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2008 off-road exercises raising concerns with instructors

With the 2008 exercises looming ever larger, the concerns about the practicalities of the exercises and the safety of trainees undertaking the exercises are mounting.

One instructor recently reported on that he’d been asked to provide a candidate to put through a mock up of the off-road test. Like most training schools, he said that his site is nowhere near as big as an official “multipurpose site” so that the candidate received minimal training as he was unable to set up some of the exercises. That’s likely to be a recurring theme!

The good bit was that he thought the candidate performed “quite well”. However, he failed to get to the required minimum 50kph for the avoidance exercise, so the instructor had a go. Using a CG125, he said:

“I had to rev it pretty hard in 2nd gear around the top bend before changing up to 3rd. To get 50kph through the speed trap the speedo was indicating 37mph. There was another school there on 500’s and they also struggled to get up to speed.

“The 2 DSA chaps kept reiterating that the 50kph was a minimum speed to be achieved. This has raised a few questions, there is no run off on the corner and to achieve the required speed the bike has to be revved pretty hard.

When instructing a couple of my aims are to teach the candidate to be smooth with the controls and not to accelerate at hazards, machine sympathy and eco-riding are also taught. Yet here we have an exercise that goes against all that, it was fairly daunting for me let alone my novice rider.”

The chances of actually managing to book a practice slot would seem remote, particularly as the DSA have admitted that they won’t have the sites ready in time.

As the discussion widened, another contributor mentioned that accidents are occuring when candidates are doing these exercises in France and other European countries, some resulting in trips to hospital.

This is something I’ve heard too. It’s all a bit anecdotal but does make you worry about the tests, particularly as there are mixed messages coming from the DSA about whether or not the sites will be available to hire by the training schools for practice sessions. I was under the impression that this would be possible, but other people have been told that the DSA have changed their mind because of the liability issues if somone gets hurt.

One question that doesn’t appear to have been posed (or answered for that matter) is why there’s no difference in the speed requirements wet and dry. After all, the whole point of being aware of the reduced grip of a wet surface is that you reduce speeds and lean angles.

The training schools are also going to have to look fairly carefully at the bikes and their suitability for the exercises too. If a CG125 is struggling to get to the required speed, that’s not too much of an issue, but the braking and steering requirements will be.

A couple of the schools I’ve worked for have fitted what can best be described as budget tyres and brakes to their training bikes. If they don’t want their machines ending up sliding down the road, then they might have to rethink this policy policy of “economy”, as well as start fitting big crash bars. Without decent tyres and crash bars, the damage caused to a 500 by a 30mph spill could well be significant. A trainee crashed on of our rather lovely 400 Hondas a few years back on a corner after she was run off the road by a driver on the wrong side. The bike cost about £800 to repair in the end, not including the cracked body panels and the bent radiator.

It’s possible that we’re all a bit doom and gloom on this. After all, people predicted that Direct Access was the end of biking. And were proved wrong. But I have a feeling that these exercises are going to prove rather more difficult to crack than DAS.

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