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Feel For The Bike


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The riders may not understand exactly what you're talking about here. We want to discuss all this stuff, so if you talk about it, others will most assuredly jump in.


I'm not sure how this can be addressed, besides saying that experience is the only real way you'll learn. I can try as hard as I know how to explain a front end slide, or the sensation I'm stuck at that's telling me the bike is about to go (it's not, but I'm stuck on this), but I doubt I will relay it properly. You've got to get to the point (limits of traction and bike performance) where you feel it, either figure out what it was or be told, then put it in the memory bank.


I can tell you that when coming out of a corner te bike starts whipping you back and forth and you get a good view of your tape job on your headlight before being dropped like a rock on top of your wind screen, wondering how the heck it didn't shatter, you'll always remember what a near-high side feels like.


I hope this helps a bit.

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....High siding is a form of feedback but we don't want the feedback of a broken collarbone or ribs. We want the feedback that comes with the FEEL the contact of the tire on the pavement up through the shock on to your cheeks. We don't want the feedback of sliding along the pavement as our bike flips off the track. We want to FEEL the grip of the front tire under braking. Can we FEEL the tire flex? Can we FEEL the tire grip? How does the front FEEL under heavy breaking? How does the front react to throttle? How does the back of the bike FEEL under throttle? Does the bike FEEL planted at mid corner?

We can do some things under track conditions. We can run a few laps with 10 psi tire pressure or 40 psi tire pressure. We can run the fork and shock settings all the way out or all the way in. We can raise or lower the forks.

I have felt the pavement many times but most of the reasons were mysteries because there was no FEEL, just painful feedback. Some I was able to fix due to equipment but most were as mysterious as Stonehenge. The faster I go the more feedback I get. The tires grip and flex. The suspension is working. FEEL is transfered through the bike to may hands and cheeks. Crashing should not be feedback but you have to go fast and carry adequate corner speed to get FEEL. Cheers.

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Your comments have put me in mind of times I did FEEL n SENSE.

I started writing these moments o grace in the margins o Soft Science, here at the dogpark w Nickee.


I'm going to take your thoughts and let them burble under in the crankcase and reply properly on a not-matchbox-sized kbd




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Justin, don't listen to me about this. I replied to hook someone else into replying (thanks sucker, err, Fossil). He has much more experience than I in this area, and gave a very good answer. It does take experience, though, and just like any other drill, you can get on the track, and make it a point to work on feeling the feedback the bike is giving you. It's there, you've just got to work on understanding what it's saying.

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Well hey Puppetmaster JZ

Well done and thank you.


Sampling n bracketing -- fire for effect. Thanks for connecting those dots. I'll build suspension extremes and PSI extremes into my track plan and ask for a critique before going operational with it.



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The specialty bikes at the school help with this, too - the brake rig allows you to do threshold braking (take it all the way up to the point that the front tire slides) so you can experience how it feels when it starts to slide, and how it feels right before that. The slide bike is an advanced tool but it lets you experience breaking the rear tire loose - and/or discover how hard you actually have to push it for that to happen.


+1 on messing with your suspension settings to tune in your sense of "feel". I didn't really understand the term "porpoising" until I went out with a new suspension, not set up properly - it was at the lowest possible setting for compression and rebound damping. The bike felt totally different, the front end dived way down under braking and the whole bike was rocking back and forth in the middle of a turn, like a see-saw, or ...oh, a porpoise. THAT'S the feeling people were talking about... anyway, after experiencing the extreme of the feeling, it is much easier to recognize it in smaller degrees in the future.


Drive line lash is more or less noticable depending on the bike, but you can play with that one relatively easily - pick a specific corner or make one in a parking lot. Ride through the turn in a higher gear with low rpm. Roll completely off the gas, steer the bike, then roll on gently with good throttle control. (Don't use the clutch at all.) Pay attention to the instant when the bike changes from coasting -off the gas, slowing down- to pulling forward under power. Do that a few times, then try the corner in a lower gear - preferably first gear - at a higher RPM. You should feel that change from coasting to pulling a little more dramatically. Then try playing (carefully!) with a bit more of a roll-on, then rolling on a little more abruptly, and you should feel the change even more strongly.


The complaints about "drive-line lash" come when that action of getting on the throttle produces a jerk - usually due to some sort of lag between throttle application and the actual feel of pulling forward (which makes the rider tend to roll on too much since they don't feel any result at first). It can be caused by things like too much play in the throttle, or a problem with the proper fuel delivery, which can usually improved by a Power Commander. (I'm sure there are other reasons, too, but those are a couple of common ones.)


Anyway, if you are going through a corner, leaned way over and near your traction limits, drive line lash can be very unsettling to both bike and rider!

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  • 3 weeks later...



i hear riders talk about "feel," "feedback," "driveline lash" and other sensing of the bike.


Am I missing the point? I don't feel these things. How can i build my listening and sensing skills.






How to build those skills? In a couple of words - meditation and practice. tongue.gif


Just to add to what the other guys have mentioned - if you're really interested in the subject you might like to check out an interesting book - The Upper Half of the Motorcycle. It's a bit of a heavy read, but there's some great info there on this very subject of feel. If you can bear with me I'll attempt to sum up one of the more interesting and relevant points...


The thing we need to be able to have good, or great feel on a bike, is a high level of integration (hence the 'upper half'). To explain what I mean by integration - imagine that you're holding a screwdriver in your hand, and you run it along a tiled wall or floor. Think about what you're feeling... the tip of the screwdriver is running over the grooves between the tiles - and of course you can feel that. But think about where you're feeling it... you're not feeling it in your fingers or hand, you're feeling the grooves right at the tip of the screwdriver - as if it was your own finger running along the tiles! Go and give it a try. Mind blow yet? laugh.giftongue.gif (I know most people probably take this for granted - I know I did. I was suitably impressed when I actually stopped and thought about that point.) You could even close your eyes and count out grooves between the tiles just by running the tip of the screwdriver over them. That is all possible because of a very high level of integration. A screwdriver is a very simple tool, so it's easy for anyone to do this.


Now to apply this to riding motorcycles - we want to achieve a similar high level of integration so that the tip of the screwdriver becomes the tyres contact patch, and the grooves between the tiles become the road/track surface. But this is not so easy to achieve because a motorcycle is a very complicated tool. Being relaxed is vital, now here's the little 'meditation' drill - sit on your bike and close your eyes. Let your arms hang by your side, both feet flat on the ground. Now just completely relax yourself, let your shoulders drop and imagine that your body is sand that is just flowing downwards and into the gaps of the bike. Keep your eyes closed and stay relaxed and start to think about the tyre contact patches. You might want to move the bike forwards & backwards or sideways a little, but keep thinking about the contact patches. What you want to be able to feel is just the contact patch of the tyres on the ground, if you move over a little crack you might even be able to feel that. Once you can feel the ground with the contact patch just the same way as you could feel the tile grooves with the screwdriver - you're there, you have then achieved some pretty darn good feel. The trick then is just to stay relaxed and keep that feeling as you roll out onto the track...


A high level of integration is even more common in everyday life than we may realise - think about shoes, using a knife or fork, shovel etc. There are so many simple tools like those that we can immediately pick up or use and we have a very high level of integration. If you were wearing shoes and stood on a pea you would probably even feel that. Everyone knows and can relate to that 'feel' of integration, the hard part is just to achieve that with a machine as complex as a motorcycle.


Hopefully that all helped to explain about 'feel' and 'listening and sensing'.

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I once went to Buddhist monastery to meditate, a screw driver against a tile floor was never mentioned in my quest for enlightenment but living in the moment and consciousness was and still is the core of Buddhist philosophy. The tenant taught is to experience what you are doing in the moment to use all of one's senses in everything one does. It doesn't matter whether you are drinking coffee, running a screw driver against a tile floor, smelling flowers, eating, talking to a friend, raking leaves, or riding a motorcycle.

Mugget brings up a good point about getting on the motorcycle and feeling like sand pouring into the bike except that we dont want all that sand on the race line..LOL!

I see this brought up so many times and I always wondered myself, at an earlier stage of riding consciousness :) . The feel on the street and the feel on the track are different. What we search for is different. Recently I had a conversation about racing and riding wth a friend who rides in the light weight twin class. We were talking about riding in the different classes and feel....he was using a rodeo analogy when he said, "we barrel race and you bull ride".

When all the practice is done, when all the illustrations are looked over, when we've looked at it from every angle, when we've imagined it a million times over, you stll have to do it to know what it feels like. If you live in the moment, whether you street ride or race, you will reach a higher level of consciousness or in my case unconsciousness! Cheers.

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Most excellent, Sensei :)


Your Grooves and Peas remind me of the origin of the name "Grasshopper."


By pure coincidence, at the top of my secret santa xmas list is the entire DVD collection of the original Kung Fu,

followed by Kung Fu Panda and lastly by one o those itty-bitty, wasp-bodied, mosquito-legged RC helicopters I saw in FAO @ NYC last Friday.


Your post gives me an avenue through which to address the feel, listening and sensing that I seek.








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  • 2 weeks later...


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