Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reflections on Monday.

My alarm's set for 4:30 AM. At 3 I'm wide awake. Another Monday morning is here already. Sometimes I'm not quite sure what day it is. Between my career and the teaching thing I'll end up working seven days a week for weeks at a time. Still, though, Monday morning has a feel all its own. Mondays seem to come faster and faster. My theory is that life's like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end the faster it goes. Forrest Gump has nothing on me as you can see!

My brain has this annoying habit of switching from sleep to a full "on" position. Once that's happened any hope of more shut-eye disappears like a smoke wisp in a strong breeze. Have you ever seen a terrier work a snake or a rat? Once those jaws close there's no escaping. The dog clamps on and starts that head movement. I've heard it called "worrying" the prey. That's what my brain does. People say I'm always thinking. It's literally true. It's also a curse.

Monday morning thoughts are sliding through my consciousness one after another like powerpoint slides. Please don't make me get up and have to ride 48 miles to work on a sunny morning on a bike. Please don't make me have to face meeting up with three good friends and colleagues. I'm just not ready to deal with having to enjoy a ride with these guys. It would be torture to whip out a few fast laps on the track as soon as we arrive. How can I face a day of fast riding and mingling with a bunch of motor cops? God, I hate my job!!!


You see, this is no ordinary Monday. I've taken a vacation day to work another job. It must be work, right? That's why I'm getting paid. It's another police training day. Sort of the last qualifier for the Big Event coming up next Tuesday. Cops have to take this training to be eligible for the high speed pursuit training at Portland International Raceway. We have room for about 50 cops. It will be a blast.

This post isn't about the police training per se. I've already written about that. This is more a collection of musings about aspects relating to the day. It all meshes together whether we ride professionally, recreationally, or as a commuter.

I love the camaraderie between those few of us who instruct at this level. That's what a part of riding's all about isn't it? Finding those few we want to share the experience with. The blonde on the right is Laurie. I didn't mean to cut half of her off! I was actually more concerned about getting a good picture of Sophie! Next to Katie, Laurie's my best buddy. Her and her husband and Katie and I often double date. Laurie and I are the serious riders. Our spouses are more like the enthusiastic support base. We both started teaching motorcycle classes at about the same time. We keep each other sharp. Laurie's very technically oriented and precise. I tend to run and gun more than she does. It's a good balance. Laurie's one mean rider on her ZX-12. I often have to laugh. You see, Laurie also happens to be drop dead gorgeous.

A large number of "macho" guys don't take her seriously. Especially in our track based classes. It's fun to watch her take off and see these guys try unsuccessfully to keep up. The smart ones humble themselves in the interest of learning something. Others make excuses. Kind of like a lot of so called "experienced" riders we see on the streets all the time. I have to give Laurie a lot of credit. It's been difficult to face this all the time. Yet, she's never developed any sort of negative or over-bearing attitude of her own. Laurie's a true professional and I deeply respect her for it. She sets a good example of staying with your own ride despite provocation from other users of the road we're forced to mix with.

Speaking of camaraderie, I really like riding pairs with a select few trusted comrades. I especially like riding with Jerry. If you look to the left of the picture of the instructors above, you'll just get a glimpse of a blue Aerostich. Inside the suit is Jerry. He's just recently retired from the Oregon State Police as a District Commander. Jerry and Scott, the guy standing next to the red Multristrada Duc, started the motor unit for OSP. Jerry was in charge and took them to a very high level of competence and respect. He rides a BMW K1200LT.

When you're riding pairs the one on the left is the Leader. I kind of like riding Wingman. Subtle signals come from the Leader. Wingman's job is to ride handlebar to handlebar and precisely match the moves of the Leader. We move to single file for curvy bits; back to pairs for normal riding. It's so cool to see the two bikes move as one during lane changes or around corners in town. Riding pairs isn't really necessary for us as civilians. In fact, to be honest, it's more of a macho game. Riding like this introduces an elevated danger level. We tell folks to ride in a staggered pattern. There's more room to maneuver and allows margins for error. On the other hand, there's a great need for those who ride to cultivate precision. First one gets good, then one gets fast. Precision before power is the key. There's a place for both but never sacrifice good technique.

On the subject of precision, even professionals make mistakes. There's a short back straightaway. On the entry there's a hairpin corner. Ex-racers will know this little trick. Farther along the track there's another hairpin. In order to properly set up for the next corner the bike needs to move quickly to the outside of the track. Just before the apex of this left hand turn I start rolling on some extra throttle. The effect is that it accomplishes what I want. Namely, moving the bike quickly to the right and towards the outside of the track. This puts me right in line for the entry to the next corner.

Remember, now, I'm riding with a right hand that's got a huge cut up the palm and middle finger. As I'm entering the back straight I try to gently roll on the throttle. Things are tight here. A rider shouldn't go too wide or they run off the track. As I go for the throttle I somehow tweak my palm and it hurts a lot. Sophie's in first gear at about 4000 rpm. Which means a lot of torque is on tap. The pain makes me flinch. My automatic reaction is to close my hand. Unfortunately, that movement applies more throttle than I intended to. In a heartbeat I'm running in the dirt right beside the pavement. No harm,no foul, but I raised quite the dust cloud! Some of the guys told me they chose not to copy my line through there. Can't say as I blame them!

We had some guys from the Washington State Patrol come down for training. Our program has a decent reputation. These bikes were from Seattle and Tacoma. Too bad they had to bring them on trailers. The "powers that be" didn't want the extra mileage on the bikes.

I've seen some of these cops come through training year after year. It's to be expected of professionals. It should also be expected of the average rider, as well. Have you ever heard the expression "Practise makes perfect"? I have a little different take on it. What I see in these cops that come back every year is revealing.

You'd think that when they come back each year their skills would be much higher than last time. There's some net gain here and there, to be sure. After training, though, the officers go back to work and they're left to their own devices again. It's amazing how easily old habits slip back in. There aren't professional trainers standing on each corner to remind them of the proper technique. Things like cornering skills are usually the first to go. Most cops seldom use them on duty. Think about it.

Most of what the motor cops do is dawdle about looking around. When a violator is spotted it essentially becomes a straight line drag race. There might be a tight u-turn to initiate the chase but there's not usually much cornering. Some cops ride their own bikes during time off. Most don't seem to anymore. I can tell you from experience that riding 90 to 100 miles in city traffic every day kind of becomes a chore. When riding a motorcycle becomes a job enthusiasm for extra riding cools off.

Then comes a pursuit or a sunny afternoon when an officer needs to be good at cornering technique. It's especially important in a pursuit. Have you ever been following another rider and found yourself riding their line? Even if their line, braking points, etc., is wrong?

The only way to make sure the correct skills are there when we need them is to practice, of course. We need to make opportunities to work on things. The critical element is to practise the correct thing, not what our old habits dictate. Let me share my own statement that kind of puts things into perspective. It goes above and beyond the practise makes perfect thing.

"Perfect practise makes permanent."

That's really what we want. In a high adrenaline situation we're going to revert to whatever our habits are. I want great technique to be so ingrained it will become automatic. A side benefit is that a rider will feel so much more in control the fun factor will rise accordingly!

The same holds true for mental skills. Remember the goal? Use mental skills to get correct information as early as possible. Then make good decisions based upon that information. You might sum it up by my principle of the 7 P's.

"Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance!"

On to another thought. I really love this set of tires. The Metzeler Roadtec Z6's are awesome! When I'm cornering, even at the track's higher speeds, the roll of the tires is so linear. If I can manage to ride enough curvy bits maybe I can delay the squaring off effect from too much freeway riding! Traction seems to be great. When I was looking at the front tire I thought I saw rubber globs stuck all over the edges of the tread. Turns out these tires have little raised elephants on both sides. Check out the picture above. How cool!

Monday was a great day. At the end I was bushed. I decided to come home and do what this moth was doing. It was hanging upside down on a beam of my storage shed. I decided I'd hang, but not upside down, and reflect on an awesome day riding and being around other riders. It doesn't get much better than this. If you believe the old Budweiser commercials, that is!

Miles and smiles,


1 comment:

Aspen said...

You're right on the money about your safety thoughts - gear and riding habits. I really enjoyed reading about your training the cops and riding your own lines. Constant reminders for all of us.

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