Motorcycle Mastery

The Anatomy of a Crash

Officers of Singapore's Rapid Deplpyment Troops crash on a motorcycle When I first started this blog, one of the things that I always thought I would shy away from was being a “Monday morning quarterback”, as my American friends would say.

It’s all too easy to sit in the comfort of your home, and pass judgement on others’ riding, and what they could have done better. I don’t want to be “that guy”, and I know that we all make mistakes, and suffer lapses of judgement.

However, this has to be weighed against the learning opportunities that can be gained from the analysis of the many videos which abound thanks to the prevalence of dash cams and helmet cams.

Well, I just came across this video, which, in its mere twelve seconds, contains a wealth of learning opportunities. It also demonstrates my premise that crashes don’t often come about due to one single circumstance, but are almost always the result of a “perfect storm” of circumstances combining to set the field for the resultant crash. I feel this is too good an opportunity to miss those those learning opportunities, and am relieved to know that all riders and passengers sustained only minor injuries.

So, let’s delve into the details of this incident, and see what we can learn from it.

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Micro Climates

Here in Georgia, it’s that time of year when weather conditions are changing rapidly. In the last week alone, we have swung between icy conditions and snow, to beautiful sunshine and spring-like temperatures. And I’m sure we’re going to head back the other way in short order.

It occurs to me that these conditions are perfectly suited to generating the subject of today’s post: Micro-Climates.

“What exactly is a micro-climate” I hear you all ask. OK, I hear somebody ask. OK. I’m going to tell you anyway: A micro climate is a section of road that exhibits different characteristics to the main section of the road — due to the surrounding physical elements.

When weather conditions are changeable, it is quite possible to be riding a perfectly sound stretch of road, and suddenly come round a bend to find that things have changed dramatically. As you can imagine, this has the potential to ruin your day! A picture may demonstrate better:

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Motorcycle Cornering - Positioning for Safety - Part One

If you’ve been following along with my blog posts, you will have seen Positioning – Part One, Positioning – Part Two and Positioning – Part Three. These posts were mainly discussing positioning your motorcycle for maximum view and visibility while riding in a straight line. I purposely did not cover positioning on corners because it is a subject which deservers a post of its own. In fact, it deserves three! This is part one of that series on motorcycle cornering. Remember, to be informed as new posts are made, you can subscribe here!

What I’m about to relate here truly was a “Eureka!” moment for me when I first started my advanced motorcycle training back in the 90′s. I could not believe that I had been riding all those years — completely unaware of how much view and visibility was “there for the taking” — yet I was not taking it. It transformed my riding, and made it a much more relaxing occupation because, suddenly, I was seeing hazards — and potential hazards — literally seconds before I had been seeing them previously. It was as if I had been given a crystal ball to see into the future, and I was very excited!

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Passing/Overtaking on a Motorcycle

Overtaking and passing. These are both terms meaning the same thing — depending on your local lexicon, but they both refer to the act of getting past a vehicle that is going slower than you intend to ride yourself.

For consistency, I will use the term “passing” in this chapter.

Passing is arguably one of the most dangerous things we do while riding, yet, executed with care and planning, it is not something to be feared or unnecessarily avoided. Indeed, sometimes we find that the safest place to be is in front of some hazards.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at how we can make passing the safest activity we can.

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Scanning and Hazard Fixation

I’d like now to talk about a very important skill that the safe rider practises continually — Vigilant Scanning.

On the other side of the coin is a phenomenon that strangely seems to affect those of us on two wheels more than it does drivers of “regular” vehicles – Hazard Fixation.


Less experienced, or less vigilant riders may approach the scene below with the kind of concentration shown here:

They are largely concentrating on what appears to be the immediate hazard, and not really taking in the whole environment. This may be due to sheer lack of experience on the road (a few close-calls is sometimes a very effective, but harsh, teacher). Or it may be because, as a less experienced rider, too much of their concentration is being taken up with controlling the machine.

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Positioning - Part Three

This is the third part of a series of posts on positioning. I would encourage you to read Positioning – Part One and Positioning – Part Two before coming back to this post.

I will wrap up this series of three posts on positioning with a couple of places you don’t want to occupy in the road. But! We will not have finished with the subject of positioning! Later in the blog, I will cover the large subject of positioning when it comes to cornering on a motorcycle. This is a large, but tremendously useful subject which deserves its own set of posts.

So, let’s wrap this series up with those places we don’t wish to be when on the road:

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Positioning - Part Two

Greetings, fellow riders! This post is a continuation of the topics introduced in my last post: Positioning – Part One. I would encourage you to read that post, if you haven’t previously, before returning to continue.

You may remember that in my previous post on positioning, we had established a “default” position to maintain in the road unless external influences force us to consider deviating from it. I had outlined three things that may cause use to deviate from our default position:

  1. When doing so would give us a better view of the road, and traffic/hazards ahead.
  2. When doing so would give another road user a better view of us. I call this “presenting” to a potential hazard.
  3. When doing so would give us a greater “buffer zone” between a perceived hazard and us.

Let’s ease back into things with a couple of simple examples of the above:

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Positioning - Part One

Today, I’d like to talk about a subject that truly transformed my riding.

I am almost ashamed to admit that, early in my motorcycle “career”, I rode daily for twenty years without having any concept of what positioning was.

It was only when I embarked on my advanced training that the subject was introduced to me, and it is no exaggeration to say that it completely transformed my riding.

After having received some excellent training from my instructors, and putting the principles into practice, I was amazed at just how much I could now see, and how much sooner I was seeing it. And, conversely, I was amazed at just how much information I had been missing through all those years of riding before. Information that was there for the taking if only I knew where to find it!

It also made riding a much less stressful experience because I was seeing things so much earlier than I previously had — and people were seeing me much sooner as well.

I hope you’ll forgive my enthusiasm about this subject, but it truly was an “eye-opening” experience for me. I hope it can do the same for you.

As the subject of positioning is a large one, and it is of so much importance, I have split the subject into multiple posts. This post introduces part one.

So, after that enthusiastic preamble, let me explain just what positioning is:

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Signalling and Signal Reinforcement

You may remember from my last post, that it was left on a bit of a cliffhanger. I ended by posing the following question: What do you do if you have just made a left turn into a street, with following traffic, but you’re going to immediately turn left again into, say, a garage/gas station forecourt? The signal from your left turn won’t do you any good now, because you haven’t had time to cancel it, and start a new one.

This brings us to the subject of this week’s post: Signal Reinforcement.

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Signalling on a Motorcycle

It would seem that there would not be much to write about turn signals, would there? It turns out that there is so much to write that I’m going to split the subject into two posts! In this post, I’m going to talk about the use of your turn signals. More precisely, the intelligent use of your turn signals. In the following post, I’m going to cover the subjects of Signal Reinforcement and False Signals.

So, let’s get started!

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