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Keith Code

Speed and Direction

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Speed and Direction

When riders say they would like to increase their confidence and control, what do they mean? Aside from pleasing the eye and entertaining discussions about them, all motorcycles have the same six controls–throttle, front brake, rear brake, clutch, gear lever and handle bars. Those six controls are how we change or maintain the speed and the direction of the bike. And, that is all they do and it is all you do while riding.

Good control amounts to correctly choosing where and how much you change the speed and direction of the bike. Likewise, any and all decisions you make are based on changing or maintaining speed and direction.

The bike is more than likely capable of performing well but in those moments of confidence shattering doubt, the rider isn’t. All dramatic situations on any motorcycle have been and always will be based on the rider's inability to correctly change or maintain its speed or direction. Aside from mechanical failures there are no other "situations".

Someone could argue that point: “What about hitting an on or off ramp diesel spill; that doesn’t fit the maxim above?” I’d have to agree. However, the majority of motorcycle accidents these days are single vehicle, loss of control in a corner, crashes–not ones which no one can control.

Speed and direction changes can be limited by the individual machine's controllability factors. Its handling of the road's surface and potential for stability are based on its suspension and frame configuration; its throttle response; gearing and braking characteristics and the tires' compatibility with all of the above plus electronic intervention that can alter your direct control over them such as ABS and traction control.

Problems in controllability aren't bad. They are the road signs which have lead designers and engineers towards machine improvement from the beginning. For example, it hardly matters whether suspension was first conceived to achieve better traction on bumpy roads or to provide a smoother ride to eliminate the need for kidney belts. Both were situations that caused problems. Suspension did result in a whole new range of potentials for controlling speed and direction and a significantly more hospitable machine for rider comfort.

Any rider's true skill level can only be measured by his ability to determine exactly WHERE to change or maintain speed and direction and execute the right AMOUNT of each.  There are no other components to skill. 

While riding, the combinations of speed and direction inputs result in arriving somewhere: for example staying in your lane or using a late apex to handle a decreasing radius corner. Confidence is achieved when the rider is certain that the machine is going in the right direction and will arrive at a predictable location, at the right speed. You might need to be stopped or to swerve before hitting a car which pulled out, or it could be exiting the banking at Daytona wide open at the top of 6th gear doing 175 mph pointed down the straight––not at the wall. It makes no difference, both are determined by where and how much the rider changed or maintained their speed and direction.

The ability of a rider to determine speed and direction changes relies solely on the amount of space they have to work with. This is the determining factor for where to change and how much to change them. Judgment could be defined as: fitting the right degree of speed and/or direction change into the amount of available space in order to arrive or not arrive (like missing a pot hole) somewhere.

This leads us into the area of the rider’s visual aptitude. On a practical level, always having a destination plotted out in front is wise. The five faults that stand in your way are target fixating on something, compulsive over-scanning, tunneled vision, looking too close or too far ahead.

Your visual skill is based on how many of those five are absent– anytime and anywhere you ride. Becoming aware of the five and gaining control over them WILL lead to improvement.

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