Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to negotiate downhill curves.

Most of us love cornering on a motorcycle. Of course, we also prefer the curves to be on a fairly level road, gently banked in the right direction, and provide a clear line of sight all the way through. It's when any of those factors change that riders tend to start having more issues. In this post I want to concentrate on corners with elevation changes. In particular, when riding these curves downhill.

Given a choice I personally prefer to ride uphill on twisty roads rather than downhill. That's because physics does a lot of the work for me. When riding downhill I have to do that work myself. On the other hand, there are some roads I know where the curves with elevation drops are wickedly fun! Fun factor aside, we don't often have a choice. Roads turn right and roads turn left. Roads go uphill and roads go downhill. We need to know how to correctly deal with all of it.

Successfully negotiating downhill curves requires a more deliberate application of proper cornering techniques. In particular, setting a proper entry speed. Remember, a proper entry speed is one that allows the rider to roll on the throttle before leaning the bike and to maintain at least steady throttle application all the way through the corner. On the flip side, if a rider feels the need to roll off at any point in the turn, the entry speed was too fast.

I can't stress enough the importance of a proper visual lead for setting the proper entry speeds! It's what we see, or can't see, that sets up everything else.

It's the entry speed and throttle application that makes downhill cornering more difficult. Specifically, it's the fact that gravity is always working to make us go faster through the corner. Gravity is what makes going uphill so much easier. In this direction the pull is now on the back of the bike. Instead of working against us, gravity is now our friend. Have you ever found yourself able to use just the throttle for speed control on uphill corners? Hold onto that thought for a minute.

When entering a downhill turn the same requirements still apply. Slow enough before the corner to be able to maintain steady throttle. This is usually going to mean more slowing and less throttle. Notice that I used the word "slow" and not "brake". That's because braking is one way of slowing, but not the only way. The other method is engine compression.

Before we put all the pieces together it would be good to look at throttle application through a corner. Rolling on the throttle does more than accelerate us out of a curve. Judging by what I see, most riders think that's the only reason for using the throttle. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of riders I see in our training classes want to brake late, coast into the corner, and don't roll on until the apex or later. There's so much more to it than that. Missing these other elements is a big factor in rider crashes.

Remember that rolling on the throttle lifts the bike. The reason for doing this before actually leaning the bike is to make maximum ground clearance available throughout the entire turn. Another advantage is that the bike's suspension is stable. All the bike is being asked to do is turn, not compensate between braking and throttle inputs while leaned over. Additionally, lifting the bike extends the suspension so that it can absorb mid-corner bumps. If the suspension is compressed these bumps will be more likely to throw the bike off the cornering line. Not a great thing.

In downhill turns, it also becomes very important to avoid unduly loading the front tire. We're already asking the tire to stick to the road during whatever degree of leaning we need to employ. Extra loading on the tire makes for a much smaller margin of error.

So how do we accomplish all this while still controlling speed in a downhill turn? Time to put all the pieces together.

Keep gravity in mind when setting the corner entry speed. This means braking sooner and/or more than when on level ground. Slow to a speed that allows the bike to gain a bit of momentum without putting us above the comfort threshold. Both ours and the bike's. Remember that the velocity gained due to gravity is going to be somewhat uncontrolled. Depending on the slope the entry speed will need to be greatly reduced. Always use both brakes. Apply the brakes and get off of them.

You will likely hear or read about using the rear brake in a corner to help control speed. Don't do it. Proper technique means not braking in a corner. Riding the rear brake opens the door to another kind of hazard.

When the bike is leaned over, a lot of the available traction is being used by the lean. This is true for both tires. Riding the rear brake requires traction. There is a finite amount of traction available at any given time. That traction needs to be split between side force, braking force, driving force and traction reserve. Using traction in one place takes away from the traction available for the other needs.

The particular hazard when trailing rear brake while leaned over is that any sliding of the tire will happen in a sideways direction. Usually towards the outside of the turn. Which means the chances of a low-side crash are increased. Here's another thing to be aware of. When the rear tire is near the limits of traction any side to side movement of the rider can be enough to push the tire over the edge, so to speak. Best not go there.

Be prudent when applying the throttle. Remember that the throttle only has to come back up to "steady", not "increasing" for the requirements to be met. Less throttle means less speed gained in the corner.

Ok, I know this sounds like a lot of work. Heavy braking, gain speed, brake heavily to set up for the next curve. Hey, you do what you need to do. Or else. One might wonder, though, if there is a better way. Now that you've asked, let me offer some food for thought that might help smooth things out.

Remember me writing previously about using the throttle as a rheostat? In other words, like a dimmer switch on a light. Bluekat will recognize the last couple of photos. I went out and rode some corners on a road she rides reqularly. I also rode some others, like in the first photo. Notice there is a huge downhill slope in the first photo. By the way, I see on her blog that she is now riding Parish Gap. Great road. In case you hadn't noticed, yet, Kari, all the blind corners go the same direction depending on which direction you ride. From Turner southbound, they all go right. You still need to be aware of limited sight distance, but it's nice to know which way the road goes!

Anyway, another key is to gear down. In the corners above I found third gear to be effective. Using engine compression to both slow for a corner and control speed during the turn makes things very smooth. I find that I have to use the actual brakes much less. The engine might make a bit more noise than you're used to. Don't worry. Here's a little secret. Bike motors like it!

As a side note, if a rider is worried about going wide on a downhill corner use a late apex. Nobody says you have to apex in the middle of a turn. If you can't see the exit of the turn, stay wide until you can see it. This means a late apex. Even if you can see the exit early, a late apex will tuck the bike back into the lane. Early apex equals a wide path of travel. A late apex tucks you back in.

Here's to many fun and safe corners in your future!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Curves, but no road.

I recently came across something I thought I would share with those who might have an interest. It's about how to add a curves adjustment to Photoshop Elements.

The full versions of Photoshop ( CS 4, 5, etc ) have curves adjustments. While nowhere near an expert myself, being able to do this kind of adjustment in a photo is a powerful tool. However, the more affordable versions like Elements 7 & 8 don't have this capability. Here is how to add it for free. By the way, this works with several other photo processing programs, as well. See the webpage for details.

Go to this website:

Toward the bottom of the page is the download link. Download the "smartcurves zip file" to your desktop. I believe there is also a version for Mac, but I didn't check that out as I use Windows.

Open the zip file. There should be a "readme" file and three executable files. Using Windows Explorer, open the C drive program files. Then find Adobe. Open Adobe and find the "filters" file. Open the filters file. Then drag the three executable files from the opened zip fole into the "filters" file.

This is how I did it. There are obviously other ways to make this happen.

When you use the full edit feature of Elements and click on "filters" this new one should appear at the bottom as "easy.filter".

For what it's worth!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Visualize success!

A while back I was teaching the classroom session for our ART ( Advanced Rider Training ) course. A man asked me a question.

"How do you keep from freezing up?"

This man had recently run off the road after getting into a corner faster than he was prepared for. Rather than take any steps to successfully negotiate the curve despite his higher speed, the guy froze up. Fortunately there was no major damage to either the bike or rider. It was this experience that prompted him to enroll in our course.

I gave him what I thought was a satisfactory answer at the time. In the meantime, though, I've spent a lot of faceshield time thinking about the situation. I believe I have come up with a more complete answer. Not only does this answer help a rider conquer their fear, but I believe it goes a long ways toward preventing the condition in the first place. There are several factors involved, but there's a simple way to sum it up.


We should all be aware by now that the bike's direction and smoothness is greatly influenced by where we point our nose. It's all about target acquisition. Broaden the scope a bit and think about it a little differently. Doesn't the same thing apply mentally?

Believe it or not, I do other things besides ride motorcycles and take photos of Ryan. I also read extensively. A couple of books that deal with how our mental pictures affect our life course are "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Another is "You'll See it When You Believe it" by Dr. Wayne Dyer. There are countless articles and books on visualizing success in business and sports. Why shouldn't the same apply to riding a motorcycle successfully?

So let's bring this back to the guy who "froze up" in the corner.

There are two aspects involved in successful cornering. The same thing applies to other situations in riding. I'm going to focus on curves because that was what the guy asked about. Anyway, the two things are having the physical skills handy and then being able to visualize ourselves experiencing a successful outcome.

We tend to pretty much focus on the practice of physical skills. Which is a great thing, don't get me wrong. Knowing what to do and how to do it are critical to success. I've already written about developing motor skills and keeping the mind-muscle connection fresh and sharp. During the class my fellow instructors and I were able to help this gentleman to more fully develop his physical cornering skills. We couldn't help him with was his mental pictures, though. He will have to do that for himself.

On a physical level we tell students to look at the solution, not the problem. That's because target fixation is a surefire way to run into something. Where do we look mentally?

For example, in the photo below my bike is heading for a guardrail. For whatever reason that's my path of travel. Maybe I got into the corner too hot because I either misjudged it or was distracted. Maybe my head turn was weak and I ran wide. Maybe I moved to avoid something in the road. Pick something from the list. Whatever the cause, here I am. What is the picture in my head?

Do I have this clear and vivid mental picture of impending disaster? Guess where I'm most likely to go? Exactly. Right where I'm looking in my mind. Picture defeat, suffer defeat.

In contrast, I could have a different mental picture. Like the clear view below. I could have a technicolor movie of myself playing in my head where I am the hero. I clearly see myself putting the bike back on the path it needs to be on. In the movie it's very clear that I am doing the correct things physically. Picture success, experience success.

This is another case where giving in to our natural instincts can get us into trouble. I've always claimed that riding a motorcycle successfully is an unnatural act. In other words, our inborn natural reactions aren't always the right way to go. We have to develop new reactions.

Think about it. When humans are faced with a really stressful situation, where does their mind go? In my experience most go to the worst possible outcome in their minds. People stress out over things that haven't happened anywhere except in their heads, yet. Think about it for a while and you'll see the truth of what I'm saying. Heck, it even still happens to me now and then. I'm able to overcome the natural reaction because I've trained my brain to show a different movie.

That mental training is as critical as the physical training. I would urge riders to spend time making new mental movies.

Take some time off the bike to visualize success. The "off the bike" part is critical. Probably shouldn't be driving or operating heavy machinery, either!

Success will have two parts. First, and most importantly, mental visualization will cement the physical and mental skills that keep us out of trouble in the first place. Always the best option, staying out of trouble in the first place is key. We are humans surrounded by humans, however. Things go wrong. Visualization is especially critical at these times. Here's how to prepare.

Mentally put yourself into stressful situations. Then visualize yourself doing the right things and experiencing success. Visualize a corner where you look to the corner exit and press the grip to lean more. See yourself emerging unscathed out the other side. Your bike seat may need some attention, though. Picture an emergency braking situation. See yourself keeping your eyes up. Watch as you smoothly apply both brakes with firm progressive pressure on the front brake and light to lighter pressure on the rear brake. Celebrate as you successfully deal with the situations. Fear will be replaced by confidence.

Do these mental exercises frequently. When the time comes, you don't want the hard drive of your brain to have to look very long for the right file.

We go where we look. Visualize success!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Face to Face

There's always a bit of trepidation when meeting someone face to face when all you've had previously is an online relationship. Sounds like an internet dating situation doesn't it? Truth be told, the thought pattern is similar. Will we hit it off? Will they be disappointed when they meet me? Will I be disappointed? Bobskoot has called me a legend. What will he think when he finds the legend is actually an ordinary guy with a very worn 'Stich and scruffy riding boots? I experienced this situation several times last weekend. I'm very pleased to say that we strengthened the friendships in each case.

I had to be in Klamath Falls on Saturday. It's not real far, somewhere around 220 miles SE of where I live. Our motorcycle safety program has a system to do quality control checks around the state. That was the reason for this trip. Having some work related customers in K Falls, I went down a couple of days early. The plan was to leave for Bend on Saturday afternoon and meet up with the traveling bloggers.

This would be a good time, since we're talking about spreading the love, to say that I have officially fallen in love with Elvira. You've already seen here about her cornering prowess. The road I took between Oakridge and Klamath Falls is pretty much arrow straight. Long open stretches that are sometimes obstructed by big trucks and recreational vehicles. Being stuck behind these rolling roadblocks isn't much fun when it's 91 degrees outside. ( I was going to translate that into metric for Bobskoot who insists we have to use that system, but I fnd I don't really care )

There are a large number of drivers who are still wondering what that black and yellow blur was that blew around them. Probably a swarm of killer bees. Yeah, that's it. I'm not going to incriminate myself. You have to love that motor. 'Nuff said.

O.I.T. is one of the end users I call on when I'm in town. You know how it is. We take pictures of our bikes near identifying objects. Don't know if we're marking our territory or proving we were there. Either way, Elvira was parked where you see her. I hate mid-day sunshine as it washes out everything. The sun was behind me so the polarizing filter wouldn't help. I'm standing across the entry drive from the bike adjusting the exposure compensation. Along comes two absolutely gorgeous college age blondes in a cyan blue convertible.

They offer to take my photo with the bike. I decline the offer, telling them the bike is the important thing, anyway. Waving, the two goddesses drive away. Only later, as I'm once again on the road in the brain baking heat, does the thought occur to me.

I have totally wasted an opportunity to benefit from the attentions of these two young women. I can hear Riepe groaning and slapping his ample forehead. Yes, Jack, your reputation has spread literally from coast to coast. I know what you would have done, my friend. Animals would still be flocking to the oasis in the desert caused by your drooling tongue hanging out, too.

All I can say is that I'm lucky to have a girl like Katie. Why eat hamburger out when you can have steak at home? Again, 'nuff said on that.

Thursday afternoon I get a call from Mrs. Conch. We talk for a minute or two. Then she hands the phone to the man himself. I'm actually talking to the famous author of Key West Diary. Turns out we will both be staying in K Falls Friday night. On Friday a text message comes in that says they are running a bit behind schedule. We had planned to meet for supper but that won't work. I send a text back telling Conch that I prefer drinks only for the first date, anyway. You know, just in case it soon becomes obvious things aren't working. You're not trapped as long.

Mrs. Conch replies that they have a bottle of wine for our first date. Turns out that San Francisco traffic is horrible and they won't be in town until really late. Talk about covering miles in a day! So our meeting will have to wait until breakfast Saturday. I recommend the Black Bear Diner which is next to their motel. Now it's official. A real date with a real time and place.

We've arranged for 7 AM. I show up a bit early and back Elvira into a spot next to the front door. Across the way I spot this big bear of a man doing something in the back of somebody's car. There's a blonde dog with him. It looks like the man's stealing dog food from the car to feed his dog. I'm tempted to call the local police. Until my gaze moves down the man's legs which are bare below the hem of his shorts. I spot pink crocs. My God, I've just had my first look at Conchscooter and his faithful four legged sidekick, Cheyenne.

Much to her disappointment, Cheyenne is deposited into the backseat of the car. Conch's wife, Layne, joins us for breakfast. Conch may have a differing opinion, but we hit it off right away. Both of them possess lively minds. Layne is a Saint, while Conch has a bit more of the devil in him. Which he proved by trying to get a photo of me stuffing food in my mouth. Years of developing aggressive scanning skills on a motorcycle proved useful. I believe I saw and foiled his attempts. We'll see when he catches up his blog.

The portions at the diner are huge. Both Conch and Layne were served bisquits with their meals. Both of them decided to save them for later. If they had a flat tire on the road, the bisquits were quite large enough to be used as wheel chocks. I went a different route and ordered ham and eggs. According to Conch the ham was half a pig.

We parted after a few photos were taken. Below is a picture of my well worn riding boot with the famous pink crocs from Key West. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. We both had to move on to our next destinations. Mine to the motorcycle training range and Conch to a lunch meeting with Bobskoot. Don't know how that went. I just know they were both still alive afterwards.

My mission complete, I headed North to Bend. Another 135 miles of straight road in the 90 degree heat. Once more, I blessed Elvira's powerful and vigorous motor. As had been the case all week, it seemed hundreds of BMW riders were out on the roads. Their rally was in Redmond which is 18 miles North of Bend. Riders were either going to, coming from, or enjoying day rides.

Arriving in Bend, I checked into my motel room. I use this place often so the management knows me. I was given a big room which had a sofa and a kitchen. I'm not sure if the motel folks were being nice or not. Yes, it was a huge room. On the other hand, it was the room farthest away from the office.

Bobskoot and I exchanged text messages. Plans were up in the air for meeting. Finally, I got a text that said they had all decided to come to me.

First to arrive was Richard. We had all used the BMW Rally as the excuse to be in Bend. I think Richard is the only one who attended the rally. Next to arrive was Stacey and Stacey, along with Troubadour and Trobairitz. ( also known as Brad and Brandy ) As you can see, we had motorcycle parking in the shade in front of my room.

Bobskoot and Sonja showed up a bit later along with Bluekat ( aka Kari ) and Ron. Bluekat and Ron were staying at the same motel as me, so they parked over by their room. We offered Bobskoot and Sonja shaded parking with the rest of us. For some reason, Bob chose to park out in the sun. Perhaps his philosophy is the same as mine. A quick escape route open on the first date, just in case. Although, he is stripping his riding gear, so perhaps not so quick. Maybe he just likes restaurant dumpsters!

Once again, I took a photo of my scruffy riding boots beside a famous pair of crocs. These belong to Sonja.

What Stacey has now dubbed the 1st International Moto-Bloggers Convention was very unofficially called to order. I am delighted to have served as host. I have to say this was an extraordinarily nice gathering from my perspective. We were all just "us". Real people sprawled about the room telling stories and getting to know each other better. I had met Brad and Stacey ( Bolty ) before. The rest I was meeting in person for the first time.

I do have to issue a huge apology to Richard about these photos. Richard was sitting against the wall next to Brad, who is next to the kitchen entry. I didn't realize it until much later, but Richard is completely hidden from sight. I was simply taking a couple of quick snapshots and didn't check the camera review screen. I should have taken the time to make sure everyone was visible. Richard was certainly with us and was wearing red crocs. That made four pairs in the room.

Our meeting started a little after 5 PM. Time flew by as everyone kicked back and relaxed. Mention of supper was made several times. Everybody was so relaxed that nobody wanted to move. All of a sudden it was 8 PM. Stacey and Stacey decided they needed to leave for their night's lodging. Richard was headed to Corvallis. The rest of us decided on a restaurant close to the other hotel and departed for a late supper. It was 10:45 PM or so when I got back to my room. What a thoroughly wonderful time we had! I would rate our first gathering a smashing success.

The hotel parking lot was full of bikes. I counted 37. This is a very high ISO photo of the view from my room.

A plan had been made for the gang to meet for breakfast around 10ish ( heavy on the "ish" according to the Stacey's ) and ride back to the Valley together. Bob and Sonja were going to spend a few days on the Oregon Coast. For the rest, the Valley is home. I don't sleep much. 10 AM seemed really long to wait for. I have an old friend another 45 miles east whom I haven't seen in years. My plan was to go see him and the two of us would ride some more. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but did want to see my friend.

Here's a Can Am taking up my parking spot. I had to scrounge for a space by some other bikes. This is 4:45 AM with a flash. The ride with my friend was great and I arrived home late Sunday night.

Here's a photo of a mountain at 6 AM in the morning sun. I'm so used to looking east towards the mountain that it seems totally weird to look west and see them.

My friend and I got an early start. We successfully avoided deer encounters three times that we know of. Seems deer in this part of the state get a kick out of crossing the road in front of passing motorcyclists.

I hope we have another bloggers convention ahead of us. This one was awesome. Next time we all have to go to Key West!

Miles and smiles,


Sunday, July 11, 2010


I spent the weekend teaching a motorcycle class. I know. What else is new? Teaching riders is rewarding on so many levels. The passion still burns. It was literally a hot weekend, as well. I got home in the late afternoon, savored a cold beer, then fell asleep on the couch. Being a high energy instructor takes a lot out of a body! I'm still a bit groggy but felt the urge to play with photos. Another rapidly developing addiction.

Cone were on my mind today. Weird, isn't it? Not for an instructor, actually. Most of my world is made up of, and defined by, orange cones. Big ones and little ones. It's amazing how a parking lot or stretch of blacktop becomes our world. Cones define the borders of our kingdom. Cones direct our paths inside the walls. Sometimes they become a means for one instructor to deliver a message to another.

A big cone in the early morning sunlight.

Placed in a line they become a sort of miniature castle wall.

I was actually trying to capture an effect and failed to achieve it. Steve Williams provided a link to a photo of a line of soldiers. I was trying to duplicate the effect early this morning. The cones were too far apart and stretched over too much distance . My lense would only open as far as f/4. Now that I think of it, I guess I could have moved the cones closer together. My only excuse is that I had to get ready for students this morning.

Cones become the start point for braking and turning exercises. Both the start of the line and the start of the practice itself.

Cones form either a chute or a maze, depending on the need at the time.

Small cones transform into imaginary obstacles for students to swerve around. Bless the small cones for they spare instructors from serving as the obstacles!

Then there is this artwork left on the whiteboard. This greeted me when I arrived in the classroom this afternoon. The other classroom instructor invoked the small cones for this masterpiece.

What was his intent? Since this instructor is a truly good and caring man, I choose to take it as a gesture of affection. After all, must not people pay homage to a Legend?

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Street 'Cred for sale!

After a long day of motor officer training Dean W and I were sitting in a small room at a community college. Also present were a couple of other instructors who had worked with us all day. The rest of the attendees were present via a telephone connection. It was just as well. Nothing like a two hour meeting in a closed up room with no air-conditioning. Or any other way to bring in fresh air, as a matter of fact. The four of us were dog tired, sun burned, and pretty ripe. As Jeff Earls, who was physically present declared, consider it a bonding experience. I believe he said we all looked and smelled like Day 4 of the Iron Butt Rally.

Perhaps it was the heat and the exhaustion. Maybe it was the effect of our bodily emanations, but suddenly Dean looked at me with a look of mischief on his face. Of course, Dean looks like that a lot. That's one of the reasons we get along so well. This particular look had the added elements of triumph and discovery shining around the edges.

Dean had an idea for a new business venture. He said we could sell street cred to wannabes. As a further proof of the bad air's effects, I heartily agreed. We would sell our ground off peg feelers to those seeking physical proof of their claimed riding prowess. Part of the deal would be that these riders, in turn, send us their virgin peg feelers. We would be discrete. Dean and I would then proceed to grind these down and sell them to the next poser. It might just work. We could probably even get some sort of government "green" tax credits. Our product would be made from 100% recycled material.

As a matter of fact, the following Monday would bring a potential customer.

This a close-up of one of Elvira's pegs. As you can see, it might be getting time to replace them. Here's another look.

Being excellent multi-taskers, Dean and I were using his laptop to go online during the meeting to price new peg feelers. As you remember Dean rides an FJR, too. He was actually in the FJR camp long before me. Dean is no slouch on the tracks, either. He isn't shy about grinding away. Please note his most excellent head turn, by the way!

We were both shocked at the price of new peg feelers. There was a small discussion on whether the feelers might be made of aluminum. Ray declared that he had seen my peg feelers spark so we were pretty sure they were steel. I figured we might as well not waste our money as we would just grind them off again. That was the spark ( pun intended ) for Dean's idea.

Of course, it can't stop at the peg feelers. Other things would need to be scraped up, too. Take the center stand, for example.

Some of this scraping is simply from amazing lean angles. The last bit, though, was a mistake on my part. As much as I hate to admit it. Yes, even the legends mess up once in while.

See, the cops are in the classroom for nearly two hours. That leaves us instructors some free time to work on our lines. We'd never be frivolous enough to just go out on the track and ride for the sheer fun of it. No, it's all business. As we are, um, working, we tend to build momentum. I also swear there is never a spirit of competition or any testosterone rush. We are strictly self disclipined.

Being so self disclipined, we were riding. Faster and faster as time went on. The last turn coming onto the straightaway is tricky. Apex too early, and your line will rub against a chain link fence. Apex too late and you'll hit the fence before you can apex. The faster you go, the more precision is required. My precision was a little off. I was about two inches too far to the left on this particular lap. Nothing like solidly grinding the centerstand onto that red and white striped concrete curbing to lift your back tire off the ground. That's a weird feeling, by the way.

Elvira and I recovered and sped down the straight. The harm is when your fellow instructors see you. I'll never live it down. At least until one of them screws up.

Besides peg feelers, there's the tire issue. I mean, a true poser can't have severely ground peg feelers in the middle of two striped tires, can they? You know the kind of stripe I'm talking about. A narrow dark stripe between two wide lighter colored stripes. I believe those lighter colored stripes are commonly called "chicken strips".

Here's Elvira's front tire.

These are the low calorie version chicken strips. The back tire has zero calorie strips.

I'm using Elvira as the sales model, but Dean is manufacturing the same product. This back tire only has a few thousand miles on it. As you remember, the previous one had a nail in it so I replaced it. The tire, not the nail. ( Just in case Jack's reading ) I figure we can turn out tires and peg feelers at a pretty decent rate. Is there a market?

At the risk of yet another long post, I have to share a quick story with you to prove my point.

Dean and I were teaching an ART ( Advanced Rider Training ) class last week. One of our students was riding a black FJR, the same year as Elvira. The man told me that he had changed the OEM tires to Pilot Sport II's. He claimed the bike was a totally different bike with these tires. The guy said he could corner like crazy, now.

During one of the breaks, I took him over and showed him my mostly identical FJR. I pointed out the severely ground off peg feelers. I figured that I had pretty much reached the full cornering potential of the bike with my Metzeler Z6 tires. It might be time to consider an aftermarket shock. The guy told me that he didn't know if his bike had peg feelers or not.

That comment struck me as odd. I mean, if he was really cornering like he claimed he was, wouldn't he know?

We ventured back to his bike to check it out. Hanging proudly beneath the pegs were peg feelers. Each as smooth as my new grandson's little backside. The chicken strips on his tires were high in calories judging by the portion size.

I detected a potential customer. If one is going to play a part in the play, the correct props are essential. Dean's idea has a lot of merit, don't you think?

Admittedly, we won't get rich at it. On the other hand, job satisfaction would be off the chart!

Miles and smiles,


Disclaimer: I do not advocate judging a person's character and riding solely by scuffed tires and ground-off parts. Nobody has to have a bike in the same condition as Elvira to earn my respect. This is intended solely as a tongue in cheek poke at those who brag about their riding ability but their bike shows they are not walking the talk.

Neither should this kind of scraping happen on the streets. The photos are of professional trainers with high skill levels doing business on a closed course.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Motorcycle Symmetry.

Don't know why, but my photography has been drawn to patterns lately. As I look back over some photos I took during the last two motor officer training sessions, I find a fair number of them were of patterns and symmetry. Just wanted to share a few of them.

These are all right from the camera. The first one was set for a "Cloudy" white balance. The rest were taken in bright sunshine with a "Daylight" white balance. I used a circular polarizing filter. I didn't take time to run them through any Photoshop enhancements. They are what they are. Like I say, I was after the patterns, not to make works of art. Not yet, anyway!

Notice the way the bikes point to the jet in the distance? Motorcycles and jets seem to go together, don't they?

There are somewhere around 40 police bikes in this group. It's unusual to see so many at one place from numerous departments. Elvira seems to fit right in, I think!

BMW's comprise the vast majority. Still, though, the Honda ST1300 is well represented. There was actually one bike from Medford that was the new Kawasaki Concours. Nice bike! Sorry, it's not pictured here. You'll have to visualize the jet black bike for yourself.

The blue bike in the foreground belongs to The Director of our program. He's inside teaching the classroom session while the rest of us play. I mean, work.

This is a nice trio from Oregon's capitol city, Salem.

That's it for today. Hope you're having an awesome 4th weekend!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Road construction and pavement seams.

I've encountered a situation twice in the last two weeks that I wanted to bring to riders' attention. More exerienced riders have likely already dealt with this condition. Hopefully, the first time was successful! Newer riders may still have this to look forward to. I'm writing about the seams that happen between roadway paving sessions.

In Oregon we have two seasons. Winter and Road Construction. This year, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, there are more road projects happening at the same time than ever before in Oregon history. This is due in large part to the federal and state stimulus monies. I am steadfastly going to resist making a political commentary here, much as I want to.

What this means for riders is added hazards. What happens is that the crews will grind a road surface away. This leaves a thin base of chopped, grooved, and rough pavement for motorcyclists to deal with. At least the crews usually put up signs that warn motorcyclists of the grooved pavement.

Next comes the laying down of blacktop. Crews typically put it down one lane at a time. Which means one lane's surface is higher than the other. Recently I rode home on backroads that took me through St. Paul. It's a small town north of Salem. Very small town but home to the large and very well known St. Paul Rodeo. Which is happening this weekend, by the way. Anyway, we all had to follow a pilot car for a couple of miles through the paving work. The right lane was at the ground-off level while the left lane had the new layer of blacktop on it. Near the end of the run behind the pilot car we all had to move to the left lane. The four wheel vehicles were able to just hop up onto it. Not so with a motorcycle. I wasn't able to stop and get a picture of the actual seam. I had to take this photo a bit later. However, it will give you the idea.

This is at the edge of the roadway, but picture this in the middle of the road between the lanes. That's what I faced. As well as any other rider coming along. You can't just hop up onto it with a slow sideways move. The edge of the seam will catch the side of the front tire. A motorcycle tire is constantly countersteering itself to maintain balance for the bike. If the tire rubs up against the seam, the tire can no longer countersteer. Which means the bike will want to fall over. That's neither good, smooth, nor cool!

To deal with it, a rider needs at least a 45 degree approach angle. Move to the outside, attain the proper approach angle, then immediately move to straighten out the bike in the new lane. Cagers will think you're being weird, but so be it. We don't really care, do we?

Our concern is being safe on the bike.

My most recent encounter with this situation was in another location on two consecutive nights. The first night was ok. The second night on the same stretch of road was potentially hazardous to a rider who wasn't being extremely vigilant. Let me briefly explain.

On Wednesday we did police motor training. Afterwards we had a training program related meeting in Salem. So, after a long and hard day of training, Dean, Ray, Jeff, and I rode to Salem. Our meeting was done at 9 PM. Ray and I headed south on the freeway. This was 16 hours after we had left home in the morning. It was dark. So we chose to deadhead it down the Superslab. To those not familiar with CB trucker lingo, that's the Interstate.

Paving work was going on. In this case it's being done at night. All the freeway traffic was constricted to the right lane. Orange construction pylons on one side and cement barriers on the other defined our travel lane. That wasn't bad except for the slow crawl. As Ray said, this was what we needed after a 16 hour day!

The next night I rode through there on my own. No work was going on. Which meant no orange pylons. Thus, both lanes were open to traffic. Interestingly, the hammer lane surface was a good two inches higher than the right lane. The only warning consisted of a couple of signs that read "Abrupt edge center".

I knew there had been paving work the night before. There were still signs of the paving activity present that would have alerted me had it been my first time through there. However, the difference in height between the two lanes wasn't readily visible. It was dark. The only illumination was Elvira's headlight. Can you imagine the consequence of merrily whipping into the fast lane at 60 mph ( or whatever! ) without seeing the sharp edge of the blacktop?

The moral of the story is to be aware. If paving is being done the chance for the two ( or more ) lanes being of different heights is pretty large. Watch for the clues. Don't trust your well being to actual signs. These signs might not be present. When you spot the condition use a minimum approach angle of 45 degrees. That might prove to be pretty tricky to pull off at freeway speeds. The best approach is to not change lanes unless you have to for some pressing reason. This same strategy applies to railroad and trolley tracks running parallel to our path of travel, by the way.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, July 01, 2010

What are they capable of?

"Will they, or won't they?" This is a question that riders find themselves asking quite frequently. Those referred to as "they", of course, are drivers that we're forced to share the road with. It's a guessing game where guessing wrong can be disastrous. The process can also leave a rider mentally frazzled by the end of the ride. I'd like to suggest a better method. Think of capabilities instead of possibilities.

I have a couple of issues with the "guessing game". Firstly, while riding is certainly fun, survival on a motorcycle isn't a game. Winning or losing isn't measured by points on the scoreboard. Secondly, call me a control freak, but I don't like the idea of basing my health and well being on a "guess". Waiting breathlessly to find out if I made a good guess isn't my style.

Is there a better way? In my opinion there is.

Think in terms of capabilities rather than possibilities. Consider an example.

The rider in the picture above is looking across the intersection at this white vehicle waiting at the light. Notice the sign above the stop lights. It's not a protected left turn. The sign tells left turning traffic to yield to oncoming traffic during a green light. This means the rider is having to decide whether or not the white vehicle's driver will turn across her path of travel. Thus begins the guessing game.

Will they or won't they? I talk to a lot of riders. As a professional trainer I tend to analyze their understanding of, and behaviour in, traffic situations. There are a lot of riders who, having guessed that the car won't turn left, relax their preparations. No bogey, no countermeasures. What if they guessed wrong?

Here's the vehicle turning left across traffic. A rider who guessed this wouldn't happen is not only surprised, but they are also faced with a pretty critical situation. Any accident avoidance move has to start from scratch. That takes time that might not be available. Chances of success are worsened by the added adrenaline rush which impairs a rider's abilities in the moment.

The better way is to approach this situation thinking in terms of capabilities. Instead of asking what is possible, ask what the driver is capable of. Then make actual preparations based on that. We know drivers are capable of turning left in front of other large vehicles, not just motorcycles. I was talking to a cop who had a woman turn left in front of his patrol car. He was running "hot" with the overhead lights activated and the siren blaring.

Just recently an elderly couple were killed south of Astoria on the Northern Oregon coast. Both Mike and I have written about the Camp Rilea Military Reservation in the area. It's the place where we both have photos of our bikes with the tank. Anyway, a 72 year old man was driving. His wife was his passenger. Coming out of Camp Rilea, the man turned left into the path of a dump truck. Both the man and his wife were killed. Sad.

If a woman can turn left in front a very visible police car and a man can turn left in front of a dump truck, I'm certain any driver at any time is capable of turning left in front of my motorcycle. I'm not asking myself whether the driver will do it. I'm asking myself what the driver is capable of in whatever situation I am in. Then I take the actual steps to protect myself for when it happens. If the driver doesn't move, then it's a bonus, but I was prepared. No guesswork involved.

I know this seems like a subtle difference. A lot of you are very vigilant and have strategies in place to deal with traffic. I salute you. In my opinion thinking in terms of what drivers are capable of gives me a bit of an extra edge. When a person reaches a certain level of proficiency in an area, sometimes that's how their skills develop further. A fraction of a second here. A certain tweak in the mindset there. The difference between a sharp knife and dull knife is sometimes measured in microns. Those microns, though small, have a huge affect on how the knife performs, don't they?

Will this driver pull out in front of me? I'm not going to guess. I kow they are capable of it so I'll be ready. I hate nasty surprises!

Miles and smiles,