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bike and blackboardBook Review: Roadcraft

ET reviews "Roadcraft, the Police Rider's Handbook to Better Motorcycling". by Philip Coyne, published by The Police Foundation, UK.

This book is the official motorcycle skills training manual used by the British police force. It's dense and informative, definitely a text book.

When you talk to really accomplished riders, the subject of roadcraft comes up a lot. This book has cult status among bikers worldwide.

It has limited distribution in the US, but we easily found a used copy on a major on-line book retailer. It is available new from UK web retailers, at the time of writing the eight pounds sterling and UKPD 6.98 for shipping translates to about $24.50 US, and there is no problem with entering US addresses on the order screen. The price compares with the used US price including shipping.

book coverThe intended audience is a UK rider, where the full motorcycle license requires basic and additional range and on-road training, theoretical knowledge and a probationary period. In US terms, this is probably the equivalent of a basic rider course, a year or more of on-road experience and some additional experienced-level training.

We have always considered police riders to be among the most skilled motorcyclists on the road, and have featured Jerry Palladino's 'Ride like a Pro' in our book and DVD review section. This book is more focused on road strategy development and situational awareness, and it is a tool for a rider who has been practicing, whether on a range or on the road. It's written by a group of UK police trainers, with contributions from some of their students. The prose is terse and to the point, and it requires study and trying things out on the road. Not a light read, but well worth the effort.

As they ride to the left in the UK, there is a need to translate right to left, making allowance for right turns being the one where you deal with opposing traffic. This soon become routine and I didn't find it intrusive. Direct references to left and right are rare, as the writer use 'nearside' and 'offside' whenever possible. There are also a few spelling differences, as befits two nations divided by a common language, but this is not a hassle either. Doesn't take much to figure out 'color' from 'colour', or 'tire' from 'tyre'.

The book really is a textbook. Each chapter covers a topic, with clear explanations, examples, diagrams and photos. There is a topic review and some test questions at the end of each chapter, and most chapters have an on-road assignment. Typical assignments include this one on tire grip, from the chapter on accelerating and braking:

"As you ride around bends in the next few days analyze what is happening to your tyre grip in terms of the trade off between accelerating or braking on the one hand and cornering on the other. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you finish braking before you go into a bend?
Do you avoid accelerating harshly while riding around bends?"

The assignments are effective. They make it real, and help you integrate what you are reading into your riding style.

The necessary explanations of traction and cornering forces are straightforward, aimed at a rider not a physicist. Like the whole book, the technicalities are clear and precise, and the study required of the reader is well rewarded.

The first chapter, "Becoming a Better Rider" has a number of self-tests on subjects like risk-taking, what you learned from previous near-accidents, speed, anger management, with an assessment of how the information can affect your risk. There are suggestions on how to limit your inherent tendencies towards risky behaviors on the bike, and general information on human factors and risk homeostasis.

The second chapter introduces ' the system of motorcycle control', a basic technique for observation and maneuvering which sets the stage for following chapters on observation, acceleration, cornering, signals, positioning, overtaking, highway riding and speed. It's both comprehensive and comprehensible. There are appendices on motorcycle checks, a glossary and index.

This book will be around for my crib for a while, it will take a riding season to take it all in. We like this book a whole lot.