Most motorcyclist rely blindly on comfort, confidence and speed to relate to the lean angle of their motorcycle. Most motorcycle riders are seriously affected by the change in conditions that affect grip. In fact, most riders are never taught how to ride in a manner to develop grip. For most motorcyclist, the feel and knowledge of grip is like the black art of motorcycling! In fact, most will refer to the lean angle as a anti crash guide.
A good motorcycle rider
Can identify through feeling grip front to back whilst braking and cornering on good or bad surfaces. They have the knowledge and discipline to take control of their destiny and do not refer to lean angle whilst controlling their motorcycle.
I remember as a young boy entering the tarmac road bike and racing scene, I was always uncomfortable if the roads were wet. To be fair the gap between what I knew then, to what I now know was massive. I strongly believe the single most important skill for me was learning to replace the thought of lean angle with grip. 33 years later there is little difference in motorcycle riders. The number of riders who ride off lean angle amazes me. It really disappoints me as I know that if riders are taught correctly, they can develop grip in braking, cornering and systems of control.
If you pay attention most training schools do little to no training in grip control; whether it be learner, licencing or even advanced rider training. Top Rider is the only school in Australia that provides a vast range of training products with drills and skills that align with vital grip training.
Unfortunately, the current gap between what riders currently know to what they should know is massive. Its 2018 and I think it’s about time every rider starts to realize that there is more available in motorcycle education. The current position is not being helped with most riders riding big bikes, on big tyres with traction control. Poor training combined with using misguided tips from mates, google etc. WOW, there are myths that need BUSTING.
One of my personal drivers in developing the Top Rider program was the simple fact that there was not enough being done by anyone in the education of a motorcyclist. Unfortunately, 33 years later and I see the motorcycle industry still have a lot to improve on.
When I started the Top Rider Program I personally knew what was possible in a good education package. I took a good look at my personal development and what I knew then compared to what I learnt in my first years riding a motorcycle was massive. I distinctly remember the exact skills, drills and lessons that developed me into the rider I am. When I think back to where I was when I started Top Rider in 1985 to where I am today my personal growth as a rider has been massive. The skills I have as a rider/trainer/coach/mentor has exponentially grown compared to the growth of my personal riding.
BUT DO MOST OF US ENTER MOTORCYCLING IN AN ORGANISED FASHION?
The honest answer is a big NO!
Let’s face it our personal attraction to motorcycles can be varied. For me I got involved with motorcycles because my uncle rode and raced them; in fact, my whole family did. My son is a 4th generation motorcyclist and I think motorcycles look cool and give a sense of freedom. Remember the famous James Dean picture, the freedom, individualism and rebels it promoted. Combine all that with the buzz, rider input, speed, wind and sense of being alive. Too much to miss out on!
MOST OF US BUY A BIKE AND GO RIDE IT! THEN THINK ABOUT A LICENCE OR SOME TRAINING
I think we all start motorcycling with limited skills and hope to pick them up. Some people are lucky to have natural skills, some may have a good mentor, there are a few that Top Rider get to teach, and then there’s the majority.
ITS TIME TO INVEST IN YOUR PASSION
At some point riders must realise the need for some vital skills to improve their motorcycle riding. The modern-day motorcycle is so dynamic and powerful; requiring variable inputs for the variety of corners and conditions. It’s no longer a slow toy, a motorcycle can be a MISSILE. Just trying to go harder and faster on a road ride or at track days without any knowledge is going to result in crashes where you will damage the motorcycle, damage your confidence and effect your mates day! Overriding your motorcycle is just plain stupid. However, most inexperienced motorcyclist believe this is how they get better as a rider.
Whilst all motorcyclist are supportive when a fellow motorcyclist has a crash I think as a rider we should have a sense of responsibility. We need to think how we will affect those around us when you do crash! You have a responsibility to eliminate crashing and to be safe around everyone!
The old comment of a few crashes is part of learning is a load of crap. Learning to ride a motorcycle can be done without crashing. I know because I have seen the successful students that do take my advice and complete my training packages. Most of my students are usually a blank canvas, an empty glass and they don’t listen to any one other than myself. They learn everything and in fact make so called experienced riders look like amateurs.
Back to the weather, ever noticed if it’s a beautiful sunny day and the roads are free of debris most riders hook into turns. In fact, they do the same when it’s overcast as long as the roads are dry. When I say hook into a turn I mean they use speed and blindly throw themselves at the corner, with limited knowledge! When it’s really wet most riders are seriously uncomfortable. Most riders know they can’t hook into turns. Most riders concede they don’t have the skills for the wet and they also genuinely have a high expectation of crashing on a wet track; so, they either slow down or simply don’t participate!
After running training and track events for 33 years I have learnt that if it rains I know I am going to have a very easy day as all riders pull their heads in and pay attention, resulting in no crashes with plenty of learning. A lot of riders say they don’t enjoy the motorcycle in the wet. It’s not getting wet that’s the issue! It’s more that they are just shit scared. I personally love the rain; the experience requires heightened concentration levels and the understanding of how we develop grip!
IN THE WET THE RESPECT COMES
Every one of my personally trained road racers have excelled in the rain. You don’t have to look far, ANTHONY WEST is testament to my coaching beliefs if you can ride in the wet you can ride the dry.
So, do riders crash because they don’t have the skills or don’t respect the conditions?
Every successful motorcyclist understands the dangers motorcycling brings and goes about developing a matrix of skills that reduces the exposure. The unsuccessful motorcyclist generally leaves motorcycling because they have refused to develop this matrix. Generally, these riders will be the ones with all the bad stories of why you should not ride a motorcycle.
A great example of how the weather can change conditions, can be a sunny day with low track temperatures or a hot sunny day with high track temperatures. Either way the track is suffering loss of grip. Once you are out of the magic window i.e. 20 to 40 degrees, things start to change massively regarding what grip is available and how you need to adjust your riding to suit.
BLUE SKIES DON’T GUARANTEE GRIP
So, if you are a self-taught rider or someone hoping to just pick it up, a rider that rides off lean angle and has no understanding of grip or how to develop grip when braking and turning. Using the 5 different systems of control, you are more than likely going to suffer a loss of traction resulting in the crashing of your motorcycle. This is unacceptable. Everyone can learn the exact way to control a motorcycle in every condition, in every type of turn, on any type of motorcycle. If you are to be an experienced motorcyclist, then you need to build that Matrix ASAP. Understanding we use brakes to warm tyres, create grip and make contact patches work is essential. Understanding the correct steering method will create grip, make better contact patch and steer efficiently.
There is an ASSUMPTION that all riders understand
- Grip level knowledge
- How to develop grip
- Conditions, surfaces and changes in riding that affect grip
Recently I was put through one of the most trying days in my life, thus this blog. I assumed that a group of riders in the fastest group at one of my Coach and Setup Days had the 3 skills listed above; which quite clearly, they didn’t. The pace most of these riders got around was scary considering their limited skills to operate a motorcycle. On reflection of this day, what became abundantly clear is just how bad the education of motorcyclist is! I don’t care if its road riders, a track rider on tar or dirt, one simple skill you will require as a motorcyclist is GRIP.
All the skills, drills and riding disciplines we develop are all centred around GRIP. We are always developing grip whether it is turning, braking, changing direction, performing evasive actions, emergency braking or simply planning the best line. Our thoughts are never too far from GRIP. Most track day riders just want to go fast and most of these riders cannot identify grip. If this is you I have some bad news, sooner or later you’re going to lose grip!
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could:
- Feel the edge of grip
- Know the correct human response
- Be able to regain grip
- NOT CRASH
See y’all soon