Bikers back training chance
Motorcyclists have crashed 38 times on the Rimutaka Hill Rd in the past five years and in 32 cases, the rider simply lost control of the bike.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council has responded by offering one-day motorbike skills courses.
Sustainable transport projects co-ordinator Susan Hutchinson- Daniel says many local motorcyclists love to head over the Rimutaka Range but the hill road has the region's worst motorcycling crash statistics with most accidents on weekends.
Wairarapa motorcycle racer Aaron Slight advises riders to assume they are invisible.
"One of the biggest things I say is that you should ride like you're a ghost, as if no one is seeing you.
"Every time there is an accident where another driver is at fault the first thing they say is: 'I didn't see you'."
Safety is also about anticipation and always having an escape route in mind in every situation.
"If you're approaching an intersection and you have right-of-way - off the throttle, fingers on the brakes and ready to stop."
Having right-of-way doesn't make much difference if you have a broken leg, he says.
The courses have value for older riders coming back to motorbikes as well as novices, he says.
Their previous experience may have been commuting on a small, low-powered machine but when they come back to it in later life with more money in the bank, they don't buy a 250cc bike, he says.
"They buy a 1000 or a 750."
These days they are riding bigger, more powerful bikes in a lot more traffic, he says.
Normandale motorcyclist Nils Poulsen has done two council refresher courses and two more privately with Andrew Templeton of Road Safe, Accident Compensation Corporation's selected motorcycling training provider for central New Zealand.
He was spurred by a mix of self- preservation and because it was "part of the deal" with his wife as he got back on to two wheels.
He'd ridden motorbikes from age 15 but switched to cars when he married. When his own son turned 15 in 2008 and wanted a motorbike, the Poulsens agreed only if he did a course.
"It was a good excuse for me to get back into motorcycling as well."
Mr Poulsen, who commutes to work on a Honda VRF800 says courses provide a good benchmark for riders to measure their skill levels, highlight areas for improvement and helped reinforce good riding behaviour.
They look at issues such as following distances, cornering lines, and the right mix of front and rear braking depending on the situation.
"Taking cornering: In a car you turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go. With a bike, it's completely the opposite.
"In a bike, if I want to turn left, I have to push slightly left. It's called countersteering, and it pushes the bike slightly out of alignment and it drops into the corner. It's a completely different skills set."
Car drivers instinctively jam their foot on the brake.
With many motorcycles, depending on the situation, up to 80 or 90 per cent of the braking power should be the front brake.
Mr Poulsen said it was interesting watching even experienced riders cope at training courses when they are challenged to emergency brake at 100kmh.
"Most people never do it until they absolutely have to.
"Until the last course, I wasn't that conscious of how important it was to keeping my vision up.
"As soon as you look down, you're more likely to crash. If I keep my vision up when I'm braking, I'm more likely to look where I need to go and steer out of it."
Mr Poulsen is now looking forward to doing a course with the Institute of Advanced Motorcycling, which is starting to run training sessions around the country.
The Ride Forever National Training course is a full day's training, delivered by New Zealand Transport Agency-approved trainers and is available to anyone with a licence.
It costs $50 for experienced riders and $20 for novices. Go to www.rideforever.co.nz/training.