Outside Edge – June 2017


by George Tranos


Have you reached your potential as a rider? One of the most interesting aspects of being a motorcycle safety instructor and coach is hearing feedback from students who have just completed their training. Since we work with both beginners and experienced motorcyclists, you would think that their feedback would be similar and for the most part, it is. New riders are constantly remarking at how much they learned and that riding is more difficult than they imagined. Many times they state how much more they need to practice to be proficient.


Many riders with years of experience under their belts come with a predetermined belief that they won’t learn anything new. Even those that come with an open mind are sometimes surprised at what they learn. Those without any formal training can be shocked to find out that some aspects of their riding can be improved by making minor changes to their technique.


It can be difficult to unlearn bad habits. Many years of repeating the same mistake can ingrain something into muscle memory. It’s hard for a rider to try something new or different from their familiar way of doing things. A small change can sometimes lead to big improvement but a rider must work hard to break the old way.


Learning a motor skill is a tricky thing. Our mind may comprehend what needs to be done but our body must respond in an appropriate way. Even after learning the new skill, we must practice constantly to develop and maintain proficiency. Riding a motorcycle well requires many skills. The sequence and timing of actions is key to precision and control.


Many new riders struggle to achieve smoothness. Once they have basic control, they must develop precise movements and repeat them over and over again. This repetition is what creates good habits. Preparation is the key to smoothness. They learn this by moving their head, hands and feet prior to the control action. If they are unprepared, they may feel they need to rush an action to complete it. You can see this when they try to shift or brake before they roll off the throttle. They then may panic and do something suddenly; upsetting the stability of the motorcycle and possibly causing a crash.


Experienced riders may show more confidence but may not be aware that some of their actions could be smoother or safer. Simple changes like not squeezing in the clutch at the entry point of a high speed turn may help them improve. Transitions from brakes to throttle and from throttle to brakes are areas where many riders can get better.


One of the last things we talk about at the end of many of our courses is about what type of rider do you want to be. Riding safety courses get you to think about your riding. Self-assessment is important. Anytime you have a close call or crash, you should try to analyze what happened. What could you have done to prevent it? What can you do to improve?


Human beings are not perfect and improvement comes from learning from your mistakes. Wisdom comes from learning from the mistakes of others. Is your riding where you want it to be? Are you satisfied with just being minimally competent? If you’re a regular rider (or even just a car driver), you see what’s going on out there on our roadways. People are distracted, many are unpredictable and some are downright incompetent and dangerous. What does it take to survive as a motorcyclist on our mean streets?


As a rider, you should constantly be striving to be better. A better rider is a safer rider and one who will be able to anticipate and prevent crashes. There is a mental aspect to riding that also should not be ignored. Practice helps one become more proficient. We should practice our scanning and identification skills every time we rider or drive. Finding your potential as a rider may push you into trying new things to get better. Think about what you can do to help yourself be the best rider you can possibly be. After all, your life may depend on it the next time you ride.