I love to play golf and I love to ride my motorcycle. In a perfect world, I would play golf 2-3 times per week, ride 6 days a week, and one day of the week would be devoted to earning a living. Part of the reason I enjoy both activities so much is because of the similarities between the two, but I’ll just focus on the practicing part.
Improving Your Skills
Weekend hackers go to the driving range to not only improve their game, but also as a form of stress relief. And like golf, we practice at just about everything we do, except however, riding a motorcycle. Stats show most riders are taught by a friend on how to ride a motorcycle. After some practice, off they go. Even if you happened to be one of those that took a 3 day course motorcycle riding class with in-class instruction, the fact is, you are only parking lot certified. To truly learn how to ride, you need to take additional courses regularly, especially advanced motorcycle classes, and practice.
Put it to you this way, don’t professional athletes continue to practice in order to maintain their level of athleticism, but also to improve?
When I first started to ride, I practiced at home since I lived in a neighborhood with no traffic. I took out from the trash can bottles of beer and water, coffee cans and anything else I could find to weave in/out of.
I rode on the sidewalk as slow as possible to learn how to balance the bike and I practiced u-turns by riding through one driveway and into the next. I was okay, but I got much better when I took an advanced riding class.
Fact is, a class only gives you the basics. You still need to go out there and practice on your own. It is no different than when I attended law school- you go to class, but you will not learn everything in class. You need to go home and study, do your homework, and in this case; practice.
I have been criticized for practicing. Yeah, I know that makes no sense, but trust me, I get it all the time. I have been told “accidents can occur in a parking lot while practicing.” Okay… and? I don’t understand that one. Better in a parking lot than crossing an intersection at 40 mph. Those that say that, are the ones I hear about dropping their bikes especially when they ride in places with lots of twisties, but they never mention it.
I was once told of a motorcycle riding group out of Miami that rode the Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap, North Carolina, and nine out of the ten dropped their bike and one of them dropped it twice. But they don’t post that on Facebook but they sure as hell will post a pic with the caption “slayed the dragon” or even worse, drinking beer, then riding the Dragon’s Tail.
But you see, that is the problem right there- there is no room for the ego in motorcycle riding. I have posted enough of pics of my bike on the ground while practicing because a fractured ego is better than a fractured tibia.
I have been told “perfecting a circle” and “practicing with cones is a waste of time.” Really? How do motormen practice? Here’s a hint– with cones.
It is a way to become “one with your motorcycle.” It is about control, feeling confident, and having the skills to avoid a dangerous situation. And even then, it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be involved in an accident but it sure as hell increases the odds you will avoid one. The best riders I know haven’t been involved in an accident. I wonder why?
Some tell me they don’t want to drop their bike. Okay… drop it at 60 mph then if that makes sense to you. It’s not like bubble wrap can’t fix any worries you have about dropping your bike. Others say I have been riding my whole life. Okay… but I just saw you duck walk 100 feet out of the parking lot.
For me, practicing is like chicken soup; it can’t hurt. I know I became obsessed with cones and not everyone has an obsessive personality, but other than that character flaw, wouldn’t it be important to be the best rider you can be?
No matter where you ride, danger lurks around every corner. Every time you ride, there exists the possibility a car is coming out from nowhere, a dog chasing your bike, a child running after a football in the middle of the street, a turtle crossing the road, or road debris.
Swerving out of the way is the same skills you will need in that situation and it started in a parking lot. When facing that situation, you will immediately notice the difference when you react without thinking, just instinct and the skills you learned from practicing. It is a great feeling. There is a reason police aren’t handed a firearm and told go “protect and serve.” They actually train for that scenario so when need be, they also just react out of instinct- no hesitation.
Recently, I had the pleasure of teaching a couple of bikers some drills to improve their riding ability. In two hours, they did much better than I ever did. I hope one day they ride better than me because the fact is, you can’t ride with your ego, you have to ride with common sense. We should try to improve at everything we do and motorcycle riding is no different.
Now, I am the type of person that is happy alone and I realize that isn’t for everyone. So, if being in a parking lot by yourself setting up cones doesn’t sound interesting to you, then do it with friends. Compete with another. Winner gets a free lunch. Do whatever it takes, but just get better. Don’t be egocentric or selfish.
What happens if you can’t avoid an accident because you didn’t have the necessary skills? How is that going to affect your family and loved ones? If anything, become a great rider for them because God forbid something happens, who do you think will be taking care of you?
When I go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls, I am just as happy as if I played the course. For me it is as simple as enjoying wrapping my hands around a golf club. And like motorcycle riding, I enjoy wrapping my hands around the throttle. It doesn’t matter to me where I am going or if I am going anywhere at all. I ride for the sheer thrill of riding. I don’t ride for show, I ride to ride.
The question is, do you ride for show or to ride?
Me having fun practicing, lol—