Old Dog, New Tricks.
How many times have you heard this statement?
I’ve been riding for 25 years, I don’t need no stinkin’ riders course.
I have, heaps of times, and I can’t help thinking that one day it will catch up with them… It caught up with me back in 2000, and I’d done a post licence road craft course.
So no one is immune to it.
Like the saying goes; “There are two types of riders. Those that have been down, and those that will go down.”
About a month ago I got wind of a free Skills & Safety Course to be put on by, Shark Motorcycle Leathers & Accessories and Australian Motorcycle Academy (AMA). There were 80 spots available, and the course was to be held at Carrara on the Gold Coast.
When I heard about the course, I thought a couple of new-ish riders I knew might be interested. To my knowledge they had not done any post licence road-craft courses, so I flicked the flier on to them hoping to spark some interest.
Within about 15 minutes four of us were singed up. Moscato Girl, The Melting Man, CBR Dude and moi.
Yep, I signed up too.
Because I can’t ride. There, I’ve said it.
Yep, even though I have my licence and I’ve done an advanced road craft course… I can’t ride.
Both CBR Dude and I were in the same boat, both of us had been riding since the dawn of time, we could always learn more though. So we tagged along.
The 80 riders were broken up into 4 groups of 20 in no particular order, although it looked like the cruisers were kept together. Starting at 8:00am the groups were staggered 1 hour apart.
The course started with one hour of theory in a classroom. Rob (our instructor) discussed slow speed control, lane positioning (for both single / multi-lane roads) , cornering, counter steering and other road-craft skills.
It was an informal session and Rob asked us questions to try to gauge our level of skill, while encouraging us to ask questions as we went along.
This was followed by one hour of practice in a controlled environment. The first thing we did was slow speed control.
Cones were set up in series of sharp bends like you would find when negotiating a car park.
One of the instructors demonstrated what we needed to do, while Rob went throught the finer points of clutch and throttle control, trail braking and counter steering.
These were all fairly easy for most of us, but there was one or two of us that struggled with the slow speed change of directions.
Rob called these riders out and gave them a bit of one to one. It looked to me like the “looking through the corner” part was the problem.
When they rejoined the group they started leading with their chins (so to speak), you could see a big improvement by the end of the session.
The next step was to put us through our paces with some higher speed counter steering.
The track was straightened out and the challenge was to accelerate hard, short shifting a few gears and then changing down while on the brakes and set up for the corner at the end of the straight.
The emphasis was on selecting the right gear, counter steering and looking through the corner. It was interesting to watch some of the riders, because a few just followed the cones around the corner instead if setting up wide.
Rob called us all in, and went over the “start wide, finish tight” theory portion he had covered in the classroom again.
When we got back on the course, Rob deliberately stood at the entrance to the corner and pushed every rider wide. This quickly showed everyone the benefits of “start wide, finish tight”, and again there were big improvements by the end of the session.
The final part of the course was a 2 hour road ride up and over Mt. Tamborine. This was to allow us to practice what we had been taught back at the training area.
We went out through some quiet suburbs; Nerang, Gaven, Pacific Pines and the Maudsland road. This was to practice throttle control and counter steering we’d been taught earlier.
Everyone was having fun with the round-a-bouts. You could see people pushing on the bars to bring on the counter steering effect.
Once we cleared the ‘burbs we headed out on the Nerang-Beaudesert Road and turned right on Heri-Roberts Drive and followed that up to Mt. Tamborine. The corners along Heri Roberts drive allowed us to practice more cornering and counter steering but at higher speeds.
We stopped at a sporting ground at the top of Mt. Tamborine to regroup, and discuss a few things.
During the break Rob and I chatted about the course and he offered me a few pointers on my riding. Which I practiced on the second leg of our ride.
We moved off again for the second leg and headed down the Tamborine-Oxenford Road and on to Shark Leathers at Helensvale for a sausage sizzle.
The pointers Rob offered worked, and I now find my riding a little smoother. So you can teach on old dog new tricks 🙂
If I had to rate the course, I’d say it was a about half way between a Q-Ride licence course and intermediate level course. That’s not to say it was a waste of time.
On the contrary it was well worth it, and I know that Moscato Girl and Then Melting Man went home with more confidence and knowledge about counter steering, cornering and braking than they had at the start of the day.
Even CBR Dude and I went home with some pointers that we hadn’t considered before.
I know that putting on a course like this can be expensive, especially when you consider facility hire, refreshments, instructors wages etc…
For Shark Leathers and AMA to put on a course like this was a bold move, if anything, it has created a lot of good will within the motorcycling community and has given 80 participants a little more knowledge and the tools to stay alive on the road.
Personally, I plan on doing a few more advanced courses… After all. I can’t ride.