It is Friday morning. Early. As I head to the Big Red Motorrad Adventure Tours space in Dubai's Motor City Dubai, a warm breeze whips through past my lifted visor. It is a smooth ride because the roads are clear of traffic, the one time in the week when motorcyclists can navigate the city's streets without fighting off omnipresent car drivers. During the rest of the week, it is hard to find an open stretch of road where one can conjure up the sense of freedom that riding a motorcycle can give you. The skills and patience required to make it safely to your destination can sometimes be, in a word, taxing.
And this is precisely why I'm on my bike today, to attend the BMW IIA On-Road Training Course. To not only learn riding skills, but become more adept at riding on the road; a skill that most bikers stop actively acquiring once their road licence is in hand. This course is not just for owners of BMW's finest. Riders of everything from big multi-cylinder machines through to humble thumpers (single cylinders) are welcome. The only criteria is that your bike has to be road-licensed.
Bradley Festraets, an accredited tour guide and BMW instructor, welcomes everyone with a smile. An initial briefing starts the day. After safety aspects are covered, we move over to the course area, where we will be spending the next two days.
The motto of the first day is "go slow to go fast", emphasised in the first set of exercises. Festraets explains the basics of driving slow, clutch control and throttle, while being aware of the capacity of each motorcycle. Group exercises include a follow-the-leader style ride around the parking lot, with attention paid to how to manoeuvre your body while riding the bike slowly, such as standing on one footpeg as opposed to two and building a sense of comfort with the machine while riding. Next up is a simulation of moving between traffic that helps to bring together the skills for passing your motorcycle safely through a corridor, marked here by traffic cones. The day continues with slow corner techniques. First with practicing a figure of eight, while manoeuvring slowly without stalling or putting down a foot.
We then practise slow turns in confined spaces; how to turn full-lock while making a U-turn.
Day one is a steep learning curve, but day two runs a little bit faster. Working with the first day's skills, Festraets builds on cornering in tight spaces and manoeuvring while on the go. This forms the basis towards faster turning skills; how to corner at speed. Three techniques are covered, with each explained in detail, illustrated, then followed by individual sessions for each rider. This is where the value of a small class comes into play, with personal feedback and tuition. As riders, we all have habits we have acquired over the years. Not all are good. But with the instructor giving individual feedback, your technique can quickly be improved.
Last up is emergency stops and obstacle avoidance. These are probably the most overlooked yet needed skill any rider will draw on during their years on the road. Different simulations and scenarios for cars pulling out in front of you are played out, with techniques are practiced for safe avoidance. Required braking distances are also explained and demonstrated. For me, this was the most enlightening part of the course – it can literally be a lifesaver.
The value of knowing the right techniques for riding on the road are not only indispensable, but also increases the pleasure of riding. And that is what motorcycling is all about. Having fun while riding – and getting to do it again the next day. And to guarantee that, you need not only experience, but the kind of skills that a course like this offers.
For more information, visit www.bigredmotorrad.com.