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Let’s talk about Fight Club.

Yesterday, I was visiting with a friend who has signed up for Cornering101 this season. I was walking him through what to expect on the course and the goal of each lesson. He is a long-time road rider, and he’s recently taken a few parking lot based riding courses.

The first lesson of Cornering101 is a great visual drill that we use as a foundation for the rest of the course. Riders work to follow a consistent line through each corner by using a specified turn point, mid-corner target, and entry speed. This doesn’t have to be the best way through the corner, nor does it have to be fast. We’re not concerned with either. Consistent repetition is our goal.


My friend, let’s call him Skippy, protested a bit: “I’m a street rider. There are far too many variables on the street. You can’t just pick a speed, a turn point, and a target and stick to it. You have to leave lots of room for the unknown and constantly evaluate the changing conditions.”

Skippy is right. We don’t recommend riding like that on the street, so why would we start our course out with a drill that isn’t appropriate for the environment where most of our students spend most of their time?

I enjoy analogies, and I really enjoy analogies that relate to an area of interest to the student. I hit Skippy with the following two.

Aaron Judge is a great baseball player. He’s won awards for his ability to hit a baseball a long way. A quick YouTube search shows videos of Aaron in a batting cage, hitting a baseball off a tee. Why would one of the best batters in the world be using a piece of equipment typically associated with 5-year-olds? He’s in a batting cage. Why not turn the pitching machine to more closely replicate a game scenario? Using a tee allows Aaron to focus on the mechanics of his swing by removing the need to time the approach of the pitch.

If you want to work on a specific skill, simplify the drill and remove distractions.

Skippy has a great deal of experience in martial arts. I asked him: “Have you ever been to a martial arts school where all they ever do is fight each other.” Of course, his answer was no.

“That’s not a school, that’s Fight Club.”

When starting in martial arts, you work on simple moves with a focus on technique and consistency. You’re developing your skills and abilities until they become automatic. The middle of a match is not a place to be thinking about how to punch or kick. Your focus should be at a higher level.

So how does precise and consistent cornering on a closed circuit benefit your road riding?

Apart from providing us with a strong foundation for subsequent drills, our first drill has many take-home skills. A refined sense of speed and an ability to evaluate the upcoming corners are nice, but the biggest benefit is the ability to accurately place the bike where you want it and to follow the line you need it to. Refining those skills until they are automatic, and working to keep them sharp on the track will free up your mind so you can focus on safely navigating the ever-changing environment of street riding.

It could be the difference between safely navigating the clean line through a big patch of mid-corner gravel on your casual Sunday morning ride and a less desirable result.

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