Doc Wong Ride Topics:
Survival Skills, 16 May 1999

by Brandon High


The weather was awesome. The roads were great. The clinic gave good advice. A good time was had by all. If anyone cares, I was on a 1988 Ninja 600R, wearing crashed (er, broken in) First Gear pants and jacket, and a black Shoei helmet.

I also got my confidence back. Crashing has a tendency to sap it a bit. It was good to see that, even on the "bad" bike, I was probably in the top 25% - 30% of the riders out there. (Ok, that would be a C in school, but I feel that it was a good thing.)

There were 7 groups, 1 being the fastest, 7 being the slowest. Not knowing how hard it would be, I started in group 5. I thought we'd have a chance to gas up, (we didn't) so right after turning onto King's Mountain I had to turn around and get gas. (So, for a short period I was group 8.) After gassing up, I passed group 7, on KM, then group 6, and hooked up with group 5 a bit down Tunitas Creek (It's a torn up, dirty, twisty hellhole of a road. Parts of it made Mine Rd. look like a 4 lane highway. I loved it.) After a little bit stuck behind a rider on an older FZR, I decided to jump up to group 4, which I did at the next rest stop.

After lunch, I contemplated jumping to group 3, but someone told me that it would be getting harder. I was feeling a little unconfident in my hardware and in myself, so I stayed in 4. I wish now that I had gone into a higher group - I wasn't challenged enough, but this is probably for the best. It allowed my head to swell to its previous dimensions.

Topic covered was "Lines of travel". Very good for everyone, especially as the pace picks up. Breaking things down the the fundamentals, it amounted to this: Know where to start your turn, and where to stop your turn. It sounds simple, but it's not. I was fighting with this for a long time, and finally started to figure this out the day I thrashed my ZX-7.

Step one in turning: Identify where you want to start your turn. (Point one) Do this early, since you can do it as soon as you see the turn. The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can go to step 2. Set your start point deep into the turn, since it lets you see further around the corner, giving you an opportunity to see more of the road as weel as traffic.

Step two: Look through the turn, identifying where the turn ends, or at least where you want to end your turn. (Point two) Getting through step one early gives you more time to work on this. Keep your eyes looking through the turn.

Step three: When you reach point one, turn towards point two! Start looking for point one of the next turn.

Step four: Rinse. Repeat.

One way that I got myself to turn later is to wait until I knew it was too late, then turn. After doing it a few times, I got used to going deeper into the turn. It's much more comfortable now, which means I can do it easier.

Things to look out for:

  1. "I'm going to run wide" - If you think this, you'll turn in too early, and have to make a mid-turn correction, or run off the inside of the turn.
  2. "I'm going to fast" - Tendency to chop the throttle and/or tap the front brakes. Bad, bad, bad, because it causes a weight transfer to the front wheel, making steering harder. At the minimum, keep the throttle steady. Optimally roll on slightly, since this will transfer weight backwards and make turning easier! (The annoyingly loud pipes on my bike helped, because I got audible feedback when I started to cut the gas.)
  3. "Oh shit! I'm gonna die!" (Riding over your head) - Tendency to tighten up on the bars. Tunnel vision, and target fixation result. My personal workaround is to grab the tank tighter with my knees when I feel my arms stiffen, then loosen my arms. I've trained my reactions to grab with my knees tightly when I'm feeling freaked out now. I'll probably crush a tank one of these days. Target fixation is bad, because you tend to run right towards what you're looking at. For target fixation, I force myself to look up and down through the curve and keep my eyes moving. Helps prevent tunnel vision and gets me so see the curve ahead.

-Brandon High



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