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Identifying A Good Rider...


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When you observe another rider, what do you notice that indicates the rider's skill or experience level? This could be street or track, but I'm mostly thinking street - what do you see that makes you think someone is new to riding, or makes you want to run over and beg the rider to get to a school before he/she gets hurt? Or, conversely, what makes you think "wow, that person can really RIDE!!"?

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For the rider:

some examples:

 

the presence or lack of SR's (all of them) more SR's = problematic , less sr's = good at riding

Running red lights (yes, some people in a bid to "win" me on the streets do that )

The lines they ride (overall control)... line corrections = bad, good line with no corrections = good

How fast or slow they reach desired lean angle

 

For the machine: the overall balance ...

 

some examples:

 

stock street tires with aftermarket ohlins + modified brembo 2/4 pot = bad tune

race DOT tires (no/slight chicken strips) with modified suspension , stock brakes+aftermarket pads = good tune

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On the street, I look out for erratic riding as well as those charging ahead with no abandon plus those who look overly cautious. I consider them to lack skill and/or awareness. Riders who are smooth, efficient, attentative and clearly in control of their machines are the ones I consider good. Being a good street rider doesn't automatically mean tiny chicken strips or bravery because sensible street riding demand restraint. I like to think I know how to be a good street rider. Unfortunately, the urge for speed tend to get the better of me from time to time...

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Wow, these are some great answers, and very good observations.

 

Interesting point, Eirik, about "overly cautious" riders on the street - I notice this on LA freeways, riders who are trying to split lanes but doing it in a tentative, defensive way, staring at each car as they pass it; they always look like an accident waiting to happen! It makes me think of Keith's article about "presence", it is in the Articles section and it's an interesting read.

 

When I see someone riding "duckfooted", with their toes sticking way out and down, I usually think they are relatively new to riding.

 

Excellent observations about slow steering, bad line/lots of steering corrections, being erratic or charging as indicators of an inexperienced or uneducated rider.

 

The bike mods are another interesting angle - what other crazy mods have you seen, that make you think the rider isn't very savvy about motorcycle handling?

 

Personally I've always wondered about the "ape hanger" bars we see out here sometimes on cruiser bikes, where the handlebars are so high that the rider's hands are well above his head... it doesn't even look COMFORTABLE, and it sure seems like it would make the bike hard to steer...

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On the street, I look out for erratic riding as well as those charging ahead with no abandon plus those who look overly cautious. I consider them to lack skill and/or awareness. Riders who are smooth, efficient, attentative and clearly in control of their machines are the ones I consider good. Being a good street rider doesn't automatically mean tiny chicken strips or bravery because sensible street riding demand restraint. I like to think I know how to be a good street rider. Unfortunately, the urge for speed tend to get the better of me from time to time...

 

+1

 

"duckfooted"

 

Hotfoot, I didn't expect you to call me out in the forum :P

 

As for riders, some that I know just scare me and if I end up riding with them I generally give them a very wide berth. This in itself becomes a distraction.

For lack of better terms it seems like there are times that I can "smell the fear" of someone riding. I guess it's a combination of a ridged rider, braking all the way through a turn, not looking, dragging their feet until at least 30 mph and most all absolute terror if the bike leans at all. When talking to riders, some you can see the fear in their eyes and their actions when talking to them. They really need help and help is offered too, some show up but most do not. Fortunately there are people that I ride with that actively work towards helping people become better riders and normally have riding skill drills every couple of weeks. People that use the street as a racetrack I will stay far far far away from. The street isn't the place for that type of riding and it makes the rest of us look bad.

 

From my point of view a good rider is one who is comfortable, in control and that rides with respect for the surroundings that they are in.

 

Now a question to the ladies of the forum. Why do most women ride with their back straight as a board?

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.........Or, conversely, what makes you think "wow, that person can really RIDE!!"?

 

For me, riders that really ride reveal themselves at traffic lights.

1) How they downshift up to a stop.

2) How they foot-down.

3) How they foot-up.

4) How they make a U-turn.

 

From Keith Code:

"New riders quickly gain the sense that forward momentum is their friend. It completely relieves them of the balance problem-the bike does that all on its own once past walking speed. Inevitably, that secure feeling from momentum deteriorates as speed nears zero. Until the rider achieves some sense of body/bike balance coordination, the final 3-to-0 mph is daunting.

That is the reality that awaits timid riders every single time they stop. Result? You see the tenseness in their body; both arms holding fast to the bars; torso, shoulders, neck and head rigid. We get over this to some degree-some more than others."

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Now a question to the ladies of the forum. Why do most women ride with their back straight as a board?

 

 

Because it makes our boobs look bigger, of course. :)

 

 

I kid, but there is a little bit of truth to that - certainly sitting up straight is something most girls are pushed to do, in most every situation or sport, from an earlier age.

 

Some other factors that come to mind - girls are generally shorter and that can mean sitting up as far as possible to see better, or stretching out to reach the bars, or both. In new riders, tension and stiff arms contribute to that straight, stiff back.

 

This is a huge generalization but I think most women are not - at least initially - focused on making the bike go as fast as possible, therefore there is no real reason to lean forward; sitting up to see, and feel balanced, seems more important. Guys, on the other hand, are more inclined to gas the bike hard, and lean forward; I suspect men are also more likely to have watched racing and have an idea of what their body position ought to be.

 

I used to sit up straight like that, too - until I was taught in class at CSS to relax and slouch. :)

 

Bob, the CSS photographer, is the one who first brought to my attention (a few years ago) that most women sit up very straight or even arch their backs; I made a comment that I must be easy to find on the track (because of my long braid) but he said no, I was actually hard to identify because I "didn't ride like a girl". I asked what he meant, and he said that most women sit up with a flat or arched back, but I was riding low and crouched on the bike.

 

Basically, we just need to be told that it is ok to relax and slouch on the bike. :)

 

Of course, when you see fast, experienced female riders, that tendency to sit up straight is long gone and it is much harder to see any body position difference between men and women.

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Now a question to the ladies of the forum. Why do most women ride with their back straight as a board?

 

 

Because it makes our boobs look bigger, of course. :)

 

 

I doubt you'll find many complainers. :wub:

 

 

Locally there seems to be the thought process to what a good rider is;

 

"Go as fast as you can and if you aint crashing you aint learning"

 

Atleast that is the mindset of many of the uneducated ego driven riders of many a sportbike who ride the same roads over and over again treating it as their own personal test track where they can "prove" how good they are (not). Well of course putting down a knee is high amongst their priorities of proving how good they are (not) as well.

 

- For me what I consider a good street rider.

Safety !

Regardless of the speed they ride. I know many good riders who typically only ride slightly over the speed limit even in the corners. Conversly I also know a few good riders who ride double + through the turns and are very good riders.

Everyone has their own threshold of risk management and what they consider "safe" or acceptable risk vs reward, so judging someone by what parts they do or don't install on their bike or how fast they are willing to ride doesn't really prove anything about their true skill level.

 

I have seen more than a few riders who appeared to be "good" riders get put into a situation where they were forced to react. A deer running out in front of them is most common, but another vehicle over the centerline around a blind turn, sand right at the apex, slow moving farm equipment blocking the whole road as you crest a hill etc... And how a rider handles these situations is far more telling than how they ride when there is no drama happening just droaning down the open road.

 

So how much they practice skills, execute those skills and their ability to read and handle situations and their bike is far more telling of their true skill level IMO. It is more about education, practice and being proficient with those skills for me. The skills that will aid in your enjoyment and safety and may well one day save your life....not the skills like wheelies or stoppies- although they may have some value in bike control they certainly aren't a determining factor to proving your a "good" rider as many think. Those "just do" advocates who don't think you need to practice anything and just ride, I steer well clear of as usually I find they ride right up next to the edge of disaster hoping everything goes well instead of prepared if things go another way. Sadly the more times they go out and get away with disaster not kicking their ass the better they think they are.

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Getting into situations that require an emergency response...I know some ride and drive (in just everyday life) like that. One very skilled car driver I know tailgates a lot. I think he relies on his superb car-handling skills, but to me its just distracting and pushing one's luck. For street riding being able to predict what's coming before it becomes a drama (riding slow or fast) is a component of a good rider.

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Great thread Hotfoot and some great answers. We were just discussing this at the track last weekend. One of the biggest indicators for us was predictability. Some people equate a slower pace with lack of experience but I would argue that a more experienced rider knows his/her pace and is aware of how that pace and their riding will impact those around them. For example a slower rider must be cognizant of their lines and not make unpredictable moves that might throw off a rider running at a less forgiving pace. Conversely a faster rider must also be cognizant of how their riding will affect the slower riders on track, their passing lines, decisions, and behaviors should be respectful of everyone on track with them.

 

In short an experienced rider rides within him/herself and is predictable to those around them.

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Getting into situations that require an emergency response...I know some ride and drive (in just everyday life) like that. One very skilled car driver I know tailgates a lot. I think he relies on his superb car-handling skills, but to me its just distracting and pushing one's luck. For street riding being able to predict what's coming before it becomes a drama (riding slow or fast) is a component of a good rider.

 

Equivalent aviation quote:

"Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgment to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills."

:)

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I think the definition of "good" needs to be clarified. . . because you can have a guy who is stunting on his motard down the road on one leg. Is he a good rider ? Yep - definitely better than me. Is he experienced - yep. If he safe ? not at all. .. So what is the definition ?

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I think the definition of "good" needs to be clarified. . . because you can have a guy who is stunting on his motard down the road on one leg. Is he a good rider ? Yep - definitely better than me. Is he experienced - yep. If he safe ? not at all. .. So what is the definition ?

 

Ah, now that is an interesting question. It's very subjective, so it will be interesting to hear how everyone responds to it! In my original post I narrowed it somewhat by referring to "skill level" and "experience level", but let's broaden that and have some discussion about what you guys think makes a "good" rider overall, not just an 'experienced' one.

 

For me, "safe" is not necessarily part of my idea of a good rider, because their idea of safe might be different from mine, and/or their skill level might make certain actions relatively safe for them, where it would be extremely risky for me. (For example, I wouldn't try jumping a bike from one boulder to another, something trials riders do all the time, because I haven't a clue how to do it.)

 

I think part of being a "good" rider is having certainty you are in control of the bike; knowing where it will go, and why, and how to make it do what you want it to do, instead of just holding on and hoping it works out. :)

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For me the most obvious flag to a riders lack of experience on a motorcycle is they way the control it as slow residential speeds, turning left or right at stop signs and stoplights, slow speed 90 degree turns etc. New riders tend to tiptoe through and keep the bike as upright as possible as they are not confident enough to lean the bike over at slow speeds whilst more experienced riders are comfortable leaning the bike over at slow speeds. These riders usually just emit a very timid feel on the motorcycle as they just don't trust the bike or themselves and are unsure of what the bike may or may not do next.

 

Good riders IMO are the smoothest riders, the ones who actually look kind of slow while somehow going a few seconds faster than everyone else. Getting a feel for ones ability while lane spliting down the freeway is kind of tricky so I have to defer to me experience as a Corner worker for this one. I see lots of riders who come in to fast and hard on the brakes, make about 37 steering inputs to get through the corner and gas it hard on exit, or just come in so hot I'm amazed when they make it through the corner without crashing. Then I see for example, Cobie who looks almost lazy and slow as he glides through the corner and easily breezes past the other rider.

 

Tyler

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.........I see lots of riders who come in to fast and hard on the brakes, make about 37 steering inputs to get through the corner and gas it hard on exit, or just come in so hot I'm amazed when they make it through the corner without crashing. Then I see for example, Cobie who looks almost lazy and slow as he glides through the corner and easily breezes past the other rider.....

 

Then, was Cobie who inspired Keith to write this: :)

"Less-skilled riders sometimes seem bent on doing something all the time, and they appear busy because of that. Seasoned riders better understand when to do something and when to do nothing. Less experienced riders often look busy and nervous. Seasoned riders with evolved skills look almost lazy and relaxed, even when executing complex tasks. It’s like that in every sport or performance, not just on a motorcycle.

........A rider that knows how to make the right decisions proactively doesn’t appear tense and stiff, like a rider who is anxiously waiting for something to happen and then trying to react.

........Every rider has the goal to be smoother, faster, more confident, and to feel less at-risk while riding. Each of these goals is achieved by making the optimum micro choices of action or non-action. To do or not to do, that is the question.

........Understanding is the foundation of improvement, and understanding is the most direct route to the level of skill you envision for yourself and your riding."

 

Please, find the full article here:

http://www.motorcycl...lls_code_break/

 

.................I think part of being a "good" rider is having certainty you are in control of the bike; knowing where it will go, and why, and how to make it do what you want it to do, instead of just holding on and hoping it works out. :)

 

Fully agree!

Then, good riders excel from the rest by deciding proactively and understanding what and when to do something or not and by executing that task in a relaxed and calmed manner, regardless the complexity of the task or the type of riding or bike.

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Then I see for example, Cobie who looks almost lazy and slow as he glides through the corner and easily breezes past the other rider.

 

Tyler

 

LMAO, can't wait until Cobie read this. :) Sometimes he looks *almost* lazy and slow to me, too!!

 

:D :D :D

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I have observed women here driving sitting stiff as a board also.

 

I wonder if most men try to be cool by crouching and riding hard, as a way to impress women? HF may have experienced this fawning.

 

For me the number one tell is excessive rider input.Going too fast, braking too hard, changing gear roughly etc.I observe the pillion ( usually a girl ) nearly falling off and then slamming into the rider as a consequence of this rough riding.

 

Smooth riders who change gear correctly are a rarity who are duly noted.

 

Personally, i prefer a newbie ride slow and stiff than fast and stupid.At least a slow rider will speed up as he gets confident.A fast idiot will slow down only after a crash.

 

On the track i would add the line he takes to the equation as well.Hard braking and throttle may be forgiven, but unproductive lines surely indicate inexperience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think the definition of "good" needs to be clarified. . . because you can have a guy who is stunting on his motard down the road on one leg. Is he a good rider ? Yep - definitely better than me. Is he experienced - yep. If he safe ? not at all. .. So what is the definition ?

Good point on this, want to put a definition to it?

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