Riding skills should be maintained just like you maintain your own bike, and if you neglect them for too long, problems will eventually develop. Keeping those riding skills up is a constant process too - after all, you don't see Valentino Rossi taking it easy and knocking back pina coladas all through MotoGP's off-season, do you?
Nope, like all other top-level racers, The Doctor uses his time away from race weekends to practice, keep up his fitness, and practice some more. Throw in the fact that he doesn't have to worry about intersections, traffic and roadside 'furniture' - like telegraph poles, parked cars and buildings - and you can see that a road rider needs an even greater breadth of skills than a racer.
Getting out there and simply riding is a great way to ensure your skills don't get rusty, but even riding every day won't be enough to prevent the odd bad habit creeping in - and that's where attending an accredited riding school is of huge benefit.
Of course, it's essential you've mastered a few of the basics right from the beginning. A certain level of rider training is now compulsory across Australia, but if you obtained your license in the days of 'riding around the block once from the local police station', or if you're returned to the road after an extended break of any sort, then some rider training is worth its weight in gold.
Even if you think your riding is of a pretty high standard, you'll be amazed what bad habits a trained instructor can pick up simply by observing you ride – it's picking up those bad habits and correcting them, and building on your pre-existing skills base, that these courses are all about.
There are plenty of different courses out there on offer, so make sure you choose one that's right for you and your existing skill level. Wheel-Skills, Stay Upright and Honda Australia Riding Training (HART) offer a variety of excellent courses from L-plates right through to advanced.
Prices vary, but really it's impossible to put a price on gaining the knowledge, understanding and skill that a course imparts. What's $300 to spend on a course, compared to potentially spending weeks in plaster, or worse, because your riding wasn't up to par when push came to shove?
Try and get at least one course under your belt each year, and do it at the start of the riding season if you live in the cooler southern States. You'll have a blast, you'll learn a lot, and you'll be safer and enjoy your riding more because of it.
For more information, check out these companies for a great starting point:
Wheel-Skills - vist: www.wheel-skills.com.au
HART - visit: www.hondamotorcycles.com.au and click on 'Training & Licensing'
Stay Upright - visit: www.stayupright.com.au