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Suzuki Rider Safety Day – Inspiring Confidence On The Road

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

After meeting the team from Suzuki on the Cancervive Flagship Ride earlier in October, and having some chats about bikes and riding, they invited me to their rider safety track day which would happen on the 19th of November. Of course, being passionate about bikes and riding, I wasn’t planning on passing up the invitation!

With much anticipation, the 19th of November rolled in and I was fully kitted by MotoGirl and ready to experience riding at Red Star Raceway. This would be my first time riding on a track, apart from my 2-lap cruise around Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit at the 2016 Festival of Motoring Show.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

To say that I was nervous was a bit of an understatement. Rolling into Red Star I could feel my heart quicken as I saw all the superbikes parked in the pits, and naturally, I had no idea what to expect from the day.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

As I arrived registration was underway and Corrie from Suzuki gave me some pointers on which group to enter. Cancervive was also present on the day, and the ladies were equally excited to hop on their own bikes this time around. After a quick hello here and there, with a coffee in hand, we made our way to the rider briefing and safety presentation.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Stuart led the theory section of the training day where he walked us through the basics of rider gear–how to choose your helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots as well as the importance of wearing the correct rider gear when riding. Something that I’ve never thought of was the fact that not every helmet brand will suit your head shape, hence the fact that some helmets that I have worn in the past have not been as comfortable as others. I found this to be a great insight especially since I am in the market to upgrade my own helmet.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

A big part of the theory was being aware of your own safety on the road. Drivers around us are unpredictable but it is your own responsibility to anticipate every situation. Along with much helpful advice, he gave us guidelines on how to ensure that there is always an escape route when travelling amongst other vehicles. The biggest tip is “If you can’t see yourself in their mirror, they can’t see you”.

We moved on to the ideal riding position and how it can affect the way the bike relates to the tar. Yes, Marquez was used as an example of a lean angle, but that was not the goal for the day, it was rather an exaggeration. Either way, it was used to demonstrate how, with the right body position the bike can still have enough contact with the tar to corner safely. Of course, we were not going to try a ‘Marquez’ on ourselves, so Stuart showed us photographs of a rider taking the same corner at the same speed, but with a different body position. He explained how by moving your body off the bike you are able to take the same corner at a safer lean angle, the more you move off the bike the less it leans which results in more tyre surface.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Along with body position, it’s also incredibly important to look through a corner. As Stuart was saying “You are going to go where you look, if you look at that tree on the edge of the cliff, you’re going to head straight for it, but then again one would rather hit the tree than go wheeee down the cliff”… However on a serious note, when on the road with unpredictable corners and obstacles, looking through the corner or at least as far ahead as you can see, will give you more time to react to whatever it is that’s in your line of travel.

After an overload of important information, it was time to take everything we had learned and apply it to the real world. Since we were heading out on the track it provided us with a safe environment to exercise the theory.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

All around me, riders were kitting up and revving engines–intimidating it sure was. I was grateful to start in the lower class as those superbikes I saw when I first arrived were hot and ready to shred some tyres. My class was third to go which gave the nerves some time to settle as I watched the more advanced riders fly past on the straight.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

In no time at all class C was announced and it was time to kit up and ride out. I started on the entry-level Gixxer 250, a bike that was small and light enough to boost my confidence. Doug took us around the track, all the while showing us the lines to take and the braking points—this was certainly a big plus for me as it diminished the unknown.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Two laps in and I was already feeling as though I could ride all day. I have never felt so confident on a bike as I did around the track; with all the information I received and the feedback on body position, braking points and rev count going into a corner I was feeling more confident with every turn. Little by little I could take corners quicker, picking up the pace and making fewer mistakes with every lap that passed.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Shortly after our lunch break, Suzuki did a demonstration of how differently a bike brakes vs a car, this all comes down to double the number of tyres, double the braking components, and obviously the comparison of tyre surface—a car has a full hand vs a bike only having a few cm. The goal of this demonstration was to make bikers aware of the time difference in braking, a bike would require a lot more space to stop when travelling at the same speed. So next time you’re riding on a car’s tail light, remember you’re going to need that extra 2 meters to avoid parking in its boot.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

As the day progressed, I was bumped up to the next class which provided its own challenges where better riders on bigger cc bikes were now passing me. Doug was certainly an amazing help as he would follow closely behind me and give the necessary feedback on how to improve. As someone who has never ridden a bike bigger than 400cc, due to my lack of height, I am proud to say that I not only levelled up to riding the GSX-8S but by the end of the 8th session, I was confidently perched on the GSX-S1000! Never in my entire life did I ever imagine that I would ride a 1000cc bike, however there I was and I rode it without any trouble.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

I know for a fact that without the help and guidance of the Suzuki team, I would never have been able to safely ride a 1000cc bike. Their safety training day empowered me with the ability to ride with confidence as I now know how to handle a bike in a way that puts me in total control. I can rest assured knowing that I have the skills to better avoid dangerous situations that I might face riding on our public roads.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

This has not only been an amazing experience, but I now feel confident enough to embark on our relatively challenging roads knowing that I am one step ahead of the rest. I highly recommend every rider who sees the importance of their safety on the road to join this event. I’m also not only talking to the newbies as there is always something to learn; even if that “something” is a day out to get even more comfortable on your bike in a safe environment, however, for those riders who don’t own their own bike just yet, Suzuki has bikes available on the day.

So with that, I hope to see you at the next Suzuki Rider Safety Day. You can keep an eye out on the Suzuki South Africa socials for their next event, but in the meantime keep it on two wheels.

Meredith Potgieter
Meredith Potgieter
ZA Bikers Administrator & Lifestyle Writer
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