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With its low seat and narrow fuel tank, the Yamaha XJ6 is very easy to get on and ride

“This doesn’t feel like it’s a bike built down to a price”

OCTOBER 2009 Ride 31

INTERACTIVE Matt’s exaggerating the body position slightly for the purposes of illustration – but even small shifts in how you sit can feel huge at first

We took reader Tim James to a soaking wet Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, where he worked with three-time BSB champion John Reynolds on fine machine control. He then spent the afternoon out on the road with police instructor Rob Embleton to work on his roadcraft. The result was a five-day programme anyone can use to improve your riding. Clearly, if you follow this programme you won’t have the luxury of time on a test track with one-to-one coaching from John Reynolds. Or indeed time on the road under the watchful eye of a top instructor. So when you’re out there working on these skills, always remember that the road is not a race track – there is traffic to consider and other hazards. Work on improving the specific areas of your riding one day at a time, but build up the changes in gradual stages and always make safety your priority.



Body Position Move your body

Don’t lose it If you lose your view of the road ahead, you have to lose some speed. If you can’t see all the way round a corner or over a crest you can’t tell where it goes or what is going on around it. Don’t think that following another rider means it’ll all be OK – they can’t see round corners any better than you can. If you can’t see that the road ahead is clear, lose a bit of speed so you could stop if necessary, or until you get your view of the road ahead back.

Sitting upright is fine for normal riding but moving bodyweight to the inside of the bend means the bike can lean over less, giving more ground clearance and working the suspension and tyres less. This improves grip, feel and stability – which is always good but is especially handy in the wet or on tighter corners. John’s top tip: as you approach the corner move your bum across the seat to the inside of the corner. Let your outside knee take your weight against the tank and keep your arms relaxed, possibly resting the outside arm on the tank or your knee. How did Tim get on with this new technique? “It didn’t feel as though the bike was leaning over as much, giving me much more confidence in the wet. But to hang off as much as you need to made me feel at first like I was throwing myself off!”

Road signs are not council bling – they’re put up for a reason. The more signs you see before a corner – including thicker white lines and ‘slow’ on the road, plus triangles and chevron boards – the more accidents there have been on that bend. So see the signs, roll off and look hard at the bend. What is it hiding that’s caught so many people out? Don’t ignore temporary signs, especially on familiar roads. Whether they’re warning of an accident, mud on the road, grass cutting or a village fête, they’re all clues to unusual hazards ahead.

Get your head down

Take a broader view

To compliment hanging off John asked Tim to lean down behind the screen. This helps to concentrate the mind, forces you to loosen up the arms and aids moving your bodyweight when approaching a corner. “And it made me look further ahead,” said Tim after trying it.

Look for clues beyond the road and the road signs. A church steeple on the horizon could mean a village and a 30mph limit ahead. Street lights poking above the hedge could mean a junction. The smell of fresh-cut grass might mean a tractor’s hacking at the hedge around the corner. Always try to anticipate what you’ll see around the next bend.

Loosen up “Hold on to the bar grips literally just enough to hold on and no more,” John stressed. A light grip allows the bike to move beneath you, reacting to any bumps in the road. It’s especially important in the wet, as a bike will naturally try to right itself if it suffers a shimmy or slide. “By holding on tightly you can make matters worse,” John said.



reading the road Look ahead

Try walking around with your hands six inches in front of your eyes. As well as looking incredibly stupid you won’t be able to react to obstructions until the last second. The same happens on a bike if you don’t look far enough ahead. The further you look, the more time you have to react to what’s ahead – from bends to traffic. Get used to looking as far ahead as you can.

After three BSB titles, JR (grey waterproofs) joined RiDE

Read the signs



Planning Have a plan

Not to take over the world, but just to get smoothly and safely down the road. Use the information you gather when reading the road to plan where you want the bike to be and what your speed should be. Every move you then make will be smoother, swifter and safer.

Know your limits You can plan your corners better using the limit point (or vanishing point). As you approach a bend, look at the point where the outside verge or kerb appears to join the inside verge. This is the limit point. Keep your eyes on it; if the limit point appears to be static, getting closer as you approach it, then you are coming up to the corner too fast. Loose some speed and keep watching the limit ➤

OCTOBER 2009 Ride 87

RiDE October 09  

Tells it like it is