I was attracted by the strange title of Simon Mattews piece : what a nodding donkey has to do with motorcycling? Quite different from the serious articles coming out of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motoring) community. This was probably 10 years ago and, while I kept the text with me, I cannot trace today the first source.
Not only I kept the message on my files, I went back to read the message every time I had to discuss the Roadcraft: the police rider system for better, safer driving.
The Roadcraft riding system “endorsed by the emergency services and civilian driving organisations, is presented in the Motorcycle Roadcraft and it is a system suitable for all emergency service riders and members of the public wishing to take their riding skills to a higher level”.
This system is used by many MC training schools and academies around the world and by hundreds of thousands of biker who took the time to learn it and the patience of applying it. The manual is available in Kindle and Paperback format at Amazon
Bert, the nodding donkey © Simon Matthews. Senior Observer LAM.
I was making my way to work last week and I came across a fairly well ridden Honda Blackbird. Decent line, reasonable smooth, clearly there had been some ‘advanced’ training going on. However Bert (let us give a name to the Blackbird rider) was committing the cardinal sin of reading the book and only half understanding it. (The book of course being MC Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook). This in fact made Bert and his riding LESS SAFE.
Bloody nodding donkey head checks all over the place: turning the head on one side and then on other side to control what was or was not behind: what the book calls “lifesaver”. No rhyme or reason for such lifesavers, just chucked in all over the place.
Head checks or lifesavers if you prefer, are important in the right place and they need to be considered for various reasons: most important to control the blind spot of the rear mirror before initiating a maneuver involving a change of direction/lane.
Sometimes incorrectly timed ‘donkey’ head checks can be put down to training not having focused on the flow and simplicity of ‘advanced’ riding. Riders can misinterpret how the System is used in this situation.
I suppose Bert logically followed each part of the System subconsciously. He looked, considered adjusting his position and then speed. Then comes the problem: during this, the System say’s ‘consider’ a Life Saver and this is where Bert tended to just chuck one in because the book said so.
Remember how flexible the System is meant to be, and that consideration is required to many things, including head checks. However the System should not be used by rote. In fact good riding should be so well planned, that it’ll appear as if the rider isn’t doing anything. Small corrections to speed and position are done so early for a hazard that you hardly notice… beautiful… this translates to the best road an track riding…
… Anyway looking over your shoulder at the wrong time or place could affect your safety. One should “consider” that while looking right, let and behind one does not look ahead and at 50 K/H the bike covers almost 14 meters, two seconds of “life-saver”, two second looking over the shoulders are 30 meter of blind riding.
So when planning your ride think about the priorities in terms of danger to you. Approaching a hazard will normally take priority. Consider this accordingly and use the System. Remember if you are part way through the System for the first hazard you saw and then something more important [dangerous] has taken priority, start SYSTEM again for the new danger. SAFETY comes first, then everything else.
Head checks are ideal just before you commit to a maneuver that puts you at extra risk. Notwithstanding all this, good mirror work on the approach to a hazard should have built a bank of information. Also applying a lifesavers (look over the shoulders) just before an overtake can sometime be bad news. This is particularly the case on country roads, when traveling at speed.
When Bert was in the overtaking position, he was close to the car in front. At this point Bert does a lifesaver, but if he really had to do one I would question if he have been paying full attention up to this point because, at this precise point (overtaking position) life-saver it is VERY dangerous. Bert was traveling at speed, close to the vehicle in front; then he looked over his shoulder. What is going to happen if the car in front brakes? If the driver decides to change direction? 30 meters blind is not a safety margin.
So, the System suggests to “CONSIDER a LIFESAVER before you accelerate or move” Sometimes they are ‘lifesavers’ and sometimes they are not!
NOTE: on the subject is worth to expand the knowledge reading “BETTER RIDING: THE LIFESAVER, A LIFE SAVER”