Getting safely back into biking groove: things you must do
* Our Road Safety Authority expert appeals to those returning to biking to get some help first
As millions of trained motorcyclists around the world prove every day, biking can be fun, safe and enjoyable. Proper training will help keep you and your passenger safe.
However, the world of biking has changed. Bikes have become extremely powerful, with some machines developing upwards of 180bhp. Manufacturers have introduced ABS, traction control and electronic adjustable suspensions etc. some of which were not available on many older machines.
Becoming familiar with these improvements is a must for bikers. The best way to do this is to update yourself by reading the manufacturer's handbook and getting some refresher training.
Unfortunately, there is still an unacceptable number of bikers losing their lives. One area of major concern is for those bikers returning to riding after a long period of absence. Many of them are not compelled to undertake any training at all.
Mandatory Initial Basic Training (IBT) was introduced in Ireland for new motorcyclists in 2010. The syllabus was designed to help riders build the knowledge and skills required to become better and safer. While the training is aimed at those taking to the road on a bike for the first time, it can greatly benefit those returning to it following a long break.
There are some who believe that there is a stigma attached to having to undertake training.
While many riders still have the skill to move off and manoeuvre the machine; many may not be able to handle the extra power, weight and even braking force.
Their knowledge may also have been picked up in the school of hard knocks, where if you fall off your horse you just get back up on it again. But RSA-approved motorcycle Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) can help. They will be able to assess your riding skills and plan a course of training to help you to deal with any gaps in skills.
Talk to ADI about completing the 'Progressive Access' module of IBT. This is specifically for those wishing to ride bigger and more powerful motorcycles. The training is mainly practical but you will have opportunities to clarify any theoretical issues or points of law.
Refresher training can also be used as an opportunity to discuss areas that are considered to be higher risk such as 'group riding' also referred to as 'ride outs' which are becoming hugely popular.
Riding as part of a group brings its own dangers. Some bikers just like to be in other motorcyclists' company, some like to get involved in charity events. Whatever the reason, groups of riders are bound to include those with a great deal of variety when it comes to skill and ability. It is most important that you do not feel pressured to keep up. Get to know the more safety conscious riders in the group - take your lead from them and follow their examples. They can often be found at the back of the pack - as they like to keep an eye on everyone and avoid becoming caught up in other riders' errors.
There are some useful tips to remember before getting involved in a motorcycle 'ride out'. Know and understand your own ability and limitations. Never try to keep up regardless and never ride outside your own comfort zone. Know and maintain a safe riding formation (not in line with the back wheel of the motorcyclist in front). Always leave a safe distance between yourself and the motorcyclist in front - remember you must be able to stop within the distance you see to be clear.
For other more experienced riders - undertaking refresher training is a positive step to honing your skill and refreshing your knowledge. This will help you to safely enjoy your biking and help ensure you return home safely.