found this while clearing up some old files.
tink it may have been posted before but still worth a read
What have you done wrong today?
Recognising mistakes is the first step to becoming a better rider. Here are
15 of the most common ones ? and how you can avoid them.
MISTAKE: ASSUMING DRIVERS CAN'T/WON'T ATTEMPT THE SAME OVERTAKE AS YOU
HOW many times have you gone to overtake a slow-moving vehicle only to have
a car pull out from the queue behind it to attempt the same thing? That's
frustrating if you see him swerving out in time, downright dangerous if you
Always assume the driver won't have seen you, let alone given you a second
thought. And bear in mind that the higher performance the car, the more
likely the driver is to attempt the manoeuvre. One thing the Porsche driver
has in common with a Ford driver is he is less likely to look behind before
making his move than you are. His chances for overtakes are fewer than your
own, so his frustration is greater. If he sees a gap he'll go and it's
hard luck if you are alongside at the time. So if you are going to go past
him, go as far to the other side of the road as you can in case he swerves
out, and go past at a speed at which you can abort if the need arises.
While you are waiting to overtake, don't get too close to his rear. Act as
if you are on a long piece of elastic strung out behind the vehicle you
want to overtake. When your view of the road ahead is blocked, drop back
(stretching the elastic). As you scan ahead, try to predict when the view
might open up (on the exit of a corner, for example) and start accelerating
with the intention of being in the right position to overtake when you
first see the road ahead is clear. You'll actually find the exits of
corners are often the best and safest places to whip by.
MISTAKE: HOLDING TOO TIGHT/BEING TOO TENSE
There's no need for a leotard or a Yoga class, but to be fast, smooth, safe
and focused on a bike you need to be relaxed. Remember the time you got
buzzed by a rapid rider passing you? When the red mist descended you got
more than angry, you got tense. You may have felt fast because your riding
was erratic, but you didn't go faster. He got farther and farther away.
Relax and start to flow and you're more likely to reel him in, even if you
feel like you are going slower.
Tensing up is an all too natural response. Almost overshoot a corner and
the fear makes arms and legs stiffen. Your rigidity hampers the movement of
your bike's suspension (you are effectively fighting back against its
movement) which makes the risk of you losing control even greater. You fear
this, get even more tense and, if you don't break the cycle, you'll end up
breaking your motorcycle.
You may feel this doesn't apply to you. To find out, do this simple test.
Find yourself a corner and, while you ride round it, try waggling your
elbows up and down. If doing this " funky chicken " upsets your bike, you
are holding too tight. Holding on too hard also increases your risk of
having a tankslapper.
MISTAKE: FAILING TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE CLUES IN YOUR VIEW
THE best riders are those who use every clue they can to see where the road
That gives them time to react to the ever-changing view without fear of the
unknown chiming in to slow their ride.
Others ride like a man walking down the street but staring at his feet.
Before too long they are going to bump into something. You tend to end up
going where you are looking.
The big advantage a bike has on the road is that it can be moved from side
to side to improve your view. Unless the surface or other hazards dictate
otherwise, always ride on the part of the road that gives you the greatest
The vanishing point (the point at which the road disappears from view) now
becomes a useful go-faster tool. If that point is coming closer to you then
you should slow down or at least keep the throttle constant, as this shows
the bend is tightening. If it is getting farther away from you, the corner
is opening out and you should start powering out.
Police riders have to do a commentary on their ride during tests,
describing every hazard they see, where the road ahead is going and what
the surfaces are like. Try doing a commentary to yourself next time you
ride. Keep it up and you'll learn to make use of the things you are seeing
to tell you when and where you can pile on the power. You'll end up
cracking on smoother than ever.
MISTAKE: RIDING AS IF ALL ROAD SURFACES ARE THE SAME
TWO things keep us on the road. One is our tyres, the other is the road
surface. If we haven't got a good bond between them we're going to struggle
to ride fast. Watch the road surface and learn how your bike feels when
it's on different surfaces.
We know what happens if we hit a drain cover or metal studs while cranked
over, but some roads, where you see black lines in the bitumen where cars
have started to wear out the road, can be just as slippery. Reading the
surface can also give you advance warning of what is around the next bend.
See horse manure and it ain't an all-girl marching band you can expect to
find on the next straight. Lots of skidmarks from heavy braking could
suggest the next corner is tighter than it initially looks. Remember the
rubber part of the story, too. We all know someone who crashed on new tyres
- cold tyres can be just as dangerous. Be patient, take the time to warm
them, then enjoy.
MISTAKE: CLUMSY THROTTLE CONTROL
IT takes more than just a big handful on the straights to go fast. Used
properly, the throttle is the key to getting round corners quickly. Take
time to get to know how your bike reacts to your throttle inputs.
The best way to discover its effects is to find a favourite corner and go
into it a little slower than normal. As soon as you are in the turn, gently
open the throttle. A constant throttle balances the bike. Accelerate too
hard and the rear will squat too much, lightening the front and reducing
the control you have through the front tyre. Roll off the throttle and the
bike will be slowing through the turn, loading up the front and potentially
overwhelming it. Keep it constant and, as the exit opens up, open the
throttle more to drive firmly out of the bend. You will end up smoother in
both the dry and the wet.
Once you've got this nailed down you can start looking for more
acceleration out of the bend. The closer to upright the bike is the more
throttle you can feed in, as an upright bike puts more rubber in contact
with the road and is less prone to stepping out. Get the bike in the
powerband and feed it in gently, always being aware that the rear tyre
could slide if you're trying really hard.
Many make the mistake of going round corners in too high a gear. Ideally,
you should be in a gear you can go round the whole turn in, as changing
ratios can unsettle the bike when cranked over. Keep the revs relatively
high and the bike is less likely to wallow.
MISTAKE: FILTERING TOO FAST
IT'S a busy Bank Holiday and you are filtering through the car park that is
the M25. Check your mirrors moment by moment for signs of riders even more
impatient than you. And keep looking ahead for signs of movement from cars
and lorries. Look at the wheels. Are they steering to change lanes? Look at
the drivers. Are they looking in their mirrors? Are they turning their
heads? Look out for indicators ? a lot of drivers seem to think they only
have to turn them on to have the right of way.
Filtering is illegal in some countries. Here the police tend to accept it
if you are going
4-5mph more than the traffic. Whip through lanes of parked cars at 40mph
and expect Plod to get excited. He has good reason.
MISTAKE: TRYING TOO HARD TO GET YOUR KNEE DOWN
THERE'S nothing on a bike more satisfying than grinding your kneesliders to
dust, but if you have never quite achieved that it may not be because you
can't, just you want to too much. Staring at your slider and willing it
towards the deck is likely to slow you and make a knee-down harder to
achieve. Concentrate on your riding and accept your knee will kiss the deck
when your riding is right.
It's best left to the grippy surfaces of a track day. But if you can't
wait, find a well-surfaced roundabout at a quiet time of day. You need one
you can get round at about 40-50mph.
Ride it a few times to set yourself up and get your tyres warm and attempt
to get at least one buttock off the side of the seat. Go round the corner a
little faster than you normally would and probe down with your knee. If it
doesn't go down it could be that you're not sticking your knee out in the
right place or you're not going fast enough.
The key is to concentrate on your lines and keeping your corner speed
If the police show up, don't argue, move along.
MISTAKE: ADJUSTING YOUR CHAIN TOO TIGHTLY
ALLOWING less than an inch of movement up and down in the chain not only
means the next big bump will put a tight spot in it, it can also affect
your bike's handling.
If the chain's too stiff it will upset the bike by restricting the movement
of the swingarm and you will essentially have an extra, and unpredictable,
damper. One-and-a-half-inches is a better guideline, though you should
refer to your manufacturers' handbook for precise details. It may look a
little loose while you are staring at it from the side of the bike, but
don't forget how much difference the addition of your weight will make.
Getting the adjustment right is particularly important on bikes with
long-travel suspension. Check your handbook and follow what it says. Some
require adjusting on a centrestand or paddock stand to be set correctly.
It's not worth gambling with.
MISTAKE: FAILING TO LOOK INTO SLIP ROADS
PERIPHERAL vision tends to only register when something is moving.
If a truck is coming towards you down a slip road, your peripheral vision
will pick it up only if it is moving fast enough to meet the road safely
ahead of you, or slow enough to meet it after you have passed the junction.
But you won't notice the one on a collision course with you, because it is
closing at the same relative speed you are. In order to create the movement
you need to pick up that potential killer, you should turn your head to
look into the slip road. Now, looking directly into the slip road, you'll
see any danger. It's also a top tip to check there are no coppers skulking
up there with plans to catch the unwary.
MISTAKE: APEXING CORNERS TOO EARLY
TRYING to apex a corner without seeing where it ends is always likely to be
difficult. It could mean you cut in too early, then find you are heading
for a kerb and have to create another apex to get round the corner when you
finally work out where it actually goes.
The best position you can find to see round a corner also gives you the
most road to play with on the entry and exit. On right-handers, you should
start off as far left as you can and on left-handers you should move to the
Look where you want to go rather than fixing on the hedge that may be
threatening your finance deal and you'll go where you look (think about a
U-turn and you'll know what we mean).
There are three elements to getting round a corner: Entry, apex and exit.
Getting a good view is the key, and the way you'll get to part three
On a left-hander, stay out towards the centre white line until you get the
view to the exit and then start moving away from the white line to take
advantage of the camber and to give yourself more margin for error between
you and oncoming traffic.
On a right-hander, start close to the kerb, stay deep until you see the
exit, and then start moving away from the gutter to reduce the adverse
impact of the camber when you want to drive hard out of the corner.
Try a racing line and the camber is likely to force you on to a wider line
than you had intended.
You'll also get less view through the kind of cluttered bends we experience
on the road.
The best line for a good view is also the best line for speed on our hectic
MISTAKE: PLAYING CATCH-UP
TRYING to keep up with someone you know has more experience can put the
pressure on. Pride might force you to try too hard and, while stretching
yourself is good, going beyond your limits is dangerous.
When you ride in a group, the last person often has to go considerably
faster than the man at the front ? to make up for the reaction lag between
the leader deciding to accelerate and the last rider in the chain realising
he has gone.
It means the last man could end up charging into the next corner much
faster than the man at the front of the queue.
Next time you're leading a group, spare a thought for the blokes behind.
MISTAKE: RIDING TO IMPRESS YOUR PILLION
PILLIONS have a drastic effect on the way your bike performs.
Try to ride like a loon and you are likely to end up dangerously, and
The key to riding fast with pillions is the same as with any fast ride:
Keep it smooth. Feed in the acceleration gently and be easy on the brakes.
No pillion wants to be head-butting your lid and I'm sure you don't want
them mashing your Arai either.
You can use more rear brake than you would when riding solo. It helps
steady the bike and stops the forks diving so much. The extra weight over
the rear tyre means the back is less likely to slide under braking than
For the same reason, the rear suspension is likely to squat more under
power so be ready for your front to lift if you roll on too hard.
MISTAKE: AVOIDING WET ROADS
RESALE values, the desire to keep your bike looking showroom-fresh and your
leathers free from grime keeps many off the road when the clouds turn grey.
But rather than fearing the slippery conditions rain can bring, you should
make the most of them to help you become faster and smoother.
True, there is less margin for error in the wet, but that's a really good
incentive to keep it smooth. Restrained use of the throttle, sweeping,
smooth lines and progressive braking are all ideal wet-weather techniques
which translate usefully into faster dry-road riding.
MISTAKE: IGNORING THE DANGERS OF CRESTS
THE wrap-yourself-in-cotton-wool approach to riding dictates you should
always be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. In the real
world it is certainly best to slow down a bit when you can't see what's
Blind crests of hills are good examples. Try to get airborne over the hump
and you could end up in the back of a combine harvester lurking on the
Ease off and put yourself halfway between the white lines and the kerb.
That gives you room to react to slow-moving farm traffic on the left, and
idiot car drivers drifting from the right.
MISTAKE: FAILING TO WORK ON YOUR BRAKING
GRABBING a panicked handful, or being reluctant to brake hard enough for
fear of locked wheels, means many of us do not make the most of our brakes.
Of course, if your observation of the road ahead is painfully perfect you
should never find yourself running out of brakes on the road. But we've all
charged on presuming the granny in the Metro at the crossroads has spotted
us. When she doesn't, you may have to rely on hard and effective braking.
It's best you find out how before you are faced with a real emergency.
Find a quiet, clean-surfaced and relatively camber-free stretch of road.
Set yourself a marker and try stopping at it from varying speeds. Start at
20mph and gradually build to as fast as you feel comfortable with. You'll
see how quick you can stop, even from high speeds.
More importantly, the practice will teach you to trust your brakes not to
spit you off the first time you use them in anger.
Don't grab the lever as hard as you can (the rear brake is next to useless
in emergency braking, the rear locks easily and can slide, because weight
is transferred forward). Squeeze it progressively ? gently at first, with
increasing firmness as you slow.
Braking during cornering is rarely recommended.
Using the front brake will stand the bike up at best and dangerously
overwhelm the front tyre at worst. But if you are running wide, using the
rear brake gently (and only the rear brake) can tighten your line to help
you make it round.