from the “Educator”


Reality, all to often, has a bad habit of deflating our ego’s and our visions of our abilities, especially when it comes to riding a motorcycle. Many of us consider ourselves to have a certain level of riding ability, but is that level real, as in reality, or is it more a combination of real and desire. The other aspect of deciding on your own riding level is based mostly on the environment that you ride in the most. As this offers the only basis for your comparisons. You compare yourself with the others that you ride with and you consider how well you ride the roads that you have experienced in your home, work, and usual leisure riding area. From these experiences you decide where you think your riding level is. There is no scale of one through ten, or a test you take to give yourself a value, there is only your own evaluation of your riding skills. Once you have figured out your level, you will tend to ride with like members, or at least those you think ride the same as you. And in many cases they will be around your level of skill. At least they will be in your common riding environment. Bottom line for this thought, is that you are probably not quite the rider you think you are, and your reference for this skill has been determined by the roads and conditions of our immediate environment.

            On our trip to Wing Ding this year, a couple riding with us, had an accident. With out dwelling on the accident, the simplest reason was, too much speed into the turn. That being said, lets take the thought from above and see how it figures into our situation. Some of us have experienced mountain roads and curves and tight turns. Some of us have done a little and some have done more. But, the REALITY is, that this is not our usual riding environment. It is not what we are practiced in riding. On an inexperienced rider, this point is not something that they would be concerned about. Mostly because they have no idea of the circumstances that are ahead of them. Experienced riders know about the differences and also know to expect the differences. Let me sight a very simple example of the difference between riding here at home and somewhere like the Smokey Mountains. At home, if you come upon a curve in the road, there will be sign with a squiggly line and a speed limit, on it. Lets say this particular sign says 45 mph. Most of us here at home know that we could ride through this curve at anywhere from 45, up to 60 mph without a problem. Now lets consider that same sign in the Smokey Mountains. If that signs says 45 mph, then it would be wise to consider going 45 mph or even slower. The difference gets even more critical when the speeds drop below 40 and more so below 30 mph. At home wiz through 5 to 10 over, but in the mountains, the same or even less would be the norm.  On a slightly different example, how many of us have spent much time riding in the desert, would you know what to expect? How would you ride in that environment?  Bottom line, inexperience can cause you not to be properly prepared for a different riding environment. When riding the mountain roads, your entering speed is one of the most important things you need to control.

            Lets look at a second aspect of turns and curves. The point that you enter a curve. At home we seldom experience complicated curves. Even though it has always been recommended that you use the Late Apex approach to a curve, it isn’t as critical as it is when you are on those mountains roads. A Late Apex curve, is where you take yourself to the outer most part of the curve, and wait as long as possible to swing down into the turn. To try and better describe this, lets consider a left hand curve. You should position yourself to the extreme right hand side of the lane and stay there just past the point where the curve begins. The center line on the road will begin the turn before you will. The advantage of this approach, is that it gives you a longer and better use of the whole lane for that curve. It allows you to look further into the curve to see how it progresses. One of the things I think it also does, is to help you determine the entering speed. Before you enter the turn you can judge your speed and also your angle of approach, and if things aren’t the way you want them, it leaves you and out. This approach will leave you a small window of time to brake, which could be all you need to do to take this curve just right, If you are not using this late apex approach, then you are already into the curve and as we should know, braking while leaned over, is not a very good idea, and difficult to control.

            So, we have an understanding of different environments requiring different riding skills, and we have talked about your entering speed and using the late apex approach to taking your curves and turns. One more thing, following behind other riders can be either helpful or harmful. It is a common statement that says if the lead rider were to take a turn to fast and go over the edge and off the road, most of the pack would follow. Too many riders attempt to ride with those that might take roads quicker, than their abilities should let them.  You need to realize, for yourself, and your own safety, when you are uncomfortable in a driving condition, you need to adjust to your own riding level. If you feel that the group is moving too fast, you need to realize this, and make the necessary changes to keep yourself in a safe riding mode. We had a couple pull out of the group during a highway ride in the rain. They didn’t feel comfortable with the conditions and made the very smart decision to go at their own rate. We put another bike with them for back up and everyone got to the hotel safely. More riders need to have a more REAL assesment of their own riding skills.

            On a last note, learning to counter steer, continues to be the most important method of controlling your bike. It can make controlling your bike easier and in case of an emergency, it can be the life saver that gets you out of a very bad situation. We can talk about it often, but its practice that makes it work. If all of us could ride the mountain roads everyday, we would become much better riders than we are now, but our environment just doesn’t let us do that. Recently, someone told me a story about a motorcycle dealer service technician who rides many style bikes and would be considered a good rider by many of us. He took a race school class, and after returning to the dealership, someone asked how it was, and his reply was this: after taking the class I learned how little I know about riding motorcycles.