This Saturday I spent the morning with RoSPA learning about how to be a tutor for slow riding skills, so I thought I would write a short blog on the subject because slow riding is a lot more useful – and fun – than you might think.
First some background: I got back into riding a bike in February 2012 after a long absence. Conscious that any motorcycling skills I ever possessed (and they were few to start with) would be distinctly rusty, I first did BikeSafe training and then signed up for advanced motorcycle training with RoSPA. I passed my test with a Silver last May, which I was very happy with all things considered.
It was before I even started my training that I went along to a slow riding day, which Gloucestershire RoSPA run from time to time at Berkeley Power Station. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a great day and became hooked.
So what is slow riding? Well, really it should more accurately be called low speed handling, because it is about safely and confidently manoeuvring your motorcycle at low speeds. It is mostly practised around cones and in the UK, unless you did your motorcycle test a very long time ago, you will have had some experience of it: u-turns, figures of eight, that kind of thing.
Most people will have forgotten all about it once they passed their test because it is of little practical use, right? Wrong!
Slow riding skills are useful all the time: for instance, when filtering through traffic, when turning around in the road when you’ve taken a wrong turning and when manoeuvring and parking in car parks. Think how embarrassing it would be to turn up to a bike meet and drop your bike whilst trying to park.
It is also useful on the road. I didn’t think about it until we were doing the training, but when you turn left at a junction you often need to stay tight into the kerb, especially if the road is narrow; slow riding skills help with this.
So, what do you need to know for slow riding? Well obviously I’m not going to be able to give you all the information you need to become an expert here; I would recommend you looking up your local RoSPA or IAM group and do some training, but the basics are:
1. Find the bite point on your clutch and hold it there. Set your revs at about twice tick over – faster is better than slower – and hold it there.
2. Use the rear brake to control your speed. DO NOT TOUCH THE FRONT BRAKE.
3. Use your head and eyes: turn your head and look where you want to go. Keep your head up. The bike will follow where you look, so if you fixate on the kerb you will hit it. This means that when doing a u-turn you should have your head turned all the way around to look over your shoulder – it feels weird, but it works.
That’s it really; simple. If you have something like a BMW with a dry clutch you will need to take frequent breaks for the clutch to cool down, but my Honda can keep going all day.
Of course, it doesn’t always have to be slow…