The five most important things I learned as a courier

Recently I was challenged to put some tips together from my despatching days... after a few minutes scratching my head, this is what I came up with:

1) Learn to use the brakes... most riders have never practiced an emergency stop since that moment the examiner stuck his hand up... a very bad time to find you've not done one since is in the middle of an emergency. Practice practice practice, wet and dry. If you change pads, bed them in and try them out - they may not respond the same as the last lot. Similarly if you change bike, find out how the brakes work.

2) Learn when not to use the brakes... we'll all experience an "OhmigodImgoingtodie" moment. Instinct is screaming at you "STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP". But hitting the brakes takes you straight on usually into what you wanted to avoid.Very often your best route out of trouble is not stopping but changing direction - bikes are pretty small, can change direction quickly and fit thru small gaps, and lean much further than most riders can cope with.

3) Learn to observe... most riders and drivers don't actually look at anything in particular. You only have to follow another driver/rider for a few minutes and watch their head... they don't check the mirrors, they don't scan junctions for traffic, they don't look through bends over hedges and walls, they don't look any further ahead than the vehicle in front (watch how brake lights come on in a queue!). So all they are doing is following the bloke in front and something unexpected takes them by surprise. A few years ago on a track, I overshot a corner and ended up in a gravel run off. Three of the four bikes behind all followed me into it. The exception was my mate Andy because he was looking where he was going and not following me. Learn to actively scan for hazards, pick your eyes up, look ahead, then pick your eyes up and look again... the limit to your observation is only where you can't see any more.

4) Learn to hang back... a decent gap gives you a good view. A good view allows you to plan. A good plan allows you to carry it out in safety and to make better progress. A good courier has seen that not only is it safe to pass the car ahead but the right lane or filtering option will take them to the head of the queue, whilst the impatient rider has run himself into a dead end.

5) Learn that slow is fast... restraint and patience defeats stress and anxiety. By taking their time the best couriers are as unobtrusive in traffic as police riders. They've learnt to give themselves a bit of space and to be patient. They can ride for hours because they're relaxed, and make better progress than the rider who is in a tearing hurry. And because they are safer, they have fewer spills - if the bike is off the road, they're not earning! And finally there is no such thing as a deadline. If the client has left it too late, tough. I'm not collecting a speeding ticket or worse to save their @ss!!