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February 2017

Skill Master Advanced Riding Techniques e-newslette r
Issue 1 Volume 5
Welcome to the February 2017 edition of SMARTer.

Glad you could join us for this newsletter. Lots happening in motorcycling so we'll begin with our recent ride to Australia's answer to the best European rides- Tasmania!

After much anticipation, planning, searches of ' weather in Tasmania in February', and a few sleepless nights, we finally made our trip to Tasmania a reality. A few mechanical issues ( is a tyre down to the steel belts mechanical?), a little rain here and there, but an awesome time with great people. Read on for all the details.

Recently read this research paper on what is causing us to crash.Great to see decent research on motorcycles instead of people starting from the position of " we really need to prove how dangerous these things are so these poor uninformed people will give away riding."

Feeling a bit tyred? Yeah a shocking play on words I know but there are a few things you could and should know about the black stuff on your wheels...

If you have $100 you'd like to spend wisely, like on something to do with motorcycles, we are running a couple of courses at Wollondilly Council in acouple of weekends (1st and 2nd April). We've done these subsidised courses previously and they have been very well received. Read on for details.

A day at the races? The Festival of Speed is coming to Sydney Motorsport Park in March. How about a day out?

Caption that! Here's an opportunity for you to put words to one of the photos from the Tassie trip. You might even win some stuff!

You will notice the Yamaha logo at the end of this newsletter now. Yamaha have been good enough to sponsor Skill Master so we are excited by this union. And no, there aren't any free bikes going either!

Thanks for reading the newsletter, we really hope it helps float your boat, er motorcycle...


0414 974 815

Mention a motorcycle ride to Tasmania and the person you are talking to is likely to drift off to another world where they see themselves riding some of the best roads in the world, on the best bike, which we all know is a....

Back to reality and the person you are talking to is either going to answer your question, whether you asked it or not, with "Yeah, I"m gonna do that one day", or "Yeah did that a while ago, awesome roads!"

Well, our intrepid 19 riders ( Henry- driving the ute for us is also a rider) ventured off from just below Sydney ( Southern Gateway Centre) on a very warm February morning. I know, the photo is a few short of the total. We collected quite a few on the way but decided to extend the euphoria by taking three days to get to the Port Melbourne Spirit of Tasmania terminal.

Good friend Richard Outten came along to bid us farewell and take some happy sanps for us and we were underway.

Narooma was our first stop and a hot day saw us take a while to cover the 300km. Air conditioning and a pool greeted us so it was a happy ending to our first "getting to know you" day.

Even on day one we realised Garmin and TomTom have quite a few employees with a deep seated, if not slightly warped, sense of humour. Their products are generally very good but everyone was discovering their particular unit was instructing them to go one way but the person in front was going another! What to do?

Fun and laughs were going to be the order of the day, each day. A lot of real characters among us. With Clif on his trike, and at 78 our oldest and wisest rider, we knew we were in for a lot of laughs. We enjoyed amazing food, roads, very special accommodation, and an adventure of and to last a lifetime.

What was to become a sometime reluctant or hard to get into activity was our morning walks. Most glad this was an optional pursuit!

First morning, first walk. And while the Map-of-Australia rock didn"t include Tasmania we saw this as a sign of good things to come. Even if the getting out of bed part was difficult!

Second day and Sale in our sights, we took the scenic route away from the main highway and ventured to Bombala and Cann River through some superb riding roads.

This day was longer than expected and hot. But the beautiful town of Sale welcomed us and we enjoyed a meal with Shaun Lennard from the Australian Motorcycle Council.

A detour to Phillip Island for lunch on our way to the Spirit of Tasmania saw occasional heavy showers and crowds visiting for the Sunday. Who would have thought? Rain on Phillip Island!!!

So we planned a meeting spot in a cafe metres from the ferry. Everyone rolled in through the afternoon, just as a predicted storm began to remind us we were travelling on motorcycles on a Skill Master trip and, well, it wouldn't be a Skill Master ride without torrential rain somewhere along the way!

We lined up with all the other travellers, and sat. Then sat some more... for an hour. Waiting to be welcomed onto the ferry.

With the bikes being secured downstairs we headed to our rooms and some dry clothes.

The trip across was thankfully calm, not a foretaste of what our return journey would be! We arrive in cool but dry Devonport for an early breakfast and head off as a group. Well, most of us. With no one really knowing where to go, and our navigation devices telling us fuel lay in a few different places, we had a delayed start but eventually all found our way out of Devonport and headed towards St Helens, 238km away.

Along the way there are so many places to stop and look around. Finding the balance of sight seeing and riding was going to be the hardest part of the trip!

People from the tiny town of Legerwood decided to memorialise their war heros in these old trees. Quite a spectacle and a great honour to the fallen.

Roads around Scottsdale and Legerwood, and pretty much all the island, are simply fantastic. What makes them so good is often the cambering of the corners, which seems to be so much better than anywhere else on the mainland. Perhaps a perception only but the corners just allow for such a rhythm to be adopted and after a while you are so absorbed into them you realise you've been going for ages.

You think it must come to an end soon, but no, so often the roads just keep going for what seems an eternity of one smooth corner linking another. No need to go back and do sections again, they all are so long you are left gobsmacked at the distance you've just covered, and then you come upon some fabulous vistas to cap it all off.

This one near Scottsdale.

The only downside is the gravel tossed onto the road by race cars during the Targa Tasmania rally. These, and no shortage of lazy tourists, drag a lot of gravel onto the apex of so many corners. But the gravel is large enough to see easily and being so skilled at changing directions mid corner, all our well trained riders negotiated this with ease!!!!!

A few of our members were chatting to a local and, guided by said local, took a "short cut" which should have been a nicer road to the Pub in the Paddock hotel.

How can you go wrong when a local gives you directions, right?

Whilst the photos don't really show it, I am assured the road was mainly boulders! This was why Rob received the award of ' Rider of the trip'. Doing this on his FJR.

I really don't think he would have done it apart from nowhere to turn around once on the road!

So St Helens for the first night in Tassie.

The resort at St Helens, a three course dinner and views of the harbour were a welcome end to our first day on the island.

Among our group were a huge cross section of riders. Some with many kilometres under their belts, others with very little experience.

What was becoming apparent was the enjoyment of the ride and sharing this with so many like minded people at day's end.

Next newsletter we'll continue our adventure in a basically clockwise direction around Tasmania.

Hear about adventures on Mount Wellington in the night, Hobart's many offerings and trains, automobiles and beaches in Strahan. And we didn't even get to Jacks tyre problems yet!

Purely through available
numbers it is worth looking at this perspective on crashing from the Americans, something we all hope never to do...(Crashing that is, not the taking notice of Americans, well there is the new presid...oh boy!). I've added a few colour highlights to the text for those things that really jumped out at me.

What Virginia Tech (Transportation Institute) learned about how and why we crash motorcycles. (

What do you learn if you pick 100 riders, put five video cameras and data-logging equipment on their motorcycles and record them for a total of 366,667 miles?

Several things, some of which we knew, some surprising. Intersections are dangerous. We either need to pay better attention or work on our braking techniques, because we crash into the back of other vehicles way too often. We’re not good enough at cornering, especially right turns ( that would be left turns here!!!). And we drop our bikes a lot (probably more often than any of us imagined or were willing to admit).

The study was done for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Of course there’s a lot more to it than those findings above, and I’ll get further into the results in a minute. But first, why do we need some men and women in lab coats to tell us why we crashed?

Motorcycle crashes: Complex topic, scarce information

The most commonly cited U.S. study of motorcycle crashes is the one known as the Hurt report. Researchers at the University of Southern California, led by Harry Hurt, went to motorcycle crash scenes to determine the causes. Unfortunately, that report came out in 1981, when cell phones were non-existent and a powerful motorcycle made 90 horsepower. Plus, all those crashes studied were in Southern California.

So even though the Hurt report was the best we had, it was short of perfect. Why does that matter? Well, if we don’t have hard evidence on why crashes happen, how can we make the right decisions to prevent them to keep ourselves safer? Or fight bad legislation intended to protect us from ourselves? Or provide better training for new riders?

How Virginia Tech studied motorcycle crashes

The VTTI researchers recruited 100 riders from age 21 to 79 in California, Arizona, Florida and Virginia. They outfitted their motorcycles with video cameras showing the rider’s face and forward, rear, left and right views. GPS and data loggers captured other information, such as brake pressure, acceleration, etc.

This high-tech approach addressed another weakness of the Hurt report. As thorough as the USC team was back in the late 1970s, they had to gather information from crash scene clues and witnesses, including the riders themselves, when possible. In many cases, they found no evidence that riders took any action at all to avoid a crash, though riders often reported they did. The VTTI cameras and data loggers weren’t likely to change their story after the fact.

While 366,667 miles of riding sounds like a lot, this study still falls short of fulfilling the hopes we had a decade ago of a comprehensive national study. The telling statistic is that in the entire study there were 30 crashes and 122 near-crash events.

There are far more than 30 ways to crash a motorcycle, so drawing conclusions from that sample size is tricky. The inclusion of near-crashes helps, however.

Sometimes those events teach us just as much or more than a crash.

The VTTI team explains its methodology, including efforts to standardize and define terms and procedures. All the details are in a 20-page report you can download from the MSF. But here are some of the things I picked out.

Where we crash

Intersections. No surprise there. VTTI created a system to calculate how much a certain scenario or riding behavior increased the odds of a crash or near-crash. An uncontrolled intersection presents nearly 41 times the risk of no intersection. A parking lot or driveway intersection is more than eight times as risky and an intersection with a signal is almost three times as risky.

A downhill grade increased the risk by a factor of four while an uphill grade doubled it. Riders were nine times as likely to crash or have a near-crash incident on gravel or dirt roads than on paved roads. And riders were twice as likely to have an incident in a righthand turn than on a straight section of road (crossing the center line is considered a near-crash scenario, even if nothing else bad happens).

How we crash

We complain all the time about other people on the road trying to kill us, especially cars pulling into our paths. The VTTI study partially backs that up. Of the 99 crashes and near-crashes involving another vehicle, the three categories of other vehicles crossing the rider’s path add up to 19.

Here’s the surprise, however. What’s the most common scenario? Riders hitting (or nearly hitting) another vehicle from behind. There were 35 of those incidents. Are we really almost twice as likely to plow into a stopped car in front of us as to have someone pull into our path? Or should we write this off as the result of a small sample size?

Maybe there are clues in the risk section. Researchers tried to break down rider behavior in crashes and near-crash incidents into two categories: aggressive riding or rider inattention or lack of skills. The cameras and other data helped determine, for example, if the rider ran the red light because of inattention or aggressive riding.

The study found that aggressive riding increased risk by a factor of 18 while inattention or lack of skill increased it by a factor of nine.

Combine the two, and odds of an incident increased by 30.

Now here's one of the less dramatic findings, but an interesting one, just the same.

It seems we drop our bikes a lot. Or at least the riders in the study did. More than half the crashes were incidents some riders wouldn't define as a crash — not a dramatic collision but an incident defined as a case where the "vehicle falls coincident with low or no speed (even if in gear)" not caused by another outside factor.

Rider inattention or poor execution are to blame. The study finds "These low-speed 'crashes' appear to be relatively typical among everyday riding," but they are incidents that would never be included in a different kind of study of motorcycle crashes. The cameras, however, capture it all, even our mundane but embarrassing moments.

What we can learn

Of course the practical goal for the MSF in funding this study is to find ways to improve its curriculum for teaching new riders and the study ends with some suggestions.

For all of us, however, anything that gets us thinking about where we can be better (and therefore safer) riders is worth a little of our time and thought.

Here’s one thing I know I personally need to work on constantly, and I suspect many of you do, too. We need to look further ahead.

It applies on the street, on the track, everywhere. One of the other risk factors the VTTI researchers found that I haven’t mentioned yet is that maneuvering to avoid an object, whether a pedestrian, an animal or something lying in the road, increases the risk factor by 12.

Combine that with the high number of riders hitting another vehicle from behind and I get the feeling we’re just not paying close enough attention.

We’re not keeping our eyes up and looking far down the road, to see the developing situation that is going to cause the driver in front of us to slam on his brakes, or to spot the hunk of exploded truck tire lying in our lane. Those things are taking us by surprise and we’re not giving ourselves enough time to react.

One thing professional riding coaches teach at the track is to keep your eyes up and look farther ahead. That essentially slows down the action, because you have more time to react to what you see if you’re looking further ahead. If you’re looking at what’s right in front of you on the track (or street), you’re looking at the past, not the future. It’s already too late for you to do anything about what’s 20 feet ahead of your front tire.

The VTTI study isn’t the last word on motorcycle crashes, but that’s OK. There should never be a last word, because we should never stop talking and learning about it.

Feeling tyred? Yeah, a very poor quality writing and humour attempt.

But it is surprising how little we really know about the one aspect of a bike which potentially has the most signicant impact on us getting home.

So here is a little information to assist you to have some sympathy for those hard working hoops...

Under pressure
Even if you have never checked your tyre pressures, you are aware air is required to make them work properly. The right amount of air is important and many possibly feel that as long as it doesn't look too flat, it must be okay.

While a variation on how much air is in the tyre can be tolerated, the recommended pressures are there for a good reason.

But what does the air do?
Largely, it enables the rubber carcus of the tyre to remain reasonably in shape despite on road variations, and to also take the shape of those irregularities while still staying 'stuck' to the road.

Imagine it this way, if you had a tyre super inflated so it didn't budge at all it would never take shape of the road surface and have a higher propensity to slide sideways when pushed.

Conversely, if you had a tyre which was very soft, much like when a tyre is flat, it would take the shape of the surface it was on but be so heavy to steer or move on as to be useless.

So to put too much air in can have an affect of making the bike feel like it is ' moving around' all the time as it encounters irregularities in the road surface, and too little will make it feel heavy and difficult to steer.

Apart from these, and other characteristics of pressure, wear is dramatically affected by how much air you have too.

The correct amount of air is recomended by tyre companies and motorcycle manufacturers after a lot of testing so their figures should be taken note of.

How much is too much and how much is too little?
You will find motorcycle companies make recommendations for tyre pressure and place this most often on the swing arm of the rear suspension. The figures provided give you an idea of what to use if you are on your own, or riding with a passenger and luggage.

If you are going to vary from these recommendations, don't stray far! A couple of PSI ( I know, we should be consistent and talk killer pascals but it just seems easier to talk Pounds per Square Inch) more or less can make a signficant difference to the way the bike handles, and how the tyres wear.

Always ask the people who fit your tyres what they and others are finding are the best pressures for a specific tyre.

And never check them hot! Recommended pressures are always cold as they increase considerably once you've been riding for a while and checking them hot can mean a significantly lower pressure than required when cold. Remember that day in science at school when you learned about constants and temperature, volume and pressure? Me neither.

Tyre pressures recommended by car manufacturers are quite a different ball game as they always err on the side of recommending 'softer' tyres so they are more comfortable. Not an issue on a bike.

What to wear?
Did you see what I did with that?

Okay, not funny.

We tend to think wear is going to be like on our car where the tyre wears flat across the entire surface on the road.

Because your motorcycle doesn't sit on the entire tyre on straight roads it tends to wear the centre of the tread out.

This might seem an obvious statement but a lot of people don't realise how much this affects wear. You will always wear the centre of the tread out first, unless you spend all your time riding on race tracks!

So be aware of the uneven shape the tyre will take as this happens and replace your tyres when they start to feel hard to turn or heavy because of the different angles and ridges now produced across the face of the tyre. You can see this in the first pic.

The circled section on this tyre is a wear indicator. If the depth of tread is almost to this, get new tyres. ' Almost' is around a couple of millimetres.

Old age
Because a lot of people won't cover the same distances each year on their bikes, as they do in their cars, tyres can tend to need replacing before they are even close to being worn out.

If your tyres are five years old, you might want to consider getting new ones, even if they have plenty of tread left. Ozone in the atmosphere causes tyres to get hard as they age. This changes the way they work and a hard tyre will not grip and can let go when you least expect it, and for no apparent reason.

Recently learned from a tyre expert in the car industry they recommend similar time with performance tyres on cars.

You can tell how old a tyre is by looking for the imprint in the tyre which shows week and year of manufacture. The pic below shows what to look for ( week 20, year 2015).

Lots more we could discuss on tyres but this newsletter isn't intended to put you to sleep!
We mentioned these courses in a recent message to you but there is some really good news about them now.

Due to the low pressure system about to smash the east coast, the predicted torrential rainfall on the advertised dates, in the Wollondilly area, has lead to a postponement of these courses until 1st and 2nd April.

I know, some of you are thinking everything will be perfectly as expected regarding monsoonal weather and a Skill Master course, but Leanne from the council says she can't supply snorkels so the days must move.

Most people already booked can still come so get in quick.
The QBE International Festival of Speed is on again at Sydney Motorsport Park from 23rd to 26th March.

This event offers a whole lot more than racing with some great riders of the past and present, similar with the bikes, and competitions where you could win an MV Augusta!

Now don't get the wrong idea, Casey Stoner won't likely be there but at least I get to show one off my photos to advertise an Italian bike event ( it is advertised as a celebration of Italian GP racing)!

My suggestion is, if you would like to join us, we can meet at the Caltex ( southbound) on the Princes Highway in Heathcote at 830AM on Sunday 26th.

From there we can ride out to Sydney Motorsport Park together.

Any takers?

Just let me know if you are coming.

Here is your opportunity to demonstrate your hiddeen talent of making fun of us!

This candid shot was taken whilst on a rare break for food and coffee in Tasmania.

It just seems to lend itself to so many opportunities for a send up I thought I'd give it to you.

There may even be a prize for the best comment.

But please be nice...
Thanks for reading the newsletter and being part of Skill Master.

To those of you receiving this for the first time, welcome and we do hope it will meet a need somewhere in your motorcycling life and you will join us at some stage for a ride perhaps.

Paul Riley
0414 974 815

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