Helpful Topics

General intro:
We are all hoping to get back on our bikes this season or learning to ride. In anticipation here at 3CMT we are going to blog a few articles to keep your riding mind sharp and get ready for the riding season, whether beginner or experienced. Let us know if there are any topics you would like us to blog.

 

Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like. No abusive comments and respect the opinion of others

 

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Escape Lockdown

Posted on 3rd March, 2021
The weather is starting to warm up and hopefully lockdown will be lifted. We will soon be able to get back out on our bikes for social rides.
 
Many have not ridden for some time and your bikes have been sat in a garage. Before riding consider doing basic checks on your bike:
 
1. B, Brakes. check brake operation, ensure they work by rocking bike and both operating the front and rear brakes individually. You are looking for the brakes to activate but also to release. Over time rust and corrosion may prevent the calipers from releasing causing the brake to drag. Check brake fluid levels too.
 
2. O. Check oil levels and ensure any pivot points, levers, stand etc are free to operate smoothly.
 
3. L. Lights and electrics. A weak battery can have some weird effects on modern machines with all the electronics now fitted to them. Check lights and ensure all electrical 'extras' on your bike are working correctly.
 
4. T. Tyres. One of the often overlooked parts of a machine is the tyres. Motorcycles place a lot of strain when cornering, braking and accelerating on their tyres. They need to be looked after. Check pressures when they are cold using a reliable tyre pressure gauge, its not advisable to ride to the local garage, this will warm they tyres giving an incorrect pressure and these units are often neglected or abused (dropped etc) so may give incorrect readings too. Check tread depth, the legal minimum is 1 mm on central 75% in a continuous band round the tyre. On a larger machine I do not let the tread go below 2mm.
Check for any damage to the tyre and any cracking or bulges. Ensure you have no foreign objects stuck in the tyre.
 
5. S, Steering and suspension. Ensure steering moves freely without trapping and cables or pipework and check operation of suspension ensuring there are no leaks.
 
Spend some time ensuring your machine is in good working order, go out and enjoy your ride.

Electric mopeds and motorcycles.

Posted on 9th February, 2021

The proposed UK ban on petrol and diesel engines was originally set for 2040. Clarity was sought on motorbikes and eventually the government said they were not included. The ban has now been pulled forward to 2035 but it is has not been stated if motorcycles are still excluded.

 

Making alternative (electric) technology work on motorcycles is challenging but it has started. BMW has had a powerful electric scooter available for some time. Electric mopeds and low power scooters have started to appear. More traditional style, electric motorcycles with quite good range have been introduced by Zero, Energica and even Harley-Davidson.

 

So what can you legally ride under current UK licence regulations? We are not covering PLEVs (look like big kiddies scooters with a motor), electric bicycles or Speed Pedelecs here. This article compares the electric equivalent of a petrol engine moped or motorcycle.

 

Given an electric moped or motorcycle doesn't have a CC capacity then it is all based on the power of the bike.

 

  • The moped equivalent with electric power is up to 4kW power and a maximum speed of 28mph.
    • This is your only option if you are aged 16. You will need a provisional category AM licence, a valid CBT certificate that lasts 2 years and L plates.
    • If your are 17 or over, hold a car licence obtained after 1st Feb 2001 you will need to successfully complete one CBT and then can ride the electric moped for the lifetime of your car licence. No L plates required
    • If your are 17 or over, hold a car licence obtained before 1st Feb 2001 you can already ride an electric moped in this category on your car licence (but it is well worth doing a CBT, you will learn a lot)
  • If the electric bike is 4-11kW power and less than 0.1kW per kg power to weight ratio, you require a provisional category A1 licence, a valid CBT certificate that lasts 2 years and L plates.
  • If the electric bike is 11-35kW and less than 0.2kW per kg power to weight ratio, you need a full category A2 bike licence obtained by holding a valid CBT and motorbike theory certificate and then passing the DVSA mod 1 and mod 2 tests
  • If the bike is over 35kW then you need a full category A bike licence obtained by holding a valid CBT and motorbike theory certificate and then passing the DVSA mod 1 and mod 2 tests.

Let's hope the technology advances and a few words of advice from 3CMT

 

  • The power to weight ratio for the A1 and A2 categories needs to be checked per bike. Some bikes may meet the overall power limit but be greater than the power to weight ratio limit.
  • From bike reviews the throttle response on an electric bike makes for some very quick acceleration.
  • And related to that there is no clutch and gears. So anyone familiar with a normal geared bike needs to adapt to using the rear brake as a power release control and for slow riding control like all twist and go bikes.

What’s an A2 licence for?

Posted on 1st February, 2021

 

There is a lot of misinformation and opinion on biker forums about the A2 licence category - how does it work and who is it good for.

 

Some history: Before January 2013 someone who was either not old enough or was struggling on a full DAS bike (500cc in those days) could do their test on a 125cc bike and come away with an A2 licence. After passing they could go and buy any size bike and add a 33bhp restrictor kit (the most expensive metal washer or screw you ever bought). After 2 years the kit could be removed and you carried on riding. The advantage of this approach was it gave you time to get used to the bigger bike and stay lucky. The significant disadvantage was your test didn’t prove you could handle the bigger biker in the first place - weight, manoeuvrability etc. but OK, at least you had your test-standard road craft skills in place.

 

From January 2013 the A2 category became mandatory for anyone between the ages of 19 and 24 wanting a bike licence. To meet test requirements the bike must;

  • Be over 395cc
  • Be between 20kW and 35kW (27bhp to 47bhp) in power and not restricted from an original power greater than 70kW (94bhp)
  • Not exceed a power to weight ratio of 0.2kw/kg

 

Rather than buying specific bikes that meet the spec, any bike school will have appropriate restrictor kits to fit to their Category A DAS bikes and use them for a student on an A2 course.

 

On passing your test you can then buy any size cc bike and restrict it as long as it’s original power was not greater than 70kW. After 2 years either carry on riding with the restrictor or if you want to derestrict the bike you need to do a category A motorcycle test. If you don’t pass you still keep your A2 licence.

 

The main misconception about an A2 licence is it is not worthwhile so who is it good for?

In short, those not old enough for a DAS licence. OK, if you are within a few months of being 24 maybe it is worth to hang on a bit but otherwise an A2 licence is going to get you on the road and enjoying biking. You have a huge choice of bikes to restrict except those more powerful than 70kW. You just won’t be on something like an S1000RR and whilst it is a free world (nearly) maybe those kind of bikes are not the best choice for a fresh test pass anyway.

 

But there is an issue not being addressed by the current testing regulations. Anyone who struggles with a larger bike - height, weight etc. could in theory manage OK on some of the nice 300-350cc bikes out there (KTM 390 Duke, Kawasaki Versys 300, BMW G310 etc.) But these can’t be used on test because of the minimum 395cc requirement or because they exceed the 0.2kW/kg power to weight ratio. That’s a shame because it could open up the market more and is really only a case of the test rules being out of date compared to advancements in bike manufacturing and technology. Schools would have to invest in bike stock to cover this but if the market was there it could be worthwhile.

Read The Manual!

Posted on 19th January, 2021

Read The Manual!

 

It’s not too long ago that the only thing you checked for in a bike instruction manual was the tyre pressures and chain adjustment. Riding modes were known as ‘wrist’ and ABS was ‘just enough pressure’. If you buy a high end bike today it is going to come loaded with a lot of new electronic features that are filtering down even to mid range bikes. Some of these are added by manufacturers ‘because they can’ and some are as a result of legislation, and all mostly under the guise of improved safety. But the important thing is they all intervene at some stage in the operation and control of the bike that used to be purely under the control of the rider. How they do this and what you can expect to happen is only going to be found by reading the manual and finding a safe way to experience them in operation before you are either caught out or get too distracted fiddling whilst riding. Here are some things to thing about.

 

Manufacturers may use the same name for a feature that operates in a different way compared with the same on another bike.

 

Is everything actually set how you assumed it to be when you last rode the bike, been in for servicing etc?

 

What can be adjusted on the move or only when stationary?

 

ABS - Have you safely practised some emergency stops to know how it feels when it is operating? Do you know where it still isn’t going to help as much such as whilst cornering or whilst massive suspension loading shifts take place.

 

Cornering ABS - advancements to overcome the issues of heavy braking whilst leant over. Getting a feel for how that one works is going to need some carefully thought through practice.

 

Linked brakes - which way round is it? Some rear coming on with the front lever or the opposite?

 

Traction control - Off / on systems are fairly straight forward but where a range of control is offered where is the breakaway point? Even with TC the wrong amount of acceleration at the wrong time might see you parting company with the bike.

 

Hill Hold - no need to physical hold one of the brakes when on an incline but how is it triggered and turned off to avoid a stall or accidentally turning it off before you are ready to move?

 

Daytime LED running lights - we got used to not being trusted with a light switch many years ago and having dipped beam come on with the ignition. Now a bike may have a daytime running light such that dipped beam needs to be turned on again. Don’t be like so many car drivers out there that are no longer thinking about their lights.

 

Riding modes - what combination of throttle, suspension and power delivery curve does your bike control in the various modes? This differs very widely across different bikes.

 

Electronic suspension - What options have you got? How does the bike behaviour change during acceleration, braking and cornering with different settings, whether you have a passenger etc.

 

Where is all this development going ? Certainly not backwards. This year the new BMW R1250RT is launched with radar distance control to the vehicle in front. A problem only for a select few but you might want to know how that behaves and what scenarios might see you needing to change your bike trousers.

 

So, read the manual, try things out safely, know how some software genius in development has decided your bike should behave before you are forced to find out that it is counter-intuitive to what you assumed or learnt 20 years ago. Here at 3CMT we do back-to-biking courses for those who have been away for a while and are more than happy to help out with information and advice about all the new toys.

Observations

Posted on 13th January, 2021
One of the many elements of learning to ride, and that we spend a lot of effort on during CBT and DAS, is to help riders establish a strong observation skill set. When there is so much to get to grips with when learning, observations tend to drop off under pressure. But if they are not established early on it is very difficult to get out of a bad habit of not observing until a dangerous situation brings the message home.
The dictionary definition ‘to observe’ is to watch someone or something carefully. In the CBT syllabus it is phrased as ‘able to make effective and well timed observations’.
Effective observation means not just moving your head. You need to move your eyes and head, take information in, process it, decide on an appropriate action, execute that action or change your mind depending on what you observed.
Well timed means looking in the right place in both good time to plan and at the right time, for instance you could spend too long looking behind whilst travelling forwards a considerable distance or you might get target fixated to the right at a roundabout and not consider what’s happening on the roundabout and in the other junctions.
When learning to ride it may seem there is not enough time to get all this in. This is usually a sign of travelling faster than your brain’s current ability to process information and act, so slow down whilst you are developing the skill of effective and well timed observations and you will come up the learning curve safer and better. And keep in mind the act of observing does not give you the the right to do something. It is to tell you if it is safe to do it.
We have 3 areas to observe when riding.
Ahead: Eyes scanning up and down the road. The near vision for immediate information and further up the road to plan ahead in good time and not just react when we get there. Broadly, we are observing where the road is going, road signs, road markings, the surface of the road, the actions of other road users.
Behind: Use mirrors frequently. Set up well (check before riding) they should give a good view behind. Many riders default to using just the right mirror but the left can give a very good view directly behind the bike and over to the offside.
Look well over your right shoulder before pulling away from the side of the road, as well as checking ahead, to get a better assessment of the distance and speed of vehicles approaching from behind. Do not signal and move until you are sure it is safe to pull away. On your CBT and Mod 2 test you will be pulled over by the examiner a few times to check you can do this manoeuvre well.
The blind spot: The zone to the left and right where the mirrors don’t reach. A smooth movement of the head, without moving shoulders, to look into your blind spots will not affect the steering. Check blindspots before moving away in traffic e.g. for faster moving cyclists and filtering motorcyclists. Check the appropriate blindspot before thinking about repositioning within or changing lanes, making a turn out of a road or where lanes merge down. This is the observation that tends to drop off over time particularly when 99 times out of 100 there has been nothing there. Unfortunately it only takes that one.
The blind spot check is also known to many riders as ‘the lifesaver’ and most bike training information will describe it this way. But we would like to summarise this article on observations that riders have a toolbox of appropriate observations as described above. Any manoeuvre will require more than one of these. Developing the skill of observing is using the right ones at the right time and all these contribute together to being a lifesaver whilst riding.