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Isolating Riding Barriers


Keith Code
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Isolating Riding Barriers

 

We know the bike has limits, we know that we have our own limits. Which of them is our real opponent in the battle for improvement and control?

 

The Route to Control

 

Cornering can be broken down into categories of activity such as braking, steering, finding a line, getting a good drive and so on. All enthusiasts are on a quest for being in better control or becoming quicker or smoother with them. Are there rules we must follow to achieve control over them?

 

For yourself, if you could gain really good control over any one area of riding, which do you feel would be the one that would blow away the greatest number of barriers in your cornering? What comes to mind?

 

The Discipline of Riding

 

A. Riding is a discipline in most senses of the word. It certainly requires us to order things correctly.

 

Right from day one we know the gas must come on before the clutch is released and it remains so forever: The same goes for not chopping the throttle in a slide, making gear changes, braking, steering and so on.

 

Each control sequence has a technical basic and an exact order which governs your conduct towards achieving success.

 

B. Riding inflicts harsh correction on riders who are not obedient to its rigorous demands.

 

Excess lean angle combined with overly aggressive throttle is beyond the limit of a bike's range of operation and it will hurt you. Going fast on cold tires; losing the front on the brakes are two other classic examples.

 

Limits must be well known to stay out of harm's way.

 

C. Riding is truly a discipline because it is its own category; its own branch of knowledge.

 

No other sport requires hand/eye/body/machine control to be so precise. The coordination of our sense of speed, timing, traction, lean angle and location guide us, truly or falsely, and each has a very specialized order-of-importance of its own.

 

Because of its peculiar, multi-level demands, the knowledge/feel required to become successful is unique to itself.

 

 

D. Riding demands that we order its actions and coordinate them towards an effective result.

 

The marital arts are a great example of drilling individual actions towards a definite result: just like racing, they try to beat the opponent. In both cases though, the opponent is often our own sense of our limits.

 

As we approach and master our limits they become assets we use to coordinate our efforts to ride better.

 

E. Actions, once coordinated, become procedures.

 

These procedures have strict guidelines, even laws perhaps, to make them effective towards a desired goal: make it through the corner; miss the car; set up and carve a clean, stable and smooth line through a set of ess curves.

 

The more exactly we can define these procedures the easier it is to correct our faults.

 

Guidelines or Laws?

 

No one becomes an effective martial artist without strict adherence to basic tenets. Can we become an effective cornering artist without some understanding of the demands of our discipline?

 

To operate effectively in either art requires dedication to their basic principals. We see Bruce Lee or Valentino Rossi make it look effortless and almost natural, almost stylized, and, at its very core, it is.

 

Are there actual laws in these disciplines, as in the laws of thermodynamics or electricity that govern them or just sort of loose guidelines? Can we cheat them if they do exist? Are the top guys cheating these laws or are they good because they rigorously adhere to them? It often looks like cheating doesn't it?

 

Beginner or Basic?

 

Motorcycle riders often confuse basic technical riding points with beginner basics. There is a huge difference. Letting out the clutch without stalling the bike would be a beginner's barrier to overcome. Finding and being able to consistently execute a good line with flawless throttle control are both technical basics.

 

Once the clutch is mastered it becomes a specialized tool for the rider. Slipping it at slow speed, launching a great start, quick seamless gear changes all have their place and cannot be replaced by some other actions to achieve the same results.

 

When the master of the martial arts dojo observes a novice practice the same kata (exercise) his Black Belt is doing, he sees the differences. The overall description of the actions being performed are the same but the trained artist is able to produce the desired result from the form. It's not something that just looks cool.

 

You may roll on the throttle, so does Nicky Hayden, but it is doubtful that the result is the same in anything but the form. Yes, there is a law covering rolling on the throttle. A sub-discipline to the art if you like.

 

Limits, Commitment and Rewards

 

On the bike, we don't argue with traction, we try to sense it: similarly, we don't question a bad line, we see it; we don't debate our speed, it's gut-level sensing of it; we don't quibble with lean angle limits, our own or the bike's, we become familiar or shy of them.

 

When any one of these distracts us too much; our grasp of coordinated riding; our "technique", our form, falls apart. We lose, to some degree, our command over the bike and situation.

 

Certainly, riders wish to feel in command of all of them but often quail and waver in their commitment once they push or approach their own limits regarding them.

 

Bruce Lee had his "two inch punch". It was powerful enough to knock over a very large man. A novice martial artist might not develop that much power with a running head start. For sure it is focus but what do you focus on?

 

When you see Val Rossi completely blow his line without losing a position, what do you say? He's lucky? He has a lot of experience? Brass balls? He's smooth? None of those things bring us to any understanding of how or why he could do it.

 

We can think about the bike's limits: Brake later is easy to say: get on the gas earlier is easy to think: use more lean angle: flick it quicker: get more reference points; carry more speed: go in deeper: don't hesitate with the throttle and get the tire squirming on the drive out: mastering any of these points would make most riders happy but may not be the correct item to crack their own particular key barrier.

 

Which one would yield the greatest possible rewards if you understood it, focused on it and you solved it? Are any of them what you thought of at the beginning?

 

No-Reason Limits

 

Personal limits are an interesting subject. When we ride within them too often the tendency is to accept them. When we try and ride through them it can be a daunting and often far too interesting experience-read that as distracting.

 

Are your limits where your natural ability ends? Not likely. If that were the case, having a breakthrough in riding would require something like going back in time and rearranging your entire life or your DNA code: it's where our inability to maintain focus on technical basics kicks in that delineates our limits and denies us success.

 

We try to run a set of esses faster but we wind up pressed for time and lose whatever smooth we had because our control timing gets blown out. You've done this.

 

We all do well right up to the point of distraction. That is the real limit. Whichever area of riding that was the most distracting would probably yield the greatest benefits if it were debugged and mastered. By that I mean bringing the barrier into sharp enough focus to conquer it.

 

Felt Limits

 

The ever-present problem is our Survival Instincts and Reactions, SRs for short. SR's gratuitously (without reason or justification) kick in and take over the running of our body and in particular the right hand and our eyes.

 

That is the moment we become spectators to our riding. We know this because the throttle went still or off in our right hand for no justifiable reason; we target fixed on another rider and they just smoked us through or out of that corner; we touched the brake when we didn't need to; made an unnecessary steering adjustment, etc., etc.

 

A tight focus on our application of technical basics is required to beat these often destructive survival urges and they can be beat. You can learn to take a punch without flinching.

 

Known vs Felt Limits

 

In ours, as in other disciplines, we have both real and "felt" limits. A skilled rider is able to maintain clarity on which is which. When the real and felt limits intermingle that clarity is lost; the edges blur; riding becomes a sketchy activity and we make errors from the indecision that results from it.

 

The speed may "feel" too high for a section of track. But it may only be too high for the line you took--that was the "real" limiting factor.

 

Simple decisions like, "should I brake or gas it" can get fuzzy. "I could have been in the gas much earlier and much harder". You really know you could have but with the edges blurred we lose our clarity of actions and our ability to coordinate them, we lose our sense of control.

 

The Five

 

The known limits of riding are of great concern to us. Riders always attempt to focus on and carefully balance lean angle against acceleration against traction against line against speed. Each of us does this. It's an ongoing, moment-to-moment effort to monitor those 5 elements- just before; as we go into and through corners.

 

No less than five factors are involved: each one critical to the turn's successful execution. Could your answer lie in your command over one of them? I'm sure you would be happy if just one of them were firmly under your control.

 

Juggling the Five

 

It's a real juggling act to get all five of them right when you're trying to go quick. The discipline of riding demands you maintain focus on their order; intensity and accuracy. You have a flow when you do; you choke when you don't.

 

Which of these 5 points is the most senior? Which one brings all the others into alignment, into focus? Which one can blow the others out of order and out of focus?

 

If you do a flow chart on them, which would come first in the whole process of coming up to and going through a corner? Speed of course. Speed tends to monitor the line you will run, the amount of lean you'll have to use; how quickly you flick the bike; the bike's potential for acceleration, as well as limiting or improving your available traction.

 

While that is true, you could also say that your line monitors them. You could say that the available traction would monitor them all as well. The same goes for the amount of lean you could or should use and how quickly or slowly you get it over. Even the amount of acceleration you might want can limit or modify all the others. So, mechanically speaking, they are for the most part, equal. But the motorcycle doesn't ride itself. It can't juggle the five elements. You do.

 

Limits vs Resources

 

These five factors are both our limits and our most valued resources for executing a corner.

 

They are limits when our feelings overwhelm us and it goes out of balance; resources when used precisely--according to the disciplines of riding and in balance with the real limits. Is the cup half empty or half full is the way we separate an optimist from a pessimist. Is the rider seeing them as limits or resources? That's one easy way to define a rider's ability.

 

Each rider has his or her own subtle ways of telegraphing which mode they are operating in. A trained coach sees it immediately.

 

Most riders operate in limits mode. The master knows at a glance the many differences between a novice and an accomplished Black Belt.

 

A good riding coach may see 5 things wrong with your riding. Which one should he direct your attention to? Would it be more helpful if the coach was able to give you an exact standard by which you could measure improvement or would a general guideline serve just as well? It's a loaded question.

 

Experience or Understanding

 

My original question is unfair. If you knew what was wrong with your riding, you'd probably focus on it and fix it. Which of the five points do you feel limits your riding the most? That would be the way to try and view it objectively. But even that isn't easy.

 

The good advice crowd will normally tell you that more saddle time is the key. Oddly enough, if you look at the schedules of many pro racers you can easily see how a club race/track-day guy on a moderate budget gets more track time. And there is nothing wrong with track time-as long as it is focused towards overcoming the right barrier.

 

Riding Plateaus

 

It's easy to practice yourself onto a riding plateau, you could say barrier if you like. I'll define plateau:

 

When going back to work on an earlier skill doesn't look appealing and the next step up feels too steep, a bit dizzying, like thinking about going into a turn a lot faster than you ever have before-the thought and the action don't come together, you feel stopped-that is a plateau.

 

Perhaps you want to get a better drive but the questions of traction, line and lean angle become overwhelming. It's easy to lose focus and wind up doing it the same as last lap. Clearly, the essential next step for success was missed, unknown or wrongly applied. Otherwise, you would have made some progress with it.

 

Taking one of the five and sorting that out is your only hope. As in any discipline, expert coaching works miracles to help maintain that focus.

 

The Pitch

 

The Superbike School has lead the way for 25 years in isolating and defining the technical points for cornering motorcycles. In that process we invented step-by-step rider training. The first step was discovering that there were steps. We have and you will too.

 

Our coaching staff is for real. They are carefully trained and highly qualified to identify and handle your weak areas. We can and will push you through the barriers: we know what they are; we know what problems you have encountered and have had to deal with and we know what to do about it.

 

 

Keith Code

 

ⓒ Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved.

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Keith,

 

Have read your ideas about isolating riding barriers. And then again and again and again. For me this article is a real eye opener.

 

I really admire the way you pick out a problem, cut it up into a lot of small pieces, meanwhile asking questions that make you think, and finally placing the pieces into a logical order followed by the logical solution.

 

I guess i'm in the limit mode also. Not always, but frequently enough in order to be stuck with my laptimes.

I think i rode myself onto a riding plateau.

 

It's probably due to the fact that i only started racing at the age of 42 and then wanted to be competative immediately. Have'nt given myself the time or the focus ,on just one of the five at a time, to get to a point where i can see it as a resource instead of a limit.

 

For now i will be thinking through my own riding in order to see wich one of the five i need to start working on, and i guess i'll get some feedback from my riding coach when i attend level 1 at Zandvoort (holland) on the 17th of may.

 

Regards

Mike

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Keith,

 

Have read your ideas about isolating riding barriers. And then again and again and again. For me this article is a real eye opener.

 

I really admire the way you pick out a problem, cut it up into a lot of small pieces, meanwhile asking questions that make you think, and finally placing the pieces into a logical order followed by the logical solution.

 

I guess i'm in the limit mode also. Not always, but frequently enough in order to be stuck with my laptimes.

I think i rode myself onto a riding plateau.

 

It's probably due to the fact that i only started racing at the age of 42 and then wanted to be competative immediately. Have'nt given myself the time or the focus ,on just one of the five at a time, to get to a point where i can see it as a resource instead of a limit.

 

For now i will be thinking through my own riding in order to see wich one of the five i need to start working on, and i guess i'll get some feedback from my riding coach when i attend level 1 at Zandvoort (holland) on the 17th of may.

 

Regards

Mike

 

 

Hi Mike,

 

Thanks I'm happy you got the idea and the purpose for the article, which you did--it provokes thought and taking alook at those areas so that riding doesn' turn into a big generality or frustration.

 

Have a great time at school I know that Andy and the boys will take good care of you .

 

Best,

Keith

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  • 1 month later...

Keith, after reading this article it builds my confidence in what I thought I was doing wrong to I know for a fact what I am doing wrong. I am braking way too much almost every corner I am kicking myself because I am not caring enough speed. I could probably use a couple of extra downshift a gear in some spots instead of the brakes.

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  • 2 years later...

Great article! I'm looking forward to scheduling some track days next year - gotta overcome some long-standing barriers.

 

The marital arts are a great example of drilling individual actions towards a definite result<snip>

 

Did you mean 'marital' arts or 'martial' arts ? (I assume you meant 'martial'). :D

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  • 4 weeks later...
Great article! I'm looking forward to scheduling some track days next year - gotta overcome some long-standing barriers.

 

The marital arts are a great example of drilling individual actions towards a definite result<snip>

 

Did you mean 'marital' arts or 'martial' arts ? (I assume you meant 'martial'). :D

 

Uh, ya, MARTIAL but I suppose you'd have to say that Marital activity is an ART as well.

 

Keith

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  • 3 months later...
Great article! I'm looking forward to scheduling some track days next year - gotta overcome some long-standing barriers.

 

The marital arts are a great example of drilling individual actions towards a definite result<snip>

 

Did you mean 'marital' arts or 'martial' arts ? (I assume you meant 'martial'). :D

 

Uh, ya, MARTIAL but I suppose you'd have to say that Marital activity is an ART as well.

 

Keith

And it's even funnier when you go back and read the typo in context. Still works...and hilarious.

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