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PRESENTATIONS – ‘Crash Course’ for the BMW Club Oxfordshire

A new year, and it’s back to something like normal for Survival Skills. And so yesterday, I travelled out to Uffington in Oxfordshire to deliver my first in-person talk of 2022, although it seemed like the local council were fairly determined to keep me away, as I was sent on diversion after diversion which resulted in a near circumnavigation of the village and added about 15 minutes to the journey.

As a result, I was in just a bit of a rush to set up the projector and my other A/V aids and forgot one vital point; to remind Judy to wander round the room taking photos and even a video clip just to prove I really was there!

So, although I did come away with a BMW lapel badge, sadly there no photos from the event as I delivered the latest and freshly updated version of ‘Crash Course (as in how not to)’.

I originally created this particular talk as a ‘different’ approach to a ‘Roadcraft’ talk for the Ride Skills multi-mode training days at Brands Hatch, which I delivered between 2013 and our COVID-truncated year in 2020.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat through rather too many of the well-intentioned “we’ll teach you how to ride better” talks over the years, which haven’t really given me anything new, even if the reminders are valuable.

And since everyone at Brands wanted to do the hands-on first aid, or go out for a ride with the IAM, and most of all get out for the two track sessions, it was doubly-important to come up with a presentation that grabbed the attendees attention…

…and by and large I think I succeeded by getting each group to start thinking about riding in a different way.

The latest presentation is a look at just why after 70-odd years of bike training (the old RAC-ACU scheme launched in the early 50s) and some of the toughest bike testing standards in the world there’s little evidence that it’s had any effect on the way riders crash.

Look at the crash statistics and you’ll find that riders have always fallen off their motorbikes in the same way and three particular locations top the list:

:: at junctions

:: on bends

:: during overtakes

The implication is that current training doesn’t address the need for riders to understand HOW, WHERE and WHY they crash, so that they get into trouble and don’t have any strategies to STAY OUT of trouble whenever possible. And having failed to avoid a threat and having arrived in a sticky situation, they don’t know WHAT to do to get out of it, either – they have no ‘get out of trouble’ strategy that works in a real emergency.

One of the advantages (!?) of having spent so many years as a courier is that I fell off a fair amount.

Years ago on an international bike forum, a US-based instructor proudly told me that he’d never fallen off in twenty years of riding and then remarked that I couldn’t be much of a rider coach with all those crashes behind me.

I didn’t bother to get involved in an argument but he was missing an essential point. We learn by experience, and correcting mistakes is an essential part of learning.

So those crashes were actually learning opportunities. If he had never crashed, what had he learned about the mechanisms that led me to fall off? I very much doubt he knew anything about WHY I had fallen off. And think about it – would he actually have been any better prepared to avoid getting into trouble himself, if he’d never experienced those same issues?

The rationale behind Survival Skills has always been to look at riding in terms of what can go wrong, first and foremost – the choice of name was NOT an accident (did you see what I did there?).

I always aim to turn the standard approach to rider safety – and road safety in general – on its head. Rather than argue that someone who falls off must be a poorly-skilled or badly-disciplined rider, the Survival Skills approach is that it’s only if we understand riding errors can we really do something positive to our riding to mitigate the risks.

So that’s the thrust of ‘Crash Course’ – to take my audience through the three ‘standard crash’ scenarios and to try to get the audience to see for themselves how a crash could develop from the inside out.

And my crash history?

It helps me argue more convincingly “do as I suggest, and not as I did – and this is why”.

It’s a lot less painful for you to learn from my mistakes than for you to make exactly the same errors yourself. And it’s cheaper too!

If you are interested in booking a course for your club or riding group, drop me a line and I’ll run you through my choice of talks which includes:

Science Of Being Seen – an in-depth look into the visual perception and motorcycle conspicuity issues which underlay the ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You’ SMIDSY collision

Crash Courses (as in how not to) – focussing on the three ‘standard’ motorcycle crashes at junctions, in bends, and during overtaking to gain an understanding of how the errors come about

What Aviation can teach us about Crashing – Confusion in the cockpit has caused many plane crashes – it’s called the ‘Startle Effect’ and affects even the best trained flight crews – and we have the same SURPRISE! issues on the road

‘Point & Squirt’ – how to adapt Keith Code’s Reference Point approach that was developed for the track into a system that allows to to create a reliable ‘road map’ for corners on the road

Bike Set-Up and Posture – many riding problems begin before we actually engage first gear and let the clutch out. If we’re not in a comfortable position or where our use of the controls is compromised, we are simply making life more difficult than it needs to be

Steering and Braking – keep them separate or combine them? This talk will take you through the mechanisms of changing speed and direction and explain the advantages and the pitfalls of changing speed and direction at the same time

Organising Group Riding – there are few things better than going for a ride out with mates, but far too many group rides end prematurely in a crash – find out how to organise a ride for thrills, not spills

MORE TALKS IN DEVELOPMENT – and if you have a topic you’d like me to cover, drop me a line and we’ll talk.


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