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Motorcyclist’s attitude to risk

Motorcyclists attitude to risk

Motorcyclists attitude to risk

There is a huge difference between one motorcyclist’s attitude to risk to another’s. it depends on their personal perception of risk, their ability and how well they have been trained. 

What is risky for one person is not risky for another. This doesn’t mean they are lesser or better riders, it means that everyone is different. They view the road differently and they view their own riding skills differently too. Some riders are very experienced, whereas some are new to the game and still learning.

The reason riders do different things is because of a lack of ability, experience and confidence.


Take filtering as an example, many new riders do not filter for days, weeks or months after they pass their test. Then one day they have a go as they start to feel confident and see others do it. Sometimes they have to follow another rider to feel confident. This is also their perception of risk to themselves that prevents them from filtering.

Risk can be categorised into a few different sectors, the rider, external factors of road conditions and other traffic, the speed and hazard perception.

The Rider

Most riders assume that after passing the basic test they are now on the road to self improvement. This means they only start learning once they pass the test. This is true to an extent, but only in becoming comfortable and familiar with the skills needed to ride safely on today’s busy and congested roads. 

But to fully understand how to ride well and put into practice a robust riding strategy, riders must adopt a completely different approach to riding from the basic test principles they were taught.

In short, the basic test training is not good enough to prepare riders for the journey ahead of them once they pass. At best it is barely enough to get most people through the DVSA initial test.

The test does not prepare riders

Further development and training is necessary, that’s because the training for the motorcycle test is very basic. It usually spends time in the vicinity of the test centre or training school. 

These areas are quite sterile, they do not have the same feel as the roads riders typically ride after they have passed a motorcycle test.

Take someone who passes a test in Birmingham as an example. They ride in the city, do a test mainly on 30 or 40 mph roads and when they pass their test they are off to Wales to enjoy the twisty roads. This training is hardly preparing them for the adventure ahead, which is full of risks.

A motorcyclist’s attitude to risk in this situation is sometimes blinkered by the excitement of passing a test and going for a ride. They usually ride with friends who have more experience, playing-catch up or keep-up brings different risks. It is not until it’s too late that most riders find themselves out of their comfort zone and actual ability.

If riders do have problems with aspects of their riding, the faster they ride the bigger the problems get!

Other issues

The bike’s condition and performance will affect the way a rider deals with hazards. If the machine is in a poor condition the risk to the rider will almost certainly be greater.

The tyres play a huge part in road grip, with poor tyre tread in wet conditions the rider is more vulnerable and at risk.

Likewise when a rider does not check their tyre pressures and they find it hard cornering. They state that the bike does not feel stable and does not go where they want it to.

Generally this is because the tyre pressures are low and need to be inflated, or it could be a lack of ability to steer the bike where they want to go. Both scenarios add risk to the rider.

Motorcycle Training Instructor and student


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True stories

A few years ago a chap who had not been riding long (probably 6 months), asked me to have a ride on his bike as it would not go around a corner. I obliged and after the first corner I realised the tyres were probably the cause of this issue. When the tyres were checked, the front was 11 psi and the rear was 18 psi. No wonder it wouldn’t respond well, but he blamed the garage because it had just had an engine service!

Another story was a chap was undergoing some basic advanced training. He’d had a break from riding for a few years and bought an old bike like he used to ride. He wanted some refresher training and guidance because he’d not ridden for such a long time. This is refreshing news to a motorcycle instructor. But he came off his bike in a very slow roundabout, no debris or diesel on the road at all. 

The problem was his tyres, they must have been at least 20 years old. He had bought the bike after it had sat in someones garage for over 15 years and not been used. He bought it, did it up, got it running, got it through an MOT and then started riding it. Yes the tyres had been inflated but not changed, they were rock hard and had virtually no grip.

Tyres play a massive role in rider safety. Good tyres reduce risk, so does having good brakes along with a good chain and sprockets.

The riding plan

Having a poor riding plan as a result of having limited vision will also bring a higher level of risk. Most riders when they start, and even some with experience but limited knowledge, do not look far enough ahead.

Riders tend to miss vital clues because their vision is too close to the motorcycle. They must learn to lift their head and see all the information presented to them. 

A restricted view will not allow the rider to plan correctly and they won’t see the road surface early enough. As a result they will be making late adjustments to the bike which adds risk to the rider and situation.

A rider’s skill levels will only improve with the correct practice, proper techniques and a willingness to learn how to deal with external riding hazards. Further training is imperative to elevate ability and reduce rider risk.

Other traffic

A rider cannot control other traffic but they can control the situation that they ride into. Thinking ahead and staying away from developing hazards is a useful skill to learn, most riders miss the tell tale signs and ride into developing hazards without seeing them. 

This causes many problems and at times an overreaction that can lead to incidents or accidents. Riders should never challenge other vehicles for the same road space or piece of tarmac.

Riders must learn to control their own actions and how they ride, depending on what others are doing around them. They must be able to control the situation and not add to the problem itself, which in turn elevates the riders risk.

Hazard perception

Education is key, too many riders miss vital information and do not adjust their performance to match the prevailing hazards. This is down to a lack of knowledge, when riders under instruction see how far ahead advanced riders actually look, they are astounded at the difference (like police-trained riders).

The way to improve is to look at everything ahead with a risk value from 0-100%. The higher the value, the higher the risk to the rider and more input is necessary to decrease the risk and danger.

If the rider decides the risk value is low, then less input is required but if the hazard is deemed as significant then a better plan of action is needed to address the situation ahead.

If the risk value is high, the rider can move further away to reduce risk or slow down to have more time to react and deal with the hazard.


Seeking professional advice is important for all riders to develop their skills. If you have never undertaken any advanced rider training, now is the time to start thinking about doing something.

It will elevate your riding skills, you’ll be practising every time you ride out, instead of just riding around aimlessly. People often get bored riding the same road every time they go out but as creatures of habit that’s what we typically do.

Riders who ride with a purpose and a plan have more fun and are less likely to have elevated risk.

Ride safe and Keep it on the Black Stuff.

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