The next level of Ride Forever: going for Gold
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Some three months after obtaining the Silver certificate from the ACC-sponsored motorcycle training programme, Ride Forever, I find myself meeting my fellow attendees on a Gold course conducted by the accredited provider, Prorider.
There’s a couple of fifty-somethings on big new BMW adventure bikes who are making a mid-life return to riding, a stoic Irishman on an ancient Suzuki GS800G that continues to function despite what appears to be decades of neglect, and another Paul riding a beautifully pampered Harley-Davidson Sportster.
To paraphrase the old Honda marketing slogan: you meet the nicest people on a… Ride Forever course.
With more than 50 continuous years of motorcycling under my boots, most of them safely negotiated, you may wonder why I consider it necessary to attend Ride Forever courses at all.
Some of my initial interest was generated by the recent cashback pilot on motorcycle registrations, where the annual ACC levy could be reduced by $200 over two years for any fully licenced rider with five years’ experience who attended two courses over that time.
Unfortunately, that pilot ceased on June 30 – too late for me to get any of the levy dollars I pay on my two bikes back. Snooze, you lose.
However, I got quite a lot out of the Silver course that I did before the pilot was axed. It was a great way to check how I was traveling on two wheels and find out ways that I could make that travel safer. Hence my signing up to go for the Gold certificate despite the end of the money-back pilot.
With the ACC still picking up most of the bill for the Prorider training for the day, it was an easy decision to go to the next tier and find out if I could continue to upskill.
The major difference between the Gold and the Silver courses is that there is more riding time on the motorcycle and less instruction time standing next to a line of parked bikes.
The Gold level is targeted at riders who have been on the road for at least five years, so it leaves more basic training to those aspiring to the Bronze and Silver certificates.
Things like counter-steering (push the left side of the handlebars forward to go left and the right side to go right), head-checking before lane-changes, emergency braking techniques and hazard identification are all considered to be part of any rider’s skillset when attending the Gold course. That’s because Gold participants have already acquired those skills while completing their compulsory Silver certification first.
Another difference was that Prorider instructor, Aaron, encouraged all the participants to be forthcoming with personal riding strategies that they’ve developed through their experience.
“You’ve all been riding for some time now, so don’t be shy about sharing the things you’ve learned.”
It proved to be a prophetic invitation because the first thing I learned came from one of the other participants rather than from the official instructor. Aaron would spend the entire day following each one of us for an extended period at the front of the group before we all stopped so that he could give a summary on how each of us was riding and identify the ways we could improve.
It was while following behind Aaron and the first lead rider of the day – the “other Paul” on the Harley – that I noticed how Paul would use hand signals to identify hazards on or alongside the road so that the entire group was instantly aware of them. That’s now something that my riding companions and I religiously do.
Soon, it was my turn to have my riding scrutinised by Aaron, and I took the lead over one of my favourite rides – Woodcocks Road between Warkworth and Highway 16. We stopped halfway through Woodcocks so that Aaron could give his verdict.
“Some of the lines you choose during corner entries were a bit tight and I thought you might run wide on the exit a couple of times, but you held the bike on a tight line all the way through the bends so it wasn’t much of an issue - it’s just that you could use more of the lane width to create more room to maneuver in case something unexpected happens.”
Upon reaching Warkworth, a carpark adjacent to a sportsground gave an opportunity to improve our slow speed bike handling skills over a quickly chalked course.
The figure-of-eight was so tight that it could only be negotiated successfully with the clutch in play, and we all soon found the ideal amount of left-lever engagement to permit the bike to travel at dawdling pace while performing full-lock 180-degree turns.
Achieving Ride Forever Gold certification as a motorcyclist is a win-win experience, and not just for the flash bit of paper to frame and the jacket badge that you receive. The real payback is that you gain valuable insight by having your riding examined by an expert while still enjoying a great day out on your bike.