Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rust happens!

I recently put up a post dealing with getting additional training. We all need to keep working on increasing our skill levels. At least that's my humble opinion in the matter. It was gratifying to see that some of you pledged to "go back to school". Some of you have already done so. A perfect example is a new rider in my town. She reads this blog regularly. She took the beginner's class. Later on she came back for a skills clinic. You are wise, oh honored riders.

What I didn't specifically deal with was just plain old refresher training. I know some of you have quite respectable skill levels. There's a lot of a value in going back to freshen up under the watchful eyes of an experienced instructor. Despite our best intentions we tend to get a little sloppy. Sometimes our habits slowly drift away from what actually serves us best. Then too, we become more able to absorb certain subtleties that can make huge differences in our riding.

Think about it for a moment. If you took a beginner's type rider class think about how much you had to absorb. Imagine your mental "RAM" space as one of those whiteboards. As an instructor I've written a lot on your personal whiteboard. Basic skills are enough at the moment to pretty much fill up most of the space. I've seen the look in my student's eyes when I know for a certainty that they're "full" at the moment. I'm definitely not going to overload them by offering some advanced technique. It would do no good, at best. Worst case, I could cause the students more stress which would destroy the learning environment.

As an interesting side note, one of the things I teach new instructors is "content" vs. "method". I use a 16 ounce can of warm beer and a 16 ounce transparent or translucent cup. Yes, it's cheap beer as nobody's going to drink it. One would presume that 16 ounces of beer would fit in a 16 ounce cup. All you have to do is pour it. Not that simple. I commence to pour the beer but do it somewhat quickly. As you may have guessed, the beer foams badly so not all of the can's contents are transferred to the cup. A student's mind has a finite space for learning about riding. What if our delivery method is flawed by trying to cram in too much too soon? What if the beer still in the can were some critical street survival strategy? Delivery method is just as important as the content.

Bringing it back to the discussion, only so much information can be absorbed in the beginning. After the student's been riding for a long time, it's a totally different story. Now the more subtle nuances and techniques can be successfully understood and internalized. Have you got time in the saddle? Your whiteboard now has room for more knowledge. After the initial "rush" our learning curve continues on a gradual upwards path.

This applies to every rider on the planet. We can all improve. We can all use professional tune-ups. What caused me to do this post in the first place is the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. These folks offer a two day EVOC ( Emergency Vehicles Operations Course ) to civilians. It's pretty cool because now riders who aren't cops can benefit from the training. This is a condensed version of the 80 hour course officers attend.

Motor officer recruits and experienced officers go through the two-week EVOC. Recruits for initial training; experienced officers as a refresher. This policy went into effect a number of years ago. Statistics revealed that 70 percent of on-the-job police fatalities in California were due to motor vehicle crashes. ( two and four wheels ) By the mid-90's, that number had fallen to 46 percent. Having convincingly proven their value, refresher courses are being offered more frequently.

As one who's "been there", done that" I can assure you that you'll probably drop your bike once or twice. During initial "motors" training ( forever ago ) I dropped the KZ eight times the first day. I guarantee that you will bruise your ego. I'm not sharing this to get you to attend this riding academy. Although police motor training is some of the best in the nation. That last sentence is really the point. Cops get rusty, too. Even though they ride every work day. Even though they get plenty of opportunity to keep their skills sharp. Even though they are professionals. Rust happens. If it happens to them, it can happen to all of us. Interestingly, most of the motor officer accidents happen off duty. A lot of departments allow the officers to commute on the bike as a perk. It's when they're riding just like us that they have problems. Different job, same mentally stressed condition. The accident is considered "on-the-job" because it's a police vehicle with a uniformed officer on it.

I wanted to share this as food for thought. It's our responsibility as riders to do all we can to take care of ourselves out there. Hopefully this will reinforce the need to stay sharp. Rust happens. Oil the blade once in a while.

Miles and smiles,


gary said...

I really like the beer analogy. Did you come up with that yourself? It's perfect!

It's really too bad you live so far away. I think it would be very cool to take one of your advanced courses.

Maybe someday, when I have saved up some vacation time...

Ride well,

Combatscoot said...

Man, I really want to take a moto-cop course... I don't think they are available here. There's an officer who offers 1-on-1 instruction, but it's not cheap. Someday when I have a job...

balisada said...

I remember my Basic Skills class.

I was very serious about learning. I had been told my entire life that motorcycles were dangerous and I should never ride one, so I was very interested in absorbing everything that the instructor said.

But I could still feel the information leaking out of my brain, because there was so much information. All of it necessary.

The Rider Skills practice was fun, and I am still surprised at how much easier the cones were, than in the Basic Rider Training. I learned a lot, and found where I had to still keep practicing.

I am also still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of swerving a motorcycle at 70 mph. You swerve a motorcycle faster than I drive a pickup truck. But that is what practice will get you.

I think that if insurance companies offered discounts for drivers who took "refresher" driving courses, perhaps there would be less stupidity on the road.


P.S. I should have ride my motorcycle today. It's rather nice, roads are dry and it's not cold. Darn.

irondad said...

I can't take credit for it. The beer thing was the brainchild of our program's Director. It might be a blessing that we live so far apart. Imagine the trouble we'd get into!

Any training that improves your control is great. Show me a rider's slow speed control and I'll tell you how they ride otherwise.

Take a bunch of small steps and then see where you are after time passes. One stone laid upon the previous ones. You're doing exactly the right thing. I would hope people were motivated to take training by more than just money. I'll take it, either way.