I think the list of skills required by a motorcycle rider is quite complex. In fact, successful modern-day motorcyclists have a bank of skills. These skills are developed from learning and experience, and continue to grow and strengthen every ride.
I personally find myself referencing each of my experiences under the following headings:
- Motorcycle physics
- Motorcycle maintenance
- Rider attention time
- Rider handling skills
- Roadcraft city
- Roadcraft country
- Protective clothing
- Motorcycle setup
- Rider health/ nutrition
- Rider responsibility
- Emergency drills Skills
Vital skills & drills
My motorcycle training programs use teaching, coaching and mentoring strategies that are implemented during practical and theory sessions. We use our training ranges combined with Top Riders intellectual training drills to teach riders vital skills.
The training range offers a safe haven that allows students room for mistakes. For example, students don’t get run over by a motorcycle if they get it wrong, or ride off a cliff because they have made a mistake.
Pressure is taken off the students, allowing them to use their full attention time to concentrate on one drill at a time. The same as a bodybuilder goes about developing their body for a competition. They will focus on one set of muscle group in a daily routine, isolating in a sense, and we do the same with all motorcycle training drills.
The next session for the bodybuilder will isolate a different set of muscles, which allows the last muscle group to recover. The isolation process allows perfection in each muscle group. Not one group of muscles stand out as the balance of all muscles create the perfect body. Likewise, our motorcycle programs go through an isolation process, allowing rider to focus on one particular skill at a time.
If we thought of the motorcycle drill as a heavy weight, initially a bit of effort is required to pick up that drill/skill. However, when all drills/skills are conquered you become a well-balanced rider with a range of skills.
Training ranges are imperative in the development of a motorcycle rider at any level. They allow the rider to safely focus on a developing skill from a drill that isolates other controls (brake, clutch, gear box etc) or conditions (other vehicles, different corners, different road surfaces etc).
When we eliminate controls through the isolation of drills we allow the rider to place their full attention on the new skill set being built. The skill of a rider learning to isolate becomes extremely important in true emergency situations (I will write about this – stay in touch)
The psychological understanding of what motivates humans to make a decision, along with the fact that humans have a limited capacity of concentration, are vital considerations to me as a trainer, coach and mentor.
After 33 years of developing an extensive rider training program for all riders, regardless of their genre or expertise, I understand important training philosophies that develop concentration and discipline skills.
The motivation of pain and pleasure should never be overlooked
A simple fact: Every human on this planet is motivated by avoiding what they perceive as pain. They will go to extraordinary lengths to gain what they perceive as pleasure. In fact, in some cases they place themselves into situations that threaten their personal existence!
Have you done this? If so, what was it?
Let me share my personal lesson of pain and pleasure
For a while there I got too busy to exercise. I had plenty of lame excuses and compounded them with a love of pizza, breads, sugar and alcohol! I had attached serious pain to physical exercise and a belief system that the pain of not eating pizza, bread etc. was too much to bare.
After all I had stopped racing, so why flog myself? I used to tell myself that I had been good for years with my physical training and dietary habits, and it was my time to gain that pleasure from eating and drinking everything I wanted and not working out.
I managed to slip a few extra kilos on. About 23 kilos, which is pretty big when your ideal weight is 75 kilos.
THE REAL PAIN WAS
That I found that I had lost my ability to punt a superbike around the track quickly, because I had put on that extra weight. I struggled with manoeuvrability, cardio and the mental toughness associated with being fit; all of which gets exponentially harder when you hit your fifties, let me assure you.
Faced with losing what I really loved, riding motorcycles, and a realisation of how much time I would spend on this planet if I continued to indulge, the reality hit me in the face. I had finally arrived at a point, that you could call the lowest of lows, for me personally.
So, what I thought was pain initially, turned out to be nothing compared to what I faced. I found the pain I had attached to cutting back on the crap and doing exercise, was nowhere near as bad as the real pain I was facing; not being able to ride a bike.
So, these days when I make a decision about what I put in my mouth its simple; I ask myself, do I want to eat pizzas, or ride bikes? Bikes win! I do admit there is a cheat meal here and there, but I feel I have it well balanced these days.
So, when I do physical exercise, I visualise chasing mates and customers around the track, which makes that pain worth it in a strange way.
I use the pain and pleasure lesson every day of my life, even when instructing. Especially when I talk to learners about their personal choices regarding the use of PPE, motorcycle maintenance, rider skills etc. And guess what, it works!
Motorcyclist face a vast range of variables and complexities
When riding a motorcycle, I personally find that I drift away with the vast concentration levels required; leaving all the personal issues well behind – escaping life’s drama if you like. If I can’t arrive at this concentration level then I just don’t ride a bike. Regardless of how much it pains me not to ride, I know that if I am not mentally turned on that there is a greater pain created from lack of concentration.
The knowledge and skill of being in control of yourself and having the ability to create such a high state of concentration should never be underestimated.
At the same time, what we have between our ears is limited. What, when, where and how we place our attention time is critical. It must be productive at all times, as an example: if we spent 90% of our attention time on rider handling skills, we are only leaving 10% for all other variables that motorcyclists face. If this sum reflects your riding, then more training on drills and skills are required.
Your attention time spent on handling skills
should not exceed 5%, allowing you a full 95% to scan and identify the variables well ahead of your arrival point, allowing you to evaluate a safe path and execute a plan at ease. Effectively, you are applying the SEE plan.
Drugs and alcohol have a devastating effect on the SEE plan, plus, an exponential effect on a rider’s overall safety. Motorcyclists require a higher state of concentration, you’re not in your tin top listening to the radio!
Food choices can be just as bad. What we put into our body in terms of food has a massive effect on our required levels of concentration. Dehydration, lack of sleep and your emotional state are all things that affect our ability to concentrate on a motorcycle.
So, what is the most important motorcycle skill of all?
The answer is
All skills are vital and you can’t operate on our roads without the full package. However, we don’t operate well without a brain, therefore concentration and attention skill is at the top of the list for me!