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Riding-skills ? Technique Or Technology?

Keith Code

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Riders often look for a "technique", some trick, a panacea for their riding ailments that will pull it all together for them. At the same time they look at the bike and all of the technology in it as having vastly more potential than the skills they possess to use it. The evidence for this attitude is that other riders can go quicker, smoother or more precisely than them.


What's going on here? The bike isn't engineered and constructed on tricks so it's highly unlikely that tricks will tame it. The robot which welded up your beautiful perimeter frame does not have its own technique, it does not possess skill: it is programmed with the technology of welding based on a blueprint.


What is Skill?


Skill is another of the great buzz words of riding. Let's define it so we have something to talk about. Riding Skill is: The harmonious interaction of riding technology with machine technology towards a known result.


Our bikes are built on technology created by designers and engineers: frame design, radial brakes, responsive forks and shocks, ignition black boxes that meter the fuel more efficiently, etc. Doesn't it make sense that there would be correct "technology" for riding that allows us to access all that potential?


How about techniques? Where do they fit into the picture. What is the difference between "technique", "technology" and "skill"? How can they work together? How do they often fight each other?




We all want the bike to cooperate with us and sometimes we hope the machine and the technology it is built on will correct our errors or bring confidence but that's not how it works.


The word "technology" itself has gotten a little muddy over the past 50 years. We tend to think technology means all the newest gadgets and improvements that come with a computer or a motorcycle. That's a very new use of the word.


Factually, it means something completely different. Technology is the practical application of the underlying order or theory of something. The result is a system which organizes, controls or provides access to it.


There are technical points to riding; these would fall under the category of our own software. That, along with the different cool devices on your bike, like a Power Commander, both fall into the category of "technology".


Cornering Technology


Understanding something as simple as straightening out a corner is valuable riding technology. Having a "line" really means: How the rider is organizing and controlling space; the space is the corner in front of him.


The straighten-out-the-corner technology organizes that space in its most efficient manner. For example, it allows for a better, more flowing control of the bike; more efficient use of its power delivery systems and gains access for the rider to the bike's best handling characteristics, which in turn improves traction.


Using this technology to handle corners has proven itself reliable since the very first motorcycle. Regardless of machine upgrades, it works. Once any procedure is established which resolves problems and yields a consistent result, whether it is riding or machine bits, it can be correctly categorized as "technology".


Both riding and machine technology should come together: the bike's technological advances, if they are truly advances, allow you to better control the machine and, in turn, make it easier to straighten out the corner. The bike's technology helps the rider achieve an improved result. If it is correct technology, one compliments the other.




"Technique" is different, it sits on top of the technology. It is more how it looks and feels than how it works. A 125cc GP rider straightens out the corners quite differently than the Moto GP rider. Different technique, same technology.


The 125 GP bike rider has little acceleration and so must preserve all the momentum (corner speed) he can. The Moto Gp rider wants to get pointed quickly and get his 250 hp to the ground. The form (technique) is different but the function (the technology) is the same.


As long as you realize that your technique or form must cooperate with and compliment the underlying technology or function (what result you want and how the bike works) you can make progress in any problem area of riding.


Hanging Off. Form or Function? Technique or Technology?


A good riding technique is harmonious with and compliments machine technology.


We hang off the bike to lower the combined Center of Gravity of the bike and rider. A useful technique. When it is only done for the form or to look cool, the reason for doing it becomes lost and the form becomes counter-productive. Form and function are another way of saying technique and technology.


Hanging off really is a perfect example. When we see a rider hanging their butt and leg off the inside of the bike we say they are hanging off; that is the form. But, when we see their head and torso crisscrossed back over the tank we have to take a look at the function, at the technology of it, to determine if it is good, bad or has no effect.


In this case, the upper body mass across the tank counters the butt and leg so nothing is gained. Additionally, riders tend to be stiff on the bike in this position. Therefore it is not only counter-productive but actually has a negative effect. Aside from its one saving grace--it looks and feels good to the rider sometimes-it is creating additional problems.


There is no machine technology that will maintain the lowered C of G if the rider's technique counters that basic purpose.


Barriers Become Tools


All of the classic rider barriers follow suit. Finding the limits of traction, lean angle, quick flicking, throttle control, line selection and so on all have very specific uses; very specific ways of executing them; very specific results that can be achieved.


Once the rider understands and aligns his technique with the underlying technology these "barriers" become tools to handle exact situations. That rider has achieved a new and very solid level of control. Now we could say he had skill. He is able to align his technique with the technology involved.


Riders who rely solely on what they feel from the bike are hard to train. Riders who can recognize, understand and shoot for specific results in each of these areas make rapid progress towards their riding goals. It isn't all technique, some understanding of the underlying technology is needed to bring Feeling, Technique and the Technology into harmony that result in Skillful application.


Fashionable Riding


Techniques can become "fashionable". Look at the drama and appeal of the "backing-it-in" technique.


The underlying principal is sound: get the bike pointed more towards the exit, spend less time in the corner leaned over, put the power down earlier, beat the other guys. On the outside it appears to be a simple and effective idea because it is based on the solid technology of straightening out the turn.


This technique feels great to do and looks awesome. Have you noticed it has mainly come and gone? Too much monkey business, too complicated, low results: the form overcame the function: the technique did not really compliment and fully align with the technology.


Fashionable Slides


Big time hanging the back end out, spinning the tire coming off the corners has gone the same way. The old adage, "You aren't going forward if you are going sideways" came back to haunt those riders once again.


Yes, some tire spin is needed for a good drive off the turn and to keep the tire clean, exposing fresh, sticky rubber but too much just looks cool and brings in the spectators but it doesn't win races and could cost you your traction later in the race.


Techniques, if they ignore the underlying technology, if they are not integrated and complimentary, are like painting over a dirty, unprepared surface. It looks great from a distance but loses its charm under close inspection.


Technique vs Understanding


Valentino and Matt Mladin use the same controls we do. When you see novice riding errors being made you see someone who appears to be struggling with the form, the techniques. There is lots of added stuff going on, mainly corrections, like extra steering inputs to adjust lean angle or a variety of braking and throttle inconsistencies.


This rider isn't really struggling with the technique, it is the technology, the underlying function of the controls and what the bike needs, that they are at odds with. Making the rider's form better doesn't handle it. Saying you need to be smooth doesn't handle it. Another coat of paint doesn't handle it.


The less we understand of the bike's needs and what function the controls actually serve (the underlying technology of it) the more we battle with the form. As stated earlier, most riders honestly believe that learning some cool technique will handle it. It won't.


The worst part is that when "technique" without understanding fails to produce the desired effect riders go off on tangents and invent complicated little procedures trying to make things work out. Simple control inputs become involved, tooth and nail battles for this rider. This is true at all levels of riding.


The Value of School


This is the real reason why training works so effectively. Once you know what is needed and how to produce it your control over the machine is established and you'll move forward from there. When you add to that effective on-track observation and coaching, the corrections you are given make sense.


Any technique that brings the rider more in control and more in alignment with how the bike and its technology actually work is a good technique. There is not now and never will be one single technique or one trick, that accomplishes that.


We drill 15 different points in our first three school levels. The briefing before each on-track session reveals the key supporting evidence and facts to show how they work; why they work; what will go wrong if you misapply them and how they integrate with the bike's functions, its technology. You'll know what it is and how to gain access to it.


Becoming enough of a technician to understand these points is not difficult. In the end the motorcycle has simple demands, simple functions. Even if we don't understand how a shock is designed and engineered we can easily understand what was intended by its creators and how to bring out the best possible results from it. You can understand this technology with little effort, no engineering background is needed.


All that is needed is the desire to master the art of cornering a motorcycle.


Learn the skills, discover the art.


Keith Code


? Keith Code, 2005, all rights reserved.

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