Block changing

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Block changing

Postby John C » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:08 am

Never been a fan of block changing. Not wishing to get in to the argument again but I would argue that going down the box sequentially, not using the gears to slow down but simply matching revs to speed as you slow down, is a much safer way of doing things.

Anyway, as it seems policy to do block changing, thought I had better try and use it when applicable. Now either I'm doing it wrong or this method brings out something else which I've always been led to believe is a no no, freewheeling!

So I'm coming up to traffic lights, lets say on an NSL and am in say 4th gear. Lights are green but naturally slow down in anticipation of a change. 50-100 yards away they change to red. For the sake of argument let's say I know the junction and know that they will stay red for quite some time.

So as I approach, clutch in, block change down to first and glide smoothly to the stop line. But I can't let the clutch out in first until I'm at a suitable very slow speed meaning that for quite some distance I will be freewheeling with the clutch in, surely not a good idea.

In practice this 'no freewheeling' principle could be exaggerated even more. If I know the lights are going to stay red for some time I will want to be at the stop line in neutral. So as above I block change down but stop in neutral in anticipation of a long stop. But this makes it worse because I will be freewheeling for even longer.

In actual fact I have found this latter move of changing down to neutral as I approach very smooth but still can't help feeling that it goes against other important principles of not freewheeling.

Think I must be missing something here. Sure one of our experts can help although I suspect I may prompt some varying responses. Maybe we should have a block vote on it!
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Re: Block changing

Postby Evel Knievel » Wed Aug 26, 2009 4:53 pm

Without getting too involved (again!) in this one John, could I perhaps suggest that you leave the gearbox and clutch alone for longer. Close the throttle first, then use the brakes to slow down to the required speed (no clutch yet). Feel the revs drop and the engine retardation (engine braking) come into effect. When you reach the point that you feel you NEED to bring the clutch in, do so THEN change gear.

FWIW (for what it's worth), I'm still not convinced myself but have been trying to develop my skills in this area since it was brought to my attention. My preference would be to crash down through the gears, not use the brakes, bend half the valves and blow the head gasket :P :evil:
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Re: Block changing

Postby John C » Wed Aug 26, 2009 5:14 pm

Quote :- When you reach the point that you feel you NEED to bring the clutch in, do so THEN change gear.

By saying that Iain I think you are backing up the argument for sequential changing which I think secretly we both really want to do. Slowing down in 4th gear I really don't want to go down to an almost stop situation, it's completely the wrong gear for that. Rather, as you rightly say above, I will change down when I reach the point when 'I feel the NEED to do so, in all probability very soon after I've started to slow down in the first place, ie sequential changing down !!

In addition we still have the point that by block changing as you come to a stop, whenever you choose to do it, you are necessarily be going to freewheel for some time. I don't want to freewheel at any time. I want to be in the right gear at all times and only disengage the engine (clutch in) just before I stop. Can't do this if I am still in 4th as I come up to the line, I'm going to stall for sure.

You are obviously thinking the same way as me in terms of practising what we are supposed to do without I feel having any real confidence that it is correct. Do please let me know if you manage to convince yourself !!
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Re: Block changing

Postby ozzzie » Wed Aug 26, 2009 5:31 pm

John C wrote:Anyway, as it seems policy to do block changing, thought I had better try and use it when applicable. Now either I'm doing it wrong or this method brings out something else which I've always been led to believe is a no no, freewheeling!


There is a simple guide for this:

Not the Blue Book wrote:Block changes tend to occur where the terminal speed is predetrmined and not likely to change


You're approaching a set of lights that have just changed to red.

Not the Blue Book wrote:Sequential changes tend to occur where terminal speed is variable and acceleration may be required at any point during the speed reduction phase.


You're approaching a set of lights that have been red for some time.
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Re: Block changing

Postby jogler » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:08 pm

Good examples, Oz

As with all things "advanced", lots of things combine and you can't take any particular aspect in isolation. The examples which have always been given have been, by inference, ones where the terminal speed is not expected to change and other factors do not come in to play. Whether you block or sequential change to a particular hazard at that particular time on that particular day depends on your forward observations and how they form part of your riding plan. If you are pretty certain that you will need to stop or almost stop and there are no other potential hazards such as parked cars, etc then the flavour of the month is to block change.
Regarding 'freewheeling', you do this everytime you change gear (assuming you use your clutch!). The difference is that with sequential changes there will be more of them commencing at higher speeds but for shorter durations compared to a slightly longer single 'freewheel' at a much lower speed for a block change. Matching your revs to your speed still applies to the gear you are block changing to. Whether you block or sequentially change, what you do as you come to rest doesn't change as far as I can see because your final gear selection will be the same. Don't forget you can also block change up the gearbox as well!

I will admit to block changing and sequential changing and even, horror of horrors :twisted: , using my gearbox to slow down on occasion depending on what I'm feeling like and how lazy I'm feeling. I find each of these techniques equally easy. However, when 'on duty' I try and behave myself :lol:
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Re: Block changing

Postby John C » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:01 pm

Yes I've read the other blue book and the description of block and sequential gear changing. But nowhere does it answer the question that I think I am really asking. WHY?

As a very keen proponent of safe riding I am always keen to learn and accept instruction and/or advice from any source. I do however feel I have the right to question any such advice and seek justification and/or explanation. I also feel confident that if asked by an associate for justification of any of the direction given within Roadcraft or HTBAAM I can in almost all cases offer a good answer/explanation/justification. Block changing, and incidentally 180 degree rear observation, are probably the two issues that I really struggle to justify.

As said, NTBB gives no explanation other than what 'tends' to happen. MotoGP riders 'tend' to go round corners rather quickly. Good for them, doesn't help me a lot!

HTBAAM as far as I can see does not mention block changing anywhere, although it does say
Intelligent use of the gearbox's braking effect is an integral part of motorcycling
.

Roadcraft does not provide specific instruction other than describing the two methods. It does however offer a warning with regard to block changing with which I would totally concurr and suggest as a serious reason for not using block changing at all
if too low a gear is selected there is a risk of locking the rear wheel and causing a skid


I really do think IAM instruction on this subject is misplaced. Yes we all agree you don't do the high revving, double de-clutching scream down the gearbox and I'm not suggesting that in any way. Perhaps IAM are using this instruction to dissuade people from this practice. But to introduce it as 'this is the way to do it' I really think is wrong. Would it not be preferable to go by a couple of the pointers in HTBAAM referring to what the examiner is looking for, ie

Is your gearchanging smooth and sympathetic to the machine


and

Are engine and road speeds properly co-ordinated when changing gear


From one still to be convinced member !!
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Re: Block changing

Postby ozzzie » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:48 am

John C wrote:I also feel confident that if asked by an associate for justification of any of the direction given within Roadcraft or HTBAAM I can in almost all cases offer a good answer/explanation/justification. Block changing, and incidentally 180 degree rear observation, are probably the two issues that I really struggle to justify.


Let's pick those up in reverse order.

Lifesavers don't appear in the new book for manoeuvres where, traditionally, they were a key component. There seems to be an acceptance that they're only really appropriate below 30MPH and that above that, you're primarily concerned with what's ahead and your blindspot (i.e. shoulder checks).

In terms of gears, it's probably worth putting this into context. An associate isn't going to fail a test because of sequential changing providing that the gear use is sensible, but an SO test could be a different matter.

Part of the issue with sequential gear use (and yes, all gear use is sequential Horse(!), but you know what we mean here) is that it's very easy for people to drift into using the 'box for braking on approach to a hazard/stop. There seems to be this misapprehension that people should never use their brakes - ever. That's already been picked up in a similar topic.

It's also about wasted effort. Why fanny around with declutching and reengaging gears when you don't need to? Economy of effort is an advanced riding theme. A good/experienced rider should be able to seamlessly pick up drive in the right gear as needed.

Finally, there's the mechanical sympathy/wear. However efficient you are with your changes, engaging and disengaging drive has to cause (microscopically) more wear on systems doesn't it? If you're doing 20,000 miles a year, then that would probably add up. This is of course dependent on your ability not to drop it into first at 90.

We'll see if we can get answers from Tony/Jim/Robbie on their definitive views.
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Re: Block changing

Postby John C » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:02 am

Thanks for the info Oz, I look forward to seeing the new book re 180 degree rear observation.

You are quite right about the issues you bring up re block changing. My point is that I am not violently against block changing but if instructions/advice is given to adopt a certain way of doing things then I would really expect there to be some solid reasoning and justification for the advice. It is this I see as missing. Yes would love to get a view from the examiners as to their view.
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Re: Block changing

Postby ozzzie » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:05 am

John C wrote:I would really expect there to be some solid reasoning and justification for the advice. It is this I see as missing. Yes would love to get a view from the examiners as to their view.


Sorry my reasoning and justification weren't sufficient for you. :-)
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Re: Block changing

Postby tfdodo » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:58 am

Hey ho, an advanced motorcycling issue, whatever next ? ;)
Rear obs is easier to deal with . Oz has already pointed out that the "official view" has moderated ; and the justification, and common-sense approach , is that you need a good knowledge of what is happening around you. When - ie almost all of the time - you can get that without a full-blown 'lifesaver' distracting your view for .75 seconds from what you're heading towards (by use of mirrors plus shoulder-check, say) so much the better. But don't forget it completely - from time to time it will be appropriate...
Block changing - given that there ARE occasions when you have a very high level of confidence that i) you have to lose 'more than a gear's worth' of speed, and ii) you can reliably assess your desired end speed/gear, and iii) no factors are likely to change that assessment, lets turn this around and say why not block change ?
Yes it is possible, on some bikes more than others, to wind up in the 'wrong' gear[Evel ;) ] , which can be a Bad Thing. But technique can largely overcome that. It's also possible to lock the front wheel by application of the front brake, and technique can overcome that too ; the appropriate response to that is to develop the technique, not to abandon use of the front brake.
Block changing is another tool in your toolbox. If you become proficient in it, then you have a wider array of tools available to deal with whatever hazards come at you ; judge when its use is appropriate. Having a wide array of tool/techniques available is a Good Thing :)
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Re: Block changing

Postby John C » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:13 am

lets turn this around and say why not block change ?


Thanks Nick, puts things in a slightly different perspective.

Yes there are times (rare it has to be said) when I will block change as the situation dictates. What was really causing me to raise the question was the inference within IAM that, given a situation, one should/ought to/must use block changing. It was this seemingly arbitary inflexible 'instruction' which caused me to think.

Think I can now sleep soundly and stop believeing that I must be a vastly inferior rider because I am not keen on block changing !!

As already said, the slight change to 180 degree observation sounds interesting and probably more in line with my personal view. Look forward to seeing the new book. By the way when are we likely to see it Oz.
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Re: Block changing

Postby ozzzie » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:16 am

John C wrote:By the way when are we likely to see it Oz.


When our order to IAM central is met and delivered.
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Re: Block changing

Postby Horse » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:56 pm

ozzzie wrote:
John C wrote:I also feel confident that if asked by an associate for justification of any of the direction given within Roadcraft or HTBAAM I can in almost all cases offer a good answer/explanation/justification. Block changing, and incidentally 180 degree rear observation, are probably the two issues that I really struggle to justify.


Lifesavers don't appear in the new book for manoeuvres where, traditionally, they were a key component. There seems to be an acceptance that they're only really appropriate below 30MPH and that above that, you're primarily concerned with what's ahead and your blindspot (i.e. shoulder checks).


I've always understood a 'lifesaver' to be a last check into a blindspot, nothing more, and definately not a full, I ain't got no mirrors, 'rear observation'.

However, see below for 'lean riding' - I rarely do 'lifesavers' :) *

Many riders do lifesavers too late anyway. If you have the 'Riding Plans' vid (or watch it on Youtube, watch the first sequence "Here we see a group of police motorcyclists . . . " as they ride down the approach road towards the camera.

ozzzie wrote: Part of the issue with sequential gear use is that it's very easy for people to drift into using the 'box for braking on approach to a hazard/stop. There seems to be this misapprehension that people should never use their brakes - ever. That's already been picked up in a similar topic.

It's also about wasted effort. Why fanny around with declutching and reengaging gears when you don't need to? Economy of effort is an advanced riding theme. A good/experienced rider should be able to seamlessly pick up drive in the right gear as needed.


Two good points there.

1. There are so many myths that creep in, 'Never . . . ' 'Always . . . ' etc.

There's nothing wrong with using engine braking - as long as it's understood 'how and why'. I've had a rider slow down in front of me quite successfully. We stopped for a chat. "I was told to use the gears to slow!" he explained. Yes . . . but not 'clog down three and drop the clutch' . . .

2. I'm a believer in 'lean riding'. Do what is needed [insert your own definition of need :)] - and no more.

eg Signals; don't use indicators if there's no-one there to see them. "Ah," I hear you say "What if you're turning close to a bend and someone might come into view?" Yup, in that case there is a need - so signal!

So lean riding means only do one gear change instead of two or three. Following NTBB guidance gives fairly clear advice on when and when not to 'block'.

OK, add another variable: whether or not you're comfortable doing it.

If you find it difficult to judge how much you've slowed, what gear is appropriate, and how much revs to match with road speed, well don't do it! But accept that if you want to ride in the same timescale/roadspace then fitting gear changing into the your braking is likely to lead to more mental effort and physical juggling of controls, whereas separate brake-gears may take less road space.


ozzzie wrote: and yes, all gear use is sequential Horse(!) but you know what we mean here)


:D

Where's the 'tuneless whistle while staring at the ceiling' smiley when you need it? ;)


* Mirrors like TV screens, a [very] wide bike, dominant riding position, and blind spot checks done when needed. I don't do them when it would mean someone driving over a pavement to get to me ;) I also don't recommend it for all riders to copy without thought at each and every occasion when there's a turn or lane change.
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Re: Block changing

Postby tfdodo » Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:40 pm

Horse wrote:I've always understood a 'lifesaver' to be a last check into a blindspot, nothing more, and definately not a full, I ain't got no mirrors, 'rear observation'.


We tend to use 'Shoulder check' as you are quoted above (= blind-spot check , [assuming you dont have Massive blind-spots] ;) ) ; and 'lifesaver' for the "whole kit'n'kaboodle' Exorcist-stylee "lets have a relaxed panoramic look at what's happening behind us* ".

*'... whilst hurtling at high speed towards the unseen stuff in front of us that's rather more likely to kill us, as we're getting closer to it", wherein lies the rub :o

"Rear Observation" is collective term for finding out whats happening behind you ; to include both of the above, mirror use, rear-view CCTV, intercom to any pillion illegally facing backwards, spidey-sense, and presumably bike-to-bike from yer mate saying "did you know a **volvo's about to kill you"(if it's from behind, that is) :shock: . Or at least most of those.

**not to be accused of volvo-ism, I should point out that it could also be a White Van. Thank Heavens that volvo don't make white vans :twisted:
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Re: Block changing

Postby Horse » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:40 pm

tfdodo wrote:
Horse wrote:I've always understood a 'lifesaver' to be a last check into a blindspot, nothing more, and definately not a full, I ain't got no mirrors, 'rear observation'.


We tend to use 'Shoulder check' as you are quoted above (= blind-spot check , [assuming you dont have Massive blind-spots] ;) ) ; and 'lifesaver' for the "whole kit'n'kaboodle' Exorcist-stylee "lets have a relaxed panoramic look at what's happening behind us* ".


When you say 'we', is that a 'local' BAM thing?

To be fair, I've just had a look in the 1979 edition Blue Book (not the earliest I have, but from when I started training), and Feature One - Course includes: "A view to the rear is taken by looking in the mirrors and over the right shoulder" while Feature Six - Rear Observation (Life Saver) says "A last look over the shoulder to ensure that following traffic . . . ". The latter suggests - but I doubt ever meant! - the "whole kit'n'kaboodle' Exorcist-stylee "lets have a relaxed panoramic look at what's happening behind us" because if it did mean that wouldn't they have included 'looking in the mirrors'?

But since D Jones esq has already been quoted for gears, I should quote him for this :)
"A 'lifesaver' is a rear observation, but not all rear observations are 'lifesavers'."

So . . . reaching for the wooden spoon . . . is a BAM 'shoulder check' a rear observation? :D

tfdodo wrote: **not to be accused of volvo-ism, I should point out that it could also be a White Van. Thank Heavens that volvo don't make white vans :twisted:


A variation on the "Carlesburg don't make ____ , but if they did . . . " ;)
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