"I live ten miles from Alice's restaurant, so these hills are like my back yard," Harry Wong tells us. "One year I rode 30,000 miles on these roads, and I've taken Pridmore's class, and Code's classes, and talked with a lot of people who knew a lot about riding. And the more I learned, the more I could see the mistakes others were making... I've personally seen people get killed. And so about a year and a half ago, we were talking about what we could do to improve things, and I said we should start a safety class. One thing led to another, and so here we are today."
Wong, a 42-year-old chiropractor, is running free monthly clinics that consist of a one-hour lecture followed by a three-hour ride, during which participants are to concentrate on the riding subject of the day. An example would be appreciating the benefit of keeping one's weight on the outside peg. "It just happened to rain the day we covered that one," Wong laughs, "and so we had all these people just raving about it. They inadvertently got into slides, and because their weight was on the outside peg, they just slid right around the turns, no problem."
Besides the main topic of the day, the morning discussions also cover three standard subjects:
1. Riding over one's skill level, and the symptoms of it: Hands tight on the bars, braking in corners and changing lines mid-corner. "These are symptoms everybody should recognize," Wong says. "They're the ones that people who get hurt have been ignoring."
2. Public relations. "I've been to the homeowners meetings and the thing that really scares 'em is having a bike coming at 'em in their lane. I also talk to the CHP regularly."
3. When riding with others of similar skill levels, Wong recommends slowing down on the straights. "Anybody can gun it down a straight part," he points out. "The fun is in the corners, and slowing down on the straights takes the race out of the ride."
"The whole approach is toward enhancing skill levels. As opposed to: 'Let's ride slower' or 'Let's ride safer'...nobody's gonna listen to that. If we wanted a totally safe sport, we'd stay home and knit. Riding is inherently dangerous, but if you improve your skills and ride within your limits you can go at a very high speed and increase your survival too. A common mistake is to not realize there's an exact technology to riding, as opposed to just riding by the seat of the pants and just trying to learn by experience; you can learn that way, but you have to make a lot of mistakes. But if you approach it with the attitude that there is knowledge out there that you can apply and make work, you can have a safer and more fun motorcycling experience."
If this sounds a bit like Keith Code, it's because Code and Wong are old friends. In fact, Code was the guest lecturer at a recent clinic, for which about 150 people showed up.
We asked how Wong dared to run a clinic of this kind on public roads in today's lawsuit-happy society, and he just shrugged it off. After talking about how he wasn't the kind of person who got sued, and that "The benefit to the riders who attended the clinic outweighs the legal risk," he reflected a bit longer and said, "Yeah, it's a risk. And I'm taking it."
Spoken like a true motorcyclist.
The next clinic will be on April 23. Subject: "Cornering Confidence--Steering Input." It starts at 8:00 AM at Dr. Wong's Redwood City Chiropractic office at 1391 Woodside Road. Call (650) 365-7775 or Docwong@aol.com to register.
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