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Classic Motorcycle Riding – Intermediate Level Riders

Defensive Driving


Once a new rider has mastered the art of motorcycle riding for the first time, he or she is ready to move onto more adventurous riding. This does not mean you should jump right into classic motorcycle racing (although some riders will want to do just that); but it can mean making longer road trips on more challenging roads.

To enjoy motorcycle riding to its fullest, a rider must consider all of the safety aspects. Besides having his machine in first class condition with regular maintenance, the rider should ride defensively as the road conditions demand. Each mile of highway can potentially have its own special demands for the rider to contend with. These special demands typically include:

  • Heavy traffic
  • Poor road conditions from lack of repair
  • Winding roads with poor visibility
  • City riding
  • Riding in a group of motorcycles
  • Changing weather conditions

Although this list is not exhaustive, each challenge must be met by the rider as he seeks to increase his riding knowledge and experience.

Heavy Traffic

Other road users present some of the biggest challenges to a motorcyclist. One of the most important lessons to learn for safer motorcycle riding is to make yourself as visible as possible. Following a car in the driver's blind spot (typically off-center to the rear) will open the possibility of the driver turning or stopping without indicating.

Being seen is very important when approaching a junction. Ideally, the rider should move toward the center of the road, especially if the junction is around a curve. And, although it is mandatory in most countries, it is always safer to ride with the headlight on to aid visibility for other road users.

Heavy traffic conditions generally happen during rush hours in or around large towns or cities. If the classic motorcyclist is not commuting, he is advised to travel earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.

Poor Road Conditions from Lack of Repair

The condition of the asphalt or tarmac will have a major effect on the safety of a motorcyclist. Potholes, loose surface stones, cambers, or just poor grip will change how the rider manages a given section of road. When approaching a section of road known (either from past knowledge or due to signage) to have any of these issues, the rider must slow down and leave a greater distance to any traffic he is following.

This increased distance allows for any stones being thrown up by the lead vehicle or the greater distance required to stop the motorcycle.

Note: Smartphone users can download applications such as iPothole™ to find out where hazardous potholes exist.

Winding Roads with Poor Visibility

Country lanes or roads often give some of the best motorcycle riding experiences; they can also offer some of the most dangerous and challenging.

If the rider is traveling on a piece of road that he is not familiar with, he must take extra precautions. In particular, blind corners should be approached at a speed where the rider can make direction changes if the corner should tighten. This is particularly important when approaching a right-hand bend in the US, or a left-hand bend in the UK, for instance: entering one of these corners too fast will result in the rider heading toward oncoming traffic, creating the possibility of a head-on collision.

As traffic tends to be light on country lanes, other road users tend to pay less attention. This makes it particularly important for the motorcycle rider to ride with caution.

City Riding

All of the known road hazards tend to be combined in city driving; it is for this reason that classic motorcycle riders tend to avoid cities. However, some classic riders use their bikes to commute and others will ride their bikes into a city for a show, rally, or just meet other classic riders: "see you at the Ace Café," for instance.

One area requiring extra caution within cities is major road junctions. Due to the volume of traffic that will past over a major road junction, oil and diesel spills are common; this is particularly hazardous when riding in wet conditions.

Riding in a Group of Motorcycles

If you are the lead rider, you have the responsibility of riding for the entire group, that being: your actions will have a knock-on effect to riders behind you. You must, therefore, ride smoothly and give plenty of warning before turning off the highway. You must also ride at a pace that all of the riders in the group feel comfortable with (the inexperienced rider will not want to ride at the speed limits all day, for instance).

If you are in the middle of a group, you must be aware at all times where the other riders are, and what they are doing. Keeping a safe distance all around you is imperative. If possible, try not to ride directly behind the rider/s in front of you. Should an emergency stop be required, you will have a greater chance of avoiding the lead motorcycle by riding this way.

Changing Weather Conditions

If you will be riding for an extended period away from your home base, it is likely that the weather will change during the day. This is particularly true in areas with known inclement weather patterns: England, for instance.

If you encounter rain, you must adapt your riding to suit. Riding in the rain typically requires smooth actions (no sudden changes of direction or heavy braking, for instance). Stopping distances are greatly increased in rainy conditions; therefore, riders must leave extra space to the vehicle in front and brake sooner for junctions etc. In addition, the rider should brake using the front and rear brakes equally in wet conditions. The bike must not be leaned over when the brakes are applied.

Increasing riding experience should be done in stages. New riders will be keen to ride further, but planning a road trip to avoid known hazards will greatly increase the likelihood of a pleasant riding experience.

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