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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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…

 

 

 

Fred Astaire

screen-shot-2015-06-18-at-7-35-24-amWhat in the world does he have to do with riding a motorcycle? Everything. A legendary dancer and choreographer. A motorcycle rider? I don’t know, but his view of dancing fits perfectly with riding a motorcycle. He said, “always look at your partner, not at your feet”.

On a motorcycle, the road ahead is your partner. Look at that picture…head up and eyes out. Thats how we should ride, looking at where we are going , not where we are at. The ‘where’ we are at is looking at your feet (front tire).

Looking ahead you see the road flow. You see obstacles, traffic, and are prepared for whatever the road throws at you. You and your partner (the road) work together. Now, here is where you have to be really at one with your motorcycle. Understanding all it’s controls. Throttle, clutch, brakes and handling. Fred Astaire didn’t get that good at dancing without practice. A lot of practice. screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-10-39-35-am

Skills that you learned from the basic rider courses , track classes or one on one coaching sessions need to be practiced on a regular basis. Fred Astaire was light on his feet but totally in control and we need to be light on our controls to be in control. Learn the feel of everything. Go to a parking lot and play with the ‘Slow Race’ learn your Friction Zone, do some weaving, practice U-Turns (particularly on your not so strong side…usually the right) and practice quick stopping. Just get out there and practice.

And lastly… Ginger Rogers said it best…”I do everything he does backwards and in high heels” .

Our next post will all about counter steering. Everything we do feels backwards…good fun!

Ride safe, Ride far and Ride smart. Most of all RIDE.

I’ll see you on the road,

Paul

Sometimes you just gotta…

…stretch your limits a bit.

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-12-07-41-pmThere are times you have to put yourself and your motorcycle in tough situations like,  it’s raining!!! Yikes!!!  Well, get out there. Ok, so you might have to spend a day cleaning your motorcycle after riding in the rain but the adventure of being out there when everybody else thinks you’re nuts is worth a day of cleaning. The deal is you have to have solid basic skills.

At Motorcycle Coaching 101 we do work in wet weather conditions, well, for a few years it hasn’t rained here in Southern California, but it is now!!  Still you have to know how to control your motorcycle in adverse conditions, because if life is treating you well you will be on the road in the middle of nowhere with a big grin on your face and have no idea where you are going to spend the night and then it starts to rain. Now what?

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Here is how to plan for the unexpected.

#1…Skill in controlling your motorcycle is the most important thing you can have when riding in adverse conditions. Throttle and brake control and the confidence in how to use them both. It really requires that on a rainy day you go out and at least get a feel for the difference in riding conditions. Traction availability both accerating and braking. Do this cautiously and in a deliberate manner in your own neighborhood on a street you are very familiar with.  This where regular practice of these skills becomes so valuable. You have to know how your motorcycle feels all the time wet or dry.  And then there’s being aware of everything around you. Give your self lots of room between you and every other vehicle, always be looking for an escape bubble if somebody else isn’t as smart as you. Be careful of the painted lines on the road, wet paint is slipperier than Elephant Snot. Always approach them straight on and not leaned over. When making a turn at an intersection, cross the line THEN start your turn. This is where knowing how to tighten your turn and stay in your lane is important.

These are all skills that you can practice in the dry so you are more and better prepared for when things get ugly. Actually I like riding in the rain…I love seeing the looks of people in cars …”are you nuts??!!”

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-12-04-37-pm#2 #2 #2  Proper Gear… Being an Eagle Scout I know the the motto and live by it all the time…Be Prepared. If I am riding in my close by area and it’s a perfect sunny day I choose the gear to wear…including sunblock on my face (yes the sun does come through your face shield) and  always a first aid kit (you never know when you’re going to have to help another person) and then away I go. However, if I am traveling I prepare for every condition. Mostly it’s preparing for rain…even when visiting my Coaching partner Les in southern Arizona. Cactus need rain too.

The illustration above is great. Wearing good gear does a lot for your riding experience. If you don’t want to wear all that heavy duty stuff…throw a a pair of saddlebags over the back seat (they aren’t all that expensive and you’ll amazed at how much you use them all the time) and put some of that gear in those.  If you want to wear just a pair a jeans on your ride and it starts to rain…a couple of large (yard size) trash bags can keep you pretty much dry. And if for some reason you find yourself in some really cold weather, stop at a gas station or convenience store, buy a few newspapers, go into the restroom and fill your pants up with them…you’d be amazed.

I just gave you a couple of cheap ways to stay kind of warm and kind of dry but honestly get yourself a good Rain Suit. They pack small and are well worth the price, it will even fit in your tank bag.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-8-36-22-pmMore than anything, riding in the rain requires confidence in your skills, your motorcycle and your gear. The more confidence you have makes your ride safer and a lot more interesting.

Ride safe, ride far and practice your skills…even in the rain. Then spend 6 hours cleaning your bike..it’s time well spent.