Ever heard the saying: ‘There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots’? This could just have easily have been written with motorcyclists in mind as a careful approach is key to keeping out of trouble on today’s overcrowded roads.
How do you know what to expect?
In short, you don’t. Expect the unexpected. When enjoying the hot, sticky summer tarmac of your favourite bends are you assuming the road ahead is clear? However familiar you are with the geography, never take an empty road for granted. Is there a man pushing a wheelbarrow across the road (yes, really)? Maybe a bale of hay has dropped off the back of a tractor. Are you ready to deal with such an unexpected obstruction?
Be ready to stop in time
Next time you’re out, be honest with yourself: can you stop in the distance you can see to be clear? If not then it’s time to make some changes before your luck runs out. Use observation intelligently and use what you see to anticipate what hazards may be ahead of you. Are you on a bus route? Expect to see buses and expect them to stop. Is there horse muck in the road? Expect to see horses and riders soon. Have you just passed a cyclist? Expect to see more up ahead, and not just for the next corner but for the next few miles.
Country roads are often poorly maintained so build this into your plan and be prepared to alter your road position. Are there farmers in slow-moving tractors heading out to check on lambs or the progress of the oil seed rape crop? All these observations are common sense, so take a step back and engage brain before each journey.
Riding too fast is easy
Remember that what you cannot see coming up ahead is just as important as what you can see – possibly more so, as a known risk is easier to plan for and deal with than the unknown. Maybe it’s time for a new warning sign to be erected in your mind. How about a question mark in a red triangle?
Grade your speed of approach into bends and areas of limited visibility (hill crests, etc) strictly in line with how far ahead you can see. Riding too fast is easy. The skill is knowing when to tone the throttle back and tread a little more carefully. Old or bold? You decide.