Most helpful positive review
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a book that really makes you think twice about some of the commonplace things we do on a bike
on 14 January 2010
The subheading "ultimate street strategies for advanced motorcyclists" gives the target audience away immediately. Hahn's book is aimed squarely at the road rider.
Hahn starts by looking at where riders get hurt, and spends at lot of time breaking accidents down into how, where and why. This is a key approach if we're to understand good riding - take out the bad and you're left with the rather better. It may still not give you the perfect solution to safer riding, but learning machine control technique only goes so far - however good your control, you still have to know when you're about to do something stupid, even if you can do it perfectly!
Having studied what goes wrong, Hahn moves onto looking at risk. Riding isn't safe, it can't be but the level of risk depends on:
* who we are
* what we're doing
* where we're doing it
The chapter "Good Times, Bad Times" explores the theme by sifting a whole raft of data on the influence of time of day, time of year, holiday season, emotional and mental state and more on risk, and opens up a way for the individual to be self-aware of potential problems before they happen. There's also an excellent section on visibility and the need to see and be seen. These two sections together form the core thinking behind a very good exploration of "Trouble Areas" where Hahn identifies and finds ways out of a range of scenarios that spell risk to riders. As a long-time courier who spent some time finding easy ways round London, I particularly like the way he suggests looking round for alternative, simpler routes that avoid trouble spots, rather than simply bulling through them when you don't have to.
Hahn considers the powers of sports psychology and the technique of visualisation so that `practice makes permanent', something else I've been talking about for some years now, and I also find his approach to changing the attitude of other road users to bikes by the way we ride a refreshingly different perspective to the "they're all out to kill us" slant we're usually fed by the biking media.
Hahn finishes up with a unique concept of the road as a river, explains how that can help us predict problems ahead, and suggests a few other distractions we should be aware of that can put riders at risk - group riding, temperature extremes, medication and passengers to name a few. There's also a short but useful section on how to deal with a rider who's just been upset by a minor crash - something I've never seen treated anywhere else.
Overall, the text flows nicely even if it is a bit heavy going in places, and the illustrations and box-outs correspond neatly to illustrate points in the main text. Hahn's thinking processes are clearly laid out, but at no time are they dogmatic - he leads you to water, it's up to you if you drink. The style is conversational and mildly amusing, without the "canned laughter" jokes I found so irritating in David Hough's book.
In summary, if you're looking for a track riding book, don't even open the cover. If you want to know about machine control techniques even for the road, ditto; leave it on the shelf. It's not a "how to deal with deer/gravel/traffic/bends/whatever" starter book in the way that Proficient Motorcycling is, or an overview of defensive riding like Motorcycle Roadcraft.
But if you've looking for a book that really makes you think twice about some of the commonplace things we do on a bike every day, a book that opens your eyes to risks in activities we can too often take for granted, and a book which makes you constantly re-evaluate what you thought you understood, this one is the one to expand your thought processes.