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Writing a riding tip - what detail is necessary?

From time to time, someone comments on my articles by saying: "you write too much. Your articles are too long. They cover too much. There's too much detail to take in". I understand the criticism - here on the Survival Skills advanced motorcycle riding website I do tend to write long articles. Here's why.

A while back, someone emailed me to say my articles were too long and to point me at another training school's riding tips. Over a couple of rounds of mail we ended up talking about an article that dealt with the 'advanced' approach to roundabouts. To go straight ahead, the writer was advocating a straight line. The rider starts on the left, clips the island mid-roundabout, then exits on the left. It's sometimes called the 'kerb/kerb/kerb' (or KKK) route, and it's not uncommon for it to be taught on post-test training.

What's usually discussed is how the rider gains 'advantage' from the route. The benefit usually advanced is that the KKK route "improves stability" because the straighter route means the bike stays more upright when compared to the 'around the outside' route taught on basic training.

But let's flip the question in the usual Survival Skills fashion and have a think about the potential problems rather than the possible benefit.

The first is that any straighter route is almost always used to carry more speed. That's just as true on a roundabout as it is in a corner. So let's think about how that works. Any gain in stability is very quickly traded away to increased stopping distances and a reduced ability to swerve. There's a simple bit of physics to remember here - if we double our speed, we QUADRUPLE stopping distance and swerving also takes longer to achieve. What this means is that relatively small increases in speed have a proportionately greater impact in terms of longer stopping distance and reduced agility than might be obvious. Meanwhile, let's remind ourselves of just what a roundabout is - it's a junction. Does it make sense to carry additional speed into a junction? If we want to increase stability, perhaps we should be thinking of reducing speed, not finding ways to carry more of it.

The article in question didn't discuss this. Nor did it really explore the next issue.

The Highway Code lays down 'standard procedures' for dealing with roundabouts for good reason. If followed, we can look at another road user and know what they are doing. And another driver can look at us, and know exactly what route we're following. Everyone understands everyone else, and we can all make our plans accordingly. But once anyone - ourselves included - starts 'freelancing' with our own notion of how to ride across a roundabout, it causes confusion. It's easy to write "only use non-standard procedures in the absence of other vehicles" but look at the views on most roundabouts - it's often far from easy to be certain we're alone.

And there's another problem. There's always someone faster. One of my nearest-misses came at the end of a sequence of roundabouts I'd straight-lined. The rider who had followed me through the previous three tried (and failed) to out-brake me into the last one. It was only because I used effective rear observation that I was able to take evasive action and save us from a coming-together.

I felt that their article glossed over the issue that there are likely to be other road users using the roundabout as well as the need for good rear observation before committing to a straight line approach with a passing reference, whilst pushing the minor benefit of getting to the other side of the island slightly more quickly as 'advanced' riding.

Somewhat to my surprise, my correspondent forwarded the emails onto the training school for their comments. In essence, they agreed on the overarching need for safety (not surprising seeing as we are both essentially teaching safe riding), but not on the need to include that in the article. I was told it would be covered when you took an actual course.

Eh? The risk of only giving out half the information on the grounds that it will be covered in a training course should be obvious.

So to get back to my original point about depth of content, I try to balance any positive benefits with possible negative aspects, even if that makes for a long read. It's particularly dangerous to leave out the cautions. Not everyone will figure out the pitfalls for themselves and as one of my earlier trainees said - she was a horse-riding instructor - if we ASSUME it makes an ASS out of U and ME!

Kevin Williams
Survival Skills Rider Training

...because it's a jungle out there


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What is Survival Skills all about?

How are Survival Skills Courses put together and taught?
The Making of a Good Instructor - musings on my Driver Education course

Would a National Standard for advanced training be appropriate?
Writing a riding tip - what detail is necessary?
What to do if you've had an accident
Accident Statistics - dispelling some myths

Improver or advanced, pragmatism or perfection?
Piling on the miles
Compartmentalisation & Practice -  the key to learning new skills
Countersteering - Question and Answer

Braking Rules and Tips
Over-confidence and Riding at the Limit
Practice makes Perfect
The Danger of Misunderstanding
Learning from your Mistakes
A Moment of Inattention
Staying Warm
Staying Awake
Don't just ride for yourself, ride for others
Filtering - what's legal and how to do it
Cornering Problems 1 - Lean or Brake?
Springing into Summer - polishing off the winter rust
Group Riding - Rules and Tips
Awareness of Risk and Risk Management
Cornering Problems 4 - Stability and the "Point and Squirt" technique
Cornering Problems 3 - Staying out of trouble! Pro-active Braking or Acceleration Sense?
Cornering Problems 2 - Staying out of trouble
What is Risk?
Avoiding Diesel
The Vanishing Point - is it enough?
Posture - the key to smoother riding
When the Two Second Rule is not enough
Riding in the Dark
Roundabouts - straight lines, stability and safety
Slow Speed Control
Aquaplaning - what it is and how to deal with it
Rear Observation - when to & when not to!
Staying upright on icy roads
KISS - 'Keep it simple, Stupid' or Low Effort Biking
Overtaking Safety - avoiding vehicles turning right
Proactive versus Reactive Riding
Living with  Lifesavers
Which Foot? The Hendon Shuffle - Question and Answer
Carrying a passenger - Question and Answer
Riding in the rain
Riding in strong winds
Sorry Mate, I didn't see you - an analysis of SMIDSY accidents
Ever gone into a corner too hot and had it tighten up on you?
The Point & Squirt approach to corners
A time to live...
Target Fixation - Question and Answer
The Lurker, the Drifter and the Trimmer
The five most important things I learned as a courier
Overtaking - Questions and Answers
Precision riding - or keeping it simple?
Wide lines, tight lines, right lines - the law of Diminishing Returns
Surface Attraction
Euphoria - when your riding is just too good to be true
Straight line -vs- trail braking
Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and hope for the best
Before you overtake, do you...?
Do you need to blip the throttle on a downshift?
Holiday Riding Tips 1 - Dealing with hairpins (a new occasional series)
Holiday Riding Tips 2 - The (drive on the) Right Stuff
Why SMIDSYs happen
Avoiding dehydration - riding in hot weather
Riding errors - and avoiding them
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - riding in fog
Where does Point and Squirt come from?
Overtaking - lifesavers and following distances
Offsiding - what is it, and why you should think before you do it!
Anger Management - dealing with "red mist" and "road rage"
That indefinable gloss
Overtaking on left-handers - experts only or best avoided?
Apex or Exit - what's important when cornering?

Developing 'Spidy Sense'

Armchair Riding - how to improve summer skills in winter

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 1

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 2

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This archive of articles is provided free to read and download, but is not for commercial use. Contact me for re-use rights.

IMPORTANT: The information on the Survival Skills website is for your general information and personal use and should be taken as a guide only. Survival Skills Rider Training provides no warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness, clarity, fitness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements and you acknowledge use of any information and materials is entirely at your own risk, and that neither Kevin Williams nor Survival Skills can accept responsibility for your interpretation or use of this information or materials. The content of these pages is subject to change without notice. 

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