"Doc Wong's Motorcycle Medicine"

by Janine Freedman

San Francisco Bay Area Chiropractor Harry Wong has worked out a harmonious relationship between motorcycle riding, health and healing. He shares his holistic approach to the sport with other motorcyclists in his monthly free riding skills clinics. His clinics help riders to increase their skill level, which builds confidence in other areas. "Motorcycling requires a whole different mind set than almost any other sport," Harry says, "and from riding you end up with a better attitude."

"That's what I like about both chiropractic and motorcycles. Chiropractic is a healing method that allows a person to physically heal themselves, but it has lots of other benefits too. A patient will come in for neck pain and their headaches will go away. At the same time they get better physically, I could see them get better mentally. I wanted to see people do better mentally and emotionally."

For Harry, motorcycling provides the solitude essential for maintaining that better attitude and a clear sense of self that make him a leader. He synthesizes his individual experiences into information that he can parcel out to other motorcyclists. He recalls how he developed the 'Six Symptoms of Riding Over Your Head', which every motorcyclist can review every ride.

He came up with the symptoms after riding with a bunch of would-be racers, whose credo was 'How fast can you go?' Harry remembers, "There were times we would ride up Highway 9 and the game was who could get to the top first. You would use cars to block riders behind you. It was really dangerous. There were a few times that I made it up to the top and I would say to myself, 'I made it without crashing.' After a couple of times, it kind of shocks you. I looked at that and I thought 'That's not good. There's something wrong here.'

"On the streets if you're riding at a certain speed, at a certain skill level, the hazards increase proportionally. And so I started re-evaluating that. I started looking at the whole motorcycle scene and about that time several motorcyclists were killed on Highway 9.

"And here's the mistake that all three of these guys made - the rider was going faster than his skill level allowed. He was going around a turn really fast, he was making mid-course corrections, he was jittery. And that's how I discovered the Six Symptoms of Riding Over Your Head. By observing how riders crash."

The symptoms are:

  1. Too tight grip on the bars, as though hanging on for dear life.
  2. High level of anxiety.
  3. Mid-course corrections, wiggling around a turn instead of one smooth sweep.
  4. Braking in a turn because you think you're going too fast.
  5. Tunnel vision.
  6. Chopping the throttle.

The Six Symptoms are a mental checklist that you can go through while you are riding to continually assess yourself and your level of risk. Harry reviews them in every clinic.

If you experience any or all of the Six Symptoms, the doctor says, "Slow down! The experienced rider knows when to slow down."

Harry's organic approach allows him to easily combine the skills of street and dirt riding. All of his clinics now include techniques for both, and how to use the skills of one to reinforce the skill of the other. Harry explains how street and dirt riding differ, and also how they are similar.

"I started riding street first. Like most street riders I've met, who've never ridden in the dirt, I was deathly afraid of sand, gravel, dirt and sliding. But there are a lot of skills that are transferable from street to dirt and vice-versa.

"Riding on the street or racetrack requires specific motor skills, good eye/hand coordination, judgment, and a tolerance for higher speeds. You won't go 100 mph in the dirt. Most dirt bikes don't even go 100 mph. Almost any street bike will go a hundred. Street is a lot smoother, it's about lean angles.

"On the street, your position is pretty limited. There's some body english that you use. You do lean, you can lean off, drag your knee, etc. Unless your bike lacks clearance, the only purpose for hanging is to allow your bike to be more upright because you're going to scrape it. There are many times when I'm following other riders, going around a turn at the very same speed and they'll be dragging their knees but I'll be sitting upright. It's turning technique. A lot of times you'll see two riders go around a corner, and the rider with the better turning technique will be more upright."

Street and dirt riding require different skills and carry different risks. As a chiropractor, Harry is intimately acquainted with both. "They both have risks but as far as fatalities are concerned, you'll see street fatalities, but you'll almost never see a dirt fatality. You'll see plenty of busted collar bones, arms and sprained knees in dirt bike riding, more minor injuries. I get patients that come in because they fell or they put their foot down and got it caught in a rut or a tree root, and they twisted their knee. Or they hurt their back or neck. On the street, I think there are less injuries overall, because you fall less. However, if you do fall, you can still get killed.

"In the dirt, though, sliding is typical. In the dirt you may climb a hill. You may jump over a rock. You may be riding through the bushes. You're a lot more on the pegs. You're really dancing with the bike. The bike is bouncing around under you and you're positioning your body and things are moving around. That bike is all over the place and your body is working along with it."

Harry's wide range of riding skills and experience begs the question, "What type of bike does he ride?" That would depend on the day, since he owns fifteen. Keeping all his bikes ready to ride keeps him, along with his mechanic, plenty busy. Aside from his dirt bike, he rides a dual sport bike, a BMW, then a Suzuki RGV 250, and some restored vintage bikes. The collection doesn't end there. "I've also got some smaller bikes that I keep around for friends. I like getting people into this."

Harry is driven by a vision of the truth and he generously shares his knowledge with others. "What I find is that every time I dive into an area of knowledge, there is a lot of false information about motorcycling. I pick out what is right and put it into a workable package and then people take it and do well with it."

Riders who take one of Dr. Wong's clinics quickly become regulars, partly because he's not shy in sharing his philosophy. "I've always been a rebel. If you find most people going in one direction, and you go in the opposite direction, there's an 80% chance that you're doing the right thing."

Dr. Harry Wong's next clinic will be held on April 21 1996, and limited to 150 riders: Keith Code is scheduled as guest speaker. Doc Wong has also organized a special Keith Code California Superbike School class at Thunderhill racetrack for April 23. Call (650) 365-7775 for more info.

Doc Wong's Street Riding Clinic-Introduction and clinic dates

Riding Clinic details

Articles in City Bike, Street Bike Magazine, and others on the riding clinics

Keith Code at Doc Wong Riding Clinic

Comments by riders at the last Doc Wong Riding Clinic

Contacting Dr. Wong, registration, and the Doc-Ride mail-list

Go back to Doc Wong's Home Page