Gentlemen, start your engines

Today there was a session presented by one of the GWT mechanics. It involved repair and maintenance techniques that could be used in the field. Wheel removal to repair a punctured tube; cleaning the brake shoes / pads; draining water from an engine that has submerged; cleaning spark plugs etc. It was all well received and everyone got involved. The toolkit was impressive. Like in the UK, once qualified, mechanics have to buy their own tools. Only here, they are expected to get them made locally. I have attached a picture of his tool roll. Some TATA spanners, an adjustable spanner, three tyre levers made from re-bar, some sandpaper and a hacksaw blade. This blade serves many purposes. Cutting, roughing the inner tube before repairing, gapping the spark plug…very innovative. Expect an expensive main-dealer branded one out as soon as they catch on!

The tyre levers proved problematic though. They were the right length to slip under the brake disc to maintain pressure. Until they slipped. Which they did; twice. Both times the mechanic caught himself a smack in the shins. Judging from the strained wince on his face, it certainly did sting! Third time, he kept a foot on them. Learning has taken place.

The Trust’s Field Director, Lt Col Steve Whitlock, took time out from his busy schedule to come to Pokhara and visit the group. A keen motorcyclist himself he is passionate about the safety and welfare of his staff, hence he put a call in to IAM Roadsmart and the rest, as they say…

We had asked for a flat (ish) area to practice front and rear wheel skids. Surprisingly, the local football pitch was chosen. It was rough ground, to say the least. Some fair old boulders were laying around and I certainly wouldn’t fancy playing on it. We had been concerned about chewing it up with the skidding exercises but we were assured it wouldn’t be a problem. I actually think the damage we did levelled it slightly so it all worked out ok. we drew a massive crowd once word spread but the rain soon had everyone back indoors. The monsoon season is approaching and the weather is starting to turn.

We had discussed the use of brakes on motorcycles and the opinion of our guys was that the rear brake was the best brake; they didn’t use the front brake as it could cause a crash. We had seen plenty of front brake use on the ride yesterday, usually in panic situations, luckily everyone stayed on.

This is not an unusual view in the UK, especially amongst newly qualified riders, so the task is the same; to get them to understand that the front brake is the most efficient and needs to be applied smoothly and progressively. So we decided to spend a good deal of time on the braking exercises.

The rear wheel skid was no problem in the end and they were grinning like maniacs in no time at all. The front wheel skidding exercise was met with some trepidation though. It did take a while for some, but they all got there.

They are all very willing to learn and lap up input. There is no real formal training program for motorcyclists in Nepal. You can attend a ‘school’ who will teach you to pass the test. That test is a figure of eight then ride uphill, stop and do a hill start, turn round at the top and ride back down again. The test takes about 3 minutes. Or, you can go to a market and buy a licence. There is a Highway Code type book, but it is never tested, or read I suspect. They just follow the example set by their peers. There are many penny drop moments today. Mounting and dismounting, picking up a motorcycle not to mention the braking exercises. Everyone has worked hard today and we are both very pleased at the progress they have made. A couple of weak guys but there is time yet. A good start to the week…

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