“Yesterday I did the loop for the sixth time since I started riding. It was the first time I enjoyed every moment of it, and I didn’t sweat through the corners! I got it, everything clicked!”
Christie - Guild Member
We love riding!
It’s a special feeling that can’t be achieved by going for a drive. The stress melts away, and we become one with our motorcycle as we dance through the curves. But what if you’re not a good dancer?
If you’re alone it’s not so bad. You can take it easy and go at your own pace. The trouble is that most motorcyclists are the equivalent of a drunken cousin at a wedding who insists that you get up and dance. Any concerns you voice fall on deaf ears, and you’re reminded to ride your own ride.
Everything is fine until you hit the twisties. With each successive corner you find yourself a bit further back from the rest of the group. Your friends aren’t riding faster than you are, they don’t lean as far over in the corners, yet they somehow seem to pull away. How can this be?
As you approach the next corner you roll off the throttle, brake lightly, and gradually lean your bike in. A small correction here, an adjustment there, then you roll on the throttle to get back up to speed, you’re even further back.
It doesn’t make sense.
You’re not recklessly careening into a blind bend, leaning over into the oncoming lane at the edge of traction. You just don’t feel like you can safely go any faster. You’re riding at a speed where you are sure you can turn the bike. If the tour bus behind you is going to be late arriving in Tofino, it’s their fault for not leaving sooner.
But what if you want to be more confident with your riding? You want to have more of your attention available for dealing with the unexpected dangers of riding. You want to worry less about how to control your motorcycle. How can you improve your cornering?
Over my years of coaching, one of the most common phrases I’ve heard is: “I just need more seat time.”
While spending more time on your bike builds a level of comfort and familiarity, it doesn’t do much to hone your skills. At least, not on its own. Most skills gradually decrease over time. I’ve seen it when riders let their licenses expire and have to redo their parking lot test. They’re comfortable on the bike yet they struggle with the slow speed maneuvers that riders with less than 20 hours of experience complete easily. That’s the difference between riding experience and riding skill. Which is more important to you?
Another common approach is to follow a friend who’s an experienced rider. It can be helpful watching another rider, but It’s like singing along to your favourite song in the car. You think you sound great, but there’s no feedback, no way of knowing how to fix your mistakes. How well could you sing the song acapella? How well do you corner when your friend isn’t leading you around? Repetition by itself isn’t practice. You can do the same thing repeatedly without getting any better at it. Nicholas Cage is a great example. Feedback is essential, without it, improvement is slow or impossible. The fastest and most complete way to improve at anything is through deliberate practice.
Ok, great, what’s deliberate practice?
Deliberate practice is purposeful and systematic. Take a complicated task like stopping a motorcycle as quickly as possible. You could go out to a parking lot and do a hundred stops from 50km/h with the intent of shortening your stopping distance. Did it help? Maybe, but let’s take a more deliberate approach.
We can break the task down into several sub-tasks:
· Rolling off the throttle and acquiring the levers
· Initial brake application and weight transfer
· Applying braking power
· Front/Rear brake balance
· Maintaining the threshold of lock-up
· Holding onto the bike
· Keeping your weight off your hands
· Keeping your head up
By breaking the task down into bite size chunks, you can focus on each aspect individually. Using drills that focus on one aspect dispense with the needless distractions. It’s much less daunting to improve your initial brake application and weight transfer than it is to get better at braking. The improvement you see from focusing on a small task is a great motivator when compared to the letdown of trying to fix everything at once.
How do you know when you’re making mistakes?
This is where a skilled coach comes in. You need a coach who has experience working with students like you and who can they identify the root causes of your current struggles. Great coaches not only help you, but they reflect on your feedback to further refine their coaching. And don’t worry about impressing your coach. The best students are the ones who leave their ego at home and push themselves to focus on the goal of the exercise.
The last piece of the puzzle is to get outside of your comfort zone. The trouble is panic sets in if we get too far outside of our comfort zone. It’s hard to learn anything if you’re busy panicking. We have a technique that allows you to stay calm while pushing yourself. That’s another post.
There you have it, a nice little teaser for your cornering course. If you like the way we think, then we would love to work with you. Regardless of what you’re riding, we can decrease the uncertainty and increase the enjoyment of cornering. See you soon!