Outside Edge | September 2014

George_Tranos_Outside_EdgeSoft Hands

By George Tranos


Riding a motorcycle proficiently is a skill to which we can all aspire. Watching a competent rider traverse a series of intricate curves is like seeing poetry in motion. The bike will move fluidly from side to side as the rider accelerates out of each turn only to slow again before the next one. While the machine itself travels rapidly and smoothly, the rider’s hands and feet barely appear to be moving. How come the rider doesn’t have to use rapid and immediate force to make the motorcycle change its attitude, velocity and direction?


Seeing new riders learn is a lesson in cause and effect. Single track vehicles just drive and steer differently than automobiles and most newcomers don’t understand how even small control inputs can yield large results. Watching someone just starting out attempt to accelerate shows how one learns to use a new skill such as throttle control and incrementally reduce the efforts to more fine elements. “Rough to fine” is a good description of this learning process. As the rider gains more experience, they learn to temper their control input to yield more efficient motion.


Of course everyone comes at motorcycling from a different angle, some with lots of life experience that translates well to finer control inputs. We have found in general that large equipment operators take quickly to motorcycle control. They have the soft hands and easy control feel to move large things small distances. These skills transfer well to the throttle, brakes and steering input needed for bike manipulation.


Conversely, big burly guys who crush rocks for a living (or so it seems), usually have a hard time making the transition to fine motor skills. Not every action has to be a hard stomp or a quick grab. These types of movement normally equate to suddenness and abruptness and don’t make motorcycles start, stop or shift smoothly. I recently taught a new rider who was one of these types. A high school football lineman, he was the proverbial bull in a china shop on a motorcycle. Six-four and 230 pounds, I wouldn’t want to be on the line of scrimmage against him. However, when he shifted the motorcycle to first gear, he took his whole foot off the footpeg and kicked down hard – enough to shear off the shift bolt and leave the shifter dangling on the ground. Needless to say, it took time for him to learn fine motor control.


BJN26166Generalization can also lead to surprises. I’ve also trained big guys (and gals) who you’d think would pound the controls only to be incredulous when they were like twinkle-toes. They could spin that bike around and lean just slightly into a curve to make it turn. They quickly learned how to use their weight to their advantage, counterweighting slightly to make slow, tight turns. What they had that their heavy handed compatriots lacked was a light touch and fine motor skills.


Take a look again at how that advanced level rider moves and what you’ll see is slow and deliberate movement of their hands and feet. There will be no sudden control movements. All input will be smooth and motion will be preceded by preparation. We ask our new riders to be prepared to perform tasks. What that means is move into position prior to the actual control usage. For example, when shifting one should move their foot into position above or below the shift lever and have their hand covering the clutch prior to rolling off the throttle. Sequence and timing then become crucial to easy, effortless results.


Ask yourself; are you loose when you ride? Are your arms bent? Are your hands soft? Are your motions slow and deliberate and do you feel smooth? True answers to these questions will help you become a better rider and one that has a better grip on fine motor control.



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