I was hurting pretty bad this morning; I managed to pinch a nerve in my middle back when I was tying up my boots. I loaded up on Tylenol and Ibuprofen and headed out. Another student offered some Icy Hot so I applied that liberally before we started.
We fired the bikes up at 8:00 A.M. with the first hour for warm-up and practice. Like most others, I started slow on the slow cone weave and offset cone weave, then the 90 degree pull-out, both directions, then the intersection and the keyhole. I was feeling pretty good right away and was able to make clean passes on all of the exercises. The intersection, the 90 degree pullout and the keyhole all must be done in both directions. The pullout is no problem, but the keyhole and the intersection most certainly are. I can do them both with relative ease at this point going counter-clockwise, but clockwise is quite another story.
At 9:00 A.M. we split into 2 groups, one working on emergency braking and the other staying on the pad and practicing all of the exercises. I was up to do braking first and may have gone into it a little over-confident. On my first 40 mph pass I managed to lock the front wheel. Let me tell you, when this happens, you KNOW it’s happened. Serious pucker factor kicked in. Immediately release and properly reapply was drilled into us, so this is what I did and I managed to stay upright. The instructor said the wheel was locked for 6 to 8 feet…it felt further! I might have been a little gunshy after that, but finished out OK. One thing of note…I have a newfound appreciation for the newer Brembo brakes, be they ABS or not. I can really tell the difference when I get off of that bike and back onto my ’07. Brembo’s really are much better.
At about 10:30 it was our turn out on the pad. I worked almost exclusively on the intersection and the keyhole, trying and trying to get through them going clockwise. I did manage to whip the intersection several times and feel pretty good about that, but the keyhole apparently has my number.
After lunch our groups went off to braking and pad work again. Due to clutch issues with one of the bikes in the other group, they went to work on braking first and my group went to the pad. I went right back where I’d left off, working the intersection and keyhole clockwise. The intersection is definitely more challenging for me clockwise than it is counter-clockwise, but I’m at a point where I can usually get through clean in both directions. Note that I said usually. On one of my passes I went down on the right side and managed to get my leg caught up under the right side saddlebag. It twisted me right down to the ground…hard. I must have twisted the throttle with my right hand because the bike screamed and bounced back up, without me, and flipped over onto its left side. It was my first ugly, and painful, crash. I laid there for a minute making sure all my parts still worked and that nothing was broken. Damn that hurt. Ruined a good pair of blue jeans too.
My confidence was shaken at this point and the horn sounded for the groups to switch. We went out to work on braking for a while and all went well. I used the little bit of down time between runs to stretch and shake off my crash.
We then went on a group ride, cross-country style. Our training facility is next to a large city park and we were riding on the grass, up and down hills, on mountain bike trails, over ruts and holes. As far as I know, no one went down and it was kind of fun.
After the group ride we all went back to the pad to continue working. I’m stubborn, so I dove right back into the keyhole going clockwise. Crashed a few times, took out a lot of cones, but kept going back for more. I did eventually get through it clean a couple of time going clockwise, but it’s frustrating because I can do it counter-clockwise almost easily at this point. Why the big difference? It turns out that I’m not alone. Several of the students are having the exact same issues. I will get it, I refuse to let the keyhole win, but it’s frustrating.
My daily evaluation was frustrating as well. My marks either stayed the same or improved in all categories but one…head and eyes. Dammit I struggle forcing myself to turn my head. I know I’m doing it in the intersection, which might explain why I can successfully complete it in both directions, but I seem to look, and ride, straight into the ground when I do the clockwise keyhole.
Day 5 tomorrow will bring the last 2 new maneuvers, I know one of them involves emergency braking and swerving but I’m not sure about the other. It’s a 180 degree something or other, I have no idea.
Most of my peers are doing well. One of the best riders happens to be the only female in the class. She had almost no riding experience a week ago and is making some of this stuff look easy. I’m really pulling for her, she has a great attitude and wants very much to be the first certified female motor officer in Nebraska. I have no doubt that she’ll make it.
The guys who were frustrated yesterday are still frustrated today. One of them is openly talking about quitting, the other isn’t saying it but he’s really down and I can tell he’s thinking it. I went down about 8 times today, but only the one time hurt and shook me up. My right foot is getting stiff as I type this, I hope it isn’t messed up too bad. Thank God for over the ankle leather boots because I’m still having fun and can’t wait for tomorrow!