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  • June 01, 2024 4 min read

    Now this of course is the Chairs Chatter slot, but today it could equally be entitled the “I Learned about it the Hard Way”.

    This is the fairly short story of two words beginning with the letter C . Neither of which you’ll be relieved to know would cause Ofcom to have an attack of the vapours, but both in my view are not talked about nearly enough in the context of motorcycle training.

    I’m talking of course about Concentration and Complacency.

    The lack of the former and possibly a little too much of the latter creating a toxic cocktail which caused me to have a very bad day!

    Back on 2013 I was working on a part time basis at weekends as a Motorcycle Instructor for an Approved Training Organisation that many of you may have been trained by or at least know someone who has.

    It was a lovely bright dry summers afternoon and I was riding with two CBT students on their 125’s on the main road that connects Sidcup and Chislehurst. Their riding was fine and they were well on their way to completing the minimum of two hours on the road required before I could issue their CBT certificates.

    We were in radio communication as mandated by the DVSA.

    I was positioned towards the offside in our lane, “protecting” them and allowing me a great view of the road and of everything they were doing.

    We’d slowed to a halt and joined the end of a long queue of traffic held at a red light leading up to some road works.

    I was aware of a small white car that had pulled out from a car showroom on the other side of the road not long after we’d ridden past. At this time, it was 300m or so behind us. It would I thought simply slow down and join the queue immediately behind us.

    Mirror check.

    I was talking to my students on the radio and giving them some advice in preparation for pulling away before the lights changed. 

    Mirror check. 

    The small white car was closer. Maybe 100m away. Apparently... I thought... slowing down.

    My attention went back to the radio; “don’t forget your lifesavers before you pull away… check you’re in first gear...”

    Mirror check.

    BANG !!! I was flying through the air!

    The car hit the back of my GS at 20+ mph and I ended up a few car lengths down the road, half under the bike and half under the car.

    Turns out the driver of the car was 18 and had just picked the car up from the dealership just down the road. It was her first car. Her first post test drive. Mum was on board and they’d both (according to their Police statements) apparently got preoccupied with what was going on inside the car and hadn’t noticed that the traffic had stopped ahead of them.

    Until they ran into the back of me.

    Anyway, we were all young once and we’ve all made mistakes; no permanent harm done that a few stitches and a month off work from my “Proper job” couldn’t sort out. The GS wasn’t quite written off and the claim was sorted out quickly on a no-fault basis by my insurers to the tune of £6,490!

    So, whose fault was it? Sadly mine of course. My attention was split at a critical moment and I failed to spot the car wasn’t slowing down.

    At that critical moment I wasn’t concentrating on the right thing; the highest priority, which was of course to ensure a stable position behind.

    I’d been riding since I was 17 so at the time some 37 years. I had lots of experience (good and bad) , but no advanced training. But I was a DAS Instructor so I must have been an ok rider, right? There’s the complacency creeping in! 

    After all we’re all great riders aren’t we… until we’re not.

    I should have been anticipating and planning to mitigate a possible lack of concentration on behalf of the car driver. I didn’t.

    Maybe just maybe that lack of concentration that found me talking to my students on the radio instead of prioritising a more detailed check in my mirror at the critical moment was caused by Complacency? After all it was a lovely sunny day, my students (who were completely unharmed and unaffected by the way!) were riding well. The afternoon had “routine” written all over it.

    So, the morals of this story are:

    1. Concentrate! Concentrate 120% every moment of every ride! 
    2. Never get Complacent. No matter how good and “experienced” you think you are. If a ride is quiet and uneventful then that’s the time to be on maximum alert because that’s when you’ll switch off. That’s when bad stuff happens. 
    3. Anticipate that other road users might notbe concentrating and might do the most unexpected stuff. Expect it. Plan for it. 
    4. Most importantly If the worst happens own it. Learn from it. Ask yourself what you could do differently next time. Ensure there’s no repeat.

      Anyway, the happy ending is that that episode made me pursue every bit of Advanced Training I could find. It bought me to IAM and LAM and Masters and RAPID etc. in an attempt become the best rider I could be. We’re all fallible. We all make mistakes. But the worst mistake of all is not looking to constantly improve and up your game.

      I recommend you do the same!

      Ride safe.


      Keith Culling

      Observer Development Coordinator


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