Written by: Hans Van Weersch
Last week's ride was great again. It was the second time for me to participate in a Doc ride. Although I am riding motorcycles for 18 years I still very much feel that I am learning something in the DocWong rides.
I have been riding a 1975 Suzuki GT750 (a killing machine), the 1993 GSXR750 and now the 1996 GSXR750. As I am living in the USA only since 2 years, most of my experience is Europe. There I got most of my riding enjoyment out of very high speed trips out on the German Autobahn. So, this was mainly cruising for an hour at 130 miles per hour with frequent excursions to 160 mph. With no speed limit the focus was on the road and not on waiting cops. With a perfect road surface (generally available in Europe) and good equipment, this could be done safely on a quiet Sunday morning. The Autobahn curves a little bit every now and then, so mastering these curves at topspeed was more than sufficient exitement.
Motor cycle riding in California (I guess in all the USA) is very different from above mentioned experience. Here the emphasis is much more on cornering than on speed. This means for me personally that I have to re-educate and re-train myself in these new skills. The Doc Wong rides are an excellent occasion for that.
In riding here in California I found that my cornering skills are very poor. I often feel that I am scared to hell in a speedy curve when I see some dirt on the road and all those tree's rushing by. My splitt-second thoughs often go like this: "If I loose it here, I am going to end up in that tree over there". Under these circumstances, I clearly feel that I am locking up, which makes the situation even worse, sometimes coming to the point that I realy nearly loose it. Fortunately this has not happened up till now. I am not planning on having it happen by the way.
The last "cornering skills, judging entrance speeds" ride was a very good occasion to practice the one and other. I was already quite familiar with the steering inputs (pushing the handle bars) but there is a remark I would like to make here. In my opinion cycle steering is a complex process in which different sub processes are involved. The two main processes are weight shift and handle bar input. It is not difficult to see. You can steer any cycle (bicycle, motor cycle) without your hands on the handle bar. (not advisable to try on the public road, but try it on a bicycle) This is purely by weight shift. On the other hand you can clearly feel that the bike wants to turn (left) if you push the (left) handle bar on the straight. Conclusion: In a well performed turn, both processes are active. Something like using both front and rear breaks simultaneously for best breaking performance.
Now to my learning. In my above descibed difficulties in turning (after having listened carefully to the presentation) I could notice that my weight shift was ok, but I was completely locked up on the handle bars, just giving wrong steering input. This happened to me twice during this ride, one time on Jameson Creek road and I nearly went out. In the split second that I noticed this, I was able to release the lock on the handlebars, (in clamping my knees onto the tank and releasing arm pressure) and the machine made the curve perfectly alright. The bad thing was of course that I had gotten too close to my limit, the good thing was the excellent learning experience.
To me this showed very clearly that the machine can do much more but I still have quite something to learn. The fact that with the presentation and the practice I was able to correct a potentially dangerous situation, has significantly improved my confidence. I will see that this does not grow into over-confidence. After all this exercise, the icing on the cake (highway 9) was absolutely incredible.
I can recommend the Doc Wong ride to everybody.
See you next time.
Hans Van Weersch
Ridin' and Grinnin' in the Santa Cruz Mountains
The Doc Wong clinic on Sunday turned out to be a blast. The weather was perfect (sixty's to almost eighty, clear skies, light breeze), the roads for the most part were in good condition, and there were no mishaps reported. My Thanks to COG members Spencer Farrow, Homer Holmes, Andy Sager, Keith Harris, John Whites for coming out to represent COG. Also, I'd like to thank my friend Dean Mortenson and his girlfriend Christi for joining us two up on Dean's V65 Magna. I can't imagine doing this ride two up (Cristi was unable to ride her Seca due to bruising a finger on her left hand) and my hat's off to them. And of course thanks to Doc Wong for a great experience.
The day started off with everyone gathering at Doc's chiropractic clinic. It seems the combination of being the first clinic of the season and perfect weather got a lot of people to show up. We had 75 riders, not including the 5 group leaders and Doc. Riders were a motley mix of newbies with only a few months riding experience to some old road dogs who have more miles under their wheels than they can keep track of. The pre-ride session had Doc setting the mood for the day with stories, anecdotes and questions that had us all laughing. His topic was judging corner entrance speeds and riding in such a way that you don't need to use your brakes to set up for a corner. We all know this as "The Pace".
After the discussion on entrance speed, Doc introduced the group leaders. These guys are some of the most capable riders you'll find anywhere. The riders then broke into groups of eleven or twelve based on each riders own perceived ability. The order of the groups were the go fast types in the first or second group, slow or inexperienced riders in the last two groups, and everyone else in between. If I remember correctly, it was Homer and Andy in group three, with the rest of the gang in group four.
Once the groups assembled with their bikes we headed out. In the interest of public relations and safety, there was a 3 or 4 minute gap between groups. Doc had mentioned that it was O.K. to use the brakes for corners going up the hill on Kings Mountain Road. As it turned out, there are some sharp turns that sneak up on you and using the brakes was definitely required. Once we reached Skyline Blvd, we headed back downhill on Tunitas Creek Rd. to the coast. This wash board of a road is a little more than a lane wide. Even with the poor pavement, it was a blast. After reaching the coast, we cut back inland about a half mile to Stage Rd., which we followed down to Gazos Creek Rd. These were generally in better shape than Tunitas Crk. with more open sight lines and faster curves. But you still had to be careful. There were a couple of off camber high speed turns were you had to keep the bike upright and steer through, rather than countersteer. You could literally drive the bike out from under you if you countersteered into one of these turns.
After a short lunch stop at Davenport on the coast, we headed up Bonny Doone Rd. to Pine Flat and Empire Grade. These are smooth high speed roads that are just wonderful to ride. At the top of Empire Grade, we turned and dropped down Jameson Creek Rd. I do mean dropped; add some snow and this would be black diamond terrain. As my group leader pointed out, corner set up is particularly important on this road. He mentioned that he had never seen anyone crash on this road who was on the throttle at the entrance of a curve. However, he had seen a lot of crashes by people who were braking into and through the turns. I guess the point is to brake early and set up your turn so that you can power through it. Great stuff though. All the way down you could smell a combination of burning rubber and overheated brakes. Never did figure out if it was from the guys in front of me, or from my bike :-) At the bottom we turned on Hwy 236 for a short hop over to Hwy 9 for the final dash to the end of the ride.
As the groups gathered at Lookout Point at the intersection of Hwy 9 and Skyline, it was evident that everyone had enjoyed themselves. There were grins all around and no one had anything negative to say. Well, there was this one pickup driver that tested my group leaders patience, but that's another story :-)
As for me? Well I was feeling cocky, so I joined group two with leader Andy on his Ducati 916, who I came to find out later is considered to be the fastest and smoothest rider in the entire bay area. Watching him proved this to be true. The way he would set up for the corner; the way he would flick the bike over on the perfect line; the way he would accelerate from the before the apex all the way through the corner - he was flawless. I saw him touch the brakes only once on the entire ride. At least while I could keep him in sight. Got to admit, as good as the Concours is, it's no match for a lightened and breathed on Duc. I had to forget practicing the days topic and use everything the Connie had to keep him in sight. I did O.K. though. Started the morning in sixth position and slid back to eighth (out of eleven) where I settled in for the rest of the ride. In the tight stuff, the four Duc's (3 - 916's and a 900SS), a breathed on Honda Hawk, Suzi GSXR and a Honda single that looked like a Hawk (single sided swingarm, similar styling, probably gray market), would just run away from me. Those bikes are just made for the tight stuff. But give me an open stretch with 100 mph straights and 70 mph sweepers and I'd reel 'em back in. In the tight stuff it was second and third gear, roll on the throttle before the apex and have it wide open at the exit. Then grab a handful of brakes approaching the next turn. Repeat as often as necessary. So much for "The Pace". It was amazing though, following those guys and watching what I imagined as a snake slithering up and down the hills and around the turns. They were in such sync that it was truly memorable.
All in all a truly fine day with some wonderful roads and riders. I've ridden these roads before , but never at the pace that my group leader set. I think I went from my usual 65%-70% level up to an 85%-90% level. Riding with a group of riders who all had the same mind set seemed to make it easier to go fast. There was no racing invloved; everyone was aware of each others position and signaled road hazards to watch for, as well as waving you by if he felt he was holding you up.
Now what I need is for more COG members to come to Doc's April 6th clinic. The press is going to be there in the form of a writer from Rider magazine and it would be nice if we could have a large COG turn out; maybe get some free press :-)
That's all for now. Hope you all had as good a weekend as we did. See you on
the next ride,
San Jose, CA
COG at www.concours.org
|Subj:||A good experience.|
|Date:||96-11-11 14:28:25 EST|
|From:||firstname.lastname@example.org (Elizabeth Taylor)|
I wrote this to a friend about my experience, but it occurred to me you might like to know what it's like to take your clinic. It was a good learning experience. I've also had fun riding with the group.
I really think that you have a lot to offer riders both in terms of going faster, better, and safer, but even more so in the way you teach attitude to people.
Your clinic is also a place where I can experience a challenge at my own level and yet still share the fun of being with others. It is a unique opportunity, one I am grateful for.
Oh, what a ride at Doc Wong's clinic this Sunday. Small group, beautiful day. I learned a lot.
There were 3 groups. Doc Wong asked if anyone in the third might feel OK about riding in the 2nd, and since things went so well last time, I was one of the ones who did.
This one turn convinced me otherwise. First of all, I felt stressed out that morning. I also wasn't focused. The first road is King's Mountain. I wanted very much to keep up with the group. Lesson #1 is humility. I took a turn and made 3, yes, 3 mistakes. The first was I turned too soon. I was not with it. I know I've done much better before. The second was I slowed down, and because of that as I leaned, my boot dragged. Later people told me I had plenty more room to lean farther, and that would have been the best choice as well as accelerating again. Because my shoe dragging freaked me out, I decided to let the bike drift wide a little and make the turn anyway. Well, that works in turns where there is a "wide" to go to! This one was so tight I was in the other lane. This still could have been saved by flicking the bike, counter-steering hard right, and the turn would have been a beautiful save, as I was then at a good point to make the apex of the turn and I could have finished in my own lane. I wasn't really on top of things but I was still thinking. Well, at that point I lost the presence of mind I had managed till then. The worst mistake is I just was afraid and got what Wong calls tunnel vision. You stop looking where you're going and you hold on for dear life and usually that's when people crash, especially since you wind up going where you're looking and most people are looking down. I recovered presence of mind to tell myself to turn the baby and I did complete the turn, but I shot out of it in the other lane and could easily have wrecked the bike or myself. A very disappointing performance all the way around.
On top of that, the group leader was a woman. She suggested I might need to join the slower group. I actually agreed with her, especially after riding down Tunitas Cr. I spent the next stage through the larger sweepers on Stage Rd. secretly crying cause by then everything sucked, it was already a bad day. Of course, you can't cry real hard when you're riding, and I don't cry much anyway, but this was just too humiliating. I really felt like a "girl". Oh, well, I determined to be safer, because I do have a sense of good sportsmanship and a couple miles later my attitude was readjusted and I was enjoying the beauty of the day (at a slower pace). OK, so then later at a rest stop, I talked to the group leader, the woman leading the group I had dropped out of. She said, to paraphrase, they're are always people a lot better than you, no matter who you are. She used to try to keep up with guys that were incredible or insane or something (my choice of words entirely, but she did say theyfelt comfy at 160 :) ), and she learned by crashing a lot. The sting of the humiliation vanished, and we shared a moment of mutual respect, me for her courage and she for my common sense.
Oh, well, another good ride after all. I learned a lot about cornering cause I talked to a bunch of people about approaching turns. OK, so start into a turn at a pace you can take it without slowing down. Don't slow down (especially for me, my bike can absolutely do anything I ever ask of it) and actually add slightly more throttle so the speed stays the same through the turn. I need to flick the bike faster in the tight twisties, I have a real tendency to want to lean over slowly and gradually like in the sweepers. It DOES NOT work. Go slower, maintain speed through the turn, flick faster, and go at my own pace. I felt real good by the end of the ride, and real tired. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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