I had heard of Dr Wong's street riding clinics from the newsgroups, and decided to go in for this week's class with my new Honda Nighthawk 750. It was still in the break-in period, with just 400 miles on it, and I was worried about the oil-change at 600. I thought maybe I will skip the actual ride and just attend the lecture.
But the atmosphere made me change my mind. People had a great attitude towards newcomers and there were many like me who were there for the first time. About 50 people in total, I think. Some of them were pretty experienced. I don't think anyone had a cruiser, all had either sportbikes or standards. I got to see so many different kinds of bikes though. Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Buell, Triumph, BMW, Yamaha....
This month's topic was "Smooth Riding: Steering Input". At first we talked about how we didn't feel confident about steering our bikes and how we corrected and re-corrected ourselves in a turn, became anxious and tense, held on tightly to handlebars, got afraid, had tunnel vision, etc.
It was said that the above symptoms were due to:
- Going beyond our abilities (maybe in order to keep up with the group).
- Not having the proper posture (and pressure angle) on the handlebars.
- Not giving the right steering input.
The first of these was really upto the person himself and he had to decide to go slower. But emphasis was also put on the group's responsibility to be sensitive to every person's ability and to group together at the intersections.
Accordingly, in this class, we were all divided into six groups, group one being the highly skilled one, and group six being the relatively inexperienced one (I was in group six, feeling that I shouldn't be over-confident in what was my first class). There were 5-10 people in each group.
The second of these points received the most attention. Inexperienced riders ride tense, gripping the handlebars and not letting the bike do its work. One should have own's elbows bent and relaxed, the hands lightly gripping the bars and the body weight distributed on the seat, tank (through knees, also the stomach in case of sportbikes), and the pegs. But not on the handlebars, as that interferes with the bike's steering and numbs and tires the hands.
Also, the pressure on the handlebars when steering should be to turn the bars. Sounds simple, but it was obvious that many of us actually pushed down on the bars when turning, which had no effect at all.
The third point was on how to steer. Counter-steering, letting the bike do the work (even when it hit a pothole and swerved), making as few inputs as possible (in order to be smooth), deciding on the line of turn early, looking where we're going (as opposed to target fixation) and accelerating in the turn were discussed.
So off we went down Skyline. The initial roads were very twisty and most of my attention was not on applying what I had learnt but just following the road, as I was new to this route.
The education showed, however, during the later period of the ride at Bonny Doone road, and in the end, at Highway 9, at which point I was experienced enough and smoothly leaning the bike and looking through the turns to go. I was enjoying it!
All in all, it was a great experience, a total of 120 miles covered and skills enhanced!
With Warm Regards,