Brent Hutchison is not the kind of man to mince his words. So when he talks about the difference training made to his riding, you know he means it. We caught up with Brent not long after he’d taken the first real rider training of his life, in the shape of a Ride Forever course.
Stand up guy
Some of us moan about things that annoy us. Others go and do something about it. Anyone who knows Brent knows he is in the second camp.
As President of BRONZ when it first became a truly national organisation, he was the public face of the organisation as it sought to defend motorcyclists’ rights. When the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council was formed he was invited as a member. From organising the 2009 ‘Bikoi’ to Parliament over rego increases to clashes over motorcycle parking in Wellington, Brent has always been forthright in his opinions and, at times, an outspoken critic of ACC. So, when it came to asking him about his recent training experiences and the Ride Forever course, there was no guarantee of a positive word.
Experience meets training
It’s not often you meet a motorcyclist who’s never had a ‘proper’ crash on the road, let alone after 33 years of riding. But Brent Hutchison is one. Starting out riding Moto-X, he worked his way through a succession of road bikes to his current GSX-1400. Brent admits that he thought all those years without a real accident meant he must be doing things right. “I didn't dismiss the value of training,” he says. “I was 100% on-side with it, I just never got around to doing it myself. I guess I thought all that experience was the equivalent of training.”
Brent’s open-mindedness meant he encouraged other riders to take training, including the Ride Forever programme. He joked that taking an ACC-subsidised course is a way to get some of the levy cost back. But then, a short while back, he decided to sign up and see for himself.
Brent admits to being surprised at how much he learned on that first course, and the specifics of the training. “One thing that blew me away was the technique for low speed turns - hanging off the outside. You’d think, me being a dirt-bike rider, that it would come naturally but I just wasn't doing it. Once I got shown, I was turning my GSX-1400 through 180º in one lane.” Like many riders, Brent did the course with friends. “We were all on Comms and everybody was speechless. Even me!”
As is often the case, Brent got the training ‘bug’ and has since done one-on-one courses with Ross Gratton, his instructor on the Ride Forever programme.
A noticeable difference
Although Brent is first to admit that his riding can slip into old habits, he also understands the value of what he has learned. A short while after training, he took his partner (also a motorcyclist) on the pillion across the Rimutaka Hill. “You’re taking different lines,” she observed when they stopped. “Yep,” said Brent. “I’m practicing what I learned.” One of the key things he took out of the course was that ‘race’ lines are not the best road lines. It was a point drummed home on a later ride with Ross through tight lanes with limited vision around corners. “By staying wider, for longer, it really opened up how far ahead I was able to see. On left handers, it was the opposite of what I thought was safe, but it really works.”
Give it a go
While he handed over leadership of BRONZ a few years ago, Brent’s desire to see a better deal for motorcyclists – in financial, safety and other terms – remains undiminished. Today, there is one area where he will credit ACC: in subsidising the Ride Forever courses. “The training is great, and great value too. I’d encourage anyone to give it a go.”
If a rider of Brent’s experience can get so much out of training, it can work for anyone. With Bronze on-road courses for just $20 a day, and $50 for a day’s Silver or Gold level instruction, there really is an option for anyone.