Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A short story for new motorcycle riders

Well, hello there. After being surrounded by them, living next door to them, and this near miss experience below, I decided to write this short story for new motorcycle riders.

I jokingly refer to them as the 'Ninja Squad', as they all seem to ride Kawasaki Ninja 300s. Go figure.
I have spent much time of late thinking about living in the present, really trying to come to grips with the here and now, trying not to being so worried about the future or the 'bigger picture'. I find the bike is the best place for this type of reflection, and it's also a great place to be living in the very present, the right now, the don’t-fuck-up-now-or-you-might-die kind of ‘now’. It’s automatic, like breathing (almost) for me, after some 30 odd years of practise, and I’m not confusing that with being ‘an awesome rider’ cause I am not and don't claim to be, but I do execute the basics on auto-pilot, without thinking to much about the actions I am doing; clutch, throttle, brake, lean, turn, you get my drift.

The more you do something, the more automatic it becomes.

I've spoken about my tips for new riders in a post before - the stuff no-one tells you - and in some way this is an extension of that, kind of.

Ready? Let's go.

I was recently caught up in someone else's 'moment' driving a small truck (8 tonnes of donut truck full of oil, fryers, fridges etc) on Melbourne's M1 alongside another smallish truck, a truck sandwich if you will; both of us sitting on the speed limit of 100km/hr (60 miles), when I saw in my side mirror a motorcyclist dicing his way through the traffic coming up behind me.

As he got nearer I could see he was going to ‘split’ (go straight down the middle of two vehicles alongside one another whilst moving) between me and my fellow trucker, but something was amiss. He wasn’t doing it. He was thinking about doing it. Big difference.

I could see him edge closer, closer, slicing past cars, but it looked as though he was really tense. He looked like he was shrugging, his arms were to stiff, elbows locked. He wasn’t being decisive. He hadn’t ‘decided’ to split between my truck sandwich.

He was still thinking about it. His arms looked pumped, and all of this tightness was reflecting in his riding. Wobbly was the end result. I was scared for him.

I couldn’t do anything, all I could do was try and make the gap a bit bigger for him.

It was no use, he kept tailing me, shakily, looking freaky.

Don't think, just do it

This is a really dangerous place to be in on two wheels. Hesitation causes accidents as they say, and it is true; this guy was not living in the present, he was stuck in his head somewhere, thinking about something else. Perhaps he just broke up with his girl/boyfriend, maybe he was starving hungry or perhaps he was late for the dentist. Little things.

But what he wasn’t doing was being mindful and making decisions.

I know what risks (if any) I will and won’t take on two wheels, and when I am riding I am one decisive mofo.

If I am going to pass, do something the slightest bit risky, overtake a truck or filter (move between stationery traffic) between cars, I will do it with immediacy and not think about it.

Make your move and execute, no second guesses is what I'm trying to say. I'm still practising too, and I make mistakes as well. We all do even if we don't admit it.



I won't split moving traffic, unless it is going to give me a safety advantage for whatever reason, and I need to do it. But I don't travel in peak hour anymore either, so I understand the frustration of bikers that do.

But this guy, this guy was not doing any of this, and all I could do was watch him in my mirror and make sure he was safely behind me, and then slow down.

Driving an 8 tonne truck is really nothing, compared to some of the Big Wheelers and Road Trains we see in Australia, but still... my braking distance is reduced, my ability to speed up is much less than a car or a bike.

And my capacity to take out heaps of crap around me in an accident is also much larger, because of the aforementioned reasons. A biker is like a bump in the road. Sad, but true.

I slowed, he got very angry, presumably because of my brake lights, and he passed. Phew, another day, another bike didn't crash.

Let's recap

  • Hesitation causes accidents
  • Don't sandwich yourself between trucks
  • Plan your rides
  • Look where you want to go
  • Stay loose
  • DON'T lock your elbows
  • Make decisions
  • Commit to them
  • Execute
That's it, oh, and practise often - not just when it's a perfect day out.

Until next time, stay upright.