What is Survival Skills all about?

Some might call this a mission statement. The intent of the Survival Skills Advanced Rider Training Course is to bridge the gap from the basic riding skills taught by training schools to pass CBT and the DoT riding test, to the techniques necessary to take you up to an advanced, safer and more enjoyable level of riding.

Whilst the framework of Survival Skills courses is based around "Roadcraft", the Police riding manual, where appropriate I have drawn on circuit based skills, particularly the works of Keith Code, the content of advanced training material from other countries and my own riding experience.

The roads are probably amongst the most dangerous places available for use by the public. The CBT course and the driving test were devised to ensure that learner motorcycle riders could not ride legally on the road until they had completed a basic training course and the examiner was satisfied that they were reasonably safe to ride on the road. The fact that you can legally ride after a bare minimum of training does not take away the hazards.

Whilst basic training courses are of a generally high standard, they are not intended to and cannot make you an expert motorcyclist overnight. On the other hand, don't dismiss them as useless either. You have to ride using a safety system derived from the police method to pass - and there aren't many better riders around than the Police.

If you passed your motorcycle test since CBT was introduced, the chances are that you are still using at least part of these basic skills, together with some sort of system for putting them into action, perhaps without realising it. If you are an older rider and survived with no training (as I managed to do for many years) you've probably developed a system of your own.

When all is said and done riding a motorcycle on the road (or for that matter, being in charge of any vehicle) can be reduced to two areas of skills:

    defensive riding skills - the mental techniques of concentration, observation, anticipation and planning
    advanced machine control skills - the physical techniques of bike handling, acceleration, braking and cornering

As a general rule Survival Skills courses will not to go over basic riding (except when necessary to remind you of the basic rules) nor at the opposite extreme will I attempt to explain circuit racing skills, although some of the ideas were developed by Keith Code (of "Twist of the Wrist" fame) on the race track. There are many techniques which are not part of the basic training which are of positive benefit on the road, and the aim of these courses is to introduce these ideas and to change the way you think about your riding too.

Defensive Riding takes an in-depth looks at the mental skills you need to ride safely on the road. Most riders who have come into motorcycling in the last ten years or so are likely to have done an intensive training course which should have introduced you to the basic ideas that we will look at and expand upon. For those of you who are returning riders (or even those who have been riding since passing the old round the block test), there will probably be a lot of new ideas to think about.

Advanced Machine Control Skills takes a look at the the physical inputs that you make to your machine, explains how and why they work, and ultimately puts you in charge of, rather than simply being a passenger on, your own machine. Much of this is not covered in basic training because there isn't time or would be confusing in the circumstances, and many of the techniques are new to experienced riders too. Out of a group of six I recently trained, only one thoroughly understood countersteering!

After completing any training, think about what you have learned. It's up to you to decide whether to keep practicing what you have learned - it's all there for a reason, and hopefully you will understand why you do things, as well as what to do.

Take your time getting used to riding the bike with your new-found skills - they are easier to practice and work just as well at lower speeds, and are more likely to become automatic. Apply the ideas behind both defensive riding and advanced techniques - they work hand in hand. One without the other is potentially dangerous. Don't set yourself too difficult a target in your first few weeks, and don't chase after faster or more experienced friends.

Ride to your own limits at all time and, whatever riding techniques you use, never sacrifice safety. And as it says in Roadcraft, "always remember advanced techniques of machine control can only increase your safety and reduce the risk of an accident if they are supported by positive attitudes, concentration, critical self-awareness and above all, by self-control".

Kevin Williams

Survival Skills Rider Training