter. With practice it will become second nature and you will find yourself doing it without realising.
To many this may seem a very regimented system that doesn’t allow the rider to make their own decisions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The system should be used as a guide. You should use it as a way of approaching and dealing with hazards. You don’t have to use all the five phases for every hazard. After all, some things may not require any changes to your speed or course.
What you should do is to consider each phase in sequence on the approach to any hazard. That will allow you to always be in the right place on the road, at the right speed, in the right gear and with the right intentions once you leave the hazard. It will also act as an inbuilt safety valve. Ensuring you're safety is the most important factor.
What follows are some examples of how the system works in some of the most common motorcycling situations. Look at them and consider how you currently deal with the same situation. Then see how the system allows you to deal with them in a safer and more controlled manner. You will always be in control and you will always be SAFE.