December 07, 2006

Mike Waite – motorcycle roadcraft instructor

Follow-up to Being assertive and visible on the road – roadcraft for motorcyclists and cyclists from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I spend too much time explaining to my friends that their notion of what motorcycling is about is just wrong. The common perception is that it is a high risk, wild and carefree activity. A rider with that attitude just doesn’t last beyond the first week. Right from the outside, in the extremely tough Direct Access qualification (well over 50% failure rate), the complexities of fast and safe riding are made obvious. Just to get safely around a corner requires a lot of concentration and practice. My friends are baffled by the fact that I often just go out and practice “chasing the visual point” (cornering). Even more strange to car drivers is the fact that I will pay up to £30 an hour to go out with a top instructor.

Mike Waite is one of the UK’s most respected instructors. I’ve not ridden with him, but I have heard good reports about his team. Not only does he run advanced training courses using the police roadcraft system, he also has a very good DVD for sale. See Mike’s web site for details.

The web site contains some extracts from the video, as well as some footage recorded from his training sessions. Watch a sample below (click on the triangle to make it play). If you have never ridden a big bike, you will be surprised at just how much technical skill, constant observation and intelligence it requires (if you want to stay alive). There is little comparison with driving a car. Note how the manouverability of the bike is used to its maximum, not only to maintain a safe position, but also to gain a better view of the road.

You will also hear Mike constantly talking about the visual point. This is the point at which the road disappears from view. Riders spend most of their time tracking the visual point. The movement of the point away to the left and to the right indicates the nature of upcoming bends. Also hear how Mike picks out features in the landscape such as telegraph poles and hedges. This is used to infer further information about the road. Modern bikes are so fast and so manouverable that such constant observation and planning is essential.

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Interesting – reminds me of scooter riding! I was worried to hear him talk about 70mph with the visibility he had at that point – this was not anything like a dual carriageway!

    Over a ‘slow’ on a blind hill approaching a junction (with a vehicle right on the line) he is travelling over the 70!

    Never did trust bikers!

    08 Dec 2006, 09:18

  2. Robert O'Toole

    70mph is OK, so long as you are confident in reducing speed for the corner. Slowing down is no problem for a big bike, so long as you are sure that there is no one behind who is likely to run into you. Following the system, the riders should be checking rear view every seven seconds (someone worked out that to be the optimum) and also before making a manouvre (the first of the stages – take information).

    As for the hill, remember that the rider will have a much better view than the camera or a car driver, being much higher off the ground. I’m not sure about his bike, but on mine I can stand up and see over the top of Land Rovers.

    The speed with which advanced riders can tarvel is always surprising. I couldn’t actually keep up with the instructor, although he was on a Daytona 955i with twice as much bhp as my old GS. At one point i actually took off from a hump back bridge, both wheels in the air. Not sure I really should have done that.

    08 Dec 2006, 09:41

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