It’s that time of year again…when we see start to see a lot of motorcycle accidents. I think a good part of it has to do with goofy drivers emboldened by nice weather to go out for a drive: They will come into your lane, they will turn right in front of you, and no, they won’t see you. But the other part probably has to do with rider error: After a couple of months in storage your skills have gotten a little rusty – not enough to notice, but just enough to cause trouble at a moment when it might really count… So what are some skills that get rusty and what’s the best way to get back up to speed?Here are the basics:
1. Controls: brakes, clutch, throttle, shifter. Normally you handle these tasks subconsciously; so when you’re out of practice it becomes a problem. Maybe you forget to clutch and stall the engine while coming to a stop, or from a cold start; or jab the rear brake too hard… Or forget which way to shift. These are issues with the controls, and it’s sometimes hard to recognize you’re rusty with them… A sudden traffic situation forces you to stop suddenly and you stall the engine… or shift into the wrong gear – or grab a handful of front brake and throttle at the same time.
How do you get back up to speed? Spend some time in stop and go traffic. Take some extra time and take the local roads. All that annoying slow stuff actually hones your basic control skills more than a long highway trek. Focus on being smooth and just enjoy the nice cool weather. This also gives you a chance to put some miles on the bike and make sure it’s road worthy before any longer trips.
2. Body Position. This is something I struggle with whenever I’m off the sport bike for a while. Most bikes are ergonomically designed for movement. You can put different parts of your foot on the peg, slide forward in your seat toward the tank or further back toward the passenger end, lean forward with your torso or sit more straight up. So finding a good riding position for your speed of travel has to do with adjusting those (feet, seat, or torso). Some tips that we mention on another post is that (except for feet-forward cruisers), when you’re in a good riding position, you should be able to stand straight up on the pegs from where you’re seated without using your arms. Sometimes it helps to stand on the pegs while you’re moving to make sure you’re balanced, and then sit down. Also, in a good riding position, you’re not putting any weight on your arms.
How do you get back up to speed? (1) Take shorter trips, or make frequent stops. Once your muscles are strained during a ride it’s hard to find the right position because EVERY position will feel uncomfortable. Whereas the right body position will mean you can ride for hours before feeling strained. (2) Change positions frequently. At the very least you should be moving forward or backward in your seat as you change speeds. Finding the right body position is really about finding the right positions (plural).
3. Cornering. There’s nothing natural about leaning into a corner head first – although if you ever run an obstacle course you’ll notice that you always lead with your head and shoulders when changing direction. But at 50+ mph, or even 10+mph (which is 2x as fast as our bodies are capable of moving on their own) going head-first – especially sudden turns – becomes a challenge. And EVERY rider (at some point) gets to a turn where they’re going a little faster than they’re comfortable with, and freeze up a little.
How do you get back up to speed cornering? If you already know what to do, you just need time ease back into it. Take corners of different speeds and take extra care approaching a turn to set up a safe speed (for you). A safe speed for the rider ahead of you is not the same thing as a safe speed for you…even if you were on the exact same bikes (which you probably aren’t). Be conscious of your body position in corners as you’re getting back up to speed. Really get your head toward the inside mirror so you can get used to that feeling again.
Anyway – enough of my yapping. Got any tips for getting back up to speed in the Spring? Got any trouble spots of your own? Share the wealth. Cheers!