I'm thinking of starting an advice column here. If it works for Dear Abby, it ought to work for a rough and tumble motorcyclist, don't you think?
The Idaho trip has come and gone. There were some unique adventures which I'll share later in the week. The guest post is starting tomorrow. For now, though, here's a sample of how the advice column would go. This is an actual inquiry from a recent post. Well, the question itself is real. I'm making up a bit of the introductory stuff!
Ask the Maniac
Any tips on first-time peg scraping?
Would like to go farther.
I'd like to share two important pieces of wisdom with you.
Firstly, your bike doesn't have to look like this for you to be considered a legitimate motorcyclist.
This is a photo of the underside of my brand new bike. As you can see, I've clearly set the expectations for this bike from the very beginning. This kind of behaviour works for me which is probably why I'm called a maniac. However, this doesn't work for everyone. Don't let anyone pressure you into going farther than you're comfortable with.
Truly wise riders will understand and respect your position. Those riders who would ridicule you for not having scraped pegs on your bike should be considered as bad association. If their pegs are scraped it was probably done accidently and thus shows poor riding skills. In most street riding situations scraping pegs should not be involved, anyway. This is "the streets" after all.
Since you have, however, expressed a desire to head down the path to motorcycle debauchery, I'm going to share the second piece of wisdom with you here.
Take the time to truly listen to your bike when it talks to you.
Like my dear Katie, my bikes want to talk to me. Yours will do the same. The bike, that is. This is a riding advice column. I'm staying with my strengths here. Unlike a marriage, any conversation the bike may choose to have with you is going to be useful. It's very important information and should be heeded. Further, the real key to success is to listen before committing. Failure to do so, at the very least, will result in neither one of you being happy. I'm pretty sure that applies in marriage and motorcycles, both. Things will just get worse from there if a rider continues to ignore the bike's feedback. Separating from a bike will surely be a lot more physically painful than separating from a partner. Your results may vary, though.
Let's break it down a little bit and you'll see what I'm saying.
Picture your bike as having a 2" diameter rod inserted horizontally from the rear wheel to the front wheel. I know, it's a painful picture, but it's for a good cause. This pole runs right through the center of rotation. Think of the bike now as rotating around this pole. If it helps, imagine a whole chicken roasting on a rotisserie. The succulent bird is roasting quite nicely as it turns in a smooth, even circle. It looks and smells so delicious! Sorry, it's lunch time and I haven't even had breakfast, yet!
Back to the bike. Ignore the rumblings from my stomach. Whenever you lean the bike, think of rotating it around this pole. Think back to the chicken. It's rotating nice and evenly. There's no funky chicken slam dance as one side is flung down and then the other. The same should be true of your bike. Picture yourself gracefully rolling the bike around to the left, back upright, to the right, and back up. Smooth and steady.
As you go through a turn, set your entry speed so that you're comfortable holding steady or slightly increasing throttle all the way through the curve. This is extremely important for a lot of reasons. For this discussion, I'll just say that the throttle application will give you something to press against. Many riders are afraid the bike will fall over if leaned very much. Throttle application will help hold the bike up. Steady throttle will also help ensure that ground clearance stays consistent as you explore the lean angles.
Back to rolling the bike on its axis. During these rotations the bike will tell you how it's doing. Listen to the tires, especially the front one, with your ears and hands. Does the tire sound content? Does the bike's suspension still feel steady and composed? Good. How are you doing? Ok? Rotate a little farther to the side on the next corner. Everything still calm? Maybe that's not a good word. At greater lean angles the bike will sound a little more excited. That's ok. Excitement is a good thing. Just ask Doctor Ruth. Oh, I was going to stick to motorcycles here.
The key is to learn to distinguish between excitement and distress. Bikes will tell you when they are becoming distressed. Traction will vary in different corners. Some corners are cambered nicely in our favor and some not so much. There's a lot of factors that come into play. Where you apex is also a big factor. An early apex will usually require less lean angle than a late apex. Again, the bike will tell you how it feels. If there is a distress signal you want to hear it before it's too late. Smoothly rolling the bike from side to side will allow time to change the plan if you do hear a distress signal. You're both in a position where you haven't gone too far to back away.
That's a really big problem with a lot of riders. They throw the bike from side to side rather than rotate it smoothly. Sometimes it's ok despite that. I've also seen a lot of riders crash during our track courses. The bike was forced to do something it wasn't ready for and the rider didn't allow enough time for the bike to communicate that fact to the rider.
Head turns come into play, too. Our natural instinct is to look while we're turning. It can seem really strange to be looking far to the left, for instance, while the bike is still headed straight ahead. That's a whole long discussion by itself. For now I'll just say that turns can be deeper and more confident if both the bike and rider know well ahead of time where the target is. Look sooner, look farther.
Follow my advice and you'll be scraping pegs in no time. The biggest difference is that you'll be doing it with skill and control. Please let me know how your progress is going.
By the way, I'd strongly suggest that a rider go forth and safely explore the limits of themselves and their bikes. A rider may choose to never lean far enough to scrape. Once in a while, though, a situation may call for more extreme countermeasures. Better to have explored on your own terms ahead of time than be called upon to do it with no preparation. Pick a corner with room to safely play. Ride the same corner over and over. This will provide a consistent base from which to work.
A word of caution is also in order. Once you hear the peg gently scrape that's far enough. A scraping peg is also feedback from the bike. It's telling the rider that ground clearance is nearly used up. Footpegs are hinged so there's a little room to roam. Just remember, though, that the next thing to scrape after pegs are hard parts like mufflers and centerstands. Hitting those things on the deck can lift the rear tire off the road. The key is to scrape, not grind. I've ground but I'm also a maniac, remember.
If your bike has floorboards, be especially careful. Properly installed floorboards should hinge, as well. I've seen a lot that don't. If the board doesn't move, even gentle scraping can lever the bike off the road. Make sure the boards actually move like they're supposed to.
Miles and smiles,