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New From Hamilton, New Zealand

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Learning to ride and becoming licensed was mostly a matter of learning to stay on the bike- an aged Suzuki GSX 250 twin 4stoke with next to zero midrange due to major carburetor and exhaust issues. So learning to row my way rapidly through the gearbox to keep up with traffic. Corners well the knackered Goodyear white walls were certainly not sticky and had seriously soft sidewalls.

I survived and must have learned something because almost all my physical interactions with the tin tops and the ground since have involved very low, or no speed situations where simply stepping off the bike was the safest option. 1.5 million kilometers (900k miles) and 9 bikes and bruised ego, and dislocated shoulder are the worst injuries I've sustained ( dogs and sunstrike).

But here's the crux, my head doesn't work the way it used to.

Of my 900k miles, those about half 20 years ago involved speeds well in excess of local speed limits 50-60 (usually double) on the open road. -Appropriate caution was exercised in urban, or busy environments. At that time I had the privilege to ride often with an experienced local racer on the road on matched bikes, and once to a track practice day, but with no formal instruction other than follow me. Practice day got me hanging off, loose on the bars, and comfortable riding hard through corners.

The corrugated hairpin at Pukekohe back in those days was especially fun -particularly for a novice. Breaking hard into it, then trail braking to the apex had the front wheel bouncing a yard side to side without seemingly to loose traction. I was light 140 lbs ( bike 380 lbs) so I guess I wasn't overloading the front that much. Certainly the only time I ran off was in the chicanes, elsewise I kept up and achieved a steadily improving 1m27s lap time. That bike, an '87 Suzuki Impluse GSX400X did me proud for almost 400k miles until stolen. I overloaded it with touring gear, commuted between cities, and generally threw it around as though having an off was not an immediate concern. Open road cornering was rarely exciting to the point of panic, though planned two wheel drifts at 100mph through 90° bends were not normal, but an occasional feature of avoiding the plod. Since I've tooled around on bigger shaft driven road bikes (Kawasaki and BMW k series 750cc) at slightly more moderate pace, but negotiated over everything from loose manhole covers, piles of bricks and general overloading - even carried bicycles, lawn mowers and surf boards on occasion. A Suzuki RF900RF once provided me with the startling realization that some bikes just like turning corners with next to no rider input other than a TINY bit of countersteer and a look in the desired direction. Cruising! down a tight winding gorge at 80 mph, when I thought I was doing a mere 80 kph. I wasn't pushing hard, just getting a feel for what an extra $10k could buy me, and riding cautiously because I didn't own it!

These days I've got another Suzuki Impulse '88, weigh a bit more at 185 lbs and have been bruised and banged up in more tin top accidents (passive victim inside) than I care to remember. However, I'm a bit more cautious shall we say, more accurately it seems I no longer commit to, nor stay fully ahead of the road.

I've taught myself to walk again several times (car accident victim, grrrr!) so learning to ride again should be a doodle except it seems as though I've been smoothly applying level four skills for years without having a clue about the basics, other than: look ahead, stay on the bike and panic after you've pulled over.


Working through Keith's advice is throwing up all sorts of issues that I'll raise in the appropriate forums. At first glance my guess is that my smallish bike, buggered up muscle memory, and riding context create very different dynamics than typical for a large bike on the track.

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