Timing is everything

George_Tranos_Outside_EdgeTiming is everything

by George Tranos

In motorcycling just like in life – timing is everything!

From the Bible Book of Ecclesiastes (and the song made popular by the 1965 hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

As I’ve stated in past columns, some riders struggle mightily with simple tasks as other riders seemingly have no problems. The crucial ingredient that makes those things easier – wait for it – yep, timing! Just as a comedian adds that critical pause before the punchline, a motorcyclist must know when and where action should be taken.

Many non-riders think that motorcycling is easy. They see people on their bikes on the street and to them it looks fun and effortless. When learning to ride, some of them have great difficulty and reassess their opinion. Why is it so difficult to shift? Many newbies rush their actions leading to a revving throttle or a powertrain that is not slackened prior to their upshift. A simple pause to roll off the throttle and squeeze in the clutch before the shift makes it so much easier! It’s not until they feel the effects of proper timing do they truly comprehend why it’s necessary.

Other causes of poor timing are not preparing in advance for an action. For example, if you cover the clutch with your left hand and move your toe under or over the shift lever before you begin the shifting process then you will not feel the need to rush to do those things. Braking and downshifting to a stop sometimes exacerbates the issue as all four limbs must be moving simultaneously. You need your right hand for the front brake, right foot for the rear brake, left hand for the clutch and left foot for the shifter. All four controls must be utilized properly at the correct time. If they are not, it can cause abruptness to those who are unprepared for all of the motions necessary to be smooth on a motorcycle. They might grab the front brake instead of squeezing it smoothly and progressively. Because they were unprepared, a rider sometimes feels the need to compensate by reacting too quickly, or panic as their stopping point approaches rapidly.

This is true for cornering maneuvers as well. Knowing when and how much to slow before the turn is a key ingredient in being at the right entry speed. Many riders get this wrong and as a result don’t feel confident in the twisties.

Proficiency comes from repeating the same task correctly over and over again at the correct time until it becomes second nature. If something is done improperly, repetition only creates bad habits. Many riders think they are doing things properly but wonder why they struggle shifting, braking or cornering. Others are oblivious to the notion that their riding can somehow improve.

In the modern manufacturing world, the term “continuous improvement” is used to denote a philosophy of striving to better processes, techniques and methods to improve production and efficiency and lower costs. Businesses do this to survive and compete. As a motorcycle rider, we can use this same belief and apply it to our riding skills. Self-assessment and a desire to always try to get better can lead to lifelong learning and may offset the effects of aging. Formal training and good coaching can point out incorrect technique or improper timing. Simple changes can lead to breakthroughs and improved confidence and proficiency.

To everything there is a season, and for riders proper timing is everything for safety and fun on every ride.

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