Outside Edge July 2017

Failure sometimes leads to success

by George Tranos


No one likes to fail. It is just human nature to want to succeed at whatever you do. But sometimes it takes time to acquire a skill and for some people it takes more time than others. Those who take longer to learn may still become proficient. In the long run, they may even become more adept than those who learn quicker. They might have to fail first to learn properly.


Motorcycling is more a skill of the eyes and mind than of the hands and feet. That said, we do have to learn sequence and timing in order to properly start, stop, shift and turn. We have to move our hands and feet in a coordinated way to operate the controls. We have to apply proper pressure on the throttle, handlebars and brakes in order to accelerate, turn and stop. It takes time and practice to do this properly. Practice by itself may not be a good thing if what you’re practicing is the wrong procedure. This just reinforces bad habits and may cause bad things to happen and unintended consequences.


Here are some of the best examples of poor practices that we see on a regular basis:


– Use of only some fingers on the brakes and clutch lever. Some riders never start out right. They use only their middle finger to brake or clutch. They leave their index finger on the grip when applying the front brake. Using only partial fingers can lead to crushing a finger between the grip and the lever.


– Constantly covering the brakes as you ride. This leads to poor throttle control. It also prevents proper rolling off of the throttle prior to braking. Many beginning riders fail to understand the necessity of rolling off the throttle before they apply the front brake. They tend to rush right to the brakes. This may leave the throttle on as they brake. It’s like keeping your foot on the accelerator in your car while simultaneously pressing the brakes.


– Failure to understand the friction zone and constantly popping the clutch. This improper starting process can cause bad things to happen – like wheelies, being out of control and panic. All of this is easily fixed with proper use of the friction zone – the area of travel of the clutch where the clutch is partially engaged. Knowledge of and use of the friction zone is key to low speed control skills.


– Rushing the shifting process. Poor shifting comes from improper sequence and timing. It also may be caused by lack of preparation. Many riders do not put their foot in position under the shift lever prior to beginning the shift process (roll off / squeeze clutch / shift / ease out clutch / roll on). Not understanding the need to slacken the drive train prior to shifting makes precise shifts impossible.


These are but a few examples of how not doing something properly can lead to poor results. Repeating these errors just compounds the problem. Practicing an improper procedure just leads to bad habits.


Experienced riders without any formal training may ride for years not knowing they are doing something improperly. A good instructor or coach can pinpoint the source of the problem and help them overcome their issue. Going back to basics is sometimes the key to improvement.


Failure doesn’t have to be the end. It can be the beginning of success! Understanding what went wrong and coming up with a plan on how to fix it is the solution. By observing and analyzing the process you can understand what’s wrong. Once this happens, it takes hard work to change. Many years of doing the same thing incorrectly can only be undone by major effort and practice. You will find the results worthwhile… as your riding will be taken to the next level!