Archive for February, 2015

We are creatures of habit.  Or, more correctly, if you aren’t one you will be soon.  I don’t know one experienced rider who doesn’t go through a mental check list before riding.

For me it starts by selecting the right gear to be as comfortable and safe as possible.  The right jacket, liners, ear plugs, music or GPS audio, hell, even the right sox and boots.  After that you get to the bike.  I check the thing over; tires, leaks, dirt, chain, mirrors.  Once any stuff I’m carrying is loaded the key goes in and the bike is turned on.  Are the right lights on, was the sound the same as usual?  My S3 makes a distinct whistle as the systems wake up, no sound, somethings wrong.  Now the final prep; ear plugs, bandana to cover my face, helmet strap, gloves, swing a leg over it.  For me I always think, “what the hell are you doing, this thing could kill you, I think it even wants to!”  But then I realize in 10 seconds I’ll be thinking, “you worry too much.”  I can’t explain it but when I think of the things I’ve done on a motorcycle while sitting on the sofa watching “House of Cards” I think I must have been nuts.  I also know as soon as I get moving, everything changes.  I feel confident and empowered.  It becomes second nature, an extension of me.  I try to think of being fluid, I only to occupy a given spot for a microsecond, you just flow around and through situations.  Brake and throttle are to be used gently and smoothly, if it’s sudden you are out of control.  Eyes up, look where you want to be, play “what if” for fun.  It’s fun because I have a sense of when bad things might happen and when things are pretty predictable.  That sixth sense is key in street riding.  I think it’s based on experience and seeing things most people over look.  Too many rear view mirror checks means the car is coming left, without a signal.  Cars driving near the left part of their lane, you see a situations setting up and know the guy will have to brake or cut left, I always bet of him being an asshole and cutting me off.  Excellent time to not be on the throttle BTW! ha

You are smaller, faster, and hopefully smarter than the cars.  They are sleep walking through their trip.  Like a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs, you need to be aware, move, and predict.  The ability to know what’s going to happen in the next two seconds or next two minutes is the ultimate survival skill.

I think that’s the key to being a successful street rider.  Having control of you bike is the table stakes, that can take years to perfect, the word perfect is intentional.  Too many riders stop there and focus on bikes, gear, and learning to do tricks with the motorcycle.  The next step is awareness of what’s going around you, knowing what that means, and knowing what you should do. Great riding skill are important but staying out of situations where you need to test them to the limit is even more important.

And if you don’t live your life like a good rider rides a motorcycle, you’re doing it the hard way!

 

Advertisements

IMG_2757

How has motorcycling changed your life?

I heard someone ask this question and I thought it was an interesting one.  When something is a big part of your life for a long time you tend to take it for granted.  We all think about how we started by why did you stick with it?

When I started riding I was young and stupid.  I had no idea I could die or get crippled.  My skills were dog crap, I knew crap, but I loved it.  What I loved was the freedom.  There’s a brand that talks a lot about freedom, but if you want to experience freedom be a 16 year boy who can go where ever he wants whenever he want for the first time in his life.  Being a kid is about people controlling you, you get to make like no decisions, ever.  With wheels all is possible.  Later, it was cheap speed.  As I became a better rider, mainly by falling off and figuring it out, I could go fast even on a slow bike.  A new level of freedom.

Later in like I found a new meaning for riding, escape.  My ex wife (who from now on will be referred to as “The Dark One”) hated motorcycles.  For years EVERY time I rode she said I was going to die.  I gave in on most things but not riding.  My annual week long ride was always prefaced with her saying, “I want a divorce”.  But I went anyway.  I went because I didn’t drink, smoke, take weekends at NASCAR with my drunken buddy’s, go to bars, or ever miss work.  We took family vacations, my ride money came from my teaching MSF classes on weekends.  No way was anyone taking riding from me.  Yes, it might be a small reason I’m divorced but it’s a good reason.  I’m too old to be controlled.  And, escape is different than freedom, escape is an attempt at freedom, I guess I escaped.

Now my riding is a personal thing, I rarely ride with other motorcyclists.  Not because I’m better than them but because this experience is mine.  Sometimes company is ok but mostly it’s for me, selfish I know but it’s the way it is.  To give back I teach.  North Carolina said they will be willing to give me a shot as a coach.  With luck I’ll be successful and help new riders get a better start than I did.  The reason you start may not always be the reason you finish.

 

 

Let’s get Small

Posted: February 13, 2015 in Editorial, Motorcycle, My Life

IMG_3143Overall, I think motorcyclists are a little eccentric.  Be honest, people call you odd, and you don’t disagree.  People that are different don’t sit around talking about being different, they just are, and sometimes don’t even realize it.

Well, I like small stuff.  My apartment was 500 sq feet, then 550, now I’ve gone nuts and have like 650!  Cars too.  The photo above is my Mini Cooper making my 911 look tiny.  If you’ve ever parked a Mini next to almost anything else, well, you know how it looks.  By the way, both my motorcycles and a bicycle are in front of the Mini.  I like small cars, they are easy to park, zip through traffic, are usually pretty quick, and fit in tight places.  All that metal on big cars seems like a waste.

I like smallish bikes too.  Usually a naked bike or a standard.  Most of the same reasons I like small cars.  There’s nothing wrong with a Goldwing or almost any Harley but pushing around all that bike is just too much work for me.  My Speed Triple is probably 500 lbs. but I don’t consider it big.  Funny thing is it’s pushing about the same horsepower as the Mini Cooper!  And for that matter it’s not much less than the 911.  I’m in the Collin Chapman school of design, build a car with a big engine and add lightness.  I’ve always dreamed of owning a Lotus but I like cars that run most of the time.

Over the last year I’ve been on a tear to reduce, remove, and simplify.  Outside of my apartment, which I  love but admit is small, I’m down to a 5×8 storage unit that’s packed.  My goal is to cut that in half before summer.  See, weird.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  And…I bet you have your own little weirdnesses.  Scratch a motorcyclists and you’ll find a non-conformists with all sorts of interesting little habits.  Here’s to weird, weird is the vivid colors of life.

Role Model; Get one be one

Posted: February 7, 2015 in Editorial, Motorcycle

Have you ever had a mentor?  In life, business, or riding?

For reasons I’ll not bore you with I have only had one, in motorcycling, and he probably didn’t even know it.

My motorcycle life has been a solitary one for the most part.  Until ten years ago when I became a Rider Coach.  It was time to try to give back.  So, I went to training and wanted to started teaching.  All well and good but once you finish the training teaching on the range with a “live” class (object is to keep them that way) was frightening.  We taught 12 students with 2 instructors so EVERY Coach was more experienced than I was.  Unfortunately many of the coaches are less than patient.

But I was really lucky.  I lived an hour from a facility Honda ran in Troy, Ohio.  Coaches lovingly called it the “country club.”  It had a full time manager, Tosh, 28 Night Hawks no more than 2 years old, a classroom across from a real garage when the bikes were stored, AC, and a nice restroom facility!  I did the training in March and was afraid to teach.  In June Tosh called me and said, “You gonna teach or what?”  “I suck” I said.  “I’ll put you with somebody who knows what they are doing, get your ass up here.”  Fair enough.  So I did as I was told.

I was paired with Don.  Don was exactly who I’d have hoped would be standing there when I dreamed of the perfect teaching partner.  6’2″, silver hair, weathered, dressed in well worn riding gear, with a KLR beat to hell in prefect mechanical condition.  Don was teaching full time in his semi retirement from being a technical writer.  He knew everything, had done everything, and was willing to teach me what he knew.  I’ll save you the details but I learned a lot from Don, all the stuff the MSF might not really feel was by the book.  But it was safe, efficient, and effective.  If you coach you have that memorized.  In short, he got me over the hump.  What was even more amazing is the other Coaches were all great too.  All seemed like fantastic riders, great coaches, and really good guys.  If there was a golden age of teaching for me that was it.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending.  I moved out of Ohio, big mistake.  Ended up teaching at a nice place but not the “country club” experience.  During the economic downturn Honda closed all it training centers and some went to the MSF, I know the one in Texas closed, not sure about the others, I think there were three.  Tosh retired.  I still can’t bring myself to buy a Honda as I see Honda as  abandoning the sport by closing the training centers.  I know 2008 brought many financial issues to a lot of businesses but you don’t sell your kids when things get tough.  The centers weren’t going to bankrupt Honda.

Here’s a wrinkle I’d like you to think about.  What if Don were a woman?  What if everything else were the same but all the “guys” were women?  I can tell you without a doubt, for me, it would have changed nothing.  I needed help and they were will to give it.  I’m asking our women riders to consider this.  I see lots of “Women Only” events, and I get the need to foster sisterhood among women riders.  I think if there were “Men Only” events women might be offended, think about that a second.  But what I’m saying is, if you find a mentor/role model allow that person to help you grow as a rider, regardless of their sex.  If they turn you into a better rider, and you happen to be a woman, then by all means mentor other women riders, and even guys if they are open to it, and they should be!

Take help from those who willingly offer it.  A good heart isn’t exclusive to a specific body type, age, color, or religion.  We are motorcyclists, there is no male or female forms of the word.