By Dave Abrahams
Cape Town - Of the 46 riders who took part in the 2016 Wheels Skills and Safety Campaign, 14 were women and another 13 were newbies looking for help in passing their K53 motorcycle licence test.
While the overall turnout was down on previous years, the organisers, Wheels Motorcycle Club, were pleased that the number of women and young riders had increased significantly, showing that the campaign, now in its 15th year, was reaching beyond the mainstream clubs to a wider audience, particularly those most at risk - young and inexperienced riders.
They were on as wide a variety of bikes as ever, from a sporty 125cc scooter to a couple of huge but surprisingly wieldy American-style American-style scooter, including a young rider on a big single-cylinder motard that sliced through the cones with such ease that it was almost a cheat.
A number of the younger riders, however, were on older machines - some older than they were - which they'd bought because they could get a larger-capacity motorcycle for the same price as a new lightweight.
This lent extra weight to the earlier presentation, during the theory segment of the event, on first-line maintenance, because the older a motorcycle gets, the more hands-on care it invariably needs from its rider to keep it in safe and roadworthy condition.
Once out on the training ground at the Parow Traffic Department, however, these same young riders were determined to show the older generation that their big old muscle-bikes could still do the job when it came to precision riding and emergency avoidance.
This set up a fun and encouraging rivalry between the mainstream riders and the newbies - but it was notable that the ladies stayed out of it, concentrating on their own bikes, whether big or small, old or new, and on the exercises.
They were there to become better, safer riders, and each one of them, even those with decades of riding experience, learned something new on the day. Maybe the guys can learn something from that.