My Friend says I’m ready

Ok??

Over the years as a Motorcycle Coach I have heard this all too often. A new rider gets out of the MSF course, gets a motorcycle (often times the one the boyfriend / husband / best friend wants for themselves), maybe takes one more class and is ready to head off into the sunset. With the encouragement of the aforementioned.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 5.06.24 PMOr worse yet, boyfriend/husband/best friend gave them the basic lesson…this is your throttle (makes the bike go), here’s the clutch (for changing gears), here’s the gear lever (one down, four up…I think), here’s the brake lever (so you can stop), and the brake pedal for the rear brake (but you really don’t use that one) and because you know how to ride a bicycle and can drive a stick shift car this is easy. “OK, put it in first, let out the clutch…” we’ve all seen this before. Good for a laugh except when it ends up badly.

As soon as we all got our first motorcycle we just wanted to ride, to go somewhere, to feel the freedom of riding a motorcycle, to be a motorcyclist. But are you really ready to ride off into the sunset? How confident are you? Think about it.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 4.59.08 PM

Recently I had a coaching session with a young lady who had only been riding a month, a friend convinced her to buy a 600cc Sportbike and signed her up for one session with me. Coaching session began with friend riding her bike to our location (doing a wheelie or two while coming into the parking lot) and she came in a car. He left in the car to go to work… and she is standing there excited as can be to be riding her motorcycle. The session begins…

Right off the bat we find things that she needs to get better at, much better! She understood most of the concepts but wasn’t quite able to put them into practice but we kept working on them. At the end of our time she asked if I would follow her home because usually her friend drives her home. Sure. On the way home It becomes obvious that she is not ready for the street. When we arrive at her house I tell her that and tell her I will send her some exercises to do before we meet again but that she should only ride in a parking lot for now. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 7.53.40 PM

A couple of days later the friend contaced me asking me how much an on the road session would cost, I tell him she’s really not ready yet and needs more time with the basics. He said that he believes she is ready and he will work with her from there. I had video’d parts of our session so she could watch and improve, I also encouraged the friend to watch. I saw her friend a month later and he said she was doing great but still couldn’t stop well but he was working on it. I asked what he was doing to help her and he said “just getting her out riding, thats all it takes..”

So whats the point of this story? I have since learned that she has crashed twice, she wasn’t hurt badly either time but both times could have been avoided if she knew and had practiced some good skills. Instead, she was encouraged to just get out there and ride. If you are the person who is helping bring another person into the motorcycling life really really make sure they are street ready. Encourage them to get more training, get more training yourself  so you can really be of help but don’t let a new rider out on the streets with the only advice being “it just takes seat time”.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and love your motorcycle.

Paul

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Changing the way you think about motorcycle training

So, the other day I was talking to a friend and he was telling me all about how grueling the workout was with his trainer at the gym the day before and how much he had to work on before he saw him again. My friend really wants to have a killer body, even though he says he is just trying to keep in shape. After our quick lunch together he was off to the gym. This conversation got me to thinking…don’t get used to it I don’t do it all that often…Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 1.58.30 PM

People go the gym to work out to stay in shape, some go for the social aspect and some just go because they made a New Years Resolution to get in shape or lose weight and remember that they paid a bunch of money to do it and the obligation/guilt factor kicks in…and there are those that take it seriously and pay even more for a private trainer that kicks your butt (sometimes literally) every time you see them and you’re happy afterwards. You lost an inch off your waist, gained some muscle and you look more attractive to the opposite sex. After all that work, you get on your motorcycle and off you go.

Wait a minute here, what about going to the motorcycle trainer? There are few, if any, consequences when you fall down in the gym but falling down on a motorcycle, well…thats different. A motorcycle trainer keeps you in motorcycling shape. A gym trainer keeps you healthy, a motorcycle trainer keeps you safe.

Getting good training is important in any endeavor so you can learn more, do it better, enjoy it more, be successful at it and in the case of motorcycling be safer. Motorcycle training isn’t just for beginners though, experienced riders also benefit from ongoing and more extensive training. Who are the best riders on the street? Motorcycle cops.Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 1.52.23 PMMotorcycle cops go through extensive training (five weeks 8 hours a day) just be a motor officer and nearly fifty percent don’t make it through training. After they are on the street or highway they go through refresher training every six months to a year. They work at it. Well, so should everyday riders.

A friend, also a motorcycle coach, once asked someone how many years riding experience do you have? 15 years was the answer. NO the coach said, you have one year experience and fourteen of doing the same thing over and over.  We all develop bad or lazy habits when it comes to riding, we figure that after a number of years and miles that we know how to ride and don’t need any training. Just because you have been riding a long time doesn’t mean you’re doing everything right. This is where a different set of eyes that watch carefully how you ride can help correct or modify certain riding habits.

A motorcycle coach will watch you ride then design exercises to help strengthen areas of your riding that could use some help. A prime example is the guy who has been riding for 20 years but is still afraid of making U-Turns, or parking on a hill this is where a good coach/trainer can help. Think about yourself, can you make a U-Turn in your own traffic lane? or do you have to make it a three or four point event? Be honest. How good are you at Threshold Braking, hills? There is a long list of skills that all of us, coaches included, could use some help with some of them. Sometimes it is just a matter someone pointing out something you already know but don’t use it. “Oh yeah, I knew that”. and then you start doing it consciously.

Motorcycle training can also teach you new skills. We have all seen a rider do something we can’t and say to ourselves “how did he do that?” Training and practice. Remember, you can’t use a skill you don’t have.screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-11-03-12-am

And lastly, the friend who was going to the gym but he had to work out at home too because the trainer expected it of him before he could go to the next level, well motorcycle training is the same way. After a coaching session you need to go home and practice and practice and practice. Repitition is mother of all skills.

Find a good coach or training class program and invest the time and money to be a better rider, it’s worth it. And remember, motorcycle training isn’t just for beginners, it’s for all of us.

Ride safe, ride far…and practice.

Paul

 

I can’t do it

As a coach I hear that many times. Here is what it comes down to…self doubt. You see a skill exercise, you walk through it, you watch a coach do it and for some reason you get paralyzed when it’s your turn. Why?  Self doubt and lack of trust in your motorcycle.

You can do it. Each and every time.  There are only three things you need to do to overcome this issue.

#1, Focus. Don’t think about what you had for breakfast or what you are going to have for lunch or what you have to do at work. Focus on controlling your motorcycle and your ride. Turn your brain off of everything but you and your motorcycle.

#2, Understanding body positioning. Look where you are going not where you’re at. In simplistic form it’s called “head and shoulders”.  When you start a turn look to where you want to be, bring your head around to the point the the chin bar on your helmet (I assume you are wearing a full face helmet??) is just about on your shoulder…keep it there through the turn until you are looking at your exit point and beyond to the next turn.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 5.44.25 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-31 at 8.47.45 AM

Your shoulders. Keep them square. If you keep your shoulders level, or as level as you can, you can more easily maneuver your motorcycle underneath you. As you can see in the pictures here the riders are upright and and simply bringing the motorcycle around sharply and right underneath them. Here is the key…understanding counterweighting. Slide your butt over a bit to the outside and you have much better balance. Sounds easy and it is but it does some practice. There’s that word again. Practice.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 5.36.46 PM

#3, Power management. Practice the Friction Zone all the time. Learn to love your throttle, clutch and rear brake. This Golden Triangle is magic when you learn to manage it. Developing smoothness with all three makes all skills a lot better and easier. These are not on/off switches. Learn how much free play there is in each control, free play is the space between nothing happening and when the control engages. When doing slow speed skills you want to have all three at the ready, your hand is comfortably on the throttle, you have your clutch just to the point of engaging ( this is where you can develop “Feathering” the clutch), and have your foot on the rear brake just lightly enough  that you can easily ‘control’ it and keep you balanced.

If you practice these three things regularly  you will have that moment when you say “I can do it”. And say it with confidence. Trust in yourself and your motorcycle.

Ride safe, ride far and love your motorcycle.

Paul

Felix The Cat…

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 7.14.42 PM“Felix the cat, what a wonderful wonderful cat…whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks.” You have to be a ‘Baby Boomer’ or raised by parents who are to get that.

…We as motorcyclists aren’t much different.  When we get in a situation (the “oh crap” moment) we need to pull what we have in our bag of tricks to save us. The bag of tricks comes from three things..skill building, practicing those skills and being aware of your surroundings. Being able to adjust instead of react.

Let’s take an all too common situation…a car turns left in front of you!!! Oh Crap!!! Now what? What do you do? Slam on the brakes? NO!!! Try to go in front of the car before they completely have you squared off? NO!! How about going where that car came from? Yes…maybe.

But wait…before all of that, lets put your ‘bag of tricks’ in place.

1: Awareness. When you are coming to an intersection start scanning. How is the traffic pattern going ? Stop lights, stop signs, left turn lanes, blind intersection?? This is the time you are planning your escape route.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 1.10.43 PM2: Slow down. Coming to an intersection slow down. Here’s is the “DUH” moment, stopping distance is shorter when you’re going slower. If a car does turn left in front of you, you will have more time to adjust or react. When a car is turning in front of us we instinctively hit the brakes. Never a good idea…HITTING the brakes. Knowing how to really use your brakes is a vital skill that needs to be practiced a lot. Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.27.00 AM

3: Go where the car was. This is rather complicated but it goes back to awareness. Where am I? We don’t want to go in front of the car, we want to go where it was so I’m going to go to the left, right?  What about a car on my left side? Always position yourself to either have enough room to stop safely (this is where scanning the intersection well and slowing down comes into play) or make that swerve to the left to be behind the car that turned in front of you. In the photo below you can see where the rider can go behind the car.

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4: Look where you want to go. If you are fixated on the car, guess where you are going to go??? You guessed it..right into the side of the car. If you have been aware (always checking your surroundings), and you have slowed down for the intersection you can be ready to use your escape route. When coming to an intersection I like to either be in the left lane (if I am going straight on a multi lane road, as in 2 on each side) or the left side of a single lane. That way I can go behind the left turner quicker and easier. But wait!!! Will that put me into oncoming traffic???!!! It could. But…if you have slowed down before the intersection you’ll probably be able to stay in your own lane as you maneuver around the car. This is where having control of your motorcycle makes all the difference. Control takes practice and makes your riding much more enjoyable.

Don’t let this be you. Be aware, check your surroundings, practice your skills and always be prepared for whatever might get in your way of having a good day.

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Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll See You On The Road

Paul

It’s the little differences…

…in your riding skills and style that make a world of difference in your riding experience. It’s called control.

Learning control takes practice and discipline.  That is just plain boring. Riding around a parking lot doing Throttle Control stuff, tight U-Turns , 90* turns from a stop, pulling into a parking spot at Sears (does anybody go to Sears anymore?) Emergency Braking, Obstacle Avoidance…the list goes on and yes it’s boring. Until, you make it a game, either with a riding friend or just competing against yourself.screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-7-39-45-pm

At Motorcycle Coaching 101 we have a number of exercises that you can do on your own. Let’s take the ‘Slow Race’, how slow can you go in 50 feet? This is all about managing the Friction Zone…the Golden Triangle’, Throttle, Clutch and Rear Brake. Go to an empty parking lot somewhere, and visually mark off about 6 parking spots (because most parking spots are 9′ wide) then go as slow as you possibly can controlling your speed with the Friction Zone. The key to this exercise is maintaining a smooth throttle hand and using your clutch and rear brake to control your speed. A big part here is keeping your head up and your eyes out. I know, we’ve all heard that a million times but we have to repeat it to ourselves another million times!

When we look down at where we’re at (our front wheel or the curb or the cones in a coaching session) we all tend to drop off the throttle and now we have less control of our motorcycle. Learning to trust your throttle takes practice. We can practice this in our daily riding…when coming to a stop sign or a traffic light slow down and practice the Slow Race as we’re approaching the stop. It’s easy and it helps develop “FEEL”. I want to always know when all three ingredients  (the Golden Triangle) start to work together.screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-10-13-31-am

This skill is not just for parking lots or coming to a traffic stop, it works perfectly in all traffic situations and on curvy roads where all the CONTROL FACTORS have to come in. Learn to use your throttle. Yes, it can get you into trouble but it is also the tool that will get you out of trouble once you have the understanding and understanding takes practice. So go out today and do some practice. That is where I am headed.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road. Or, maybe in a parking lot sometime.

Paul

 

Learning is boring. Until…

Bueller?, Bueller ?…Ok , you have to be of a certain age to get that one.

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We all sat in Algebra class and asked ourselves what the hell good is this, I don’t need to know this crap. What good is it going to do me? It takes a while for us to figure it out. But, we at some point, get it.

Learning how to control your motorcycle, not just ride it, can be boring… until the moment comes that your motorcycle obeys you and not the other way around. Look at the picture above (it’s great movie by the way) but, on a motorcycle, leisure doesn’t rule. You have to be engaged all the time.

Being engaged with and to your motorcycle takes time and effort. I went from lightweight Sportbikes and an Adventure bike to a behemoth of two wheeled transportation. A Yamaha Stratoliner. Eight hundred pounds of…”what was I thinking?”. So, being a professional motorcycle riding coach I had to go practice what I preach which is…PRACTICE and then PRACTICE MORE. Off to the parking lot I went.

Where are the limits of this motorcycle? Where are my limits on this motorcycle? And where do I find them? It starts in a parking lot.  I set up my regular training course. The Slow Race, U-Turns, 90* turns, Obstacle Avoidance,Tight Circles, Counterweighting,and Quick Braking. Whew…No wonder my clients don’t like me, I don’t like me. screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-11-03-12-am

After nearly a full day in the parking lot my motorcycle and I were going steady. We got tight circles down to and even tighter than my Adventure bike (it’s really pretty cool to hear and feel the floorboards scrape the ground…I’m down to the point now that I can take one off my bike and shave with it!!!?), Stopping distance was, well..a little longer ( I also worked on “Threshold Braking”…right to the point of losing traction just to see how it feels on a bike this big), I did these exercises over and over until I thought I was going to be sick. My wife brought lunch to me and then I kept practicing.

Day two was up into the curvy roads. This bike is long!!! Even longer than a Harley Davidson Road King by 4 inches! With a bike this big, it takes a while for it to respond so I had to adjust my cornering technique. This was the day I really got to work on Countersteering. I was shocked…and in a very good way. The new bike is very light on it’s feet. She moves when I want her to and when I am light on the controls it’s almost like a walk in the park with a more svelte girlfriend. I rode that particular road (which I use for coaching a lot) for hours, pushing the limits within my comfort zone and then some just to see what I can do with my new motorcycle. screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-11-32-46-am

So, what was the point of this drivel? You can’t use a skill you don’t have. Good riding takes practicing the things you have learned and practice them regularly. Every now and then, instead of having a casual ride with a couple of friends, go practice. Challenge each other, make it a game but a serious game. You would amazed at how much better a rider you will be with a couple of hours of practice on a regular basis.

So on that note, I’m heading off to the parking lot.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road,

Paul

Yeah, that’s me in the middle picture. I need to practice more…