Lieback’s Lounge Motorcycle Commentary
When the subject of riding well surfaces, most motorcyclists say experience trumps all. The response is usually the same regardless of what riding situation, whether safety on the street, smoothness on a dirt single-track, or lower lap times on the racetrack.
I agree that experience helps create better riders, but it’s only a side note to what I believe are the three most essential elements of riding well: successful rider modeling, continuous education, and nonstop practice of technique.
Sure, those who learn from only experience will eventually develop sharper riding skills, but at the cost of loads of wasted time. When you rely on just experience, multiple mistakes will occur. Some that can cause serious pain, which usually results in giving up on motorcycling itself, or worse, a loss of a rider.
By combining these three elements—modeling the best as a moto modeler, self-education and continuous practice—the route to riding better is much quicker. I’ve witnessed new riders who have followed this concept ride better after a single summer than a 10-year veteran who learned from only experience, and that includes me.
When I was younger, I fell into the “experience matters most” category due to my friends and some family members. It wasn’t until my late 20s, when I started traveling 1000s of miles alone, that I knew experience wasn’t the only route to safety. A few things I read and learned from modeling serious travelers, such as Helge Pedersen and technique from Keith Code, helped create safer and more enjoyable rides.
When modeling and self-educating, remember to only use the best resources rather than the egotistical friend or stupefied social media mentors. The latter is the worse. There are zillions of opinions posted daily on Facebook groups or forums about riding technique from people who barely know how to ride themselves.
It’s always the track day dude with a season of experience teaching newbies horrible body position, or the R 1200 GS ADV fella who just learned how to stand on the pegs during fire-road riding, but is teaching big-bike, single-track traction mastery.
I sneer at such social dysfunction, and stay far away. As social media continuously garners traction, consuming the collective conscious of society, these horrible mentoring situations escalate. The arguments over vastly different opinions also never end.
I’m not a social media Luddite. My other means of survival is through working within the digital marketing world, and I know people put high prices on the value of social media.
If riders—especially newbies—want to learn correctly, they first should start with a concentrated discipline in rider education. Study the techniques by known safety writers within our industry, including Code (review of California Superbike School Levels 1-3 coming soon!), Nick Ienatsch, David Hough, and Ken Condon, to name a few.
Read what they say, and watch videos of the way they ride. Each one may have different ways of teaching or vastly different techniques, but try them all and find out what works best for you.
Next, you should model only the best. Want to learn proper body technique for track riding? Model the body positioning of championship winners—nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, two-time SBK Champion Jonathan Rea, and four-time AMA SBK winner Josh Hayes are a good start.
How about big-bike ADV? My main riders to model are Dakar podium finisher/Baja champion Jimmy Lewis (Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School) and Jim Hyde of RawHyde Adventures. I learned more from modeling Jimmy Lewis at a Touratech-USA Rally than I did the entire two previous years of ADV training.
Finally, constant practice of what you learned. For me, this is not only about building skill, but also lethargy. This is especially true of my big-bike ADV practice regime.
When there’s minimal snow on the ground in Northeast Pennsylvania, I practice skills learned from education and modeling on my El Mule—a 2002 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom with 80K+ miles—for a few lunch-break hours a week. It’s the hardest bike to ride effectively on single track, but helps develop skills quicker due to this.
I basically take El Mule into the woods and seek out the tightest spots possible at the slowest speeds possible. It has cost me three clutches in the past few years, and a couple heavy workouts to get the bike unwedged from trees. Though difficult, it’s the ultimate skill builder.
This ADV practice regime also gets my mind off the 80+ hour work weeks. For the same amount of time that people spend on social media reading commentary or debating horrible riding techniques, I’m building skill and detuning the mind. Nothing in the world of social media can quite compete with that.
This story is from our latest digital magazine found at the Ultimate Motorcycling App, available for free on iOS or Android devices.