Get your confidence up for spring biking

A motorcyclist enjoying some spring flowers
Timothy was filled with the joys of spring...
"The first step to recovering from an unfortunate incident is to be honest"
  • | by Derri Dunn

Spring's nearly here - the motorcyclist's time to shine.

But what if you're having trouble getting your head back in the game?

Just after winter, you can find so many compelling reasons not to ride, all messing with your mind and making you forget why you got a bike in the first place.

We asked expert biker Mark Lewis, the Institute of Advanced Motorists' director of standards, to help us get our heads back in gear this spring.

Lewis used to work as a riding consultant for the United Nations police and he flies light aircraft, so if anyone can teach us a thing or two about swallowing our fear and getting on with it, it's him.

Institute of Advanced Motorists Mark Lewis

Beating bad memories

There's nothing quite as likely to make you want to hang up your helmet for good as an 'incident'.

Anything from a near-miss to a full-on, vehicle-destroying, injury-inducing off can give you serious demons and cause a nasty, panicky mental block whenever you think about getting back in the saddle.

"The first step to recovering from an unfortunate incident is to be honest," says Lewis. "Analyse what happened and see if you can identify what caused it.

"Many accidents are the result of a chain of events. For example, you didn't get enough sleep last night. You're late to meet up with your friends for a Sunday ride. You have a dark visor on but the sun hasn't come out from the clouds yet.

"You brake a little late into a roundabout and fail to see the gravel that's been spread across the road (rather than at the side where you usually expect to see it). As a result the front end steps out and you lose control."

It's this cumulative effect, Lewis says, that you need to consider.

"The accident was caused by failing to see gravel, but everything before it contributed to the end result.

"If you had had enough sleep, your concentration levels would've been higher. If you'd left earlier you might not be pushing to make up time. If you'd changed the visor you would've had better vision. If you'd looked ahead more carefully you'd have seen the gravel."

Taking control of the demons in this manner will help you to think through ways of stamping them out, says Lewis.

A terrified motorcyclist

"Having identified the cause, think about what you'll do to ensure that never happens again.

"Consider going back to the same location again and riding the same route successfully. This'll increase your confidence."

If all else fails, there's really no substitute for getting an expert opinion.

"Do consider having a training session with an instructor to satisfy yourself that your analysis of the problem was correct," says Lewis. "Your session will be fun, it'll improve your confidence and you may learn something new."

Long time, no bike

A motorcycle being topped up with oil

All but the bravest bikers tend to take some time out over winter - after all, when the weather gets really drastic, riding can cross the boundary from merely uncomfortable to downright perilous.

Absence makes the mind grow forgetful and anxious, but Lewis reckons being pragmatic is the first step to sorting out your confidence.

"If you haven't ridden throughout the winter months, you need to make sure your motorcycle's fit to ride. Check the tyres, battery, oil and water."

And it's not just the bike that might need a once over…

"Talking of fitness, are you fit to ride now as well? Some of the muscles we use specifically for riding may well have lost their strength during the winter months," Lewis explains.

"Neck, arm, shoulder and back muscles all take a battering when we ride regularly, but this conditions them. Don't jump on your bike for the first time after a long gap and immediately take a long journey. You may need to build back up to the long rides with shorter trips first."

Finally, don't go in all guns blazing and head out for the road trip of a lifetime.

"Know when to stop and take a break," says Lewis. "A short stretch may be all it takes to give you the comfort to get back into the saddle again. Remember to stay hydrated as this will help with muscle activity as well as keeping your concentration levels up."

Train to gain

A pair of motorcyclists

If you've found your confidence is wanting after three or four months of car-bound winter misery, a bit of motorcycle further education might be just the tonic.

If training fees are putting you off, the IAM has some very cost effective ways for you to bone up on biking.

"The IAM runs motorcycle sessions across the UK. Why not take advantage of a free assessment to find out what you can do to improve your riding skills?" Lewis suggests.

"It isn't all about going fast - in fact, an advanced rider will show and use restraint just as much as they will make progress.

"You never know, you might learn a new tip or technique that may just make your riding even more enjoyable!"

Are you planning on putting in the extra miles this spring? If your motorcycle insurance policy isn't quite the right fit any more and you're nearing renewal time, why not shop around for a smart new deal?

Get informed on everything from pillion cover and sidecars to quad bikes and scooters with our extensive collection of fact-packed motorbike insurance guides