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Bike safe London; a rider?s eye view (Warning: Long!)

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G
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PostPosted: 13:23 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Bike safe London; a rider’s eye view (Warning: Long!) Reply with quote

A report from when I did Bike Safe recently, sorry rather long, as often is the case with me...

The day started with me leaving myself about 35 minutes to get From Reading to the Ace cafe. Realising that it was getting on for 50 miles including a stretch of 50mph and 40mph on the A40, I didn't start the day with quite the riding that I was expecting for the rest.
I'm one of the last to arrive, so we get started fairly soon after.

We're first given a basic introduction to the course with an explanation of what it's about and how the day will run.

As I presumed, the training is based on the book "Motorcycle Roadcraft: A Police Rider's Handbook". This is a book that I bought a few years ago and at points I have tried to follow some of the principals laid out in it. With most of my recent road riding being utilitarian Motorway use, I haven't really practiced this much recently. Though on the bike or in the car I still do make use of the 'Vanishing Point' rule on country lanes.
My plan had been to try and get some practice beforehand and to dig out the book for some quick revision. Due to time, always being in a hurry when trying riding the bike and the book being buried at the bottom of a pile of 4 large boxes; none of this happened.

The main presentation was given on some of the basis of good observation and road positioning.
For instance, working out where the road is going past your sight of the tarmac, observation of Hazards, the vanishing point.
Then to compliment that good road positioning to ensure that you can have good observations; for instance staying to the right in a left hand bend. Also, of course, good road positioning when you do spot a hazard with your good position!

There wasn't anything in here that I hadn't read before, so maybe not the greatest of use to me. However I'm sure some people will find it more informative.

As this is London, they then gave their stance on filtering - something that you can't really avoid in London.
They said they're quite happy for people to filter providing they're sensible. For them, this means no more than 10 - 15mph over the speed of the traffic and not filtering when the traffic speed is fairly near the speed limit.
As we were told how he found it ridiculous that people would be filtering past him at speed as he sat on the M25 doing 60, I wondered if he'd recognise my bike from Thursday rush hour, where I had been doing something along those lines.
They also mentioned that they were 'realistic' about speed - 30,40,50s they said stick to, but unlimited and 60s, do whatever is safe.

They had asked us to leave out keys with indemnity forms so they could check them over. Not sure if they got the chance to have a look at mine, but I'd made sure it was in good condition anyway.


I was paired up with a Polish Lorry driver on a CBR600 and with the main policeman who had been organising the day - and who I'd say I least liked thanks to what appeared to be a bit arrogant attitude and some tired old jokes.
Luckily they don't have a radio system for us, so not a problem while we were riding!

I'm not sure exactly what they mean by maximum speeds filtering, so try and subtley ask what they consider 'sensible' while we're out. I get the old classic "Just ride as you would normally"; 'Ho... no, no, no officer, you don't want me to do that!', I think, however I keep my thoughts to myself as I'd prefer not to advertise to the police that my usual riding style has been described using the word 'twat'.

We set off with me in the lead, followed by the police bike, then the other student. I definitely feel nervous having a police bike behind me - as they mentioned in the briefing, it does that to people! However, on reflection later, I think it's more the 'being observed' feeling, like when doing my test, as I'm trying to ride appropriately 'safely', following all the advanced techniques they mentioned previously.
I'm not sure how much the Police instructor is willing to take the piss - and find that it's more than I am doing, as going on to the A40 he ignores the long dotted-line cross hatchings and cuts straight across into the traffic behind me.

When we stop half way out, I'm criticised for not being too smooth - using the brakes in places that I shouldn't have had to or didn't have to. He mentions a few other bits, to which I do actually find myself defending myself a bit too much - as a lot of the points are one's I've noticed as well.

The ride back sees us swapping places, with me at the back and the other student leading the police man. I note that the other rider must have got up to 50 or so in a 30, while the policeman doesn't keep up with this speed, nor does he seem amazingly bothered - I'm not sure if this is mentioned to him after, though.

The speeds we've been going have been far from would I would consider 'good progress', even for roads I don't know.

Coming back on the A40 I have to be amused by a hatchback in the middle lane, undertaking us in the outside lane. We were doing just over the speed limit of 50, so undertaking a marked up police bike would seem like a rather stupid thing to do!
Sure enough, as the hatchback starts to get in front of us, our friendly cop pulls along side and makes a 'get back' gesture, which the hatch back quickly obeys.



Over lunch I ask about his views on stunting outside the Ace "Not the right place for it at all", minimotos on the street and a few other bits. Nothing revolutionary in his views, for a police officer.


At the start of the second ride we are delayed when just down the road from the Ace Cafe another BikeSafe officer is dealing with an HGV, stopped in the middle of the A40/A406 junction.

We proceed on. The other bloke is leading first this time; the police man told me that as I was a bit quicker, he'd let the other bloke do the initial town stuff.

While following, I try to practice not using the brakes at all, as well as trying to keep an 'inner monologue' going about hazards and changes in the road ahead.
One thing I realise is that earlier I was trying to think about too much stuff at once, which was partly not helping my smoothness.
I'm not sure if I've considered it before, but I try and keep my thoughts about both hazards and the road concentrated on making a 'plan of attack'. So basically I'm considering where my road position and speed will be in say, ten seconds time; adding in both road direction and hazards to this equation.

We stop at a petrol station and it's time for me to go in front again. Coming out after paying for my petrol, I find the grey skies we were riding under have got a bit too grey; it starts to rain. As we leave get into the 'unlimited' roads outside the town we enter a serious downpour.

Trying to keep good road positioning sees me going into a truck channel with what would be described as standing water, if it wasn't more akin to a river!
My race compound Supercorsa tyres aren't quite at their element here, mixed with the bumpy surface left from trucks passing they can't hack it and both start to wobble around with only a gentle lean angle.
I back off slightly, but decide it'd be a better idea to sacrifice positioning for grip. Discussing this with the instructor afterwards, he's in agreement with the way I handled the situation.

Getting out of the rainy area, the roads are still crisp and dry, so we can make better 'progress'.
I'm making a point of not using the brakes mostly, apart from coming up to junctions where I may have to stop. However I get the feeling that I'm still not being nearly as 'smooth' as should be expected - it's just that I'm replacing the brakes with engine braking rather than slowing down gently and in plenty of time.

The 'system' that the Police and lots of other 'advanced' riding techniques use involves setting the speed for a corner well before you get to it.
With little, or gentle braking, using a lot of engine braking.
Personally, I don't like this - braking is one of the parts I enjoy when riding a motorcycle.
Even though I was making an effort here, I found myself using excessive amounts of engine braking to slow quite a bit at the last moment. The Police instructor commented that I seemed quite a lot smoother this ride, I wondered if I really was, or if it was just that he didn't see my brake light flashing on and off all the time?

The instructor stopped us at a specific spot to explain how good road positioning can help. Standing in the middle of the lane, we can see there's a gentle left hand bend ahead. However move close to the centre line and you can see further; we can see there's actually quite a sharp right after the left hand bend.
After a quick brake, with some more discussion about the vanishing point amoungst other things, we set off with a warning that the road ahead is not only a single lane, but has some very sharp bends.

My normal road positioning in such situations depends on how far I can see ahead. If I can see a decent distance ahead by moving to the right of the lane, I will do so. However, if moving over still doesn't give me a comfortable time to react an oncoming vehicle travelling fast, I will stick to the left hand side. This proved to be a good tactic to use on this section of road, which had high banks and thick forest either side of the twisty single lane.
Coming out of a tight corner, I had time to pull right into the left hand side before an oncoming car reached me.
Pulling away as the car reached me I look in my mirror to see the policeman come around the corner, towards his right hand side of the carriageway, straight towards the centre of the car's bonnet. Suspect he had to use his brakes then!

Now he managed to avoid the car without trouble, but personally I prefer my method. It may or may not be the safest, but it definitely feels more sensible to me.

In some cases I will give quick 'bibs' of my horn when riding around lots of blind corners, in the hope that a car coming the other way at high speed may slow down a bit and drive more defensively; I didn't in this case, however.

The rest of this twisty bit was probably the highlight of the ride. As I mentioned before, I don't think I was that smooth, but it was an interesting challenge not touching the brakes at all. My smoothness was definitely in question when knocking down gears at the last minute to scrub off that bit extra speed saw a few little rear wheel slides.

However the instructor and other rider emerged from this section a while after me, so probably didn't notice this.
The instructor had previously said "if I'm keeping up with you, there's no problem with your speed, if you see me drop back, then I've noticed something you haven't" - so I'm guessing he would have been happy enough for me to go faster than the indicated 90mph, or a tad over I was going. Kept to around 85mph on non-dual carriageway A roads.
Think we confused another biker who was stuck at a rigid 70mph on the inside lane of the A40 - as he saw a bike followed by a police bike both come past doing a bit over 90, with no indication that the rider in front was being chased for his in indiscretion!

I still had a couple of people pull out in front of me when I was at the back of our group, but it was nice to think that if anybody did do anything stupid, they would most likely come worst off legally Smile.

There was a couple of points I picked up on the second ride that I'd consider would be a bit iffy decisions from an 'advanced' perspective. I wasn't picked up on these after, but that may just be because I got 'defensive' the first time.
There was a line of parked cars to the right a way ahead and we were behind a relatively slow moving car. Once an oncoming bus had gone past, I over took smoothly accelerating to the 50mph speed limit.
What I hadn't noticed was the 30mph limit sign by the line of parked cars ahead - the parked cars were an obvious sign that we were entering a residential zone. Now it still probably wouldn't be considered too bad a move, but as we were travelling in a group, I wasn't really giving the rest of the group time to overtake individually and safely before the speed limit changed.

Also, along the M40 we were coming up a patch of heavy rain. The instructor slowed from our 90mph cruising a way before it, I didn't.
I did register it's presence and consider my actions, but I obviously wasn't thinking along 'advanced riding' lines, so continued on at a similar pace.

As well as the point I mentioned above relating to being the wrong side of the road on a narrow lane, there were a few other issues I would personally have with the policeman's riding style.
I'm not saying his riding isn't safe, I'm sure he's crashed a lot less times than me, but I just don't like them...

He would happily sit in the outside lane of a triple lane A road or motorway. He said "well, if I see anyone coming up behind me, I just pull in". Now on a marked up police bike, not that many people are going to be trying to overtake you when you're doing the speed limit, so an issue for him in that aspect.
However on another I consider it rude - even if you're checking mirrors at the proper intervals, it's easy enough for someone to accelerate and get pretty close to you - meaning that you cause them to slow down before you pull in.

More iffy I found was his habit to sit in the opposing lane on single carriageway roads.
I believe they now don't teach police this for when exiting corners, because of the number of people that ended up hitting an oncoming car, not realising the combined 'closing' speed.
My issue was with when he was doing it on a straight road with an oncoming car. He would pull in with a couple of seconds to spare before the oncoming car was along side him.
Now maybe this is safe for him, but if I was in a car driving the opposite way and saw a bike, never mind a Police bike, in my lane when they didn't need to be, it would worry me at least.
Probably cause me to slow down for no reason, even if doing a safe speed - I would wonder if they were likely to try and cut into a side turning, or were paying more attention to something else, etc.

Rather than stopping at roundabouts and junctions, he would crawl forward slowly without putting his foot down. Is it smoother? Probably. Does it actually achieve anything - I doubt it personally.
I'm guessing in the cases he was creeping out, he would have observed a space he could definitely make and was sure he wouldn't be holding anyone up. However I still consider it a bit rude.

Also, he would often make full use of his acceleration to dart out in front of people on roundabouts and the like. First off, while this should be relatively safe, I wonder what would happen if something did go wrong on his bike, or similar - maybe a slow puncture he picked up before suddenly opened? In this case he could be left on his arse with a car rapidly approaching.
I do this sort of thing in day to day riding, but I don't consider it a massively 'safe' manoeuvre.

On the way back, he went ahead of me, as I pulled into the A406 filter lane about half a mile back. He pulled in at the last minute.
Again, this is something I do, but I wouldn't consider quite as 'safe' and do consider a bit rude, especially if I'm joining the traffic rather than carrying on filtering.
Along the short stretch of the A406 I reckon I must have been doing about 75 behind him to keep up - perhaps a suggestion that he is 'human' and does realise that some 50 limits are safer than others.
I then slotted in to the filter lane fairly late; waiting at the traffics lights I got a thumbs up and a comment about good prior-planning, or similar.
Now this sort of thing, again I do regularly, but it does hold increased risks, for instance a car in the filter lane slowing suddenly or pulling out when they realise they actually want the next junction.

In a similar manner, while I may often go across cross hatching, I can see there's added elements of danger as well as confusion to other road users. Again, I'd also consider it a little rude - basically I'd get annoyed if someone was doing it in a car probably.

At the end we were given a final 'debriefing' and shown some horror-pictures of what happens when it goes wrong.


Oh and pulling away after the end of the day I just had to pull a wheelie down the road away from the Ace Cafe Very Happy.

On the way home, one of the junctions off the A40 was closed - there was an Aprilia RS125 on it's side with police in attendance.

All in all, I would recommend it. For a start, along with another minor mod to my ebike insurance policy I got £5 off a month! Also got some discounts for a few different things, including two 10% off vouchers with no limits and 10% off Giali Protective and heated clothing – Id quite like one of their suits and this’ll help me afford one once the racing season is over..
For those that haven't tried out any advanced riding techniques in the past, it should give you some good insights.
While the police man seemed in agreement that it wasn't much more than a 'refresher' for me, I’d recommend doing it anyway – if nothing else some of the discounts do seem genuine and worth the £30 and day spent.

More details can be found here:
http://www.bikesafe-london.co.uk/
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Mister James
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PostPosted: 13:41 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting read, thanks.

In relation to you finding some of his techniques were less safe than you would expect from The System, is it possible that he was tailoring his ride to match your skill/attitude level?

I'd guess that arrogant or not, he's probably able to gauge how much of the "listen to my amazing advice" line a rider is going to buy, and then concentrate on what he considers to be the most important points to get across to you.

I could be wrong, but it's a possibility, right?

Sounds like an informative day out, when I get my next big bike I'll probably get myself down there.
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TheDonUK
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PostPosted: 13:52 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good read G. I have been thinking about doing a bikesafe course for a while now. but as my bike is out of action it will have to wait.
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tintin
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PostPosted: 13:56 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also did the Bikesafe day with a chum from work (the South London/Kent one) nad as he said:
"it's just like riding a bike, but slower".

I think it was helpful but as G said most of it was common sense, the one thing I picked up was "knowing where you were going and where a gap was before you started overtaking".
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andrea
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PostPosted: 14:06 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great write up G Thumbs Up

I'm going to do some advanced with my riding school as soon as i have my bike on the road. i feel quite lucky as the person who taught me to ride initally for my test taught us all about the limit point, overtakes, filtering, not using brakes and positioning etc and included loads more than i would have learnt in an intensive course. In fact he had to bring us down a level for the test itself!

More to learn though, so that's my plan Smile
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colin1
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PostPosted: 14:18 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great read. Also nice to read your little debate over traditional advanced driving vs the way you do things with experience.

Id definitely agree with most of the things where you thought you knew better than the 'advance' way.

Particularly race line being safer in slippy conditions, and best line for visibility being a bit dangerous with oncoming cars being close to the line.

except
"Rather than stopping at roundabouts and junctions, he would crawl forward slowly without putting his foot down. Is it smoother? Probably. Does it actually achieve anything - I doubt it personally. "

I am a big fan of slowing down when approaching red traffic lights, so when they turn green, I am in motion and so dont have to accelerate up to speed from a stand still.

Not only is it smoother, its faster for a given amount of petrol burnt.

If I am rolling slowly up and the lights change, i dont have to do 0 to 40 to get back up to speed, i do 5 to 40 instead.

I know most people like to maintain speed and then brake and stop just before the lights but they get left behind as i roll past and accelerate leisurely up to speed.

I have always done this and consider it sensible for fuel economy, speed, convenience etc. When a few years ago a policman friend of mine did his car training he was surprised about this being recommended and was more surprised when I said I always do it.

I am also a big fan of riding with gentle braking or engine braking, although I would like to be able to get a bit of practice at hard braking in case I have an emergency or I do a track day.
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Dark
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PostPosted: 14:31 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting read G, a mate of mine is a Bikesafe instructor and i question some of the techniques he uses also, to be honest i find that following him is a very frustrating experience.

I don't profess to be an expert rider but i find some of the lines he uses positively dodgy Neutral
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G
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PostPosted: 14:41 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a note that I didn't say 'race line' - which would be going wide at the entry, then cutting into the apex mid corner and going wide on the exit.

I will often slow myself down coming to junction in the car, where I can't accelerate as hard.

However this doesn't make it any better safety wise.
Also, we were talking coming up to the junction, then progressing very slowly without putting his feet down, going over the white line.
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akaDAVE
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PostPosted: 15:07 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My issue was with when he was doing it on a straight road with an oncoming car. He would pull in with a couple of seconds to spare before the oncoming car was along side him.
Now maybe this is safe for him, but if I was in a car driving the opposite way and saw a bike, never mind a Police bike, in my lane when they didn't need to be, it would worry me at least.
Probably cause me to slow down for no reason, even if doing a safe speed - I would wonder if they were likely to try and cut into a side turning, or were paying more attention to something else, etc.


Shocked What the hell would be be doing in the oncoming lane?
Surely even for visibility further down the road this isn't safe.
I agree with a lot of your points about how your actions effect other road users behaviour. Sometimes they could become a danger to yourself..
In the example above the oncoming car could easily percieve the road to be veering off further to the left, or worse try to cut into the oncoming lane themselves to avoid the bike head on.
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Annabella
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PostPosted: 15:08 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did the policeman have short legs, and that's why he crawled up to junctions rather than stopping?


I have to creep forward and try to stay balanced if the road has got a dodgy cambre as I know as soon as I try to put my foot down I'll be on the floor Laughing



Thumbs Up Good write up
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killa This post is not being displayed because it has a low rating (Boring). Unhide this post / all posts.

sickpup
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PostPosted: 17:14 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear God won't someone make him shut the fuck up.

Last edited by sickpup on 17:37 - 29 Aug 2006; edited 1 time in total
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Dark
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PostPosted: 17:17 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you get out of the wrong side of the bed or something today Killa? Confused
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extreme3d
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PostPosted: 17:20 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did bikesafe with the North Yorkshire Police in Thirsk. Our course was run with two evening classroom sessions (with refreshments!) before the actual ride out.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well organised the course was and more importantly how 'real world' it was. Speed limits were on the whole encouraged but be no means rigidly adhered to, certainly were overtaking whole lines of cars were involved!

The officers took us out in groups of 2, although I was lucky enough to go out on my own. They weren't on Pans either but on a brand new R1 and SP2. Next to all the marked and unmarked Subaru Impretza's, top end volvos and other specialist vehicles their garage had some seriously nice kit Razz (They get that little lot as they don't have speed cameras in north Yorkshire so fairs fair I suppose Wink )

The ride itself was also a lot of fun, not least because the route encompassed the Yorkshire TT - where he promptly shot off to well over the ton Cool

I highly recommend anyone does it. We all thought we knew all there was to know about riding fast on the roads round here. The Yorkshire TT I know like the back of my hand - yet I still learnt a heck of a lot - some of which has already saved my life.


Last edited by extreme3d on 17:23 - 29 Aug 2006; edited 1 time in total
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killa
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PostPosted: 17:21 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dark wrote:
Did you get out of the wrong side of the bed or something today Killa?


Felt like slating someone else's thread for a change, seem's to be the done thing around here, nothing wrong with some critisium.

Edit:- Just to add, i'm not saying this is boring thread just for fun, but it was like reading about my worst nightmare. I found it an interesting read.
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colin1
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PostPosted: 17:34 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

killa wrote:
nothing wrong with some critisium.


i'll join in too then

its spelt criticism Smile
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Mister James
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PostPosted: 17:35 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

killa wrote:

Felt like slating someone else's thread for a change, seem's to be the done thing around here, nothing wrong with some critisium.


You didn't slate it, you just filled it with weird, aimless gibberish.
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Annabella
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PostPosted: 17:40 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

colin1 wrote:
killa wrote:
nothing wrong with some critisium.


i'll join in too then

its spelt criticism Smile



If only I had karma left to rate that.. Laughing Laughing
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Luke_Retrofly
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PostPosted: 17:46 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thumbs Up @ G

ZZZzzzZZZ @ killa (the bore whore)
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extreme3d
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PostPosted: 18:18 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

colin1 wrote:
killa wrote:
nothing wrong with some critisium.


i'll join in too then

its spelt criticism Smile


Nice one Colin Thumbs Up Laughing
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phk6
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PostPosted: 18:57 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice write up there fella, i think i might go on one im sure it would help me since ive only been riding a proper bike for 2 months, apart from the riding on the rong side of the road down tight lane thing i think he has some good points, but speeds limmits are to limmit the slowest speed you go ( in my book any way) i often find my self doing 50 or even 60 in a 30 zone on the pure fact im so used to going on long rides and averagin speeds of 80+ mph even tho im on a tank of a cb500, 50-60 mph feels like 30 to me, and when im at 30 i feel i may as well be walking.
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rossidude46
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PostPosted: 19:19 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

i did the bikesafe from the Ace not too long ago.

i agree that although being in the outside lane of the A40/A406 might be safer, us mere mortals wont be safe if we stick to the speed limit. when on our ride, no one dared over/undertake us as there was a police rider there, but in the real world cars would over/undertake anyone sitting at the speed limit on those roads.

similarly there is no way cars waiting at roundabouts would normally make space for bikes to filter through, but as soon as the police bike was spotted the waters split like the red sea.


perhaps a more real life experiance would be if the police riders & bikes were 'unmarked', so we could be shown how they would deal with the manic car drivers out there
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mistergixer
World Chat Champion



Joined: 15 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: 19:58 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

colin1 wrote:
killa wrote:
nothing wrong with some critisium.


i'll join in too then

it's spelt criticism Smile


If you're going to be pedantic, make sure you get it right yourself.
Smile

You might like to take a look here:

http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/
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fatoldtramp
L Plate Warrior



Joined: 29 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: 23:02 - 29 Aug 2006    Post subject: Re: Bike safe London; a rider’s eye view (Warning: Long!) Reply with quote

G wrote:
my usual riding style has been described using the word 'twat'.


<ahem>

You may have already identified why you did not get on with the Bikesafe/Roadcraft methodology...
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Harold_Shand
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Joined: 07 Jun 2004
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PostPosted: 02:28 - 30 Aug 2006    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you meet Kate?

Shocked
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Harold_Shand's theory might be the best explanation.
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