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What exactly is Rider Improvement

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Is it a feeling that you're chasing?  Lap times?  Lower crash rate?

If you run your favorite track or canyon, you could certainly time yourself.  That's an objective measurement.  But what if you mainly ride on the street?  How do you know you've gotten better?


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Good question.  A bit like entry speed, and one's sense of that: is the rider going the same, faster, slower?  Its a skill that can be tuned, and for sure the top guys tune it very closely.  

But take one skill, you pick, and see how you might be able to notice a difference in how it's done.  Now, if it's cold and you can't ride, that's just a mental exercise.

So take any skill, and lets see what could be noticed with it (you pick the skill).


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  • 1 month later...

Over the years I've had a lot fewer "emergency" moments. I've also had more time to become acquainted with my personal performance envelope. Problem with that is that it doesn't welcome improvement. This is why I asked the question openly. I'm looking for better (other) ways to assess my own performance.

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Here's what I do - it keeps me entertained.

First, the boring stuff. On regular roads, just surviving in traffic, my target is mainly just to have zero scary moments. I ride in a way where if someone else doesn't see me and I have to take evasive action, I hold myself accountable. If I ever brake with locked bars where steering is affected, that's another ding. Can't remember the last time it happened tho. But basically, on boring rides where you can't play, my mental checklist of mistakes is all I think about it.

My commute traverses a 5 mile mountain-peak road with beautiful curves, sheer drops, and smooth pavement... it's a track. On a road like this, my goals include all those others but I focus more on technique. There's a very steep downhill 90 degree turn into a driveway at the end. I practice braking without messing up the steering. There's a lot of slow traffic. I practice timing my passes. I don't really work up speed high enough to need the brakes, but at each corner, I practice rolling off the throttle. My goal is to get the timing perfect so that the engine braking doesn't slow me down too much and make the corner boring. I ride the "racing line" within my lane and practice the 3 step at every corner. I practice rolling on the gas coming out of every corner. If I'm stuck behind a slow car, I practice hanging off at speeds which don't allow much lean. I practice the hip flick and the light bar pressure, exercising my outer thigh and combine this will all the other things I'm working on. There are a couple of really tight corners (intersections) with changes in pavement which tempt my eyes to watch the apex way too long. I concentrate on wide vision to get me around those tight square corners smoothly, fast, and without drama.

I don't know if I'm still improving but I know I'm not wasting my miles either. I'm blessed with a daily chance to reinforce what the good folks at CSS taught me. I have fun on the bike without giving up a safety margin and very few of of my rides have a close call (or any call where I depended on another driver to avoid me). So I get to my destination without feeling like luck bailed me out.

If you want to know you're getting better, my advice is pick your favorite track and hook up a lap timer and start trying to "get better." :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been looking for this thread earlier today and couldn't find it.

I know that my skills have improved because my attention was not stuck on my SRs firing off, checking my fun.

I commuted to work yesterday then back home, then to class. I'd forgotten that I had on my dark shield as I stopped by the motorcycle shop to check on my wife's bike, and I stayed too long. I had to race the remaining daylight. It was the most fun I've had in a long time.

I was smoother, faster and more in control of putting the bike exactly where I wanted and we were a better meld.

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  • 7 months later...

I think a real testament to measure our knowledge is: are you able to explain what you are doing to someone else and you also understand what you are saying! If you are able to share the knowledge and teach others. 

Maybe not the best way to measure improvement on the street, but I see if the people I ride with are able to keep up. Not riding recklessly or feeling out of control. For me it was accelerating through turns. I could not believe how many miles per hour are lost when we are leaned over and keep the throttle in the same position. That small change of rolling on continuously, smoothly, through the remainder of the turn made such a big difference. 

I also like to notice how much more relaxed I am. I ride and think about any tensing in muscles. I know that I used to constantly feel tense or tight on the bike. 

The last lengthy ride I went on from Mesa AZ to Payson AZ, I did the whole winding road riding with one hand to prove to myself that counter steering is REAL. It is silly because I know it is!!! But that confidence is there now. 

Being able to ride and make changes in traffic without putting a leg out is also a major change for me. I have only been riding for 1.5 years and learned so much. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Riding on the road is all about recognising and anticipating hazards, and managing those hazards. You can measure improvement by your ability to navigate those hazards faster, with less panic, or a combination of both. The vast majority of riding skills are applicable to both road and track. On the road you are just using them for hazard management.


On the track primarily you measure improvement by your lap times. Not just fastest lap, but consistency in your lap times. Also good lap times while getting through traffic - being able to get past slower riders without being held up is not just an improvement in your riding, it allows you more track time to focus on improving more since your aren’t stuck at someone else’s pace for an extended period of time.


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