There’s a lot of sense in taking to two wheels. Fun, excitement, easier commuting, lower costs — the list goes on for great reasons to head out on a motorbike.
And motorcyclists have it all over motorists when it comes to choice of wheels. From a step-through scooter for commuting in Sydney’s mind-numbingly snarled traffic, or an agile off-road bike for weekend getaways in the bush, to a Harley Davidson for touring the country in style, bike riders can find the perfect set of wheels to fit their fantasies.
Motorcycle riding is going through a boom period as more and more people find that it offers not just a practical mode of transport but a genuine change of lifestyle, and for many, a ticket to greater personal freedom.
Sam Maclachlan, business development manager at Stay Upright Rider Training, one of the largest riding schools in Australia, has been around bikes for decades, and previously worked in motorcycle magazine publishing. He points out that motorbike sales are increasing in most sectors of the market, and for good reason.
“When you're wearing a helmet no one can talk to you or ring and annoy you,” he pointed out with a laugh. “It’s like a two-wheeled meditation.
“Adventure bikes is a category that has really taken off in Australia,” he added. “Ten or 15 years ago you couldn’t sell an adventure bike, but now it’s one of the biggest selling categories. Harley Davidsons are selling really well too. Practicality is part of it, but definitely the leisure side is growing.
“The bike market, and particularly in Sydney, is really diverse — lots of learner bikes and smaller bikes are being sold, and then there’s the sports bike market. A lot of big touring bikes are selling too.”
It’s not just blokes who are discovering or returning to motorbikes. Women are increasingly taking on the challenge and finding that it provides a fun way to get around town and a brilliant escape to new adventure holidays.
According to Sam Maclachlan, motorbike sales to women are increasingly rapidly, and female enrolments at Stay Upright show that they are taking their new sport seriously.
Keeping it together
The one sticking point of motorcycle riding for many people is, of course, safety. Bike riders are vulnerable on the road because of a lack of protection, but there are ways to mitigate against trouble on the road.
“Obviously there are calculated risks in riding a motorcycle if you make a mistake, but you can learn to avoid those mistakes and stay safe on the road,” said Sam Maclachlan.
Many riders take the opportunity to undergo riding courses to improve their skills and meet new friends. In fact, bike riders are much more willing to improve their riding skills than motorists are to improve their driving skills. That’s a story on its own, as motorists are so often the cause of motorcyclists’ problems on the road.
Hills and Hawkesbury residents can take advantage of a motorcycle safety school in the area, which teaches regularly at Sydney Motorsport Park in Eastern Creek.
Stay Upright was founded by police rider trainers Warwick Shuberg and Max Withers in 1981. They introduced a new concept to rider training: it’s not your hands and feet that are the most important, but how you think. Stay Upright is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), is ASQA accredited and accredited to provide training and testing services by VicRoads, NSW RMS, the ACT Government and Queensland Transport and Main Roads.
“We have about 150 instructors, and train 15,000 to 20,000 riders a year,” said Sam. “Our focus is looking after people who decide to ride on the road and giving them everything they need, particularly mentally, to deal with that. While a focus is on physical skills, the real focus is on mental attitude and presence of mind. In the end it’s up to the motorcyclist not to crash. They have to take responsibility for that.”
Start at the beginning
If you’re keen to try riding a motorcycle, the best way to start is to ride on a closed course with experts watching over you and providing advice.
Stay Upright Rider Training offers training to beginners to help them on their way, and ensures that they get off to a safe and secure start.
“If a person isn’t sure if they want to learn to ride a bike the best thing to do is a pre-learner’s licence course,” said Sam Maclachlan. “It’s only about $91, with a bike supplied, for a 3.5-hour course for two days. That’s a great way to start for people who have never been on a bike. Some people are nervous and stressed about it, but we can provide appropriate ways to give it a try. It’s fun.
“It’s all about rider education. Our program obviously covers how to control a motorcycle — what the motorcycle requires from you as a rider — and we look at reactions that bikers inevitably have — the things that happen subconsciously. We train the rider to consciously understand what the bike needs, in theory and then on the track, so they can apply the theory.
“All these skills make road riders better, safer riders. Until you get a conscious understanding of where to look — for example, if a car pulls out in front of you, you tend to look at the car instead of where you need to go — and get some practice at it, you’ll just keep riding into the side of cars.”
There’s no time like the present to have a go at motorcycling and discovering a whole new world of excitement and adventure, or getting back on a bike if you haven’t ridden one in years because “life got in the way”.
Whether you’re a novice or expert, participating in a rider training program makes perfect sense to keep you right up to speed in safe
If you’ve ever considered it you owe it to yourself to try. There’s a world of new adventures out there waiting for you.
Stay Upright Motorcycle Courses
Roadsmart 1: best for L-platers, P-platers, returning riders, nervous riders.
• Half day course
• Track based, road focused
• A car free environment to work on skills.
Roadsmart 2: best for anyone who rides on the road, including P-platers, returning riders, experienced road riders.
• Full day track course
• Blends road craft with physical skills
• Lots of riding time, including follow sessions
• Covers cornering, braking, bike control, posture, vision.
Roadsmart 3: best for riders who have completed Roadsmart 2, confident road riders, sports riders, new ride day riders.
• Follow Session is included
• Cornering is the most fun aspect of riding, but also the area most can improve
• Explodes braking myths, and works on the rider’s ability to make the best of their bike’s braking systems
• Works on posture to get you comfortable and effective
• To improve your cornering, yet reduce your risk.
Roadsmart Theory Sessions: best for all road riders.
• Blow away road riding myths
• Learn how using systems on the road can make all the difference
• Uncover major risk points
• To reduce risk on the road.
Masters Course: best for returning riders who want a subsidised training course.
• Subsidised price refresher course
• Three hour theory night held from 6pm the night before.
Based on the Roadsmart 2 course, this government-subsidised day is aimed at getting returning riders up to speed with their physical and mental skills in a controlled environment with experienced coaches helping them regain confidence, systems and skills on the bike.
Ladies Day: best for female riders who want to enjoy tuition in their own company.
• Follow session included
• Based on the Roadsmart 2 course
• Explodes some braking myths, and works on the rider’s ability to make the best of their bike’s braking systems
• Works on posture to get comfortable and effective.