Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Product Review: Oxford Rain Seal Over Boots

I own a pair of very worn out TCX goretex boots, which although have served me well for about 5 years, are no longer waterproof. Rather than getting rid of them I decided to try out Oxford's rain seal over boots for £19.99 to continue using my TCX boots at work - nobody wants to spend £200 on a new pair of boots only to get worn out running around training motorcycle students.

First thing to note is that my TCX boots are EUR size 44, so I ordered Oxford size L - which are good for sizes 44 - 47. The size that turned up was XL but according to the over boots are for sizes 44 - 47 - a false item description somewhere. However, they do fit, with a fair bit of wiggle room. You just pop your boot in, put it on, do your boot up and then zip the over boot up too. There's a clip at the top for a closed fit and a strap that goes across the front of the over boot to tighten it in place. One of the drawbacks to this strap is that it tends to unclip easily when riding, which loosens the grip on the boot.

So what about there main job - to be waterproof? I haven't been out in a torrential downpour yet, but they've not leaked at all in any wet weather I've found myself in. The main issue I had with my TCX boots is that they leak through the sole, but these over boots seem to have solved the problem.

One thing I did notice is that changing gears or using the rear brake became a little more cumbersome. Due to the extra height, you need to remember to lift your foot higher than usual or it tends to get caught. Due to my boots being on the smaller side of the 44 - 47 fitting, the over boots do have a little bit of excess that can also get in the way. A snugger fit may have avoided that problem.

All in all they do what they are meant to - will post back after more testing weather conditions. They do have a couple of niggles and foot controls are a little awkward but for just shy of £20 it means I can continue using my old boots for that little bit longer.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Third Time Lucky? Maybe Not.

I have only been a motorcycle CBT instructor for a short time but I can tell you why I became one. It was to pass on my skills and experiences to wannabe bikers for the safety of them and other road users. As I say to my students during Element A of the course - that CBT certificate does not supersede yours or anybody else’s safety. However, for a lot of them that piece of paper seems to have more value to them than their lives.

We get a large variety of characters who come to do their CBT with us, particularly when based on the outskirts of London. Some of these plead with us to issue them a certificate, or to give them a chance on the road despite our legal and H&S obligations when we know they are not ready and need more training. I mean, how long would you want to be riding your bike for? If you are not safe on the road, you are not going to be riding it for long. Most students understand and know it themselves when they need a bit more training. Others can be aggressive or pull the sympathy card, but most understand when they finally get their CBT why we make the decisions we do.

A couple of months ago in October 2015 I had a student for her CBT. There was a minor language barrier, but she knew enough English to communicate. Her husband was with us for the duration of her off-road practical bike training and was translating when needed. At the end of this part of the training I felt she was just about ready for the next two parts of her CBT - the classroom session and practical on-road ride. On the road ride she seemed uncomfortable and despite my best efforts to fix the flaws she eventually rode up the kerb and so I ended her training and brought her back to the school. I explained to the two of them that she needed to come back to spend more time with the bike here at the school which they were absolutely fine with.

They did come back to try again. However, she struggled more so with the off-road training despite my best efforts, than previously. I told them that unfortunately she wasn’t ready yet for the road ride, especially considering the result of her last time out on the road. They pleaded with me to take a chance and take her on the road but I told them I was not comfortable doing that as we hadn’t made any progress from her first CBT. They were naturally disappointed but understood.

So lets fast forward to today - the 5th December 2015. I took my two students for the last hour of their practical on-road ride. As we rode away from Hounslow town centre we witnessed an unfortunate incident where a learner rider attempted to undertake a stationary vehicle onto the cycle lane. As they did so they caught the backside of the car and came off the bike, scratching the car and smashing the rear lights. As we were following them as this happened I pulled my students over to the side and parked up. I asked my leading student if they saw what happened and they had so he provided details to both parties. During this time, the learner rider was crouching down by their bike on the phone. I recognised the student but couldn’t tell who it was and so I asked to see their license (which of course they didn’t have to provide to me but they did). Sure enough it was the student who I had back in October - that did not get through the course. I asked to see proof of their CBT certificate and they showed me a copy on their phone - issued the beginning of October by a motorcycle training company based in Winchmore Hill called Fast Trak. So a couple of things may have happened after they left us for the second time. They may have been unhappy with our training and so tried somewhere else. Or, they may have been more concerned about getting that bit of paper and so opted for somewhere offering guaranteed CBT certificates (illegal yes, but not unheard of). Now, I do not know the nature of how Fast Trak conduct their CBT training, but in either case it is clear that this student was not ready to begin their learning on the road unsupervised.

So what is the point of mentioning all of this? Well, for starters, if this incident happened at a quicker pace, or even worse, if the car was moving, then the accident could have been far more severe than it was - the possibility was there. With this in mind, those who undergo CBT training need to value their lives and others far more than that piece of paper - we are training you to be safe on the road - that CBT certificate should be seen more as a byproduct of the training. Thirdly - when selecting a training centre choose them for the right reasons - that they provide excellent training to ensure you are safe when learning on the road by yourselves. 

There is a reason we do it properly. Ride safe, ride longer.