You've got the bike, now ride it well
Ducati Debbie called the office one Saturday afternoon last
spring. I just happened to be in and answered the phone. The call
went like this:
"Tom, I really want to come to the Sound RIDER! rally, but I'm
not sure if I'm up to it. My boyfriend and I just came back from
riding the Sunrise Road at Mt. Rainier and I don't normally have
vertigo, but I was really having trouble riding and I was terrified
about going over the embankment coming down."
"Debbie, take some time on the internet today to learn about the
vanishing point technique, then ride a few times, practice what
you learn and call me back with a report."
She never called back, but in a few weeks her rally registration
came in. She attended the rally and thanked me profusely for the
tip, saying it boosted her confidence level up to where she felt
she could handle the event.
Debbie didn't have vertigo. She was doing what any novice rider
does. She was looking around as she was coming down that ultra
scenic parkway along Mt. Rainier. You can't help but look—right?
But the fact is, no matter how beautiful it is, we must keep our eyes
focused on the horizon line of the road in front of us in order to
maintain full confidence on the bike.
When I feel I'm out of touch, I use the next pullout or overlook
to stop, suck in that magnificent view and take some pics before
getting back on the bike. Once I'm on the bike the lookie-looing is
over and I ride down focused on the road in front of me.
So how about you? What's making you feel less than confident on
Whatever it is, it's probably time for you to start focusing on
that issue. You can do that by talking with more
seasoned riders, taking an intermediate or advanced rider course,
buying a few good riding skills books like those by David L. Hough,
Nick Ienatsch and Reg Pridmore, or spending some time online
researching information on sharpening your skills. A combination of
all is even better.
Here's a few things other riders struggle with.
New Rider Syndrome: Start riding more—So you've taken a
riding skills course like an MSF class, Team Oregon or Star Idaho
course, but you're having trouble getting the hang of things and
thus, you park the bike. You've got two choices now. Sell it or
start riding more. If you have a history of automobile collisions
occurring every few years, maybe you should sell the bike. But if
not, there's only one solution for finding
confidence. Start riding more.
Do some short trips around town, take a weekend afternoon romp,
every weekend, to a scenic place with one other riding partner.
Start commuting each day back and forth to work. With the rising
price of gas this will keep some money in your pocket and start
building your confidence level.
If you think you need more time one on one with an instructor,
book a private lesson which you can probably do through the same
education company that provided your initial rider training.
If you never took any rider training because a friend
taught you a few things, or you taught yourself, it's time to go
back to square one and get with a certified instructor.
Work on the weak points—OK, you've been riding a while,
taken a few rider-ed classes, but you still have trouble with
cornering, starting from a dead stop or predicting what's around the
next corner. Those are just a few of the skills that seasoned riders
with thousands of miles under their belts struggle with.
No doubt you've already determined your weak points. Now it's
time to tackle each one, one at a time. One technique that's handy
for this is known as "Ride with a Plan." Go to the internet, consult
a good riding book, speak with another rider and get the information
you need to master your weak point in your riding. Then the next hundred miles you ride, work on this single skill.
It happened to me many times. One weak spot of mine was stopping
and starting with a passenger on board. All that extra weight sure
changes the way you handle a bike. I finally settled on using the
left foot as the one I'd place on the pavement without lifting the
right foot from the peg. It took a while to get it, but by not
attempting to put both feet on the ground at the same time, or
lifting them off the ground at the same time, I was much more in
control of the bike.
In another scenario, my cornering was horrendous. Cornering well
requires more than one mastered skill. It involves eye position,
throttle control, braking control and line selection. Wow. I spent
more than four years working on each of these techniques before I
could say I was truly confident with my cornering skills. I'm not
the fastest at cornering, but I can do it to the point where I feel
I have control of the bike at all times, even if there's some hidden
gravel coming up or a cager is coming at me over the line.
We can listen to educators all day. We can read books and the
internet into the night. But the best thing I've discovered is to
take a snippet of something learned in a seminar, read in a book or
online and focus on it until you think you've mastered it. When
David L. Hough put out his Street Strategies book, I immediately
redubbed it 'the bathroom reader.' The short vignettes were such,
you could read one, then go for a ride and focus, focus, focus.
Maybe we haven't hit on your weakness yet? But this doesn't have
to be the end of the article. Email us with what you're having
trouble mastering and one of our editors will share their thoughts
with you. Send your email to