What is Defensive Riding on a motorcycle?

Learning how to ride defensively, is the single most important skill that you will learn as a new rider. Appreciating and thinking about defence riding throughout your riding career is the essence of riding a motorbike safely, on the public roads. If you are interested in learning to ride a motorbike safely, please do read on!

Long before James Bond’s Aston Martin, V-12 Vanquish was blessed with its most notorious feature ( a cloaking device, which allowed it to become practically invisible ) all motorcycles have had this feature installed as standard. But when you Even police motorcyclists, with blue lights, flashing and sirens screaming, report that car drivers simply look right through them.

Motorcycles fall into that category of things that drivers don’t always perceive even if they are right in their field of vision. A motorcycle approaching head-on from a distance occupies a very small part of a driver’s vision. If it’s going quickly, it’s possible that the eye simply won’t get around to looking at it enough to make it “stick” in the brain before it arrives in the driver’s immediate vicinity. “Invisibility”

As a first step, you can try to have SOME kind of high visibility gear integrated into your set-up. It doesn’t have to be a bright yellow bib, but consider instead some white florescent helmet markings strips (or a white helmet). Having an element of high visibility gear can be done ‘fashionably’ .. but if fashion is your main concern you’re missing the point a little.

When is the last time you made sure all your lights (brake lights and indicators) are working?

There’s also a ‘school of thought’ that “Loud Pipes Save lives” – while there’s little research to support that loud exhausts are really effective, it must surely make a difference sometimes, like when you can help wake-up the car driver in front of you! (Aside from the ‘safety’ boon of having loud pipes..I admit I do LOVE a loud exhaust just for the sheer thrill of it!)

But even wearing high visibility gear, or having thunder erupt from your exhaust may not help … simply because of this ‘motorcycle blindness’ noted in bold above.

THE BEST way to keep safe while you are invisible, is to practice defense riding.

What is defensive riding?

You need to expect that every road user will kill you unless you take preventative action = DEFENSIVE RIDING. Learning this skill begins by believing that everything on the road posses specific risks (and associated danger) – you need to deliberately train yourself to be a mentally prepared, defensive rider, prepared for the unexpected.

  • Learn to have your eyes constantly searching for possible danger
  • Learn to ANTICIPATE (your life literally depends on predicting and riding your bike in a defensive way : you MUST LEARN to ‘defend’ against as many possible risks that you can possibly perceive
  • Read the road condition, adjust your riding style appropriately (type of tarmac, road markings, gravel, pot holes)
  • Read the corner type, think about your line and remember you’re not on a closed race circuit (open, closed, line of sight, camber?)
  • Anticipate all other road users : RIDE “AS IF” THEY DO NOT SEE YOU (The tractor driver towing a trailer into his home lane will have his evening meal on his mind not checking his rear view mirror before he pulls across you.)
  • Consider all the things that are at the road-side and they might affect your riding (you see that distracted Mum, turning round to calm an angry child. She won’t know you’re there until she hits you. It is your responsibility to see the pressure she is under and avoid the accident.)
  • The weather conditions – flex your style, be gentle (and have you checked the weather forecast so are you prepared?!)
  • Always ride well within your ‘limits’ (and within the speed limits) and do not try to keep up with more experienced friends.
  • The list is literally endless – keep aware, keep alert and mitigate.

All the time you must have your eyes up, looking ahead the next corner, keep a check in both mirrors, make yourself sit in the epicenter of a safe bubble of distance, protect yourself by using the information you are taking in, to ride defensively.

Riding defensively does not imply that you should ride everywhere at 25mph but rather, that before every ride you should fully engage your defensive riding brain. And I mean it. Say to yourself EVERY TIME you put your leg over that bike, “this is serious”.

Do not ever ride under the influence of alcohol, drugs or if you are very tired.

Finally, gain experience, and enjoy (as safely as is possible) absolutely every second of the best fun on earth.


If you are interested in becoming an even better rider , check our post on trail braking here.

Another basic that is often overlooked is counter steering – read more about it here.

Basic Motorcycle Maintenance Guide – (Including pre-ride check list)

I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing with that wrench..prodding the drive belt?

There a few things you should check on your motorcycle on a regular basis. Smart Motorcycling Guide is about real world, honest motorcycling. I absolutely admit, I do not run through an entire pre-ride check list every time I ride : but there are some ‘primary safety checks’ that form part of my routine every single time I ride.

I encourage you to at least read the lists below as quick reminder of the things that you should be checking, every time you get a chance! My advice is to start doing at least the primary safety checks first, so that you build a routine. The plan should be for every journey:

1. Check your bike

2. then put on your helmet on

3. throw your the leg over it, and ride.

Motorcycle maintenance check lists are good at getting your mindset in the right place, especially if you do not have your own routine already established. Do make your own basic motorbike pre-ride checklist, and stick it on the wall of your garage, or use the one below!

Look out for where I mark some of the checks as “PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK” : these are the most important from a safety perspective.

Failure to prepare, is preparing to fail!

You should have a handbook with the specs for your bike, if not, go get one. It is fairly easy to pick up workshop manuals for various models on eBay in PDF or CD form for little money. (You may be able to find some data for your particular motorcycle on the net, or YouTube!)

Whereas with a four wheeled vehicle you may get away with being lax with things like tire pressures etc, this is not the case with a motorcycle. Motorcyclists pay the for the thrill, for the feeling of motorcycling freedom, with risk.

In essence, this exposure & freedom requires the acceptance of increased danger versus being caged and protected inside a car. (There’s no doubt the increased risk, is also part of the thrill). It is smart motorcycling to be as prepared as possible : make your ride as safe as possible so that you can continue to enjoy the thrill of two wheels.

One of the best things about motorcycling is learning Basic Motorcycle Maintenance.

It is ‘smart motorcycling’ not to compromise the safety and stability of your motorcycle, for the sake of a bit of routine maintenance.

Pre-ride check list

Tires – check condition and for foreign objects in the tread. It is also vitally important to keep your motorcycles tire pressures either on spec for you specific bike, for the riding conditions, or very close to it. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Oil level – always check with the bike on level ground, hold it upright off the stand if you can so that the oil settles level in the sump.

Coolant level – only if your bike’s liquid cooled, obviously.

Chain – check the tension and make sure it’s well lubed. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Brakes – check they work and that they feel good. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Lights – check all your lights, especially the brake light, you don’t want to get rear ended, do you?

Visual inspection – self explanatory.

•All ok? – hit the road.

Periodical checks

Check battery – see that the connections are tight. Also check the electrolyte level on some batteries, a lot of newer batteries are gel filled, sealed for life types, so no need with these. Have you got a trickle charger?

Carb balance – if your bike is multi carbed get yourself a Carbtune or similar [this is the one I’ve used on my Cafe Racer Build] It can be a little tricky the first time you balance them, but when you’ve done it once, the second time will be easy.

Ignition timing – only necessary on some bikes, most newer models have electronic ignition which does not need touching, normally.

Valve clearances – unless you’re a good home mechanic, take it to a dealer.

Wheel bearings – you’ll need a stand for this. The one below is not wildly expensive. grab each wheel with it off the ground and see if there is any sideways play. There should be none or maybe a trace at most.[PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Steering head bearingswith the front end off the ground, grab the forks and push and pull. There should be no play. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Swinging arm bearingswith the back wheel off the ground, check for any sideways movement in the swing-arm, there should be none.

Brakes – check fluid levels, brake hoses for deterioration, and pads/shoes for thickness. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

•Cables and levers – should operate smoothly. Get some grease on lever/pedal pivot points, and get some lube down the cables, if you can. A cable oiler is a handy tool.

•Nut and bolts – go all round the motorcycle with your spanners and check that all nuts/ bolts/screws are nice and tight.

Well, that’s about it for some basic maintenance, obviously, unless you’re a good home mechanic, any bigger jobs might have to go to a dealer or your mechanic.

The problem can be finding a good dealer with skilled mechanics you can trust, so I try to do as much as possible. Building my first cafe racer really helped me confidence, check our my blog for to see just how much mechanical know how I gained!

Ride Safe, Ride Smart

Smart Motorcycling Guide

Top 10 Motorcycles for 2020 – the perfect mix.

So what really are the Top 10 motorcycles for 2020? The way I see it, the list will simply not be the same for any two people!

This list includes some motorcycles that may not be classed as the ‘best’ or the ‘fastest’ in their class – but these are the motorcycles that would make me feel good, and that is what motorcycling is all about.

I had to come up with a few guidelines ‘..or this would have turned into a Top 100 motorcycles list for 2020.

  • Only two motorcycles from each broad ‘class’ I wanted to get the perfect MIX not just 10 sports bikes.
  • All motorcycles must available to buy new for 2020
  • All these motorcycles must be standard production models, not customs, or concepts that will never be made.

1. Top 2020 Sports bikes



What can I say – I am a Honda fan. There’s just something about the word FireBlade that screams ‘motorcycling’ to me. Read our first look article on the new 2020 Honda Fireblade here. It is pretty clear I would almost kill to have this machine. I think it looks stunning, it’s fully loaded for 2020, and I want it to tear my tear face off with that power.

The all-new 2020 Honda Fireblade will start from £19,999 with the Fireblade SP estimated to cost £23,499

Ducati Panigale V2

Ducati Panigale V2

If the FireBlade is going to be my primary partner for obliteration of track days , then the Panigale V2 will be my bit on the side. Also a weapon like the Honda, but this is a dagger instead of a machine gun. This dagger has such a beautiful design that I might want to frame it and display it on my wall.

This twin-cylinder Panigale has a completely new look, and, thanks to a comfortable seat and its suspension set-up, it offers sports performance while making road riding more enjoyable and user-friendly. It is powered by a 995 cm³ Superquadro engine with a maximum power of 155 hp at 10,750 rpm and a maximum torque of 104 Nm at 9,000 rpm.

What is not to love here – this machine has the stunning , jaw dropping sexiness of the Panigale heritage, without the insanity of the top line V4 models. I can go to the shops on this, I can go the track, I can have fun in the twists and turns without thinking I’m going to kill myself if I twist that throttle a little more than I should have. Stunning, rid-able, sex on two wheels.

The new Ducati V2 Panigale will retail at £14,995 – which comes in at £5,000 cheaper than the V4.

2. Top 2020 Naked Motorcycles

2020 MV Augusta DRAGSTER 800 RR SCS

DRAGSTER 800 RR SCS. Image MV Augusta

If if I’ve described the V2 as sex on wheels – well this is the definition of ‘bling’. This machine has more bling that Jay Z’s gold chains. I’m not cool enough to ride this, but that’s the point – no-one is.

This machine is 140hp with 87Nm of torque from a 3 cylinder, 798cc engine.

MV August owners love talking about how their bikes ‘are works of art’. There’s reason for this : they are works of art.

£16,600 for these stunning piece of jewelry – and you can be sure I’d rather have this bike, over a fancy watch any day : easily on my top 10 Motorcycles for 2020.



I’ve a got a CCM calendar in my kitchen. These bikes are pure. For me, the definition of naked. This kind of stripped down mechanical grittiness makes me feel like punching something in a manly fit of testosterone. I think I became pregnant thinking about this bike, and I’m a man.

The engine is a thumper – a big single cylinder , 600cc, with Power @ 62 bhp and Torque 66 Nm @ 5,500 RPM. BASE PRICE: £12,495.00

3.Top 2020 Touring / Adventure Motorcycles

Husqvarna Norden 901

Husqvarna Norden 901. Image Husqvarna.

The looks of this new machine is a what we call Marmite. Some love it , some hate it. I love it. I love modern looks of the the VITPILEN and SVARTPILEN 701, and this Norden has also shares that very new and fresh look. Here’s my thinking – if I’m riding a adventure-touring motorcycle – it is not going to look as sexy as a sports bike. What I love about this, is that the machine just screams – “I am capable and built for this”. Estimated cost £13k.

2020 Harley-Davidson Pan America

2020 Harley-Davidson Pan America. Image Harley Davidson

Another marmite choice! Again for exactly the same reasons as for the Norden above – this machine tells me – I have a job to do, and I’ve been built for it. Look at me! I’m a tank jeep motorcycle thing!

Harley describe this as ‘TOURING BECOMES DETOURING’ they say the Pan America equals “parts campfire, wanderlust, and grit. This is our two-wheel multi-tool built to endure, designed to explore, and engineered for full-send. H-D ADV; find your way home.”

Estimate cost £15k.

4. Top 2020 Cruiser & Bobbers (Including Power Cruisers)

Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster

Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster. Image Triumph

This is a different kind of bling versus the MV Augusta Dragster, but it certainly a type of ‘bling’. The Speedmaster is the perfect mix of chrome, combined with an ageless, refined elegance. It straight up, looks and feels like an expensive piece of kit, but delivers a true cruising experience with a punch.

Central to the Bonneville Speedmaster’s premium performance is the critically-acclaimed Bonneville 1200cc HT engine and the ‘Bobber’ tune. Its category-leading torque figure of 106Nm at a low 4,000rpm from a charismatic 270° firing interval provides smooth, linear power delivery from the slick six-speed gearbox.

Starts from £11,650.

New 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 S

New 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 S (Image Ducati)

The Diavel always leaves the world wondering – is this really a Cruiser?

The Ducati Diavel changed the face of the motorcycling world, by producing this insane ‘performance cruiser’…that handles.

Ducati own words describes the machine as having “thrilling performance, sporty power, advanced electronics, but with cruiser world features of long, low, forward positioned footpegs, powerful torque even at low speeds, no compromise in terms of materials and finishes.”

Ducati say for 2020 the unconventional, unmistakable Diavel 1260 will be sporting two new color schemes, namely Dark Stealth (a total black look, available for the standard version like in the picture above) and an all-new Ducati Red with white trims and red seat tail (on the S version).

The new Diavel is built around the Testastretta DVT 1262 engine, with a massive 157hp twin cylinder, 1262 cm³. The new Diavel 1260 S comes standard with Ducati Quick Shift up&down (DQS)

From around £18k

5. Top 2020 Duel Sport / Off Road

2020 KTM 500 XCF-W

2020 KTM 500 XCF-W (Image KTM)

This is ‘spicy’ – I can taste this bike – like a Komodo Fire Dragon Chili Pepper. At the time of writing KTM claim this is the most powerful offroad bike on the market.

This new for 2020 model, the KTM 500 XCF-W packs a 4-stroke punch from an awesome 510 cc SOHC single cylinder bombshell, with an incredible power-to-weight ratio and is described as providing nothing less than the most dynamic offroad experiences available.

From around £8500.

2020 Zero FXS

Converseral. Yes.. right now most electric motorcycles are still too expensive, yes.. we do not have the proper infrastructure for recharging yet, yes.. the time taken to recharge all electric vehicles is still just too long.

So why is this on a top 10 list? In my opening paragraphs of this list, I made it clear I would put bikes on here that would make me happy. I love experiencing something different, and there are some really good points too!

“Imagine savage performance delivered without tedious and greasy servicing regimes. Forget oil changes, spark plugs, clutches, filters, chain adjustments or expensive tune-ups. Instead, a carbon fiber belt cleanly connects the rear wheel to an air-cooled Z-Force® motor that uses a single moving part. Swap threadbare tires. Replace used-up brake pads. “ Zero

Zero’s blurb on their machine actually makes sense, and resonates with me! Why? Simply because with fewer things to go wrong out there on a trail and with less mechanical maintenance to do at home (like having to check value clearances at intervals of 10 ‘hours’.. like on some other enduro type machines)…instead, I can get on with actually riding the thing!

When it comes to range..an optional accessory, the Power Tank can be added with travel up to 223 miles in the city or 112 miles on the higher speed motorway (highway) riding.

The Zero FX’s Z-Force® 75-5 motor produces a thumping 78 lb-ft of torque, that is properly powerful.

I love Tech! This Zero, come with Bluetooth enabled connectivity for both iPhone and Android mobile devices. Adjustable motorcycle performance to enable sportier or more economical riding Customizable display reports precise state of charge and real-time power usage while riding Image – Zero Motorcycles


Thank you for reading the list above – I know your personal list will be different – but I really hoped you enjoyed this one! (I enjoyed making it!)

As individual bikers, we all get passionate about the manufactures we love, the class of bikes we love & the specific motorbike models we love..but let us all agree the important thing is that we’re all on two wheels together.

Ride Safe Ride Smart

Smart Motorcycling Guide