Alston Rider Training

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The ART of Motorcycle Control



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Visual Skills

Posted on March 17, 2018 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (191)

Visual Skills are probably the most important part of motorcycling.

Hazard perception, corner path, throttle control and braking distances (among other things) all rely on where you’re looking and what you’re seeing.

The old adage, “look where you want to go” is still as true as it ever was but there’s a lot more to visual skills than just that.

Hazard Perception is exactly what it says on the tin. Looking as far up the road ahead as you can to spot potential hazards as early as possible and deal with them as smoothly and simply as possible. Keep your eyes on the move (scanning) to see the entire riding environment and try not to fix your gaze on any one thing (target fixation). Every 5 seconds or so scan the road surface, your speedo/instruments and your mirrors, then lift your eyes back up the road ahead. Sounds simple enough but many riders are guilty of not looking far enough ahead and this often means having to react suddenly when something takes them by surprise.

Smooth, safe Cornering always depends on good visual skills. On approach to any corner your eyes should be gathering information for your brain to process. The recommended speed for that particular corner will give you 5 seconds of forward vision. The warning sign will tell you which way the corner goes. Scan the road surface and adjust your entry line if necessary. Look as far through the corner as you can, at the vision limit point, which will tell you if the corner is tightening up or opening out. Keep scanning as you go through the corner to check the road surface and your lane position. Use your peripheral vision (the stuff you can see without looking at it) to warn you of any other dangers, like wildlife or driveways.

Throttle control and Braking Distances both rely on the information gathered by our eyes and processed by our brain. If you’re not seeing the whole picture you won’t know when to speed up or when to slow down. When riding in town traffic it’s very easy to be fooled into only looking at the back of the vehicle ahead of you and to have a “blinkered” view. This often results in following too close and being taken by surprise when something happens. Back off a bit and lift your eyes, increase your all-round vision, remember to check your mirrors and improve your overall awareness of your surroundings. This will reduce the chance of a rear-end crash (or near miss) and reduce the likelihood of a “panic-braking” situation. The “eyes up” increased awareness will also allow smooth throttle control, easy overtaking and safe lane changes.


CORNERING: Part1, the Basics

Posted on February 18, 2018 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (82)

Cornering: Part 1, the Basic techniques. 

Successful, smooth, safe, swift cornering is a complex combination of many factors but the basics are the same for everyone. From your first wobbly curves at Pre Learner training all the way up to the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, we all have to do the same basic things:

• The Three Ps (Preparation, Position and Path)

• Counter-steering

• Look, Push, Lean

• Vision Limit Point.

Preparation: as you approach the corner assess how tight it is and get your speed adjustment, braking and gear selection done nice and early. 2-3 seconds before the start of the corner gives you a bit of spare time for further adjustment, if necessary. Your speed should be set so that you can stop your bike in the distance you can see to be clear.

Position: approach the corner as wide as you safely can to give yourself the longest view through the corner. All the way out to the left of your lane for right-hand corners and over near the centre white line for left hand corners. Remember to take into account the road surface and any oncoming vehicles and adjust your position accordingly.

Path: start the corner as wide as you safely can. Mid corner, stay away (buffer) from the head-on zone in case an oncoming vehicle crosses the centre line and drifts onto your side of the road, then aim to finish the corner tight to give yourself a bit of room for error.

Counter-steering: the science of counter-steering is all about gyroscopic effects and is a bit complicated but the basics of it are really simple. If you want the bike to lean to the left give the left handlebar a little push, forwards and down. If you want the bike to lean to the right give the right handlebar a little push, forwards and down. As a starting point that’s all you need. A smooth, gentle push on the handlebar in the direction you want to go. To go left push the left bar, to go right push the right bar.

Look where you want the bike to finish up, as far ahead as you can see. Turn your head!

Push on the inside handlebar.

Lean into the turn with your bike, dipping your chin and shoulder to the inside of the turn.

Vision Limit Point: this is the furthest point in the corner to which you have an uninterrupted view, the point where the kerb or edge of your lane appears to meet the centre white line. The further away the limit point is the faster you can go because you have more room to stop if necessary. As you go through the corner watch the vision limit point, if it appears to be getting closer to you the corner is tightening and you might need to slow down or even brake. If the limit point is constant then your speed is good. If the limit point is moving away from you it should be safe to accelerate (keeping an eye on the speed limit, of course.)

As always, start slowly and gradually build up your skills and techniques. The next article will talk about more advanced skills to add to and enhance these basics.

The 3 Basic Principles of RoadCraft

Posted on January 29, 2018 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (16)

The 3 basic principles of RoadCraft help keep all of us safe on the road

1st Principle, Observation.

More than just “seeing” but actively looking and scanning the whole riding environment for anything that you perceive to be a hazard and then doing something about it before it has chance to do something to you. Always looking at least 5 seconds up the road ahead and not forgetting to check the road surface, speedo and mirrors, roughly every 5 seconds.

If you can’t see at least 5 seconds ahead, altering your lane position might help but if that fails you can use the 2nd principle which is “Slow Down” a bit.

2nd Principle, Slow Down/Set up

Slowing down, even a little bit will always compensate for a lack of vision and, as well as slowing down when your vision is reduced it’s always a good idea to know you can stop your bike in the distance you have clear in front of you. If you’re not sure you could stop in time it might mean going into brake “Set-up”. To set up your brakes means drawing in the front brake lever just enough to remove the slack or free-play and pressing the rear brake pedal just enough to do the same. A general guide as to when to go into Set-up is if anything has the potential to move into your space then Brake Set-up reduces your reaction time, which will greatly reduce your overall stopping distance and it shows your brake light to the driver/rider behind you.

In conjunction with these 2 Principles we should also use the 3rd principle of RoadCraft, Buffer.

3rd Principle, Buffer/Create Space

Creating space or Buffering means altering your lane position to move away from a potential hazard, e.g. if you see a vehicle at a junction on your left, moving to the right hand side of your lane will create some extra space between it and you. If you see an oncoming vehicle then moving to the left hand side of your lane will create some extra space between it and you. Even a pedestrian walking out between parked cars could be a hazard and buffering away reduces your risk if the other person/driver/rider/cyclist, etc. makes a mistake. Be careful when you buffer from 1 hazard that you’re not putting yourself at risk from another and sometimes Buffering might make you less visible to some other road-users.Sometimes Buffering requires a compromise and in those cases consider Slowing down a bit as well.

See what’s coming as early as possible, Slow down and/or Set up your brakes, Buffer away to Create Space.

3 simple principles that will help to minimise your risk every time you ride. 


Posted on January 20, 2018 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (14)

Posture. The way you sit on your bike will affect your comfort and machine control.

Remember your 6(7) posture points. Feet, Knees, Seat, Back, (Shoulders), Arms and Head.


Feet. If you do, or have done your Pre-learner and Pre-provisional training in NSW (and maybe other places) your instructor will probably have told you to put the arches of your feet on the foot-pegs and turn your toes outwards and down a little. Hmmmmm……..this is OK for beginners but most experienced riders will say to put the balls of your feet on the pegs. Putting the balls of your feet on the pegs is much more comfortable (the arches of our feet are not designed to have weight on them) and will allow you more control as well as more ground clearance.

Knees. Tuck your knees in to the tank. A little “squeeze with your knees” will help to lock your lower body onto the bike and will help to take some of the weight off your arms when braking.

Seat. Where you put your bum will affect the handling of your bike but this will partly depend on the size and type of bike and the size of you. In general sitting as far forwards as you comfortably can will keep a little more weight over the front end of the bike. This will help to make your steering and braking a bit more positive. It also helps with keeping your arms relaxed.

Back (and Shoulders) Keep your spine (all the way from your bum to your head) as relaxed as possible. This way it will act as a kind of shock absorber for your head and it will help to keep your arms (and shoulders) relaxed too. If you tense up your bike will tense up and that is not good.

Arms. Again “relaxed” is the key word here. Those handlebars are not there for you to hang on to, they’re there to control the bike.

Your arms should be loose, elbows hanging towards the ground and knuckles slightly higher than your wrists (unless you’re on a dirt bike or motard). Hands should be loosely around the grips.

Head. Keep your head up! Chin roughly level with the ground and always looking as far ahead as you can whilst “scanning” with your eyes and using your peripheral vision as a back-up. Looking down at the road directly in front of you will quickly get you into trouble. You will go where you look, so look where you want to go.

Keep checking your posture as you ride and try to remember the key word, relax.

Set Up Your Levers

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (25)

1. Adjust your levers. For new riders or a new bike

The lever(s) on almost every bike can be adjusted for height and free-play and some are span-adjustable too.

Height. With your hands resting on the grips and your arms nicely relaxed in riding position, rest your fingers on the clutch and brake levers. It should be a fairly straight line all the way down your forearm, through your knuckles and along your fingers. If it’s not loosen the little (8mm) bolt that clamps the lever around the handlebar and adjust them to suit (then tighten the bolt again!).

Free-play. Any cable-operated clutch (and old-fashioned cable-operated brake) will have an adjuster at each end. Pull back the rubber cover at the lever end of the cable, loosen the locking wheel (this might need a pair of pliers) and turn the threaded adjuster clockwise to increase the free-play and anti-clockwise to reduce it. A few mms of free-play is the generally accepted norm. This adjustment can also be used to move the friction point of the clutch. When you’re done remember to tighten the locking wheel again.

Span. This one is a bit trickier but if you’ve got short fingers you might find span-adjustable levers very “handy”. Some bikes have span-adjustable levers as standard. If yours does, just push the lever away from the handlebar and turn the numbered wheel. Each step will move the lever either closer to the bar or, guess what? further away. If they’re not standard on your bike your local dealer will be happy to sell you expensive ones. Ebay will sell you the same thing at a fraction of the cost. Make sure they are specifically for your make and model of bike.

These simple adjustments will make your bike more comfortable and easier to control.