Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: The 8th Ring
I Ride: 04 ZX6-R, 07 R6 (Sold), 09 DRZ400S (Sold, but forever in my heart) 2015 XT250
M.O.M's Thoughts On Riding: For Beginners & Street Riders
Everyone likes talking about bikes and mods, and tires, and whatnot but there seems to be an almost taboo assignment to the role of the rider in the act of proficient motorcycling. In light of the start of riding season (in most areas) I thought I would throw out some wisdom from my own modest perspective that people seem to overlook. As always, feel free to contribute or dispute and please bear in mind that this is coming from the perspective of someone who cares more about being a smooth and consistent rider than leading the pack.
I am not expecting that any of this is going to make you a better rider, but rather I aim to share some insight that might better allow you to avoid putting yourself in otherwise avoidable situations. If you have a death wish, or a genuine disregard for responsible riding then you'll probably be clicking your way out of this thread by now. But for those of you looking for a little feedback on how you can be a safer rider and still have a little fun, then read on.
1. There is a time and a place to ride like a fool: If you like to do wheelies in traffic then expect that you are going to crash in traffic. If you like to speed and weave in and out of traffic, expect that you are going to crash in traffic. While there are occasions where the designated speed limit is inappropriate (rural areas maybe?) expect that if the posted limit is 35, then there is a reason you shouldn't be doing 90. Cross traffic, school zones, business districts, etc. All of these places are cesspools for motorcycle accidents and hauling ass through them only increases your chances of getting taken out. So use a little common sense and if you just absolutely MUST go 90 through the yellow light at the intersection, then you should probably be taking into account the dude inching out from a right turn who "can't see you."
2. On that note, and this is probably the most important bit of wisdom I share with anyone (especially those who like to lane split): bear in mind that if the DMV indicates that drivers should scan their mirrors every 10-15 seconds and you are lane splitting at 50, even the most upstanding motor-vehicle operator is not going to notice your presence until he cycles through another scan. Since we all know that drivers very seldom follow the guidelines outlined by the DMV we can safely assume that the car driver will have NO way of knowing that you just came barreling through the row of cars behind him and that you are now right in the path of the lane change he is in the process of making (without using a turn signal) . Yes, he is accountable for not scanning his mirrors, but you are also accountable because there is no way that in 10-15 seconds he will be able to appropriately take note of your presence when you are riding that quickly. This is only compounded when you are weaving in and out of traffic.
3. So we've concluded that drivers are inattentive assholes. How can you avoid this? Well... you can't. But you can reduce your chance of getting bit by it when you are hyperattentive. We've all heard the theories on target fixation and I think this is a good rule of thumb to apply to street riding as well. When you are in traffic it's good to know where you're going, but its also important to know where everyone else is going as well. While we can't read minds we can make ourselves aware of driver cues. I spend a lot of time reading side mirrors and the flow of traffic when I am riding in a gaggle of cages or lane splitting. If I can see in a guys side mirror that he is doing a crossword puzzle, I can assume that his behavior is going to be erratic, he might even become startled by my sudden presence. So I put myself in the best position to avoid succumbing to his destruction; OR I pace along behind him until I see him notice that I'm there. If I simply fixated on the free spot in traffic, or the lead of the line, then I might not notice that traffic flowing erratically, or that the guy is texting and he is about to panic and jerk his wheel into my path.
4. Chicken Strips: This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I find it to be a mildly ignorant assumption that chicken-strips = slow. Espeically, when we are talking about street riding. Sure, plenty of newbs are intimidated by the lean capabilities of their bikes. But just because a person has a quarter inch strip on each side of the tire doesn't necessarily mean that they are slow by any means. It has a lot to do with body position. When I am hanging off the bike, I actually lean the bike less but it doesn't mean I'm riding any slower. I have passed people who are leaned over way further than me but cornering way slower than me. What a joy it was when the same asshole who was poking fun at my "chicken strips" at the beginning of the ride, had nothing to say by the end of the ride.
5. Keeping up: This is where my perspective bias really comes forth. Since I care more about being smooth and consistent, I obviously sacrifice a lot of speed. That's just my personal preference. But the way I see it, the more skilled you are at riding your bike the faster you will go naturally. It doesn't necessarily work the other way; the faster you ride your bike doesn't necessarily mean that you are capable of maneuvering it on a whim. A few months ago I went on a ride with a guy who was pretty quick. He blew past me in a stunning display of bravado to keep up with the alpha males of the pack. I held my ground, watching him run wide and check up in almost every corner. All the while I thought: He's lucky there wasn't a car in that lane, or a cow right there." Shortly thereafter he crashed, as I expected that he would. His riding not only put him in danger but it put everyone else in danger as well. Since he wasn't very skilled at riding, his tactic for passing was to tailgate the other riders all the way through corners until they either waved him on, or he found a straight to blast around them on. As we all know, my personal experience with tailgaters is of the worst-case variety so I'm never going to take that kind of riding with a grain of salt.
6. The Company You Keep: I've been fortunate enough to have laid-back, supportive riders as friends. But I've met plenty of riders who like to bully newbies into riding beyond their skill levels. All I will say is you're better off riding alone if this is your social circle; ESPECIALLY if you are inclined to try and prove people wrong. While riding solo has its disadvantages, riding in a group of bullies can be twice as hazardous. At least when you are riding solo you aren't going to feel pressured to ride beyond your means and you can move at your own pace.
For the sake of brevity I will cut this short and open it up for others to contribute. I am of the opinion that good riding starts with good sense. Just because you can ride aggressively doesn't mean you can do it skillfully or sensibly. You might be able to move as erratically as you want on your bike... but sometimes that can put you at greater risk than you realize.
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