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Ride Faster Today…

…says the splash headline on the front cover of the September 2010 issue of RiDE magazine.

Usually, I open up articles like this with a slightly jaundiced look, as they normally attempt to rationalise knee down antics as good riding skills, or are a thinly disguised advert for a particular school or advanced riding organisation.

But in this case I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong.

The sub-head when I turned to the article was

“can you really become a better rider in just a few hours?”

Well, as my own ‘Bends’ course is five hours long, I would definitely answer that question in the affirmative, so I read on.

The guinea pig was a 58 year old bloke, who had ridden in his youth but only passed his test in 2007 after having a ride (ahem!) on his daughter’s boyfriend’s Multistrada.

They had three experts to look over his riding, a national class racer, a police rider who runs his own advanced training school, and a CBT/DAS/ERS instructor who runs his own school too.

They did four laps of a 14 mile course; all together, then with the police rider, the racer and the bike instructor.

Refreshingly, they all spotted much the same problems.

The trainee wasn’t moving around in his lane as much as he could have done, he was taking up positions to see further ahead late, and not giving himself sufficient margin to hazards to left or right in his lane, getting close to blind junctions and oncoming vehicles.

They also picked up that he was apexing corners too early, taking the racing line which on blind left handers means you can’t see the exit of the corner and can run wide if you haven’t judged the path of the bend perfectly. But where he could have straight-lined some bits of twisty road, he didn’t take the opportunity.

They also picked up some problems around other road users. When following other vehicles, he was too close and lost the opportunity to see past to plan his overtakes.

In terms of machine control, they noted that his coordination of brakes, gears and throttle was compromising the stability of the machine.

One of the instructors highlighted the fact that riders can over-analyse their riding, looking too much to theory to sort out the problems. I’m not 100% in agreement with that, as knowledge is a key part of better riding skills. Skills should be thought of as a triangle:

  1. machine control

  2. knowledge

  3. mental skills including restraint

The other two are useless without the third.

One of the best observations of the day was from the police rider:

“Slower made you smoother, smooth means slicker, and slick eventually means quicker.”

It’s exactly the same thing I say to my own trainees and to people who enquire about courses, particularly those who want to ride faster. The key to riding faster is to slow down.

I know it sounds wrong but with the extra time that slowing down offers, you get chance to practice the right techniques, then as you ride you get lines, machine control, turn-in points, etc, right rather than wrong. Then the stress levels go away, and as you relax, so the speed comes.

And here’s why; it’s about the only point that the expert riders failed to explain.

It’s a damn sight easier to ride quickly if you know where you MUST ride slowly for your own safety. Take the scary bits out and the rest, by definition, must be the safer bits where you can add speed.

Many of the riders who turn up thinking they are riding too slowly are actually trying to push too hard in the wrong places… and NOT making the progress they could in the easy places!

So, if you’re a rider who thinks they should be able ride faster… it’s worth taking the advice contained in this RiDE article and asking an instructor about how slowing down might help you speed up, and realising it’s not courses that promise loads of miles, but training that targets and fixes specific problems that gets the results!

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