At Carole Nash, having a connection with our customers is important, which is why we have our customer council. The members offer a unique perspective on the motorbike industry and we wanted to hear what they had to say on motorbike safety. We got in touch with Steve Phillips, who operates as a police officer in London.
Do you think the driving test should have a section on motorbike awareness?
Definitely, I think we all know that motorcycle riders tend to make better drivers, with their ability to see things that normal drivers wouldn’t and anticipate the change in road conditions and actions of other drivers. I’m not sure though how this would be incorporated into the test, as the current hazard perception test isn’t fit for purpose either.
Do you have any tips on how drivers can be more aware of motorcyclists on the road?
This is a difficult one, it seems at the moment that so many drivers on the road these days are oblivious to anything going on around them, and don’t even see or anticipate larger vehicles, cars, vans and trucks even. So getting them to actually look for bikes seems like an impossible task. The only advice I would give drivers is to actually look, and look twice.
When it comes to riding gear, what kind of material do you think is the best kind in terms of overall protectiveness?
Without a doubt it has to be leather. The strength of a decent set of leathers when sliding down the road behind your bike will speak for itself. That being said, leather has its downsides, not very waterproof, and not breathable on hot days. Advances in technology for other materials has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, so a good set of textiles with decent armour is almost on a par with leather for your average rider, with the added bonus of being waterproof and cooler in the summer.
What kind of safety advice would you give to new motorbike riders?
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of contact with new riders and people who were just on the cusp of taking it up. The best single piece of advice that I would give, and I gave this advice to my son and wife when they started riding, was “Take it as read that every other person on the road is a bad driver and that they haven’t seen you.” This may seem harsh, but this mantra has kept them and me safe on the roads for many years.
The other advice I would give is kit. So many riders on the roads these days, particularly in London (But not exclusively) ride in some awful combinations of kit.
We all know that you have to wear a helmet, but I think the other bits of minimum kit are boots and gloves. People forget how much sharp metal is around the engine of a bike, right next to your ankles with just a thin layer of skin for protection, and if you go down with gloves on, at least they have some protection. Over the years I’ve seen some horrific slow speed injuries from people riding bikes in a vest, shorts and flip flops.
Would you recommend any particular shops/services on where to get good quality motorbike safety gear?
There are so many out there now that the choice is endless and caters for every budget. I’ve used all sorts of shops, but personally I prefer to go into a shop and try stuff on to make sure it fits how I want it to, rather than something just looking good online. Often shops will price match if you find it cheaper online, and it’s a good excuse for a ride, not that you need one.
Do you believe new motorbike technology has the potential to be more distracting to riders than helpful?
I don’t think the new technology is distracting on a bike, anymore than it is on a car. However, I do think that you should be able to turn it off or adjust it for a better riding experience, rather than feeling the bike is doing everything for you.
Do you have any tips on how to protect a motorbike against theft?
Mine is alarmed, immobilised and ground anchored in a garage, and I’m sure it’s still not 100% safe. It never will be, but I see so many bikes parked at the roadside without any additional locks. The minimum I put on when out and about is a disc lock, but if I can chain it to an immovable object, even better.
The Biker Down initiative was promoted at Motorcycle Awareness Day. It’s aimed at helping people learn practical skills to avoid crashing on the road. How useful do you feel campaigns like this are at promoting motorbike safety?
I thought Biker Down was aimed at promoting first aid to riders at the scene of an accident. I’ve never done one though as my job sees me trained to almost paramedic level. I bring first aid skills to our group rides, but I would hope that if it was me on the floor, there would be someone else with first aid knowledge to help me.
Bike safety campaigns are really worth their weight in gold. Things like bike safe are worth doing every few years, as your following rider will always pick up on things that could improve your riding and your safety on the road, after all, we all pick up bad habits. I’d recommend these initiatives to everyone. It’s your life and you only get one of them.