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Isolating Riding Barriers

We know the bike has limits, we know that we have our own limits. Which of them
is our real opponent in the battle for improvement and control?

The Route to Control

Cornering can be broken down into categories of activity such as braking,
steering, finding a line, getting a good drive and so on. All enthusiasts are on
a quest for being in better control or becoming quicker or smoother with them.
Are there rules we must follow to achieve control over them?

For yourself, if you could gain really good control over any one area of riding,
which do you feel would be the one that would blow away the greatest number of
barriers in your cornering? What comes to mind?

The Discipline of Riding

A. Riding is a discipline in most senses of the word. It certainly requires us
to order things correctly.

Right from day one we know the gas must come on before the clutch is released
and it remains so forever: The same goes for not chopping the throttle in a
slide, making gear changes, braking, steering and so on.

Each control sequence has a technical basic and an exact order which governs
your conduct towards achieving success.

B. Riding inflicts harsh correction on riders who are not obedient to its
rigorous demands.

Excess lean angle combined with overly aggressive throttle is beyond the limit
of a bike’s range of operation and it will hurt you. Going fast on cold tires;
losing the front on the brakes are two other classic examples.

Limits must be well known to stay out of harm’s way.

C. Riding is truly a discipline because it is its own category; its own branch
of knowledge.

No other sport requires hand–eye–body–machine control to be so precise. The
coordination of our sense of speed, timing, traction, lean angle and location
guide us, truly or falsely, and each has a very specialized order-of-importance
of its own.

Because of its peculiar, multi-level demands, the knowledge/feel required to
become successful is unique to itself.


D. Riding demands that we order its actions and coordinate them towards an
effective result.

The marital arts are a great example of drilling individual actions towards a
definite result: just like racing, they try to beat the opponent. In both cases
though, the opponent is often our own sense of our limits.

As we approach and master our limits they become assets we use to coordinate our
efforts to ride better.

E. Actions, once coordinated, become procedures.

These procedures have strict guidelines, even laws perhaps, to make them
effective towards a desired goal: make it through the corner; miss the car; set
up and carve a clean, stable and smooth line through a set of ess curves.

The more exactly we can define these procedures the easier it is to correct our
faults.

Guidelines or Laws?

No one becomes an effective martial artist without strict adherence to basic
tenets. Can we become an effective cornering artist without some understanding
of the demands of our discipline?

To operate effectively in either art requires dedication to their basic
principals. We see Bruce Lee or Valentino Rossi make it look effortless and
almost natural, almost stylized, and, at its very core, it is.

Are there actual laws in these disciplines, as in the laws of thermodynamics or
electricity that govern them or just sort of loose guidelines? Can we cheat them
if they do exist? Are the top guys cheating these laws or are they good because
they rigorously adhere to them? It often looks like cheating doesn’t it?

Beginner or Basic?

Motorcycle riders often confuse basic technical riding points with beginner
basics. There is a huge difference. Letting out the clutch without stalling the
bike would be a beginner’s barrier to overcome. Finding and being able to
consistently execute a good line with flawless throttle control are both
technical basics.

Once the clutch is mastered it becomes a specialized tool for the rider.
Slipping it at slow speed, launching a great start, quick seamless gear changes
all have their place and cannot be replaced by some other actions to achieve the
same results.

When the master of the martial arts dojo observes a novice practice the same
kata (exercise) his Black Belt is doing, he sees the differences. The overall
description of the actions being performed are the same but the trained artist
is able to produce the desired result from the form. It’s not something that
just looks cool.

You may roll on the throttle, so does Nicky Hayden, but it is doubtful that the
result is the same in anything but the form. Yes, there is a law covering
rolling on the throttle. A sub-discipline to the art if you like.

Limits, Commitment and Rewards

On the bike, we don’t argue with traction, we try to sense it: similarly, we
don’t question a bad line, we see it; we don’t debate our speed, it’s gut-level
sensing of it; we don’t quibble with lean angle limits, our own or the bike’s,
we become familiar or shy of them.

When any one of these distracts us too much; our grasp of coordinated riding;
our “technique”, our form, falls apart. We lose, to some degree, our command
over the bike and situation.

Certainly, riders wish to feel in command of all of them but often quail and
waver in their commitment once they push or approach their own limits regarding
them.

Bruce Lee had his “two inch punch”. It was powerful enough to knock over a very
large man. A novice martial artist might not develop that much power with a
running head start. For sure it is focus but what do you focus on?

When you see Val Rossi completely blow his line without losing a position, what
do you say? He’s lucky? He has a lot of experience? Brass balls? He’s smooth?
None of those things bring us to any understanding of how or why he could do it.

We can think about the bike’s limits: Brake later is easy to say: get on the gas
earlier is easy to think: use more lean angle: flick it quicker: get more
reference points; carry more speed: go in deeper: don’t hesitate with the
throttle and get the tire squirming on the drive out: mastering any of these
points would make most riders happy but may not be the correct item to crack
their own particular key barrier.

Which one would yield the greatest possible rewards if you understood it,
focused on it and you solved it? Are any of them what you thought of at the
beginning?

No-Reason Limits

Personal limits are an interesting subject. When we ride within them too often
the tendency is to accept them. When we try and ride through them it can be a
daunting and often far too interesting experience–read that as distracting.

Are your limits where your natural ability ends? Not likely. If that were the
case, having a breakthrough in riding would require something like going back in
time and rearranging your entire life or your DNA code: it’s where our inability
to maintain focus on technical basics kicks in that delineates our limits and
denies us success.

We try to run a set of esses faster but we wind up pressed for time and lose
whatever smooth we had because our control timing gets blown out. You’ve done
this.

We all do well right up to the point of distraction. That is the real limit.
Whichever area of riding that was the most distracting would probably yield the
greatest benefits if it were debugged and mastered. By that I mean bringing the
barrier into sharp enough focus to conquer it.

Felt Limits

The ever-present problem is our Survival Instincts and Reactions, SRs for short.
SR’s gratuitously (without reason or justification) kick in and take over the
running of our body and in particular the right hand and our eyes.

That is the moment we become spectators to our riding. We know this because the
throttle went still or off in our right hand for no justifiable reason; we
target fixed on another rider and they just smoked us through or out of that
corner; we touched the brake when we didn’t need to; made an unnecessary
steering adjustment, etc., etc.

A tight focus on our application of technical basics is required to beat these
often destructive survival urges and they can be beat. You can learn to take a
punch without flinching.

Known vs Felt Limits

In ours, as in other disciplines, we have both real and “felt” limits. A skilled
rider is able to maintain clarity on which is which. When the real and felt
limits intermingle that clarity is lost; the edges blur; riding becomes a
sketchy activity and we make errors from the indecision that results from it.

The speed may “feel” too high for a section of track. But it may only be too
high for the line you took--that was the “real” limiting factor.

Simple decisions like, “should I brake or gas it” can get fuzzy. “I could have
been in the gas much earlier and much harder”. You really know you could have
but with the edges blurred we lose our clarity of actions and our ability to
coordinate them, we lose our sense of control.

The Five

The known limits of riding are of great concern to us. Riders always attempt to
focus on and carefully balance lean angle against acceleration against traction
against line against speed. Each of us does this. It’s an ongoing,
moment-to-moment effort to monitor those 5 elements– just before; as we go into
and through corners.

No less than five factors are involved: each one critical to the turn’s
successful execution. Could your answer lie in your command over one of them?
I’m sure you would be happy if just one of them were firmly under your control.

Juggling the Five

It’s a real juggling act to get all five of them right when you’re trying to go
quick. The discipline of riding demands you maintain focus on their order;
intensity and accuracy. You have a flow when you do; you choke when you don’t.

Which of these 5 points is the most senior? Which one brings all the others into
alignment, into focus? Which one can blow the others out of order and out of
focus?

If you do a flow chart on them, which would come first in the whole process of
coming up to and going through a corner? Speed of course. Speed tends to monitor
the line you will run, the amount of lean you’ll have to use; how quickly you
flick the bike; the bike’s potential for acceleration, as well as limiting or
improving your available traction.

While that is true, you could also say that your line monitors them. You could
say that the available traction would monitor them all as well. The same goes
for the amount of lean you could or should use and how quickly or slowly you get
it over. Even the amount of acceleration you might want can limit or modify all
the others. So, mechanically speaking, they are for the most part, equal. But
the motorcycle doesn’t ride itself. It can’t juggle the five elements. You do.

Limits vs Resources

These five factors are both our limits and our most valued resources for
executing a corner.

They are limits when our feelings overwhelm us and it goes out of balance;
resources when used precisely--according to the disciplines of riding and in
balance with the real limits. Is the cup half empty or half full is the way we
separate an optimist from a pessimist. Is the rider seeing them as limits or
resources? That’s one easy way to define a rider’s ability.

Each rider has his or her own subtle ways of telegraphing which mode they are
operating in. A trained coach sees it immediately.

Most riders operate in limits mode. The master knows at a glance the many
differences between a novice and an accomplished Black Belt.

A good riding coach may see 5 things wrong with your riding. Which one should he
direct your attention to? Would it be more helpful if the coach was able to give
you an exact standard by which you could measure improvement or would a general
guideline serve just as well? It’s a loaded question.

Experience or Understanding

My original question is unfair. If you knew what was wrong with your riding,
you’d probably focus on it and fix it. Which of the five points do you feel
limits your riding the most? That would be the way to try and view it
objectively. But even that isn’t easy.

The good advice crowd will normally tell you that more saddle time is the key.
Oddly enough, if you look at the schedules of many pro racers you can easily see
how a club race/track-day guy on a moderate budget gets more track time. And
there is nothing wrong with track time–as long as it is focused towards
overcoming the right barrier.

Riding Plateaus

It’s easy to practice yourself onto a riding plateau, you could say barrier if
you like. I’ll define plateau:

When going back to work on an earlier skill doesn’t look appealing and the next
step up feels too steep, a bit dizzying, like thinking about going into a turn a
lot faster than you ever have before—the thought and the action don’t come
together, you feel stopped—that is a plateau.

Perhaps you want to get a better drive but the questions of traction, line and
lean angle become overwhelming. It’s easy to lose focus and wind up doing it the
same as last lap. Clearly, the essential next step for success was missed,
unknown or wrongly applied. Otherwise, you would have made some progress with
it.

Taking one of the five and sorting that out is your only hope. As in any
discipline, expert coaching works miracles to help maintain that focus.

The Pitch

The Superbike School has lead the way for 25 years in isolating and defining the
technical points for cornering motorcycles. In that process we invented
step-by-step rider training. The first step was discovering that there were
steps. We have and you will too.

Our coaching staff is for real. They are carefully trained and highly qualified
to identify and handle your weak areas. We can and will push you through the
barriers: we know what they are; we know what problems you have encountered and
have had to deal with and we know what to do about it.


Keith Code

© Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved.
 
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