Heading out on to unfamiliar roads can be daunting for some motorcyclists, but take it easy and it can be a rewarding experience. You might even learn something new, as Adam Child explains…
I’m the worst culprit for this, and I know most my motorcycling buddies do the same thing. We get a spare few hours on a Sunday, or now the clocks have sprung forward we might get an hour after work, and where do we head? If you’re like us, it is probably to the same roads we’ve ridden for the last 20-years or more. We know the roads, we know the hazards, and the end destination, which is usually a café or chippy. But why don’t we try something new? A road we’ve never encountered before.
We’re fortunate in the UK. We’re blessed with great roads and road signs, indeed we were even able to navigate before satnavs. Head in almost any direction and you’ll find something rewarding even in the congested south of England. Avoid motorways and dual carriageways and you can’t go wrong. I once had an enjoyable ride across Devon and Cornwall to Land’s End on mainly B-roads. I just kept riding west. It took forever, but it was such a rewarding ride. I can’t recommend it enough but, just before you head out, read our quick guide to riding unfamiliar B-roads.
There’s no trophy at the end
There’s no prize money for riding a new section of road as fast as possible and race team managers don’t sit in bushes looking for the next Michael Dunlop. Take your time, it’s not a race. You’re going to be riding slower than normal as you don’t know the road or where you are, don’t worry or get frustrated. Ease off, it’s about enjoying the journey, not how fast you get there.
Get bike insurance through Carole Nash
In slow out fast
This was some of the greatest advice I received when I started road racing back in 2008 and even works at the Isle of Man. Bikes are so fast you don’t need to carry speed into a corner and anyway, this isn’t a race (see above). You shouldn’t go charging into corners, diving in on the brakes. Get all your braking done early, get in the correct gear and approach the corner smoothly and safely. You might think you’re going far too slow, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and once you’ve visualised a safe exit you can smoothly accelerate back up to the national speed limit.
I’ve seen this so many times when instructing new riders or when riding an unfamiliar section of road with friends. Immediately they’re focused on the road about 10 feet ahead of the front wheel, when they should be looking as far as possible ahead. If you’re struggling to focus or take in all the information then you’re riding too fast. Ease off so you feel comfortable looking ahead.
Use the obvious clues
Road signs are your best guide; huge black and white chevrons mean the road is going to tighten. The government spends millions of your tax money highlighting the dangers ahead, so use them. Double white lines over a crest are there for a reason, but like everything else your good judgment is key.
Use your instincts
If the hedgerow and telegraph poles veer off dramatically to the left in the distance the chances are the road will follow. Where has the car gone in front of you? If it’s disappeared there may be a crest or dip. If you can smell manure, have a guess what might be around the next corner. The clues are out there, so use them.
Be prepared to stop
On minor roads anything can be around the next turn. Slow moving farm traffic, sheep, cows, horses, you name it, it could be around the next turn. Can you stop in time? If not slow down. It’s that simple. Blind crests must be taken with caution, literally anything can be over that hill. Farmed pheasants are the stupidest animal in the world and love to jump out on you when you least expect it, so always expect the unexpected.
Use the correct road positioning to open corners up, giving you a clearer and safer view ahead. Approaching a left-hand corner, you want to be towards the middle of the road, on a right towards the gutter. Don’t commit to the apex/corner until you can see the exit or vanishing point. Use all of your lane if need be. You’re not on a Scalextric track, you don’t have to say on the same line all the time.
You always need to concentrate; anything can be over the next crest or around the next corner. If you are tired, pull over and have a rest. If you are annoyed, don’t take it out on the throttle. Try not to think about work/life etc just the next section of road.
Unclassified roads, and some B-road won’t have received the same care as the M25. Be cautious of potholes, poor re-surfacing and loose gravel. You should always have plenty in reserve, giving you the time to change your line or deal with any imperfections. If you’re peg down fully committed, you’re not going to have the time or skill to react, you’re already on the limit. Have plenty left in reserve.
Again some B-Roads don’t have modern drainage, expect water to hold for longer periods in gutters and dips.
Manufacturers spend millions developing rider aids, use them if you can. Soften the power, add some traction control and leave the ABS on. Remember it’s not a race and it’s not a test of manhood if you ride without the traction control on. When you pop over the next crest to find a flock of sheep across the road, you’ll be thankful you left the ABS on.
Riding unfamiliar roads is both rewarding and fun. You might get frustrated at first, this is because you’re riding too fast and making mistakes or you’re pushing against the clock because you’ve set an unrealistic deadline. Give yourself time, sit back and enjoy. Remember to breathe, relax and take it all in. Before you know it, you’ll love it and you stop riding that same old route week in week out.