Saturday, April 30, 2011

ABCD Entry

Here is my entry into ABCD,  the photo was taken this morning, by my 11 year old son Nathan.  Conditions were shocking and we got drowned as a rat coming home.  It was very windy also.  In this pic I am looking North over Waiheke Island, it is blowing about 50knots a rain squall is on its way.

As New Zealand is the first country in the world to see the new day.  I wanted to get a sun rise but it was not to be.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Beginings

Six years ago my wife left.  She had got involved with some one else.  I was too busy trying to run a company and work 80 hour weeks to notice what was going on between us.  What followed was 18 months of legal wrangling, lawyers, accountants, valuations,court cases, stress, tears, frustration, despair, and most a all a huge sense of loss and failure.

From owning a huge house, boat, cars, and bikes.  I suddenly found myself with a $250000 debt.  I was as required by NZ law to pay her half the value of the company.  So I kept the company but lost everything else.  I rented a small 2 bedroom apartment, and spent the weekends that I didn't have my children feeling sorry for myself.  I wondered how I would ever recover.     But I also learnt a valuable lesson about myself.    

Four years ago I met some one new, the divorce was still very raw, and the financial stress I was under still very much existed.  Getting married again or even being committed to some one I made very clear was never going to happen.  I would never really commit to some one again.  Yes we could live together but my life was to remain separate in my own way.   Some of you will understand where I am coming from, others wont understand.  It is very hard to explain how emotionally draining and soul destroying a divorce is.

Fast forward to the present day, My partner and I brought a house today.  There was much soul searching for me to get to this point in our relationship.   It took a lot of faith to trust again. But I feel very proud that from the depths of financial ruin and emotional turmoil, and with the support of my partner we have arrived at this.  For me this is a huge mile stone.   I feel like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.  Life has taught me some hash lessons, many of them my own fault and I place the blame at no ones feet but my own.

But if you are reading this, raise your glass, or coffee cup, or diet coke...and have a drink with me..for tonight I am celebrating a new beginning....thanks...and cheers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mental Aspect.

Two of the last few blogs I have written have been about my advanced rider training, and the obvious areas I need to work at.  One aspect that I have not mentioned but has been on my mind a great deal of late is the mental aspect to riding a bike.  

I was delighted when my copy of 'The police riders hand book to better motorcycling" arrived in the mail, and upon opening the first chapter found it was entirely dedicated to the 'mental approach" to riding a bike.

To me the mental aspect of riding a bike cannot be taught, you have to self criticise, and analyse your own mental head space, and your own attitude to riding.  You have to sit back and judge your own attitude, and this like all things can be met with denial and a unwillingness to judge one self.  Being aware of you own head space before you throw the leg over the bike is a big part of safe biking.

Quote  "You need to be aware of the social influences on attitudes and safety but, in  the end the responsibility for the safety of your self and other road users  is yours alone" **

Since I have embarked to some training I have been paying special attention to  many of the bikers I see on our roads, there skills, how they are reacting and there general riding.  Some obviously need more training, but you can also see that they ride conservatively and with in there limits, even if technically they are not perfect.

The ones that worry me are the ones that seem to have a 'death wish" attitude when riding, neither caring for or being considerate of other road users.   It is easy to spot these particular riders, they are the ones lane splitting  at a ridiculous speed, undertaking on bus lanes and  left hand bends, weaving through traffic as if they don't have a care in the world.  These are the very riders that if they  have an accident will only blame every one else, and not take responsibility for there own actions.  They will not learn.  The problem lies with in there head and there attitude and not there skill level.  

Quote   " Every near miss and accident needs to be seen as an opportunity to re-evaluate and improve your riding technique"*

I may not be at a level where I can teach advanced riding to any one, I would not even attempt to teach new bikers, But I am at a level in my biking where I can encourage training, and discourage poor riding.   I  can encourage other bikers to get in the right head space, and adopt a safety first attitude.  I can get into some ones head and be prepared to stand up when I see riding that puts other road users at risk.  I can do all of this not only by what I say but by my actions on the road.

Riding a motorbike is one of life's great pleasures, but we all as riders should take on the responsibility to encourage safer riding.

The book that is pictured is an excellent read.  Well worth the small investment.  It is some thing that will be beside my bed and with me when I go away on the bike a lot.  It is a book that you can continually refere back to.  If Geoff doesn't beat me to it first I will do a review once I have finished reading it.  But it is not a book you can read in one sitting.  You need to digest it like a large juicy steak....bit by bit!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Football. Motorbike's & Hot Chocolate.

I was eager to get up early on Saturday morning (before duty calls)  and get out on the bike to practise some of the skills I have been learning of late on the bike, but one look out the window put paid to that idea, rain...rain and yep you guessed it more rain.

Taylor's football wasn't cancelled, so I took her off to her game, stood in the pouring rain, and I mean pouring rain, and watched her team get beaten again.  Last week they were beaten 6-3, this week it was 5-2, Taylor scored in each game but the team has some serious skills problems.  The main thing is Taylor is enjoying it, but I can see her frustration at some of her team mates.  She is very competitive and doesn't like to lose.  She has scored 4 goals in 3 games, but for the sake of some simple passing skills by her teammates would of scored a couple more.  At one stage she was in front of the open goal, and all her teammate needed to do was pass it to her, unfortunately her team mate missed the ball completely. 

I won't repeat the word that came out of Taylor's mouth, but you could sense her annoyance.

Sunday morning dawned brighter, Taylor was keen to join me for a ride on the bike.  We headed off around Whitford, Clevedon, and Maratai. The ride Around the coast  is beautiful, and is one of the most scenic spots close to Auckland you will find.  Before long we were stopping at Pine Harbour  Marina for a coffee and hot chocolate.  Taylor suddenly seems keen on rides on the bike, although I have offered many times before it is only now that she is showing interest.  Even a short ride is fun though, and I always enjoy the one on one time with either of my kids. Having the chance to chat without any distractions is great.  It is amazing what we actually end up talking about.  In a few weeks time she turns 13, my little girl is growing up fast. It is great to see her growing up, being independent and making me proud. She is a determined and motivated girl.  But a part of me misses my little girl.  I treasure more and more these little moments we share together, because I realise it wont be long and they will stop completely.

It was not a large or long ride by any means, but it was great just to get out on the bike for a couple of hours. It always seems to refresh my soul.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Blind Spot!

Having recently completed some advanced rider training, one of the biggest things that impacted me was how big our blind spot is on a bike.  Most bikes have fairly average mirrors anyway, and the need to really twist your head around and check became quite apparent to me during the training.  I was not to realise it then, but a few weeks later this very skill probably saved my life.

I was travelling along Auckland's Northern motorway heading south, when I cam upon a car in the "fast" lane or as the case is in New Zealand the outside lane.  Unfortunately in this country is seems that drivers pay no attention to this and will drive at slow speeds in the out side lane and fast speed on the inside lanes. Of course this does nothing to help traffic flow, and only helps to create chaos and erratic driving on our roads.

As I came upon this driver, it was apparent,after a rather short time that he was not going to move over into the slow lane.   He was well below the speed limit so I indicated and moved left and passed.  I Stayed in this lane till, and yes you guessed it,  I came upon a driver who was also driving well below the speed limit but in the "slow"lane.  I checked my mirrors and a quick glance revealed nothing to the right of me. So I indicated to move right and  to pass.  I then made the conscious effort to look well over my shoulder and double check for vehicles.  It was here , wouldn't you know it, that the car I had previously passed had sped up and was sitting right on my tail, but out of view of my mirrors.  Weather he was trying to play silly buggers I am not sure.  The fact remains though, if I had not double checked and looked over my shoulder I may have moved and clipped him, the result no doubt would not have been pretty. 

Since I have done some advanced rider traing I have noticed some horrendous example's of driving and riding. I recently saw a young man wearing shorts and sneakers and riding a Aprilla 250cc swerving through traffic, on the motorway. This stretch of motorway that he was racing through is a 70km only zone and  is under construction and maintenance.  If nothing else I have become so much more aware of what is happening around me.  I know for a fact that some of my riding skills still need a lot of work, but I also know mentally I have stepped up a gear from where I was previous.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Advanced Rider Training...Part 2.

After two cancellations due to weather, I was finally able to complete my second lesson. I will admit that I was just as nervous the second time as I was the first.  This was obvious by forgetting to shift the bike into first at the first set of lights we came to...d'oh...gonna be a long afternoon I thought.  Not off to a good start, surely things can only get better.

Part One in Review.

For those that took the time to read part one,  you will realise  that I ended up going back and covering some very basic biking skills. Skills that I had let lapsed or was simply not paying much attention to.   I can say in all honesty that some of those skills are still being worked at, and are not yet encased in my riding.  I am now though, braking better and smoother, paying greater attention to my blind spot, and feel like I am  controlling the bike far better when it comes to slow speed manoeuvring.  I am far more aware of what is happening around me. I feel confident that all of the things covered in my first lesson will become second nature to me.  The blind spot, and the technique of really looking before moving has probably all ready saved me from a nasty incident.  Last week as I was travelling along the motorway I passed a car doing only about 70km', I continued along, and was about to move back into the inside lane, I checked my mirrors, and it was clear, I turned and double checked over my shoulder and there he was sitting right on my rear wheel, and buried in my blind spot.  The shoulder check is some thing I have diffinitly paid a lot more attention to since my first training.

Par Two

The second lesson involved left and right cornering, road position, counter steering and of course understanding    IPSGA,


Of course this all sounds rather basic, but is in fact a lot harder  to do properly and smoothly.  I am well aware of some of what I was taught, but the reasons why and the theory behind such techniques have never been taught to me.   As Dan  covers so well in his blog, there is always room for improvement, and in my case, a whole Lotta of room!  Perhaps it is just a case of what you don't know doesn't bother you, once you begin to understand that you in fact know stuff all, you are then opening yourself up, to learning.

Just bear in mind that as I describe what I have been taught , that we drive on the left side of the road, so for those that read this blog and drive on the right side of the road things may seem 'back to front".  (just turn your computer upside down and it will all make sense)

We spent some time looking at diagrams and explaining position 1, 2, and 3 on the road. Position 1 being as far left as possible,(or picking daisy's) 2 the centre (or command position)  and position 3 being as far right, or as close to the centre line that is considered safe. (this applies to right hand bends)  I always thought that I pretty much stuck to the left on right hand bends pretty well, but once following Tricia I realised how much further over I could be, and unless there is gravel or crap in this area, this is by far the best place for me to enter right handers, and the clear benefit of seeing further around the corner, and following the vanishing point became far more obvious .  Clearly the same can be said for left hand bends.

I have always been guilty of coming off the throttle mid corner, this causes a great deal of instability and shifts the down force to the front of the bike.  It also cause's you to lose your line and the consistent need to re adjust it.    The concept of the physics and handling of the bike mid corner has become a lot clearer to me.  Having done plenty of KM's over the years, I found my self understanding and relating to many of the issues that Tricia was explaining to me. I have also at  time been guilty of not keeping hr throttle on through the corner.

While I am on the 'vanishing point', or what ever term you like to use, it came out in discussion how if the vanishing point is moving away from you quickly then the bend is opening up, if it is coming closer to you or not moving then the bend is tightening, and you need to adjust your speed  to compensate.  The skill required in reading the corner is something  that I will forever be working on and training my mind to understand and comprehend more and more.   It is something I was familiar with and did understand, but still something which was made clearer to me during the training.  Continuing to focus on this point sounds easy, but the fact remains that it is or forever moving and changing means total concentration at all times. 

Following Tricia along East Coast bays road gave me a valuable insight into her lines, and reasons why she was in the position she was.  When the roles were reversed I became very uncomfortable.  I do not enjoy being followed, especially when I am aware that my every move or action is being scrutinised.  My first run along this road, was in all honesty a complete disaster.  I was riding tentatively, yet, as I was told,consistently above the speed limit, and I made some fundamental errors. 

The second time I rode through, I told myself to relax, forget who was behind me, forget trying to do everything right, and concentrate on correct lines, speed and gear.  I think there was a vast improvement from the first to the second run.  I still felt as if I was weaving from side to side, when in fact I was constantly changing my position for the next bend.

Counter Steering- The mystery unravelled.

Well not quite.  I am aware of what counter steering is, and I do in fact do it, but it was excellent to cover this topic, and to realise that  what I was feeling , and how the bike reacted was in fact normal and natural.  Again I emphasise, that as no one has ever taken the time to show me, and explain to me in detail the concept and what actually happens makes a great deal of difference to your confidence.  That uncanny feeling of the bike's speed actually increasing when counter steering is quite a buzz.  The concept of going around a right hander and pushing the right handle bar away from you is cetainly weird but so much fun.  I put into practice what I had learnt on some slow speed bends, and it was fantastic.

I am not going to go into all the details of what we covered, the information that I have shared barely scratches the surface.   But since I have embarked on this training I have become very much aware of my short comings as a rider, gaps in my skills, and my some what relaxed attitude to some road rules.   A humble yet honest and frank admission.  Saying all this though, I feel some what empowered that I am doing some thing about it, and have all ready progressed from where I started.  I have another pile of stuff to learn, and another pile still to come no doubt. Continuing to monitor and review my riding and technique, will be a life long job.  I was in no doubt that if I attempted to sit the advanced rider  course now I would fail.

Looking back, I am convinced more than ever that the training required to attain a bike license in New Zealand is completely inadequate, and far from from what is required to become a good and competent rider. We need to seriously look at how we are training new bikers, their skill levels, and technique.  I hope this blog encouages all bikers, regardless of skill to continue to seek improvement in there riding skills.

Friday, April 1, 2011 for improvement.

My blog has mainly always been about biking, and some times my kids.  To days small blog is about my daughter, Taylor and her first ever football game.  She is a mad keen sports girl, and has been nagging me for ages to get her involved in a team.  Finally this year I have made it happen.  And today was her first game.

I will say in all honesty that I have never been as nervous watching a game sine the All Blacks lost the 2007 quarter final to the french in the world cup (rugby) that brings up bad memories.  Any way I digress...

Gut wrenching.

Unfortunately Taylor's first taste of competition ended in a 8-1 loss, but she did score a cracker of a goal.  So Dad was beaming!  Oh well onwards and upwards as the saying goes.

She played outstanding, and I admit I am biased, but she did, honestly, it is true!  She has a lot to learn, but has been out running and training very hard, when Taylor sets her mind at being good at some thing she will stop at nothing.

One of the reasons I am writing this small blog, is over the last few months I have taken great delight  in reading my old ones, it is a great way to record memories, and trips, adventures etc.  So one day I will look back and read this with fondest.