Issue 18 Sep-Oct 2008
Back Issues


Your thoughts, opinions & adventures

Star Letter

It appears MAG has bought into the cliched biker lifestyle, ie beer rock music and camping in fields. Although supporting the good work MAG does I feel MAG has virtually stood still on the social side. As a middle aged family man, the drinking of beer in fields and listening to loud rock fills me with dread. Maybe some bikers/motorcyclists would prefer a weekend of culture with fine wines and culinary delights. Just because one is a motorcyclists it doesn't follow that one is a philistine. I look forward to a more inclusive policy and will consider renewing my membership.
Paul Reed

PS What exactly is biker lifestyle?

Ed: Taking your last question first. I guess the easiest way to answer this is to describe a stereotype and then wait for a postbag full of alternative definitions. Here we go: - black leather denim cut off covered in badges, open faced black helmet worn reluctantly, builds or at least maintains own bike, listens to heavy rock, drinks beer in fields. Wears bike gear at all times, performs maintenance in kitchen, hates quiche. How's that? I qualify in at least two of these respects actually three if I can count Meatloaf as heavy rock.

In response to you wondering whether to rejoin please don't lose sight of the fact that MAG is a campaigning organisation. It exists to defend and promote motorcycling. Whilst the social dimension of motorcycling is integral to what we do, it is not our primary purpose. However, social events are important to the cohesion and financial well-being of the group and so your comments are of particular interest. As you say, motorcycling and motorcyclists have moved on over the years, as indeed has MAG.

In the last two years MAG has strengthened its campaigning capability by attracted two key members of its campaigning staff. One was previously a Chief Superintendent of police, the other recruited from a senior position within the motorcycle industry. From speaking to each of these key campaigners it would appear that they share many of your preferences for weekend entertainment, yet each is convinced that MAG represents the best way forward for motorcyclists and they would welcome your continued support. MAG events are organised by local and regional MAG groups according to the wishes of their members, they must also be financially successful to make the effort of arranging them worthwhile. The sort of events you describe as unattractive to yourself are nevertheless attractive to many other riders and have been the mainstay of MAG events since the group was founded in 1973.

This is not a case of MAG having bought into a particular concept of motorcycling or 'the biker lifestyle', merely responding to demand.

Let's not forget however that MAG has dipped a toe in waters that might be more to your liking. The Lee Bay Hotel -based weekend in North Devon is a bit different in that respect. I usually go to that one myself as I enjoy the luxuries of hotels, being just out of my twenties now.

I am sure if there is enough demand for alternative formats then we will explore them but we have to be careful not to waste money on expensive experimental ventures.

We have been told that trackdays are a license to print money and gone ahead with organising them, advertising them widely and then had negligible take up.

The ROAD welcomes member's views on this. I'm sure if there is enough demand then we will do our best to accommodate it. Not that I as 'The Lord Lucan of hard work' will have much to do with organising anything but I'll certainly promote and report.

BMF bash

We thought we'd try the BMF rally this after a couple of years off and it reminded us why we changed our allegiance to MAG. Please don't change the way you run and organise your rallies, they're perfect!

Your marshals are friendly and enjoy what they're doing and your only rule is no cars - brilliant! the BMF do was... different.
Thanks again
Dean and Bev

Ed: Edited in the interests of diplomacy

Road surfaces

My brother had an accident on the B1436 in Norfolk resulting in deep lacerations of both legs, damaged knee, internal bleeding and fractured pelvis. His motorcycle was a write off. Both of his bike's wheels lost traction on a bend of a recently re-surfaced road on which he was travelling at well under the speed limit.

The local MP Norma Lamb is helping us in our efforts to get this type of road surface banned. The surface is laid down using soft tar onto which loose stone chippings are laid, leaving the traffic to bed the chipping in rather than rolling them. The cars leave thick ridges of chippings at both verges, the centre line and centre of each lane making it lethal for manoeuvring.

My brothers' gloves are still sticky from the wet tar. My brother would like to thank the emergency services who helped him particularly the off-duty nurse who propped his head up and talked to him.

We would like to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences Tel 01692 402 948.
John Wesley

Pen pals

Would any of the junior MAG members like to be penpals with two young bike mag chaps in Ghana? Bright Appaining and Adulf Boateng live at PO Box 280 Konongo Ashanty Akim Ghana West Africa.
E Hudson

Old helmets

In these days of trying to recycle in order not to send to landfill. I have been left with the problem of trying to find a way of disposing of old no long useful motorcycle helmets. Buying a new helmet, don't want the old one, bung it in the skip doesn't seem the right thing to do.

Having asked around the motorcycle trade and press as to the possible use / recycling of old safety helmets and only receiving the answer 'Use as Flower hanging baskets'. Which 6 years ago, when I was working in motorcycle sales we did but we were advised by Health and Safety to take down. It would seem strange that this is the only suggestion.

Maybe you know of a scheme for recycling old helmets? If you don't, maybe a campaign to get the industry to help with scheme?

If every motorcyclist had to throw away one helmet that had been dropped, damaged or even just worn out in one year, that would be a lot of helmets going to landfill.

I am just hoping that there is a scheme as I am holding a couple just in case.
William Chandler


Regarding his letter about the use of signals in issue 17, I think Steve Walkley has somewhat missed the point. He writes, "making a signal... it's a courtesy to others and costs very little...."

When there are others around, a signal would be used. The point is that signals are not used when there's no need. The whole "indicators? Nah!" is ridiculous, you would not pass any test without using appropriate signals let alone the Advanced one. Vehicles do not "appear from nowhere" they have to come from somewhere, be it a junction, layby, driveway, towards or behind. Expect the unexpected and there will be no surprises.

What is the point of a signal when there is no other road user or pedestrian around to benefit from it? It's wasted information plus another signal to remember to cancel. It's not about looking for an audience either, it's about continually checking your mirrors, something everyone should be doing anyway.

I think a far more annoying point is when signals are used incorrectly or unnecessarily, creating confusion to others. I would suggest Steve carry out an IAM Ridecheck to see how his riding measures up before condoning a concept he obviously has no grasp of.

It's bad enough being stereotyped as a biker without all this "I'm A Menace" nonsense being thrown in, please don't criticise those of us who strive to be safer on the roads.
Angela Hindle
IAM Associate Member

Virtual ROAD

I have to disagree that technical complexity and administrative overheads would accompany any attempt to make "the Road" available in pdf form to those who want it.

There are no end of free file hosting services which could be used for the purpose, being one example and a PC Magazine "Top 100 undiscovered website".

I do however sense that there might be an underlying concern that without the incentive of the "free" subscription to the print edition membership levels might decline.

But it is important to remember that MAG is not a publishing house. I see no reason to limit the downloading of electronic issues of the Road available to members only, doing that is akin to preaching to the converted, whereas making it freely available could only serve to increase awareness.

I still maintain that if I could download a copy and opt out of the print edition I would.
Alex, Bristol

Death by dangerous driving

I read with dismay the article on the reduction of sentence on appeal for a teenager who killed a motorcyclist and maimed his pillion passenger for life.

The article states that this criminal was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident and was travelling in excess of the posted limit. In mitigation it was claimed that the road was wet when the 19 year old's BMW somersaulted through the air before wiping out a motorcyclist.

So what, the road was wet, big deal. This is England and driving in the wet is to be expected, it's no excuse for killing and maiming people.

The courts repeatedly fail to take the crime of killing people by dangerous driving seriously enough especially when the victim is a motorcyclist. The attitude is often that it was the victim's fault for being on a motorcycle in the first place.

This killer should have been tried for manslaughter and given a sentence that was more appropriate for taking a life and giving a life sentence of pain and disfigurement to another. Driving a vehicle is a privilege and with privileges come responsibilities and failure to live up to those responsibilities must lead to a punishment that relates to the seriousness of the consequences.

This reduction of sentence is a slap in the face for the victims and their families.

If this scum had any genuine remorse he would have accepted his original sentence and thought himself lucky to be alive, his victim isn't!
James Gardner


As a member of both MAG and the IAM I found that the letter by Steve Walkley painted a poor picture of the IAM, a charity organisation that tries to promote bikers in a better light to other road users. I would appreciate it it you could publish my response below in the next edition to ensure a balanced view of IAM riders.

It was disappointing to read the article on the IAM by Steve Walkley in issue 17 of the Road that described those riders of the IAM as a menace.

The IAM coaches riders to conform to the Police Foundation Motorcycle Roadcraft manual. Roadcraft teaches riders to use "The System" during manoeuvres, which is much more in depth then the "Mirror Signal Manoeuvre" approach that he mentioned. "The System" creates thinking riders who approach each hazard or manoeuvre on its merits, which is preferable to the "keep it consistent" approach he advocates, where going through the motions without thinking can encourage complacency.

I agree with Steve that our mode of transport allows us to appear out of nowhere, but a competent rider will ensure that they have taken into account all relevant hazards before appearing and will indicate if required. Although it is impossible to have 360 degree of vision all the time a competent rider should have a good all round awareness of everything around them.

The majority of bikes do not have self cancelling indicators which can often be the cause of accidents when left on after a turn. I have seen one accident caused in this way and many near accidents.

The majority of IAM examiners are either serving or ex serving Police riders who wish to ensure safer riding and higher standards. Therefore I find it difficult to see how riding to higher standards than those required in the basic test can be a menace to other road users. I feel that maybe those who criticise the IAM are those who can not reach those high standards.
Alan Bradshaw, Thatcham, Berkshire

Steve Walkley's letter criticising the IAM looks like a wind-up (and good fun) so maybe he should go down to the local Police Station and tell them they are doing it wrong too? IAM Training is based on the Police manual Roadcraft and our examiners are all traffic cops. But seriously, he makes a mistake in saying that anything "appears out of nowhere" except at night. Unless of course one rides or drives Battle of Britain style staring at an imaginary gunsight in your windscreen.

IAM teaches 360 degree observation, and it is easier than you think. We also teach how to see and be seen. The word "suddenly" is the mark of an inattentive rider. Steve, do please join your local IAM group and bring your mates along. We teach, on a friendly one-to-one basis, safe, relaxed and, yes, FAST riding especially across town where there are opportunities to be grasped, the traffic light overtake in particular is safe, legal and pisses off a lot of mediocre road users).
Peter Woollven, Chairman, Scottish Motorcycle Forum, IAM


Have just read your London Customs editorial in the July/August issue of The Road - can I just point out that the name of the guy who one the Top Chop Award is Steve Rose not Rhodes and he is from TOWRAGS TRIKE & BIKE CLUB on the Isle of Wight and not Toerags MCC.
Tina, Club Secretary
Towrags Trike & Bike Club

Ed One thousand apologies.

Dayglo waistcoats en France

Your correspondent from France (Issue 15) and MCN are wrong in asserting that riders in France will have soon have to carry a reflective waistcoat in case of roadside emergencies. This ruling is aimed at cars, vans and other four wheeled abominations only. See this French Government website.
Paul Minton

Sense of direction

Reading your editorial in the latest issue of The Road, you described getting lost coming out if Reading, now if you go West, South or East from Reading you hit the M4 to get you back to London. You went North and ended up in Oxford...I do hope you weren't a navigation officer in your sea going days....
Duncan Tibbett

Ed errrrrrrrrrrrrr

Courtesy lives

I broke down near Southampton on my Triumph TT600 and a guy on a BMW pulled up and offered me help or a lift. Then two guys in a van pulled up, they were bikers and offered to rescue me and my bike. I got my bike started as it happened but my point is that in motorcycling courtesy still exists.

I've been riding for 43 years and still use a bike daily and it's incidents like this that remind me how friendly and courteous most bikers are.
Pete Boyd Smith

PS What an excellent magazine the ROAD is. I've been a MAG member for many years and the magazine just gets better and better.

Embracing new technology?

No sooner has the UK government rejected the idea of speed limiters on motorcycles than FEMA comes out with support for a new, more intelligent speed limiter for motorcycles Indeed, no sooner has the postman delivered my copy of the Road containing my last letter protesting at FEMA's support for 'Vision Zero' roads than the Internet, courtesy of the MCN website delivers this latest example of FEMA's new-found stupidity.

To quote from MCN: " The technology will tell the rider when he's going into a bend too fast or exceeding the speed limit. A 'frontal collision warning' system will detect when the bike is too close to an obstacle. On-road trials of the technology will begin by 2010 under the European Commission's plans, which are backed by the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations. "

It's hard to know where to start with this : Taking the speed limit aspect first: Speed limits are posted on the roadside and if you can't read numbers then you shouldn't be on the road. In 1992 my Jap used-import had a little light that came on at 55mph. It was a nuisance and didn't tell me what I really needed to know (ie. how many more miles till the cams would melt from oil starvation)

In 2008 my satnav system can tell me the local speed limit and my current speed so I'm not sure what is being added to the sum of human knowledge by this latest research. As for entering a bend too fast - well the system would need to know a lot of things (including road condition, my skill, traffic conditions etc) before making this call. Naturally it would choose a lowest common denominator.

The Americans already have a technology which delivers advised speed on bends, it's called roadsigns. Integrating this into a satnav is child's play. As for frontal collision warning systems I simply fail to see the value outside of a training system. Devising such a system is difficult and it can be advisory at best. Spatial awareness and accurate perception of distance is a key part of motorcycling and if you can't judge the distance to the next vehicle or ride safely, a device will only cause further disconnection from the task.

Although none of these technologies are demanded by the market, otherwise why would they need taxpayer funding, they do serve as a platform for a reporting system. It's a small step from this proposed system to logging rider behaviour and infractions. If there is funding for such ideas then there should be funding for more sensible safety research which FEMA also supports, like training, diesel spills or tarbanding.

As part of FEMA where does MAG UK stand on this ?
David French

Ed: These are good questions and I'm glad you ask them. I think our good friends at MCN have perhaps been fed a slightly distorted view of the FEMA position. We have been on to FEMA's Brussels office and it seems that FEMA is not providing endorsement for these technologies. What they have done is manoeuvered themselves on to the committees discussing the options and technicalities to put the biker's case. Somehow down the line this 'co-operation' has been interpreted as approval. This is not quite the case it seems.

Flickering lights

I am sure this has been said before but.....The most effective way for me to see and judge the speed/distance of a rider is when their head-light is randomly flickering.

A steady beam doesn't help me to judge the speed of the rider who can even be "lost" amongst other light sources. It seems as if the bulb in the headlight may be slightly loose and moves because of the vibration of the bike and so makes the light appear to flicker.

A similar effect can be seen with faulty neon power lights on electrical sockets or even those "flame effect" light bulbs.

A pseudo-random effect produced electronically may work but why make it complicated when a simple flexible rubber mount for the bulb would do the job. (OK - you may want a simple switch to secure the bulb so it can be steady during night riding. Just a thought...
Les Bonner, Coventry, UK

Ferg's world

It would appear that the article on house sitting in Ferg's World (Roads passim) was truncated during the editing process and the following footnote omitted: After a spell in rehab both cats have almost recovered and are slowly being weaned off kebabs and home made wine.

NB Kit is Ferg's carer


Copyright ©2005-19 Motorcycle Action Group