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Element D - Practical on-road training

Talk - lasts approx 45 mins

Element D is a classroom session about the dangers of riding on the road. This element must be completed satisfactorily before any road riding is undertaken. At the end of the session you should understand the need to

* recognize the importance of reading and understanding the Highway Code
* ride defensively and anticipate the actions of other road users
* use rear observation at appropriate times
* assume the correct road position whilst riding
* leave sufficient space when following another vehicle
* pay due regard to the effects of varying weather conditions when riding
* be aware of the effect on a vehicle of the various types of road surface
* be aware of the need to be clearly visible to other road users (the use of conspicuity aids)
* recognize the legal requirements for riding on the road
* understand why motorcyclists are more vulnerable than most road users
* drive at the correct speed according to road and traffic conditions
* be aware of the consequences of aggressive attitudes when riding
* be aware of the importance of hazard perception
* be aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use


The Highway Code is not a legal document but will be refered to in a court of law by the police in proceedings. It's described as the road users bible and it's important that you learn it. Riding on the roads without knowing the Highway Code would be like playing a board game without knowing the rules.

You can buy the Highway Code HERE or read it online HERE.



Defensive riding can be defined as the ability to identify zones of danger well in advance.

It relies on total concentration and observation and your ability to predict what is likely to happen.

It allows you time to react in any situation.

It gives you the space to position yourself on to the safest part of the road.

For example, if people start to stand up on a bus in front of you while it is still moving, that's a pretty good hint that the bus will shortly be pulling in to a bus stop. So hold back and maintain a good view of the road ahead and behind.

Observation is a combination of what you can see, what you can't see and, most of all, what you might reasonably expect to happen.

This is what's known as road sense and it comes from experience.

Always ride at a speed that allows you to absorb all the information available. Always be on the look out for clues as to what might happen next - busses stopping, ice-cream vans etc.



This refers to a combination of mirror checks and looking behind you which ensures you are always aware of what is happening behind you.

Before you signal, change direction or speed you must know how your actions will affect the traffic behind you. You also have to know when traffic is likely to overtake or come alongside you.

Not all motorcycles are fitted with mirrors, and mirrors don't always give a clear view behind. Looking behind is important because the view through the mirrors on some motorcycles is restricted, leaving significant blind spots. There will be times when you need to look round to see the full picture. Looking behind also warns other drivers that you may be about to signal or alter course.

At high speed or in congested moving traffic your attention needs to be focused ahead so you must time your rear mirror checks carefully.

Before changing course you should also use the 'lifesaver' glance.

The 'lifesaver' glance

This is a last check over the shoulder into the blind spot to make sure nothing unexpected is happening just behind you.

In heavy traffic it's usually essential, especially when turning right into a minor road, but during high speed overtaking, when you are certain what is happening behind, it's often safer to concentrate on what is happening ahead.



Always keep in mind your position in the road - not too close to the kerb nor in the centre of the road. Keep roughly to the middle of your lane, making slight changes to avoid potholes, manhole covers, metal studs etc.

In other words allow a safe space all round and place yourself where you can be seen.



In good conditions this is the distance, in time, that you should be behind the vehicle in front. If that vehicle is passing a lampost, for example, you should reach it not less than 2 seconds later.

In bad weather, at least double this gap.



Many people fail to appreciate the motorcyclist's vulnerability to the weather. We all know that rain, sleet, snow and ice make roads slippery, but we can be affected by other weather conditions too

* Bright sunshine can affect our observation and the observation of others
* Shadows can cause uncertainty
* Cold and heat can reduce concentration and attention
* The chill factor of the wind caused by our speed can affect us
* High winds are a danger to all road users
* Mist and fog can be very deceptive. Use dipped headlights and slow down



The state of the road surface is very important to motorcyclists. Only a small part of the motorcycle tyre makes contact with the road. Any change in the surface can therefore affect the stability of your motorcycle.

Be on the lookout for poor road surfaces such as

* Loose surfaces e.g. chippings, gravel, mud and leaves
* Pot holes and uneven surfaces
* Inspection covers, especially when wet
* Oil patches, especially at roundabouts, bus stops and filling stations
* Tar banding around road repairs
* Painted road markings
* Tram or train rails set into the road. These can affect your steering and present a hazard when braking
* Any shiny road surface. At junctions, frequent braking and acceleration can polish the surface

If you can safely avoid riding on slippery sufaces then do so. If you have to ride on a slippery surface slow down well in advance. Don't swerve suddenly to avoid a poor surface.

If you find yourself on a slippery surface check the traffic, then gradually slow down.



This will include topics such as

* Bibs
* The difference between florescent (day) and reflective (night)
* Headlights
* Correct signaling
* Clean reflectors and number plates
* Your position on the road
* Changes in road surface



In element A your trainer will check that you have all the legal requirements such as a driving licence and a roadworthy bike with road tax and MOT (if the bike is over 3 years old). If you're hiring a bike from the training centre then all you'll need is a licence.

If you are using your own bike you must also have insurance and L plates front and rear (non-cut near vertical). Most training centres will rent you a bike with insurance cover.

You must also have a helmet with a green or blue BSI kitemark and BSI approved visor (non-tinted). All helmets sold in the UK must carry a BSI kitemark and comply with British Standard BS 6658 or the newer UN ECE 22.05 mark of approval. Again, most training centres will rent or lend you one.

In Element D you will be you will be given further information regarding your legal requirements. Please see our Law page.



Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than cars etc. for a number of reasons

* They are smaller and therefore harder to see
* The natural instability of the machine and the steering
* Little protection from impact or weather

You can reduce the risk of injury by careful choice of clothing. Not only can it give physical protection and warmth, but if it's bright it can also help you be seen more easily.



Always ask yourself the following three questions

* Can I stop in time if the vehicle in front braked sharply?
* Am I going too fast? You must take road and traffic and weather conditions into account at all times.
* Am I going too slow? This can impede the normal traffic flow and create hazards.

Slow down as you approach a hazard. Make sure that you don't leave it too late. Always be ready to stop.



Try not to over-react if another road user does something wrong. Control your desire to retaliate (road rage). Anyone can make a mistake and it's not up to you to teach a bad driver a lesson.

Showing good manners is the hallmark of a skilful rider. Most people will appreciate your courtesy and good riding.

Set out in good time to avoid a rush. Always remember it's better to get there late than never.

Be courteous whenever you can and always acknowledge the courtesy of others.

Never wave pedestrians to cross or other vehicles to pull out. Just stop and wait patiently for others to make up their own minds as to whether it is safe or not. Make sure you do the same.



Hazard perception is the ability of a driver to make an early identification of situations where some form of avoidance action might be necessary, such as changing speed or direction. It involves techniques such as

* scanning
* selecting a safe separation distance
* using an appropriate speed
* planning well ahead
* having good anticipation

Research has shown that the more experienced riders and drivers scan the road better and recognise much earlier the clues that show a hazardous situation is developing and therefore start to take action before the danger occurs.

The DSA have extended the Theory Test by adding a Hazard Perception Test.

It's in the form of videos of hazards to which you must respond quickly and correctly.

For more on hazard perception (with pictures) take a look at the In-Gear Training School's Hazard Perception Page.



Drink, drugs, illness and medicines all affect you to some degree. Loss of balance, slow reactions, lack of concentration. If you're affected in any way then don't ride.


A lot of accidents are caused by lack of concentration. Your survival may depend on it.

Many things can disrupt your concentration such as

* Feeling tired or unwell - a bad cold, for example, can distract your mind and slow your reactions. If you feel tired or unwell don't ride
* Cold and wet - these will reduce your ability to concentrate and slow your your reactions. Always wear proper clothing
* Worries - if you're worried about something you won't be able to concentrate properly. Consider another means of transport
* Alcohol - this is a killer. The law sets the limit at 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. It's an offense to ride a motorcycle if you're over this level and penalties these days are harsh - and quite rightly so !!
* Drugs - another killer. If your doctor prescribes drugs for you ask if they'll affect your ability to ride safely. Even some non-prescription medicines can affect you. Read the label and if in doubt ask the chemist or your doctor.


Element D will then be formally closed.

On to Element E

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