P. Volpara editing from M. Wheeler and Jon Taylor lessons. First published in OMM Bulletin 2009.

I selected to republish without any modifications a 2009 article following the posting of “Be like a fish not like an ant” . This article has been used in abundance, transformed in slides for presentation and discussion in the ARA theory courses on advanced riding. I spent time, with a critical eye ,before re-publishing and I believe that the 10 commons mistakes are still pretty high in the list of any self-critical rider. If I had to edit the list anew I would probably introduce some new, observed in most recent training session but.. maybe not. Debate is open for modifying, enlarging the list.

“The RoadCraft system has as objective the creation of a way of riding that is at the same time Safe, Smooth and Systematic while allowing a sustained level of progress.

As a modest tribute to Mick (Mick Wheeler) , Jon (Jon Taylor) and all the observers that made the first ten years of ARA (Advanced Riding Academy Turkey) training possible ,I made a bullet point editing of the notes that I took during riding theory presentations and observed sessions on the road. They are designed to address everyday problems with description of the ten common mistakes, results from them and possible solutions

Know Your Limits.

The Mistake: To place yourself in a situation (ride, group, road, weather) demanding more skills than you have. To assume that you can do what you do not know how to do. To ride for show driven by a desire of exhibiting skills that one does not possess.

The Result: The attention and the effort is on “survival”. There is no learning, no pleasure and the ride involves serious risks for the self and the other road users.

The Solution: Spend time in evaluating your skills and in improving them. Keep your ride and your speed within your own personal limits. Do not feel challenged by others road users.

Be Prepared

The Mistake: To blame the bike (or part of the bike) for mistakes that depends on our skills, to go in risk areas for lack of attention to maintenance. To use a bike that is not proportionate to the level of knowledge and experience or to the use most normally done. To ride without the basic gear for facing the changing conditions of the ride.

The Result: Always an unpleasant ride, complaining about everything. Early tiredness, cautious and inconsistent riding. The unprepared rider postpones to tomorrow a pleasure he could have had today.

The Solution: Chose the bike well and within your limits/use. Trust the bike and learn how to use the technology you bought in safe areas ( braking, steering, swerving, accelerating, cornering). Dress for safety and comfort, carry rain gear, tools, manual, first aid kit, tires repairs kit and extra bulbs.

Focus, Focus, Focus

The Mistake: To consider the bike as a mix of Car and Bicycle doing more things at the same time without concentrating on the task. Cars and four wheels vehicles educated all of us to be distracted, to phone, to chat, to read while driving.

The Result: Sloppy riding reduce safety margins: moving the bike around for no apparent reasons shows a lack of planning ahead. Distracted vision and distracted mind cannot plan ahead and the hazards of the road come every time as a surprise. The time and the mode of reaction are limited.

The Solution: Focusing on improving the learning curve in every ride even the shortest one assigning to every hour on the bike an objective to improve observation, planning and the elements that compose the riding system. Look ahead (raise the vision) and around to collect the maximum amount of information for planning our ride.

Perception Is All

The Mistake: To perceive the bike as unstable and dangerous, not able to evaluate the right amount of traction: this rider can perceive the bike “at the limits” even in normal condition or, vice versa, he can feel in control seconds before losing traction.

The Result: Tense riding, quirky reaction, lack of attention to the correct line: the rider does not “talk and feel” in harmony with the bike. He may focus on external elements forgetting to take-in the information coming from the bike.

The Solution: Deep relaxation before moving on the saddle, taking / maintaining a correct and relaxed position on the bike anchoring with the lower part of the body and acting smoothly with the upper part. The riders should focus on learning the bike reactions in different condition and memorize them for future use.

Stop and Go

The Mistake: To accelerate and decelerate continuously responding to short term traffic situations or to limited capacity of riding (ex: accelerate in straight line and brake hard in corners)

The Result: The bike (and the bikers) becomes a willing target for accident, the ride (for the pilot and the passenger) turns into a bumpy affair and fatigue increases with the risks of accident. The stability and balance of the bike is constantly questioning and often challenged.

The Solution: “Be a fish not an ant”. By observation and anticipation keep any movement fluid in the traffic, use any piece of information to create and modify a long distance plan. Approach hazards with the right position, speed and gear : in corner evaluate the vanishing point movement, keep the “maintenance throttle” to maintain good bike stability

Drama in corner’s

The Mistake: To commit yourself to the corner without seeing the road opening up. It is defined by “early entry” and it occurs when the rider initiate the leaning, cornering too early. This is normally done because a wrong (real or perceived) entry speed and it goes together with the braking into the corner (or down gearing) in the attempt to reduce speed at the last minute.

The Result: Early entry… risky exit. Fast and early entry places the bike in a wide line of exit (against the incoming traffic in right corners and against obstacles and hazards on the right corners), While the bike goes wide in exiting the rider try to reduce speed to increase the cornering radius, demanding more of the already used traction.

The Solution: To enter slower and to exit faster. Position for Safety, Traction and Visibility and initiate the steering when the arrowhead opens. “Go wide… go late, do not go too wide or too late” We must learn to respect the correct line of a corner (or a set of corners). In Mick worlds “when we approach a corner we often come in too soon or too late pinching up the line and diminishing the smoothness of the ride”. Going in too early place the rider in a short observation position and in a risky place at the exit. Going in too late is risky at the entry and jerky in execution.

You do not know “that” Road

The Mistake: Lack of attention on “well known” roads, moving on “automatic pilot” trusting familiarity. The focus is on the nearby environment covering the clues (sounds, views, smells) that are familiar and ignoring (not seeing) what is new. (selected attention).

The Result: Attention drop and familiarity takes over. 70% of bike accidents happen in a radius of five km. from home.

The Solution: Focus your attention before moving and keep focused even on well known situations

And then three fast “frequent mistakes” that can save lot of problems

Where Are You Going? The Mistake: To keep the indicator on after change of direction. The Result: Following and incoming vehicle have a wrong message on your intended direction. The Solution: Make a habit to regularly check the status of your indicators.

I Am Wobbling on My Feet. The Mistake: To abandon the foot pegs when the bike becomes unstable (gravel, oil, wet surface, skidding) The Result: The centre of gravity of the bike is seriously modified and the bike becomes more unstable. The Solution: Lift your “back” from the seat and use speed to regain control.

You Are Not in Convoy! The Mistake: To rely on the bike ahead when travelling in group.The Result: Lack of direct information and late reaction to incoming dangers. The Solution: Always consider yourself as the only bikers in the group and take room ( time/space) to decide by yourself.

Finally: the best advise is to remember that we mostly ride for FUN and we must “ Keep Positive Mind”. Be relaxed, listen to the road, follow the bike’s rhythm and enjoy the ride at your own pace

By Paolo Volpara

"Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie"

One thought on “Common mistakes in riding”
  1. “The unprepared rider postpones to tomorrow a pleasure he could have had today.”
    We should have a look on the ride that we are about to as the last ride of us and we should try to get the maximum riding pleasure.
    As human being we are a little bit tangly creatures whose mood may change day by day. So, every mile of our riding is very important. Thanks again for your educational advice.

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