Springing into Summer - polishing off the
Winter's finally over, the roads are dry and salt free and the sun
on your back. You've changed the oil, adjusted the chain, checked
the tyre pressures, cleaned the visor and paid for the tax and
insurance. It must be time to park the car at last and go for a
blast on the bike, right?
Wrong. It's time to take it easy, polish up your mind and body, and
rebuild those riding skills!
An easy mistake to make at this time of year is to imagine you can
jump on the bike you last rode in October and instantly be as fast
and safe as you were then. It's not going to happen without some
practice first. Your mind is still operating at half pace from
driving the car around all winter, and you've forgotten that on the
bike everyone else on the road will try to kill you. All that time
spent training yourself not to do stupid things like go for the
brakes mid corner has been been forgotten.
We can all get it wrong. I didn't do as much riding back in the
winter of 99/00 as I usually do, and found myself a bit rusty when
spring finally arrived. I have to admit to making a hideous cock of
a corner in North Devon following Keith along the beautifully wooded
and twisty A396 some weeks back... I failed to read the bend,
suddenly realised it was much sharper than I thought, hit the brakes
(all the while thinking "Don't brake, Steer, Oh Bugger!) and of
course the bike stood up and headed straight for a 50ft drop into
the River Exe. Fortunately I wasn't going "too" quickly and wobbled
round the bend but it was an admirable wake up call!
So what can you do about this? Cast your mind back to the sort of
exercises you did on basic training and perhaps your advanced
course. U turns, Figure of Eights, emergency braking,
counter-steering, positioning. Even consider doing a refresher
course. All these skills need practicing before they become
Out on the road, talk to yourself as you ride - your running
commentary will force you to focus on the dangers around you and
will tune you back in to the hazards of riding the bike quicker than
anything else. Work on your positioning - you'll find that you
forget to take up defensive and dominant positions if you have been
driving a car. Take your time, keep your speeds down and give
yourself plenty of time and distance on those first few rides.
Give your body a chance to get in tune too. Start with short rides
with breaks before you try to attempt a long distance ride -
remember all those aching muscles and stiff knees when you first
started to ride? If you've been off the bike for any time, they'll
be right back if you overdo it.
If things start to get a bit scary, slow down!! Minor mistakes are
made much worse if you are going even a little bit too fast because
you get tense. Slow down and the pressure comes off, you relax, and
you actually speed up again. After my near-dip, I slowed down
perhaps 5%, let Keith disappear, then thoroughly enjoyed the next 10
minutes or so, riding much more smoothly. When I got to the
prearranged turn-off point Keith was just stopping at the side of
the road, having slowed down and looked for me behind him, so I had
probably lost no more than 30 secs or so in 7 or 8 miles, proof that
slower is faster!