Monday, May 17, 2010

Musings on rider training.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of teaching a Rider Skills Practice class here in Albany. This class is similar to the MSF Experienced Rider Course. We help riders tune up their cornering, braking, and other accident avoidance skills. The afternoon was graced with perfect sunny weather and an awesome group of 10 riders.

This is the first course I've taught this year that wasn't a Basic Class. Being able to work with these more advanced riders was a great boost to my enthusiasm. These folks came in already possessing good skills. It was obvious that they were hungry for information and skill sharpening. By the end of the afternoon is was clear that this group got plenty of both.

At the beginning of the class our students complete a circuit ride. It's a series of exercises designed to allow them to see where they are coming in. The circuit ride consists of a 90 degree sharp turn followed by a barrel ride. The barrel ride is similar to what you see at horse events. It requires tight turns around a series of three cones. After the barrel ride comes a faster corner followed by a swerve. The swerve cones are set at 13 feet so it's fairly tight. A maximum braking stop ends the ride. This is not a pass / fail course. However, we score the run so the riders have a baseline.

Instructors have been known to get down on the pavement and wrestle over who gets to do the demonstration runs!

During the class we work on the individual elements with some extra skill work thrown in. At the end of class we do the circuit ride again, scoring the second run. Our group was a bit rusty at the beginning. By the second ride, they were looking pretty darn sharp. Huge improvement!

The benefit to the riders from the class is immediately evident.

As you can imagine, my teaching partner Aria and I were pretty busy. I did manage to get a few quick photos during the afternoon.

Near the middle of the class we spend a few minutes talking about some skills and strategies. Here's Aria and the group taking advantage of a shady outdoor classroom.

This was a very personable and enthusiastic group. I can't tell you how much I appreciated seeing them show such a direct contrast in attitudes toward training compared to most riders I see.

At the end of the day I was chatting with the group about whether we had helped them to accomplish their objectives. I found myself making this statement to them.

"Training teaches us what we need to practice."

If I say so myself, I find that a bit profound. There's two ways to look at that statement as I reflect on it.

Firstly, coming to training helps us to identify where we are in our skills. We find that some skills are pretty solid. We also find out which ones need some extra work. Those are the ones we should give priority to when we practice on our own outside of a formal training environment.

Secondly, the training shows us the correct technique to practice later. Practicing the wrong technique just reinforces a bad habit. Training teaches us the proper way to execute a skill. It's not solely practice that makes perfect. It's perfect practice that makes perfect.

I actually had a day off yesterday. After church Katie and I went and wandered the mall. We saw The Director in a store. Saturday's class must have been great for me. I found myself enthusiastically running off at the mouth about what a wonderful experience it was when we chatted.

Here's a sincere expression of appreciation to our students. You all provided refreshment to my soul when I really needed it. Thank you so much for your wonderful attitudes toward riding and training!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

Teaching with Dan, as I had the pleasure of doing in this RSP, has always given me pause: you're not as good as you think you are, I say to myself. It's a fabulous setback for I truly believe that measured self-doubt leads to growth. I made a comment at the end of the course which Dan, in his typical self-depricating way, brushed aside. "Watching you do the demo rides," I said, "gives me enormous confidence." Dan replied, "Why? Because you think if he can do it, well, I should certaintly be able to as well?" And the answer was (and is) no. The truth is, watching Dan through the circuit ride, marveling at his fluidity and grace and speed, makes you question your self-imposed limits. Now go out and push the bike. Go out and push yourself. When you hit a complacent, self-congraluatory plateau, the best thing to do is to hang out with The Man for an afternoon.

irondad said...


I'm honored by your kind words. I will have to put my helmet on to hide the blushing. It seems to me that, of the two instructors who taught this RSP, I am not the only one who is self-deprecating, though!

Take care,


Mike said...

That class looks interesting... and also scary. When you said barrel ride like horse events I thought it involved jumping.

Why is it that pride gets in the way of siging up for these great training classes? They obviously help people but I find myself thinking about too many "what-ifs."

Another great post, Dan! Thank you.

Dave said...

Darn it Dan

You have me drooling on my key board.

Wish we had some thing like this
in Ohio.

Dave AKA Old F

Radu Prisacaru said...

Keep up the good work! I invite you to see my post, I hope you will find interesting too.

Anonymous said...

It was a few years ago no, maybe ten or more? Can't recall exactly. Took a similar course with the local Goldwing Riders Association. At that point had been ride group leader for all too many Tuesday evenings, and was frankly getting bored. I also new that members with
the newer smaller Goldwings were not happy either as my older yet to me more nimble 1981 Interstate often did much better in the twisties and turnings on the roads travelled.
Hence the Saturday course, in the rain, of course.

We had one of our regional safety people do the course, and it was interesting,to me. I found the slow speed items were dead easy, however soon discovered my braking ability, or shall we say that of the motorcycle was simply not up to par. New brakes on newer machines versus systems on much older hardware, the two did not compare. And it was during this course that I started to feel a twinge of being on the edge, my riding skills in some situations were shaky.
And lacking not in the twists
and turns rather in how to brake in
a straight line without the rear of the motorcycle attempting to pass
the front end. Recall this course was held on a damp day, the rain lifted early however the rain allowed the lubricants from the parking lot to rise to the surface so braking was even more difficult.

I often wonder if that course often years or more was the start of my loss of the love of riding? Things
were OK, however then attempting to stop and realizing the balance problems as the bike wanted to fall over; maybe that was the ticket.
well recall one obvious thing;
was as usual the only motorcyclist wearing full leather, that is pants, jacket, gloves, high
leather boots and full-face helmet. It was a warm day after the rain, the vents on the jacket and the pants were opened, and I was cooler. The balance of the 20 or so machines, they wore nylon jackets, jeans and boots. Some wore gloves,
most wore shorty helmets. Rode with
most of them however over the years saw only one or two incidents; and of course the cotton materials failed. Maybe too my ATGATT being didn't fit into the general overall
scheme of thingsprobably still is the case for many GWRRA people
Who knows? That was then; this is now. I don't ride anymore...

bluekat said...

Great post. I think I've said it before, but I like hearing about the classes. I wasn't really sure what the RSP was all about.

Love photo #3. I like the low angle and the subjects, well they're always good. Funny, but seeing the helmet on the ground is unnerving. It's fine when it's tucked up nice next to the bike. But out there by itself it's too vulnerable, like an accident scene or something. Nice illustration of how a photo can evoke an emotional response.

Thanks for the post

Anonymous said...

I love MSF-would like to take this class sometime! Glad you enjoyed teaching it. It's instructors like you who make MSF so awesome.