Back in the mid-nineties, I was still living in England, and had been riding motorcycles and scooters daily for about nineteen years. I really thought I knew all there was to know about riding. What could anybody possibly tell me about riding after all these years?
Then, on a whim, I decided to check out the Institute of Advanced Motorists. (The IAM is the UK’s leading road safety charity). To attend one of the meetings, I arranged to meet a member who was going to lead me into the meeting place.
Well, at the appointed time, I turned up proudly astride my 1200cc motorcycle and met the member, who turned out to be a seventy-year-old man riding a 750cc Honda. It also happened to be pouring with rain (go figure… in England?). So, off we went.
Now, this man seemed to be riding like he was on a leisurely Sunday jaunt. He was treating his machine very gently. No high revving, no sudden movements, no harsh gear changes. He was carefully observing the speed limits. In short, he was riding like he had all the time in the world – and no particular place to go. There was just one thing though: I couldn’t keep up with him!
This old man, riding a machine about half the size and power of mine, was consistently leaving me behind, and kindly waiting for me at convenient points. To make matters worse, it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t even trying. He would patiently stop to let me catch up, and off we’d go again – only to have me trailing behind within a very short distance.
Well, it is safe to say that I was both embarrassed and very, very impressed.
It was a very humbling experience – made even more so when, after having been assigned an “observer”, and having been out on the road a few times with my new instructor, I quickly came to the conclusion that I knew very little indeed.
Now, please note: this experience wasn’t about speed (although I thought I was pretty fast at the time). This guy wasn’t speeding. It was just that he was so smooth. And he seemed to have an almost telepathic insight into what was happening with the traffic. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
That day, I became a great believer in actively studying roadcraft. Two years of training later – and having undergone a stiff one-and-a-half hour test conducted by a police Class ‘A’ motorcyclist, I received my coveted certificate.
Please forgive the unexpected length of that story, but I wanted to convey to you what made me, personally, such a supporter of good training and study in the art of riding scooters and motorcycles.
So many road users treat their driving and riding as an automatic process which requires no ongoing practise and training, and very little thought. In short, it becomes an automatic process.
Now, while there are physical aspects of riding that should become automatic, I truly believe that the actual act of riding is something that should be actively thought about all the time. Further, riding well should become a source of pride. Everybody has something they are good at. You know that feeling you get when you’re drawing, sewing, playing a musical instrument well, or whatever it is that is you are so good at? That is how you should feel every time you ride.
Controlling your machine is very minor part of the whole process of riding. A much larger part comprises of good observation, positioning, observation links, throttle sense, and generally reading your environment to name but a few.
Now, I understand that many people don’t have access to that kind of training – or even the time, but (and finally I get round to the point of this post), there are some excellent books on the subject. Here are a some that I read from cover-to-cover, and spent the whole time nodding my head “yes”. And, of course, I’d be remiss not to start off with my own humble contribution:
Drawing from my formal motorcycle training, and real-world experience applying such techniques to the scooter, “Proficient Scootering” was born.
More details here…
Of course, everything in this book applies to scooters as well. A scooter is just as much a motorcycle as the latest “HondoYamaZuki”.
It is a little technical, but outlines a very good system for motorcycle (and scooter) riding.
It is written in David Hough’s usual practical and no-nonsense style. A very worthy read.
I am a great fan of Hough’s work, so I expect this to be just as good as his other books.
Each section deals with a specific hazard, and a lesson designed to help deal with that kind of hazard when you encounter it on the road.
It is an easy-reading, but fact-filled guide to what you should consider when buying your first scooter – or even your second, or third!
It is available as an e-book for your Kindle.
Until next time, Scoot Safely!
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