Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Crittical Skills You have to Master

Motorcycling is great once you learn it. But it can be frightening, dangerous if you don't know it. I'd say maybe, 5% of the public have the intuitive skills that allow them to ride well from day one. that leaves 95% of us who don't know squat about motorcycles, riding, surviving unless we learn it. That's why I have always felt there are what I call CRITICAL skills all riders must master to survive. So what are they?

1) Cornering: this covers everything from sightlines, apex choice, lane position, traction control, visual control, counter-steering and more. Ever hear a rider say "the bike just wouldn't turn?". Over 40% of cycle accidents are single bike accidents running off the road so this is definitely a critical skill.
2) Braking: this includes bike stability, stopping in a curve, traction control (again) visual control (again), braking setup before a curve, HIGH EFFORT BRAKING, proper use of one or both brakes depending on the circumstance and knowing when to use which technique, and more. Many of us have heard "had to lay er' down" which is usually a knee-jerk reaction to a panic/pucker factor mistake. That makes it a critical skill.
3) Bike stability: this involves traction control (AGAIN), balance, understanding of motorcycle dynamics and physics (what experienced riders call "feel"). Because it is a key element of "keeping the rubber side down" it is a critical skill.
5) Swerving: Swerving and the ability to QUICKLY and ACCURATELY move a motorcycle exactly where you want it is a skill that develops with training and seat time. It involves bike stability (always), traction control (again with the TC!), visual control (more yet!?), ACTIVE counter-steering and knowing how the bike reacts. A wrong move here could actually drive you right into the hazard!! Sounds like a critical skill to me.
4) Vision: Huh? Vision? We all got it, haven't seen too many blind riders. This is a critical skill? It is because ACTIVE, AGGRESSIVE VISUAL CONTROL can impact your riding almost more than any other factor. ALL of the pro riders have phenomenal visual capabilities, we make do with ours but you have to learn how to use it right.
5) Traction control: Anyone notice I mentioned traction control a few times? Well, throttle and clutch control here are critical to maintain bike stability. We've all seen a rider dump/pop the clutch, and crank in way to much throttle and seen the ugly results. Almost all motorcycles have FAR more power per pound of weight than most cars, unless you drive a Ferrari F40. Gotta learn how to manage it.
6) Attitude: This is a big one, because it detemines how we approach riding, how we understand our skills, abilities and especially our limitations. It's what keeps our ego in check while riding. To the experienced riders this is what's going on between the ears that tells us when we should or should NOT ride. It makes us realize who is most responsible for what happens to us (ourselves in other words). It affects our JUDGEMENT, which can defintiely have a critical impact on our riding.
7) Street/survival skills: HUGE! 50%+ of all accidents are the car turning left in front of us. Trained skills here help us avoid this altogether, which is far better than reacting to it. No one just "knows" this, but develops it or learns it from those of us who know. This is the experienced rider's intuition, that triggers something in the brain to be ready, change lanes, change speed, signal, downshift, brake, whatever to avoid a threatening situation. A mistake in a car may injure you. A mistake on a bike is MUCH more likely to kill you. This is one of the top level critical skills.
Every one of these are not intuitive to riding, and must be learned, practiced and mastered to survive.
I welcome any comments or additions to further develop this list. To all the new riders out ZX9R as your first bike? Those who think they are "experienced riders", do you have all of these mastered? If not, get trained. Open up your mind, relax your ego, admit you have a lot to learn. We all do.

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