Am I Coming Along Well?
August 28, 2009 at 11:18 am #3354SafetyFirstParticipant
I’m just sitting back and thinking about my riding.
Today I was starting out on a casual ride. Not looking to break world speed records, not looking to get myself in the thick of the twisties. Just a casual ride around on streets around town that I know. I’m making a left at an intersection and I hear the sound of a sportsbike I4. If there is one sound that gets my attention (yeah, you guys know I like the sound of an I4.) Anyway.
Glance in the mirrors and realize that he was catching up to me from a side-street I passed. He must have saw me and decided to tag along. Well, OK, I don’t mind the rear protection. So I start into a very gradual curve, 55 speed limit, I usually take it going about that, 65 or so at the most. It’s so easy I really never need to put much thought into it. So I take it about 60.. still on my tail. 65. Still on my tail. I probably would have gone faster, except there was a street that intersected in the middle of the turn (don’t ask me why someone would design it like that) and I was wary of the pick-up truck sitting there. In my head, I was thinking of how at the speed I was going, I’d have to really do some massive swerving to avoid this, because braking wouldn’t be an option thinking about the charts of braking distance at 65 MPH from books.) So I slow it down a notch by a little relax on the throttle. Glance in the mirror again, and I4 guy is right up behind me. I don’t know if he was trying to spook me or if he was just following along, or if I was getting in his way. I couldn’t tell. Luckily, I hit a line of cars going the speed limit when it got slower going into town, so I didn’t have to worry.
I make a right onto another street near town, and I figure, well, what’s the odds of him making this turn, too, if he was trying to get away from me. I take it 35/35 (it’s a REALLY easy turn, but when I was starting riding, it freaked me out a lot. It’s one of those turns where just looking through it, not down, makes all the diff.) Still behind me. I’m zipping through the street. Luckily, I had a pick-up truck in front of me, who was slowing me down. Pickup truck turns.
A block later, I get to the 90 degree left turn that freaks me out when the road ends and turns onto another street. I practised this turn like 4-5 times over and over one night so I could get over it. Then I fell apart. I don’t know what it was. I should have given a little rear-break coming into it like I did in practice. As soon as I hit it, I knew I was going too fast. Head turned, looking at the exit. I end up a little wide, off to the right of the road. OK, outside, inside, outside. But the road was made wider to accommodate street parking. I end up towards the street-parking part of the lane on the right. No cars parked, so I’m good. But I was pissed at myself. What if there was a car parked there? It was like the turn went by so fast. I should have leaned more, but it was done in like *snap*. As soon as I passed, obscenities roared to myself inside my helmet. WTF?
I sat at the next light, and sure enough, I4 guy wants to turn left, too. Sidenote, is it weird to wave at a guy on a bike next to you or behind you at a light? I didn’t, but thought about it. I turn left at the next light, which would take me to the interstate, and he goes straight. The rest of the ride was fine? Why did I freak out to an I4 behind me? I think deep down, I had that feeling of the guy behind me being a BRC instructor grading me, along with being a Squid who I was worried I was letting down not going faster.
I felt a proper punishment to myself was going to the BRC parking lot to practice. I was pretty decent, considering how down I was on myself. I decided to test my front braking. I was thinking how in BRC, I was afraid to really use the front brake to the max, because I never really wanted to see how much I could use. After finding the point where it skids and leaving some smoke, I decided to ease into it more and more. Before I knew it, I felt the back of the bike lift up then slam down. A mild stoppie! The squid in me made me eager to try it some more. Fun was had. Now, I’m wondering to myself, is a mild stoppie acceptable in an emergency stop? Because for a stoppie to happen, I noticed the front brake can’t be skidding. I wasn’t using any rear brake, and I would assume some rear-brake action would keep the rear-end on the ground from raising up? Actually, some interesting tips I read the other night in Riding in the Zone by Ken Codon I thought I’d share, rear brake will align the rear wheel with the front wheel.
I’m learning all this cool stuff from the books I recently ordered off Amazon, but it all just seems like good ideas, but putting it into practice seems the be the trouble. I still keep wondering if my posture is right riding. I keep busting my chops riding when I notice I’m sloppy — ball of foot on peg, knees against the tank, not the fairings. Then there was the kid I rode next to and behind on the main drag on an early 90’s CBR600, knees on the frame sliders, or maybe they were trick pegs, feet about seat level (wtf!?) I wonder riding around if anyone is noticing my posture sucking.
I still seem to not get counter-steering, even reading these books. OK, so I press down and/or forward on the side I want to turn, right? But what is this about the front wheel needing to go the opposite way first? Luckily, I’ve found the twisties of the highways around here to be engineered well enough that I can take them correcting myself along the turn. But these books keep saying that I shouldn’t have to keep doing that, and should magically know just how much to press on the grip on the side, and lean just enough that I shouldn’t have to keep correcting. Am I reading these right?August 28, 2009 at 11:33 am #21984Zig308Participant
I had trouble getting counter-steering through my head as well until I watched one of those YouTube videos on it and could “see” the counter-steer in action.
It’s almost as if you are doing a “mini-swing-out” to initiate the lean. Pushing your front wheel ever so slightly the opposite way for a split second while leaning/accelerating into the turn allows you to make a better leaning turn if that makes sense?
As for the previous points of your post. It’s like trying to take a piss test with someone staring at your stuff. It’s just difficult to do.
The more confidence you gain, the less that will bother you. Don’t let anyone push you farther than you want to go, just wave them by or pull into a 7-11 and let them go by.August 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm #21988eonParticipant
Your story reminded me of myself when I started driving (cars). I was fine until someone came up behind and then I felt the need to go faster because I must have been going too slow and did not want to look like a complete noob. Luckily I never crashed but that was down to luck, not skill. If this is what’s happening with you, you need to recognize when it is happening and fight it. Keep reminding yourself that a fall will mess up your bike, cost lots of money and you may end up in hospital. None of these things are pleasant so weigh up the cost of that versus a stranger MAYBE thinking you are going too slow. As they say, ride your own ride. If you only ever follow one piece of advice, that would be the one to follow.
I would forget about the WHY’s of countersteering. You know what you need to do and you know that it works. Why does it work? I honestly don’t care. If you need an explanation Elwoods Marine instructors had the best one yet, FM (last word is magic, first word I’m sure you can figure out).
Learning how to read a corner takes time and it’s something I am still getting better at. I mentioned on another post that up till a few months ago I concentrated on taking corners as fast as I could. After a mild scare I changed my focus to my technique. Slow in, fast out, roll on the throttle the whole way through, delayed apex, look through the corner etc etc. I can honestly say I have improved a lot in these few months, I have less scares and my rides are more enjoyable. I might even be taking corners faster than I was before but now it does not feel that fast. Before I was riding on the edge but now I am well within my abilities.
I am sure you are coming along very well. You sound like you have been doing a lot of learning. So just relax, ride your own ride, and let those theories become ingrained habitsAugust 28, 2009 at 6:41 pm #21991eonParticipant
As far as the stoppies go, I ain’t no expert but it seems to me you have reduced your available traction (and therefore stopping power) by being on one wheel only. I would guess easing up on the front a little would keep the back on the ground. Even if you are not on the rear brake that wheel has to turn and fight against the engine. Not sure how much difference all this would make but even if it is only a few feet that could be the difference between hitting that truck and stopping in time.August 29, 2009 at 7:18 am #21998
1) Worrying about what people are thinking about you on the road is the most dangerous thing you can do. It took me a long time to get over it, but the sudden need to impress, to gain the unspoken respect of, etc. the other riders, pedestrians, or drivers around you will lead you towards bad things: poor judgement and distraction. Focus on you, what you need to do to be safe and have a good time.
2) With respect to braking, at least on my bikes, it’s fairly easy to avoid stoppies by using your bodyweight…or rather NOT using your bodyweight. If you’ve ever watched a “how to stoppie” video, you’ll know that one of the keys is to transfer your bodyweight forward, reducing downward force on the rear wheel and making it easier for the bike to rotate upwards around the front wheel. Don’t want to stoppie? Use your legs to keep your bodyweight off your hands and towards the back of the seat. This is especially hard during heavy braking when you’re being pushed forward. The other thing is to be just a tad more progressive in your squeeze. Just like doing a wheelie requires a quick jerk to get the front wheel off the ground, a stoppie becomes more likely if you squeeze the brake lever fast.August 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm #22020MunchParticipant
Ok here is my question…
Are sport bikes that much different in riding then Cruisers? I keep reading about progressive squeeze on the fronts and this that and the other… however I keep thinking… why aren’t you using the rears to help equalize the breaking? Sure the Front does a vast majority of the breaking but the rears assist very dramatically. Use both sets of brakes.. it’s one of the reasons you have it there.August 30, 2009 at 12:34 am #22021
Because of dramatically reduced rake/trail, the transfer of weight to the front during hard braking has dramatically different effects. On a cruiser, the rear wheel will still have traction during hard braking. On a sportbike, all of the traction will be on the front wheel during hard braking. 100%. This is why almost nobody uses the rear brake at all on the track. The only real use is to regulate rear-wheel spin while “stepping it in,” to stabilize the bike here and there, or to stop a power wheelie coming out of a corner.
I use the rear brake on the street for three thing: low speed maneuvers, holding the bike in place at a light/stop, and gradual braking. On my bikes, as soon as you’re braking hard on the front, the risk of locking the rear is too great to bother using it.August 30, 2009 at 3:19 am #22027MunchParticipant
Thanks..that’s good to know, maybe we should have a write up about differing mechanics of riding between the two. I have never been on a sport bike but can throw my 900 around like I am on one. Have a curiosity about riding a sport bike though.August 30, 2009 at 10:31 am #22037
…every now and then I really have a hankering to find myself a more relaxed bike for riding on the street. I’d be the first to admit that my GSX-R is NOT comfortable around town. I don’t know if I can suck in enough pride to end up on a cruiser (not to say cruisers are lame; I’m talking sportbike pride here ), but I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up swapping my Ninja for a more upright naked after about another year.
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