Risk Management

- An Essential But Little Recognised Riding Skill


Risk Management is an essential riding skill that many riders implement subconsciously and may never consciously think about. However, like many mental riding skills, it has the most potential if the rider puts conscious thought into it’s implementation and can thus apply it to a wide range of riding situations.

In its widest meaning, Risk Management is understanding of the risks involved in a specific activity (be it an aspect of business or the recreation of riding a motorcycle) and the taking of appropriate steps to reduce the risks involved in that activity, while still getting the maximum benefit from it.

Thus, in business, when buying machinery that may place his workforce at risk, a manufacturer who practices risk management will purchase all the appropriate safety equipment and training required to ensure the safe operation of that machinery, thus reducing his risk of liability in the case of an accident involving that machine.

Equally, a motorcyclist buying a new or replacement motorcycle always keeps enough money aside to buy the appropriate riding gear and training to help him/her survive and enjoy the new bike.

Risk management is an essential part of safe motorcycle riding. The riders who admit that there is a risk to riding and who take the appropriate steps to reduce that risk to the level they are willing to accept while riding are generally the one who crash less and enjoy riding the most.


Accepting The Existence Of A Risk

Admitting there is a risk in riding a motorcycle is the first step in implementing Risk Management techniques.

Risk management involves a very personal evaluation of the extent of risk the rider is prepared to accept.

Given that the rider is not a risk to other people or property, it is basically up to the rider to decide what level of risk he is prepared to accept. He then rides accordingly. You will note that we inserted the proviso that an essential base of Risk Management risk evaluation is that the rider may not be a risk to other people or property. The "risk to people" also includes emotional and monetary factors, of course, and it is on this basis that the compulsory use of crash helmets is a valid risk management step, as the failure to use a crash helmet usually results in high costs to society through long-term acute hospital care on life-support systems, etc and helmet use can arguably therefore not be left to be the rider’s risk level acceptance.

Risk to other people and proerty aside, this still leaves a large degree of riding risk evaluation to the rider. The rider’s decision about what is an acceptable level of risk must be made about all aspects of riding and can vary widely from rider to rider. For example, a risk management decision about in what weather conditions to ride will see some riders refusing to ride in rain, others refusing to ride in frost, yet others refusing to ride in snow, while some riders will ride in any adverse conditions.

One of the most obvious risk management decisions involves what speed to maintain at a particular time. This is a classic illustration of the complexity of risk management decisions as it involves many factors including:


We may think a rider is a wimp because of his refusal to take risks, or is a nut because of the risks he is willing to accept, but the theory of risk management says that, given the previous previous exceptions, the choice of risk level must rest with the rider. However, there is one pre-condition - the rider must be skilled and educated enough to be able to make an informed decision on the subject. But, then again, gaining skills and education on the correct operation of a motorcycle is all part of Risk Management.


Risk Assessment

An essential part of Risk Management is Risk Assessment. Risk Assessment, like all motorcycle riding skills, is largely a learnt skill. Most people new to motorcycles and with no training have poor risk assessment skills.

Risk Assessment starts right from when you decide to ride a motorcycle. You have thus made the decision that your assessment of the risks involved in riding a motorcycle is such that you consider that they are acceptable to you. One could say that those who have an accident and then give up riding are signalling that their original assessment of the risks and their present perception of the risks are at odds, and the risks are no longer acceptable.

Having decided to ride, the next risk assessment is in what to wear. The use or lack of protective clothing by a rider is a good indication of the quality or otherwise of that rider’s risk assessment abilities. The rider with poor risk assessment skills will either use too little protective clothing or may use inappropriately excessive protective clothing.


Risk Reaction

A part of Risk Assessment is Risk Reaction - the level at which the rider adopts a Defensive Posture or, in other words, the weighting the rider places upon reacting to a potential hazard on the road.

This usually depends either upon what training a rider received when first getting into motorcycling or on the painful experience he/she has had whilst motorcycling.

A simple example of Risk Reaction is the rider’s reaction at an intersection.

Those riders who are not strong on Risk Reaction (usually the inexperienced ones) will accelerate hard up to a loaded intersection or through a green light.

Riders with medium strength Risk Reaction will not change pace through a loaded intersection or green lights.

Riders with very strong Risk Reaction skills will adopt a strongly defensive posture at a loaded intersection or lights, slowing and moving laterally in the lane etc at the intersection and, at green lights, closing the throttle in order to change pace minimally but to bring the weight forward for braking enhancement should it be needed, etc.

Riders with over-developed Risk Reaction skills will tend to brake and slow down markedly for every intersection or green light.

Those riders with impossibly high Risk Reaction skills wouldn’t ride a motorcycle through an intersection (or anywhere else for that matter) because they’re "too dangerous".


Risk Recognition

Another part of Risk Management is Risk Recognition. It’s obvious that if one cannot recognise the risks, one cannot manage these risks.

For the rider, risk comes in two forms - subjective risk and objective risk.

Subjective risk is the risk that is inherent in a rider’s attitude.

Objective risk is the risk created by external factors such as other motorists and environmental, vehicular, and roading conditions.

Thus, the first thing a proffessional rider must do is examine his attitudes and philosophies to riding and decide whether these place him at risk and whether these risks are acceptable/necessary. If the decision is made that these risks are unnecessary, the rider must then work on those attitudes and philosophies to change them. This mental analysis of one’s mental approach to riding is probably the most difficult task in risk management as, to carry it out, one must stand back from oneself and view ones attitudes and philosophies as though through another person’s eyes.

Having worked on one’s attitudes one must make a sometimes painful decision about one’s approach to riding. Unless this is done, one cannot claim to have a professional approach to riding.

In order to manage risk, one must also be able to recognise external risk. While external risk is more varied than internal risk, it is, in many ways, easier to recognise as it is something more concrete (often literally!) than internal risk’s mental "approach and philosophies" factors.

The process of recognising and managing external risk is simply but clearly illustrated in a rider’s action on a rainy day. The external risk here is wet weather with the resultant riding discomfort and wet roads etc. Professional riders will thus recognise wet weather as s