All entries for Thursday 06 October 2005

October 06, 2005

King of the Mountain – Kate Bush

Writing about web page

5 out of 5 stars

Always predictably unexpected and unpredictable. Kate again makes great music. Difficult to classify, by definition. A slice of a drama that overflows the song itself. I'll be listening to this for a very long time.

Superb. Dramatic as expected. Dark, very dark humour. The sound is even more voluptuous than ever, matching the depth and intensity of the words. And the subject: celebrity, identity, Citizen Kane, Elvis: a huge drama, both deeply painfully personal, and in an other world altogether – the world in which Elvis dances on his own grave. Keep listening. I will, and it will keep growing in depth.

Bike Report: Advanced motorcycle training session 1

Follow-up to Manifesto: safe motorcycling is possible, but is the responsibility of the rider from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I suspect that I am a good motorcylist. I have, at least, read and understood Motorcyle Roadcraft, the Police Rider's Handbook But like most riders, and unlike almost every car driver, I know that I must always work hard to maintain my skills and improve them. Therefore on Sunday I went for my first ride out with a qualified advanced motorcycling instructor.

For over two hours, the instructor, Bob from Kenilworth (RoSPA registered), followed me as I rode fast but (fairly) smoothely around Warwickshire. With Bob directing me along some challenging and testing corners and junctions, I really did have to work quite hard. I'm completely comfortable with almost all aspects of advanced riding techniques, and followed Bob's instructions to ride in my normal style. However, I did feel the need to push slightly harder in corners, considering Bob was riding a Triumph Daytona 955i sports bike (twice as powerful as my trail bike).

At the first stop, Bob told me that observing my ride was rather dull – not because I was going to slow, but because I was making no mistakes. I already have most of the skills and techniques that are taught on an advanced riding course. There were a few of useful points:

  1. I shouldn't do an un-necessary "over the shoulder" life-saver check when overtaking, I should already know what is behind me from previous mirro observation. This is different to the advice given to new riders, but makes sense for a fast rider who should spend more time looking forwards. A life-saver when accelerating out of a 30 mph zone is essential, as dumb car drivers will try to overtake a bike that is sticking to the speed limit. They do this all the time, despite the fact that I can accelerate twice as fast as them with no warning.
  2. Indicate only when it will actually make a difference to other road users. This is the advice of the Police book. It saves time, allows for concentration on taking information and manouvering, and avoids the problem of forgetting to cancel an indicator.
  3. Get into position to observe into the vanishing point of a bend earlier.
  4. Use other cues to observe the bend – tree lines etc.

Bob did quickly identify that my cornering isn't smooth enough. I need to plan better, observe and act decisesively, and accelerate through the bends. Even after 45,000 miles, I still find the GS Dakar a little intimidating in bends. It weighs almost 300kg (100kg more than a sports bike), and has dual-purpose tyres that tend to slide around. But I must remember that there are many riders who can ride GS bikes very fast.

At the end of the ride, Bob gave an amazingly detailed account of the whole ride. He identified many of the interesting incidents, and commented on how well I dealt with them, and what I can improve. On the whole, Bob was very positive about my riding. He even said that I only need a little practice before I can take an advanced riding test. Following the Roadcraft principles, I can ride very safely. He suggested that I join IAM and become a registered observer.

I shall now practice some bends. And then more lessons with Bob, which are really worthwhile.