Learn To Ride

GWRRA Drill Teams

Become a safer rider with a little reverse engineering.

As safe riders, we understand that we could be safer. When we get on a motorcycle, we need to do so with the correct mental attitude and a mindset that is fully ready to ride. Along with proper riding gear — which is a must — we need a general idea of where we are going and the conditions that we may encounter along the way.

Once on the move, we mentally ride far enough ahead to avoid snap decisions, and check for road conditions and objects or debris in the road. Some of the better teachers are the drivers around us with whom we have to contend with on any ride. When they start slowing down, their brake lights come on for what appears to be no reason. Then, as they start making a left turn while going around the corner, their turn signal starts flashing — hopefully it is their left turn signal. Their methodology in completing their task is to slow, brake, turn and signal. What we can learn from this is that we would prefer to see them signal, turn on the brake light, slow and then turn — in that order. The simple courtesy of notifying others of intentions makes all of us safer. The challenge placed on us is to be predictable and to advertise our intentions when driving.

Entering and exiting the freeways with moderate traffic can be another learning opportunity. Just riding through town, the second lane from the right is safer as you may not have to contend with the traffic entering or exiting the freeway. We have all been in that right lane when, up ahead, everyone’s brake lights start coming on. Drivers change lanes, causing stacking due to traffic entering the freeway. Note that I did not say merging, which is a very hazardous condition. Merging requires two things working together. First, the person on the freeway leading up to the on-ramp needs to maintain their current speed. Be predictable! Slowing on the freeway causes all the traffic behind you to stack up. Second, the person merging onto the freeway must adjust their speed to match the freeway’s speed. This may be 5 or 85 mph. Adjust! The merging driver cannot dive into the freeway, nor can they stop and wait for an opening without creating stacking for the on-ramp traffic or affecting the freeway traffic. An on-ramp is not an intersection! In the event there is an on-ramp signal light, a vehicle is still required to accelerate to the freeway’s speed, adjust and merge.

When exiting the freeway in traffic, avoid causing stacking behind you by maintaining speed, signaling, pulling off and decelerating in the off-ramp lane as necessary. Once again, be predictable!

Changing lanes works the same way: mentally ride far enough ahead to avoid snap decisions. While maintaining speed, check the lane for immediate vehicles and fast-approaching ones, signal when it’s safe to move and execute your pass. You may want to use the portion of the lane farthest from the vehicle you are passing, especially in the case of trucks, buses, trailers and similar vehicles, just in case a tire should blow or other unforeseen activity were to take place. Get the pass done by maintaining speed or, on two-lane roads, accelerate to pass and return to your previous speed. Many times we see riders pull alongside, then keep pace with the vehicle they are passing, becoming a possible hazard to all around them.

The preceding are only a few examples of applying the process of Safe Rider Improvement by Reverse Engineering. I am sure that every time you ask yourself, “What is that fool doing?” or “What is the cause of this problem or accident?” there is a chance that, with a little forethought, you could reverse it into becoming a safe educational experience. At least you will know why everyone is blowing his or her horn at you.

For more than 40 years, I’ve been an Instructor involved in firearm safety and training programs. The following is an explanation taken from my program of the need for thought and safety that can be applied to firearms, motorcycles, driving and life as a whole.

Consider: there are no accidents, only varying degrees of negligence.

  • By definition, an accident is something that happens by chance or unintentional action.
  • What’s erroneously called an accident is actually the end result of a series of events and conditions brought about by varying degrees of negligence by one or more participants.
  • Any person who treats potentially lethal equipment with a flippant, careless disrespect can be considered neither competent nor responsible.
  • Competent and responsible people survive by proper handling and cautious respect, whether they’re operating motorcycles, airplanes, automobiles, chain saws, firearms, etc.

Think about how many accidents you’ve avoided, be it with a motorcycle, automobile or whatever. That extra look, slowing slightly in anticipation or the last check you made that caused you to be safe, when that person changed lanes, they would have surely nailed you. Consider that last accident you heard of, read about or saw. It could have been avoided if all parties had not had that little lapse of attentiveness in the safe operation of their charge at hand.

You can ride any way you like, but bear in mind that you can be in the right and still be a participant in an accident. It is alertness and awareness for avoidance we are concerned with — dead right is not acceptable!

Safe Rider Improvement is naturally practiced by intelligent riders and is a continuous activity of learning the correct methods from others or their misfortune, and is always better than experiencing the school of hard knocks firsthand. Be attentive and open-minded, and it may surprise you what your receptors may pick up.

May you enjoy many years of safe riding.


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