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Escape the routine trap!

They say that those who brake later are faster for longer, and of course that's true. But those who know their limits have more fun – and much more beside that – and it’s also true they have less “near misses”. It's not a trick question to ask yourself if you feel confident in your riding, because this confidence may be misplaced.

How many riders can say they have never been pushed to the limits of their riding ability (and maybe had a “near miss”) whether through over-exuberance or the mistakes of other road users? These situations come unexpectedly - and that’s exactly what makes things so tricky: Exceptional situations can only be mastered if they are deliberately made a routine. Otherwise routine can lull you into a sense of false security.

Perhaps you have not had any training thinking that you do not need it? MOTOURISMO founder Michael Carlin knows this feeling himself and therefore asks an expert: Interview with Klaus Spitzer, social educator, motorcycle instructor and operator of MOTOURISMO partner KURVENREICH Zweirad‑Seminare.

Michael: Well, if you ask me, I would say... I’m capable of riding a motorcycle already. I have been riding for more than 20 years, riding hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Why should I do training when I never had the feeling that I needed it?

Klaus: Because you just described the routine trap. Let´s start at the beginning. Riding a motorcycle needs to be learned, everybody knows that, nobody contradicts that. In the beginning, the interplay of clutch, throttle, brake and lean angle is still a challenge you have to concentrate on all the time. And the more you ride, the easier it gets. The corners become rounder, the riding style quicker, the leaning positions lower – now the fun really starts. But it´s also the phase in which you start to gain real experience, i.e. small borderline hazardous situations in which, for example, the rear wheel slips a bit. So how do you adjust to these situations? By avoiding them. This is how the routine begins in which we switch to autopilot - each with his own riding style: sporty, fast or easy going. Of course you can also switch riding styles at any time. But does the speed always match the riding ability? If not, then how can we now claim to be good riders?

Well, maybe we can. I mean, it depends on what exactly "good rider" means.

That´s right. There is no valid motorcyclist test. Except maybe the riding test or the race track. But again, do we really have all the information we need? Did we have a good riding instructor? Are lap times a good indicator for a good motorcyclist? Is there nothing more to learn?

As always in life: probably. But I would claim to know pretty much everything important, since all went well so far. In any case, I have never been the slowest.

This gives you a good chance of belonging to the majority of motorcyclists who overestimate their own abilities, precisely because they are sitting in the routine trap. Who doesn´t think they can ride better than many others? Because our self-assessment is based on our experiences, we compile a picture that we have of ourselves and our abilities. But the blind spot in the processing of experiences is that we omit a crucial part: namely everything we didn´t know or didn´t consider in the different situations. We overestimate ourselves because we don´t realize what we don´t know and because we like to forget about it quickly in the riding routine.

But if that´s the case, you can´t get out of this trap.

Wrong. If we want, then we can: In addition to self-assessment, we need external assessment. This can be feedback from a biker colleague, a trainer or a training group. And this is where safety training comes into play.

You mean, because sooner or later everyone is locked in the routine trap, everyone does need safety training?

Not necessarily special safety training, but training, yes, in any case. Whether you´re a beginner, a born-again biker or an experienced rider: everyone can learn something from a good motorcycle training session. But it´s something different for everyone. Repeaters report that the same training with the same trainer has still brought new insights and knowledge. But classes differ in their different focuses. Which is the right training for you depends, for example, on riding experience, riding skills and previous experience.

I was only interested in off-road trainings so far. Maybe I´m just learning why: On the training grounds I realize that there are things I don´t yet know and can´t yet do, and that I can still learn something.

Then that´s probably true, too, but it´s not all. In off-road riding, balance, sitting position and eye control are the basic principles that also play an important role on the road. The same applies to training sessions on race tracks or similarly well maintained terrains. This is primarily about the sporting idea: try out your own limits without oncoming traffic. But these experiences also help to ride better and to master the motorcycle. Beyond that there are still many interesting combinations: Road traffic training, courses for women only or individual coaching. When I now tell you that courses certified by the German Road Safety Council (DVR) focus on accident prevention, it sounds relatively boring - but it´s not. A moderator assists to reflect on the behaviour of the participants in the group. Nothing is dictated, but the findings are worked out together and implemented in practical exercises. Stabilization, braking, avoiding obstacles, cornering: The group practices everything that helps to master tricky situations. Therefore, such training courses are equally suitable for beginners, born-again bikers and experienced riders. That´s why many professional associations support these classes financially.

Are those the courses with the stabilizer wheels?

You mean the motorbike training with the outrigger system. No, they are only used for certain safety classes that focus on riding skills. These are, for example, cornering or leaning courses. These training courses are especially for experienced riders, who want to work on their leaning position or improve their cornering line.

Only experienced riders, aha, so you mean me.

I´m not so sure you´re making much progress self-reflecting right now.

Okay, okay, got it. I´ll figure that out in training. At least I could handle the fact that I don´t belong to the grandmasters at the off-road training courses.

That´s a good start. Basically two thoughts always help. The first one comes from Bernt Spiegel, the author of the motorcyclist bible "The upper half of the motorcycle". In the book he deals with the reasons why riders often lack the motivation of wanting to improve: because they adapt their riding style to their abilities. If something unforeseen happens, they find reasons why – and these rarely include their own mistakes. Spiegel states: "Experience is what you think you have before you start acquiring more of it.” – And the second thought is even simpler: professionals also train regularly - that alone should make sense to any experienced person.

Klaus Helmut Spitzer is a studied social pedagogue, motorcycle instructor at avp - Institut für angewandte Verkehrspädagogik e.V. - and operator of the MOTOURISMO partner KURVENREICH Zweirad-Seminare. He discovered his passion for travelling and motorcycles many years ago with a Honda MT8. He has been doing educational work full-time for many years. As an instructor at avp he also trains motorcyclists. In the 90´s Klaus travelled widely. With a pillion he crossed Africa from West to East within six months. Two years later he rode eight months along the Panamericana to Tierra del Fuego. This biker is still infected by the long-distance travel bug, but currently he travels as a family man only with his finger on the map.

We have summarized all kinds of training classes here. Our partners offer cornering and leaning training, riding safety training and enduro training. Off-road training courses are also available especially for off-road beginners. However, these classes are recommended for everyone, even for experienced road riders, because those who can ride off-road can also ride better on the road.

No matter whether you choose cornering or leaning position training, safety training, individual training or off-road training from our partners, they all have that fun factor as a given. They will all put a grin on your face!

Once you have trained enough and you want to try out what you have learned in the course, we at MOTOURISMO offer you the largest selection of motorcycle tours on the Internet. Our partners will also bring your motorcycle to every corner of the world. Just have a look at our motorcycle shipping.

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