Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revved up!

Once you've crossed a line, have you ever noticed how much easier it is the second time? Maybe something like, oh I don't know, taking pictures from the bike while you're riding. With a handheld camera. Yeah, I did it again. Sometimes only the real deal will suffice.

Please bear in mind that I'm not advocating doing this kind of thing. I know, do as I say and not as I do. I happen to have a justifiably high opinion of my skill levels. These photos were also taken under somewhat controlled conditions. Even then, having great skills isn't a magic bullet.

Krysta from Milwaukee ( the place with two e's ) shared a quote with me from Harry Hurt.

"There is no magic bullet other than being smart".

What great words!

Anyway, back to the point of the post. Here's the photo:

I know, it's upside down. I'll fix it later, if you're too lazy to turn your monitor upside down.

What inspired this was riding around in Salem for work. Out of habit I keep the bike in a lower gear in order to keep the rpm's up. As Elvira and I rounded a particular curve in a street it suddenly struck me how alive she feels with the engine in a higher rpm range. You know how it is. Certain things take front and center at different times. I've written about keeping the rpm's up before, but it's such a useful tool it's worth sharing again.

Of course, now it's illegal to put up a blog post without a photo. Pretty soon, thanks to Bobskoot, it will be illegal to put up a blog post without a video. Now he's got Dom, Chris, and several others doing it. There's even pressure on me, now, in the name of "instructional videos"! Great. Just as soon as I get an instructional video in how to operate the camera and post the videos.

I could have sat in a parking lot somewhere and revved the snot out of Elvira while running in neutral. That's not the way I do things. My great friend Laurie is a vocal proponent of keeping it real. In that vein, I had to take the shot while actually riding.

First off, find a quiet country road. Stop with the flashers on. Elvira has them, so I put them to use. Put the G11 in the tank bag, turned on and with the screen flipped open. Take off the left glove. Ride for a bit and shift to second gear. Grab the G11 and take a photo of the tach while wound up in second gear. Unless you live in Key West and ride a battle hardened Triumph. Then you might not have a tach anymore. Be sure that you actually put the wrist strap around your wrist before taking the camera out of the tank bag. Take the photo, then reverse the procedure to put the camera back. Stop beside the road, zip the tank bag, put your glove back on, and breathe a sigh of relief that it went well.

Because of the angle the photo had to be taken with the left hand. Which meant holding the camera upside down. So the photo is upside down. Kind of cool, though, isn't it?

Most riders don't take full advantage of the wonderful sweet spot and dynamics available in their bike's engines. Part of it is not being aware of it in the first place. Part of it is that riders are uncomfortable with hearing the motor rev a bit more. Imagine that, not liking the sound of those sweet motors! Another thing is that loud pipes and showing off are the only reasons for riding in the first place. Never mind getting any sort of actual riding skills. Yes, that will offend some people. Get over it.

What this all boils down to is riding in a lower gear. In most instances this means using one gear lower than a rider is probably used to. Here are a few advantages.

Plan B in dealing with traffic includes both being able to stop quickly and to quickly get out of the way. If we find ourselves needing to speed up to avoid being hit, quickly roll on the throttle, and the bike says "huh?" we should have been in a lower gear.

The bike is so much more alive and responsive in a lower gear. At slower speeds, keeping the revs up will allow for much smoother control. Speed adjustments can be made with just a slight rolling on or off the throttle. Keeping the revs up while turning will help hold the bike up. Controlling the lean angle will be so much easier this way. The bike will want to stand up instead of falling down.

Cornering at speed will be much smoother with higher rpm's. When you find that sweet spot in the rev range, lean angles can be controlled with just a bit of throttle movement. Roll off a bit to lean, roll on a bit to stand it back up. So smooth and sweet. Think of one of those dimmer switches they use on lights. Why chop corners when you can carve them in style?

Rather than write about it more, I'd just encourage everyone to go out and ride. Go play with your bikes. Check it out. Enjoy. It will work to your advantage. Trust me. I'm a professional. Seriously. Go try it and then come back and let us know how it worked for you.

One caveat, though, on torque. Always be mindful of dicey traction conditions. Wet roads fall into this category. Always balance the torque on the rear wheel with available traction, especially when turning. In those instances a higher gear and less lean angle might be a bit better.

Oh, yeah. The upside down picture? Didn't you turn your monitor over? What? Too much trouble? Fine, fine, be that way. If you insist.

Miles and smiles,



Mike said...

I bought my bike from an older gentleman in Ohio. I took it to an independent BMW shop to have it serviced and looked over to make sure everything was right. The mechanic said when he took it out for a test ride it pinged. So he really got on it and took the rpm's way up and it made it big pop sound as it broke loose some carbon. He said the guy had been lugging it and that I should really keep the rpm's up. Being a boxer engine that's horizontally opposed, high rpm's are a requirement. I knew this from working with VW's but didn't think of it with the bike. When I did that it turned into a different bike. All the power and control is in the higher end just like you say.

Good post but be careful with that camera thing when riding, even being the professional you are. Bobskoot has the good setup with the camera mount. I'm just sayin... :)

Kevin696 said...

Reminds me of my failed effort to take a picture of a tree frog sitting on my speedometer that was indicating 65mph. By the time I dug the camera out of my jacket, it had given up on the exposed ride, and crawled back into the fairing somewhere. Probably for the best, he didn't have a helmet.

My bike will run at low rpms, but is awful grumbly about it. Never stutters, just complains. It's much happier from 5k up to the rev limiter.

Scott said...

I feel sorry for bikes that top out at 6k rpms :)

Charlie6 said...

Keep the revs up, I learned that from a friend when I was just learning the ropes....truer words have not been spoken.

Beemer boxers love riding along at around 4000 rpm's.

Orin said...

My Vespa GTS, having a continuously variable transmission, almost never revs over 6000 rpm. In fact, sometimes when you crank the throttle, the revs actually drop for a moment, even though the bike is moving faster. The tach will read up to 12500 rpm, but I can't imagine the engine revving that high, even if I cranked the throttle all the way open...

Scootin' Old Skool

David said...

Oh the lovely sound my V-strom makes when it really revs up... I love that big twin, and the torque! My favorite thing is to ride with my friends (Who almost all ride sport bikes) and listen to them shifting all the time. I leave the 'Strom in 3rd or 4th and just work the throttle and brakes. That's all I need. Never come "off the pipe" on the low end and get it right up there to red line on the top. Reminds me why I bought the 1000cc instead of the 650cc. Clears the sinuses and brain fog too. :) Of course it CAN be hazardous to your license...

Glad you're really enjoying your cameras Dan. It's fun to see another guy who is hooked on bikes and photography.

Dave T.

bluekat said...

A timely post. Everything you said makes sense, and explains some things I've started to notice. These past few months I've been using a lower gear in city driving, and in cornering. I couldn't tell you why, but I found that I liked it better. I thought maybe it had to do with more engine compression? I don't understand the workings of motorcycles, so I don't know what it is. More responsive is a good way to describe it. I can't say that I'm always smoother in a lower gear. Throttle control becomes more responsive but also less forgiving. Does that make sense?

As for video, just think of what you could do. Possibilities, possibilities...

Sojourner rides said...

Keeping the revs up and riding in a lower gear made the most sense to me when I did my first track day. Great lesson. Thanks!

Young Dai said...

Bluekat got there before me.

Although dropping a gear (or two) improves your work through the twisties. It really makes sense for town work. Not only does it keep the bike resposive in traffic, so you don't have to wait for the brakes while the engine in wallowing about. That Mall exemple you gave earlier would have been a 2nd gear road without doubt.

It can also save you tickets as well. How often have you looked down at the speedo and thought; "OOP's" ? You tell yourself," well the Bike wanted to go faster.". But really you were in the wrong gear for the posted road speed.

In UK the the majority of the urban roads are 30mph with some dual cariage ways going to 40mph. That's 3000 rpm in 2nd and either 4000 rpm in 2nd or 3000rpm in 3rd respectively, you start to remember the vibration and sound of the engine, letting you keep it at the posted speed for mile after mile without worring, and more imporantly you can use the rest of your senses to to keep you alive.

Of all the techniques that I have learnt since passing my initial road test, this has probably been the one that has helped me the most. A very important post Dan

Steve Williams said...

Sounds as if you are advocating action over thought, experience over thinking, riding over armchair riding.

I'll bite.

Makes sense to me. So does taking pictures while riding. And making videos. I think you need to consider doing a weekly podcast. Maybe take phone calls.

And I bet you could make some jing with an iPhone Riding technique app.

Or some .40 Teflon coated magic bullets.

You are just full of ideas of late. Has the magnetic field of the earth changed out your way or something?

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

A long-time friend of mine, and a Beemer jockey with 8 BMW's in his garage, once said to me, the RPM's are right with the tach needle pointing straight ahead. Truer words were never spoken. On the K75, that comes in around 5-6 grand.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

bobskoot said...

Mr Irondad:

right you are with RPM ranges. Each bike is slightly different dependant upon torque range. If I am on twisties, the sweet spot is between 4-5,000. rpms. good compression braking setting up for the next curve, then power out.

I used to take one-handed photos too but it always worried me that something could go wrong. That's why I switched to mounted videocams

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

682202 said...


Tachometer, what's a Tachometer? Although my bikes don't have tachs, BMW's no-less, I do know where the sweet spot is. I should say I feel and hear the sweet spot. It certainly makes the bike feel better in corning, and quicker to respond to throttle input.

As far as taking photos while riding goes I'm with you, I wouldn't recommend anybody to do so, even though I have partaken in such activity. I made a neck lanyard out of high quality nylon cord so that the camera can hang from my neck with out hitting the tank in normal riding position. It allows me to drop the camera if my hand is needed on the bars. I have a large pull on the right chest pocket of my Stich so that I can remove and stow the camera when needed. I have a Canon G9 not to much different than you G11, and I have become efficient powering up the camera and tripping the shutter with my gloves on. I would do a post on the subject myself, but I don't trust anybody to ride along side me and document (take photos and video) my actions while I myself am riding and taking photos...

Thanks for making me think. GAW

Steven said...

for just a pic of the tach, couldn't it have been taken with the bike at rest in neutral and the throttle up?

It's just a thought for your safety. I've been tempted to snap an image while moving as well, and have found it a harrowing experience - something I now that I'd really prefer not to do again myself.

irondad said...


I promise to be careful with the camera. Perhaps a video mount is in the near future. Of course, I haven't managed to get the bike wired for electrics, yet, so who knows?


Thank you so much for gracing my blog! Wouldn't that be cool? Having a photo of a tree frog sitting on the tach while wearing a helmet? Hmmmm, how to pose that?


Exactly. The music starts at a much higher octave, doesn't it?

Take care,


irondad said...


I was really surprised when I first rode an R1200RT on a track. For something that sounds like a tractor at low rpm's, it sure changes into something sweet when wound up. Very interesting!


I suppose that if you suddenly found the Vespa at those kind of revs you would expect some sort of trouble. Like a broken belt.

Just learn to slip your clutch, man!

Dave T,

I love the way the 'strom sounds, too. I took a woman for a ride on a track on her own bike. She never knew it could be such a performer. I'm glad you let your bike live the good life!

Take care,


irondad said...


Not so much compression as the dynamics of applied power. Rolling on throttle makes a bike want to stand up. So the throttle in essence holds the bike up. It makes you more comfortable because now you have something to press against when you corner. It feels more like rolling the bike around its axis instead of having the bike fall and then need to be pulled back up.

The part about the throttle being more sensitive inlower gears is valid. That relates to torque. Either try one gear higher and see if that helps while still giving you good control, or adjust how you actually apply the throttle.

Think "flex" instead of "roll" and see if that helps.

Take care,


irondad said...


Didn't you find it much smoother that way? It's amazing how much more control a rider has in a lower gear. Cornering, as I pointed out to bluekat, should be a matter of rolling the bike on its axis. In the proper gear, you can easily do that with just the throttle.

Young Dai,

You continue to amaze me with the depth of your comments. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, I learn more about your knowledge every time! Thank you again for sharing.

Take care,


irondad said...

Steve Williams,

I never knew anyone who learned how to ride in a seminar. Sooner or later action is required. Of course, you knew that. You are becoming quite the teacher yourself.

I do feel more inspired lately. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to make a living at photography and motorcycle training.

A podcast? How interesting.

Take care,


irondad said...


Doesn't that sound like Nascar? I heard they want all the needles pointing straight up, even if that means rotating the actual instruments. Then it's easier to see if something isn't right.

Now we have a new battle cry.

Keep the needle up!!


Maybe I can finally one up you, oh Great One. How about one handed video shot from my bike?

Seriously, I appreciate the warning. I need to do the mounted video thing. That would also give stills, won't it?


I love that large pocket on the 'stich. I always have something else in it, though, which is why I used the tank bag.

Maybe we should all get together at some rally and film documentaries on each other. I once had a guy with a TV camera riding on the back of my bike and facing backwards for a track event. That was interesting!


You are exactly right. In fact, I thought of doing just that. For some reason my stubborn ego demanded more. I set up a situation where I had as much control as possible. Still, though, things can go wrong.

Perhaps I should quit while I am ahead.

Take care,


Chuck Pefley said...

Dan, when I turned my monitor upside down I dropped the revs! Right side up and they increased. I think I'd rather ride ... less strain on the forearms and back muscles -:)

So, when will we see your video of the needle actually moving up and down? And will we still need to turn our monitors, or will we just stand on our heads for the vid?

Young Dai said...


I should have said ;"I used to look down on the speedo and think OPP's ......but I was in the wrong gear for the posted road speed."

And I know I can't take a good photo for toffee's.

We still good ?

irondad said...


Too bad I was reading your comment while drinking my morning coffee!
I'm afraid the spit out liquid may render my laptop disfunctional.

I never knew you had such a sense of humor. Now that Bobskoot has gone all Hero video on us, I may just start doing a bit of video myself. If only to see you trying to get your laptop lined up with the sideways pictures.

Young Dai,

We're still good. You're way ahead on the scoreboard!

Take care,


bobskoot said...


Chuck is quite the teaser and jokester. We spent a weekend together on a ride over to Vancouver Island. Just image two photographers together riding and snapping photos of each other. I never had so much fun.
He did manage to give me a couple of funny looks, you know, the looks that "could Kill" looks. when I told him that I would be following his every footstep. After he shot a photo, I went up to exactly where he was standing and pointed my camera in the same general direction. Of course his photos turned into Images, while mine turned into Art

bobskoot: wet coast scootin