Techniques: Banish those bad habits


Misti Hurst explains some of the most common bad riding habits bikers can pick up and how you can banish them

It’s easy to develop bad riding habits, especially if you’ve never taken any advanced lessons or rider skills courses. Don’t beat yourself up about it as it happens to all of us. But why not make it your New Year’s resolution to curb those bad habits and start 2022 off fresh and ready to tackle any riding adventure safely?

As a riding coach, some of the most common bad habits I see among my pupils have to do with visual skills and entry speed. Things like target fixation, tunnel vision, frantically scanning the road ahead, and entering a corner too fast are mistakes that can have disastrous results.

The best way to curb these mistakes is to improve your visual skills so that your input is smooth, your vision doesn’t narrow down, and you don’t target lock on things that your mind assumes are dangerous. Keeping a wide field of view and looking ahead to where you want the bike to go while you ride will also aid in setting correct and safe corner entry speeds.

Relax and enjoy yourself

Riding tense, death gripping the bars, and being jerky with control actions like throttle and brake application are also bad habits plenty of riders develop. Some even think that they need to muscle the bike and hold on with all their might. But being tense wastes energy, alters your line, and can make the suspension feel stiff.

Remind yourself occasionally to chill out and relax. This should be fun after all. You can practice doing this on your own in an empty car park or a wide-open area and running through things like emergency stops, U-turns, counter-steering, and visual skills. All practice helps. The more seat time, the better.

Stop texting

Some other bad habits that motorcyclists develop revolve around dangerous stuff that should be pretty easy to acknowledge and stop doing. Things like not wearing proper riding gear or texting while riding. So, put your phone in your pocket, focus on the ride, and wear appropriate gear. Other things like making sure your motorcycle is well maintained, your tyres aren’t bald, and you are mentally and physically prepared for your upcoming ride, are good habits to get into that are often overlooked.

Pre-ride checks

Get into the habit of doing a pre-ride check before each ride to ensure nothing mechanical is wrong with your bike and check that your tyres have enough tread. Also, make sure you are mentally and physically prepared by being adequately hydrated, rested, and fed with snacks and extra water for the road.

Weather and temperature can also play a significant role in safety while riding, so take some time to look at the forecast and prepare yourself. Temperature is a factor in many motorcycle accidents as riders often forget about the lack of traction that cold tyres have. Before you set out, get into the habit of reminding yourself what kind of conditions you are riding into and be prepared for them.

Take a look in the mirror

How many of us actually take the time to analyse our riding and consistently work on improving? Take your overall riding skills, for example. If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, or you’ve never thought to work on improving your skills, then maybe it’s time to take a refresher course or attend an advanced riding school.

Sometimes you don’t even know you have developed bad habits or improper riding skills unless a trained professional is there to spot them. Sometimes, it’s easy just to get lazy with our riding.

And finally, a great habit to get into is to tell someone your planned route, especially if you’re striking out into remote areas. And, if something does go wrong, have you prepared? What happens if you or your riding buddy gets hurt? Do you have a first aid kit or any training? Do you have a communication system that can alert search and rescue and family members? What are your preparations if you are riding solo?

There are of course too many bad habits that us bikers pick up to list here. I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have one or two. Just put some time into observing and knowing your riding habits and work on changing them. The longer you ride a certain way, the harder it is to change it. The new year is a perfect time to revisit and reflect on what you could do better and then put it into action. Safe riding.