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OPINION

Top six: simple skills to becoming a better all-round rider

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Easy to learn, hard to master… The six, simple skills are the key to silky smooth riding.

I’d wager most riders don’t really bother that much with training, once the L plates have been ditched. Sure, a few might go for a track day session or two, but I bet I could count on one hand the number of you who’ve been back to riding school since you rode off with your full licence.

And that’s fine, but be you a new rider or an old hand it never hurts to brush up a bit on your skills… and no, that’s not in a ‘Institute of Advanced Motorists, you’ll save 5% on your insurance’ kind of way; the simple fact is, we didn’t get into motorcycling because we had to, we ride because we enjoy it and the more confident and competent you are handling your bike, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the act of riding it. Make sense?

Brush up on a few basic skills – that you probably could do without thinking anyway, but have just got a bit rusty at – and the mechanics of riding will become second nature, leaving you safe in the knowledge you can cope with most of what the road can throw at you and able to sit back, relax and just enjoy the ride.
Here’s six key things to sort:

Stop, before you go

Most riders won’t give emergency stops a second thought after passed their practical test, but do you really want to find out you can;t remember how to do it properly when you’re hurtling towards something? Find a car park and practice, practice, practice – in the wet and dry. And don’t think you don’t need to just because you have ABS either…

Corner with confidence

Ever gone into a corner too hot? Ran wide? Bottled it and grabbed the brake mid-bend? We all have, so there’s no shame in brushing up on your counter-steering, learning how to read a bend and going over throttle control again. Imagine how much more enjoyable your favourite twisty road will be…

Overtake without a mistake

One of the best bits about riding a bike is being able to nip past slower moving vehicles without too much effort. Do it badly, in the wrong place, or for the wrong reasons though and you’re at risk of coming unstuck in a big way. Learn how to effect a proper overtake with confidence

Slow and steady

Few things make riding easier and more enjoyable than being able to pull off a feet-up-u-turn, ease up to traffic lights without having to dab for the floor, or cut your way through stationary traffic with ease. Learn how to balance your throttle, clutch and brake for proper slow control.

Roughing it

Having eve just the basic skills to be able to deal with rough surfaces keeps you ahead of the game. It might only be a gravel track to a viewpoint, a short stretch of grass to the camp-site, or an unsurfaced stretch of Tarmac in some road works, but being able to deal with a little ‘off-road’ is a winner

Go long

Riding for long stretches is something few riders plan or train for, but it can really help being capable and confident that you can knock out a big mileage ride when you need to. Learn how to get yourself mentally and physically prepared to ride long distances, so even if it’s unexpected, you can go those extra miles without a problem.

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Phil's probably the shortest motorcycle journalist on the planet, standing just 5ft 4in, but has almost certainly got the longest beard in the industry (we've not measured it yet). Cruiser test then?

OPINION

How to: Film your motorcycle tour

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There’s little doubt that the availability of compact cameras, and the ease at which you can get published online, has made cameramen and directors out of many motorcyclists.

And why not? Filming a trip not only gives you the opportunity to relive it from the comfort of your own home, but can inspire others to do so – and might make you a few bob in ad click-throughs in to the bargain.

There’s more to filming a bike tour than just sticking a GoPro to your helmet though, to come back with consistent, quality, usable footage takes a lot of planning , a good helping of discipline on the road, as well as plenty of creativity and at times some outright brass neck to get those really good shots. Here’s how not to make complete hash of recording your next tour:

Can you cut it?

First things first: ask yourself if you really want to stop enjoying those lovely, twisty mountain roads, pull over and set up your tripod, ride back and forth ‘till you get the shot you want and then pack it all up and carry on. If the answer is no, then filming is not for you.

Sort your set up

Think about the shots you want to get and how you can get them: want a rider’s eye view? You’ll need a helmet mount; fancy some tracking shots? A tripod is easier than balancing on rocks etc. Either way, decide on your kit before you go and keep it as simple as possible.

Shoot some cutaways

Cutaways are ‘atmospheric’ shots that help paint a picture of your trip and can help guide a viewer through the film, eg: zipping up jackets, pointing at maps, putting the bike in and out of gear etc. Even if they seem mundane to you, you’ll be glad of them when you come to edit.

Keep it rolling

You’ll sometimes meet situations where maybe you shouldn’t be filming eg: crossing a border, talking to someone in a cafe etc. If you think you can – safely – get away with it, keep the camera rolling, as situations like that can often produce some fab footage.

Angles and positions

Don’t just stand there with the camera at your face pointing it at things, or it’ll start to look like your dad’s old VHS holiday films. Shoot a few different angles and perspectives to help bring the subject alive.

Hold the shots

Don’t stop shots abruptly, hold them for longer than you think you need – when filming people riding off from a stop etc. – that way you’ll have lots of room to play with when editing and you might just catch something unexpected.

Catch some context

Keep an eye out for things that are country-specific, like signs in foreign languages, flags, local people in traditional dress, well-known landmarks etc. and try to capture some sounds like people talking in native tongue etc. to give a real sense of where you are.

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OPINION

One LOVE

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All motorcycles have a singular beauty. However, if it is YOUR motorcycle, there is a deeper connection.

Your relationship is one of trust and respect that transcends time.

From the first time you meet, a connection is established. Your one love is hard to find. I have been out at the dealership and seen some hot Italian bikes but in the end, they are high maintenance, expensive to keep up, and they will not stand the test of time.

Looks are important, but a relationship is more than skin deep.

How does that bike make you feel? Every time you gaze upon your bike, you should smile; you have found the right bike. The worst thing you can do is settle for a bike you don’t truly feel a connection with.

I am a one-motorcycle guy – truly monogamous. Having two bikes is hard to juggle. I think a small, fast motorcycle that is good-looking, handles well, and has a classic appeal is what I always
wanted, and I think I have found it.

Stay with a motorcycle that has stood the test of time. A bike that’s made you smile, given you a thrill, and stuck with you through thick and thin. A solid, well-built motorcycle is a thing of beauty.

Be smart, and cover that motorcycle so no one steals it at night. Buy your motorcycle expensive accessories, and take it on trips to exotic lands. Up or down, thin or flush, treat your motorcycle well.

Respect it, and it will return to you amazing experiences, expand your world and open your eyes.

Understand that this is a partnership. From the first ride to every terrible bump in the road, stay with that reliable bike and remember she is your one LOVE.

Happy Valentines Day, Mrs. Sterling.

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