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 The Secret Skills of Motorcycle Riding - wBW Book Review

The Secret Skills of Motorcycle Riding, Parts I and II

The Secret Skills of Motorcycle Riding, Parts I and II
by Allan Kirk, New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants
ISBN 978-1-877177-62 -0 and ISBN 978-1-877177-63-7
$20.00 (Paper)

webBikeWorld.com Book Review by Rick K.

There can never be enough books, videos, webcasts or even podcasts that teach motorcycle riding skills.  I'm a voracious consumer of them all.

I learned a long time ago that a continuous regimen of training, practice and more training is a vital part of the motorcycling experience, and it helps me to feel safer and more confident in my riding. 

Of course, I'm always aware that confidence shouldn't become over-confidence, which is the sophomore jinx of new riders.

I think a philosophy and commitment to continuous training and practice is missing in the vast majority of motorcycle riders today, unfortunately, which is probably one of the primary reasons that motorcycle accident rates are too high.

Not every scrap of riding skills information will be valuable, and riders may, in fact, disagree with some of it.  And they should disagree, if it comes from some self-taught grizzled veteran who has only a brain full of motorcycle urban legend to share.

So I'm always on the lookout for more information that be absorbed, digested and either used or discarded, and that's where these new "Secret Skills" books by Allan Kirk come in to play.

I've been following Allan Kirk's New Zealand Motorcycle Safety Consultants (NZMSC) "MegaRider" website for many years, and it's been one of the secret ingredients in my secret sauce for safe riding. 

NZMSC is a "non-profit body working on motorcycle safety and riding skills promotion in New Zealand and internationally via the Internet", according to the MegaRider website.  They once managed the MegaRider email list, and about once per month or so I'd get an interesting email, filled with tips, tricks, actual rider lessons learned and even some motorcycle haiku. 

If I recall, they even had a school or a test or something that riders could take and become official MegaRiders.  I'm not sure what happened to the email list, but I'd guess that NZMSC decided that it was "giving away the crown jewels", as it were, by sending such a valuable missive for free.

Well, the email list may no longer be with us, but the MegaRider philosophy is (UPDATE: It has been replaced by a blog).  Allan Kirk is writing a series of "Secret Skills" books that are available either in print or electronically in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.  He sent us the electronic versions (which include color illustrations, rather than the black and white illustrations in the hard copies) of Secret Skills of Motorcycle Riding, Parts I and II. 

The plan is to have a series of 6 books that "will build to a very high skill level, higher than any other books covering on-road riding", according to Allan.

Secret Skills Part I starts with some basic information on choosing and buying a motorcycle and motorcycle riding gear and then covers the basic skills, tips, techniques, tricks and traps for new riders.  But riders of any skill level can benefit by the information; I found myself either nodding in agreement or shaking my head in mild disagreement with the concepts, which is just as it should be for a discerning rider who has developed an individual skill and experience base. 

It's always good to get back to basics and to refresh the memory with the basic and necessary building blocks of safe riding.  I realized I've either forgotten, or perhaps forgot to put into practice, some of the basic riding techniques that have been proven over time. 

This is why it is so important to build a library of motorcycle riding skills books, videos and information, and to keep referring to it year after year.  I find it useful to refer to mine on cold winter nights, when I'll pull out all my old books and videos and pick a few chapters to read, just to refresh and recharge the little gray cells.

Secret Skills Part II builds on Part I.  A small amount of the information is repeated, and I can probably argue about the order of the chapters, because some of the information doesn't flow as well as it could or should, in my opinion. 

But it's all useful and although perhaps not as highly polished as some of the big publishing house trade books, it's still a nicely concentrated dose of Allan Kirk's 30+ years of motorcycle riding experience, presented in a no-nonsense style.

While we're picking some nits, I'd also argue against the use of the gender-specific pronoun "he" in all the references to motorcycle riders.  Women are far too important to the sport and, in fact, are said to be the fastest growing segment of the sport in some countries, so I'd suggest a revision to the text to make it gender neutral.

And what about the disagreements?  At first glance, I was a bit puzzled by the chapter on "laying it down" as an accident avoidance procedure, a skill I first considered to be outdated.  But I do understand that the topic is part of an interesting discussion that prompts the rider to imagine what might really happen during an accident and to try and mentally prepare for it, which might, Kirk suggests, just save the rider's life if the real thing comes along. 

By the way, I don't subscribe to the "there are only two types of riders: those who have fallen and those who will" philosophy.  I've been riding motorcycles since 1972 without an accident or a fall, and I don't plan on having one any time soon. 

Not that it can't or won't happen, but I personally don't feel that it is constructive to assume that it is a fait accompli .  I have full confidence in myself and my ability to anticipate and avoid the idiots on the road -- and in dealing with the worst case scenario if it did occur -- but I absolutely do not think it is inevitable, and my 35 years of riding proves it to my satisfaction.

UPDATE #2:  The .pdf volumes of "Secret Skills" 1 and 2 are now for sale in .pdf format on the MegaRiders site.  More advanced volumes will be sold in hard copy only.  Contact MegaRiders for more information.

Conclusion
My feeling is that you can't get enough knowledge about motorcycle riding and that every rider should develop a continuous learning and practice regimen that spans multiple years. 

The Secret Skills of Motorcycle Riding books are the distillation of an experienced rider's many years of experience and they are a worthwhile addition to a motorcycle riding skills library. 

Review Date:  November 2007

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