Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How to Lift a Bike

I'm posting this here with the blessing of Pat Hahn, who is the Communications Manager for our training program. That's Pat in the video, by the way.  One of the things I've learned in my pursuit of photography is that there is a definite advantage to being the one behind the camera.  Especially if there is a big heavy sport touring motorcycle to be lifted.

Pat and I lifted ( well, he lifted and I grunted ) this bike several times looking for the perfect take.  We may not have arrived there but we got close.  I do get some credit for making the narration happen in time with the action!

This blog post also marks a sort of milestone for me.  I have now officially lost my YouTube virginity.  It's also the first video here.  Don't expect to see very many more.

This is a sneak preview.  The video will be posted on the new TEAM OREGON website when it debuts in January. In the meantime, I hereby present "How to Lift a Bike".

video


Miles and smiles,

Dan

Monday, December 05, 2011

Don't be "derailed!"


A while back I shared the three guiding principles I ride by. One of those is "Riding with Purpose".


There's a lot to it but it basically means keeping your head in the ride.  One aspect is realizing we are on a motorcycle and then adjusting our thinking according.  Something that gets a lot of riders into trouble is thinking like a car driver while riding a motorcycle.


Car drivers may not even think twice about a certain roadway condition, for example.  For a motorcyclist, though, this same thing could be a real hazard.   It's critical for us to get our thinking on the right track lest we become derailed.  In the situation I recently discovered it could happen quite literally.


Over the past few months that have seemed like years, several major arterials in Portland have been clogged by crews ripping up the streets.  I've avoided these as much as possible because I've grown tired of doing snail impressions.  The other day my dictated destination didn't leave me much choice.  To my relief the construction is done.  To my chagrin, I know now why.  


In a huge city I guess light rail for mass transit is important.  To be effective said light trail needs to go where people need to be.  Well, it now goes a long ways North and South!



As it turns out, the light rail is pretty much the right lane on two major North-South routes.  There are three lanes of  travel so we could simply ride in one of the other two, right? The fly in the ointment is that a lot of the major destinations require a right turn.  Makes the intersection a bit tricky.


Car drivers don't have any problem with gliding over and making the right turn. As riders, however, we know we really shouldn't be doing that.  Our angle should be at least 45 degrees.  Not sure how we're supposed to do that when we have traffic REALLY close on our left that impedes moving over to get that angle.  


Truth be told, with the condition of the street and tracks right now a front wheel isn't likely to get grabbed.  Eventually the pavement / blacktop will start getting big gaps.  For now, though, I see the issue as being a combination of wet steel tracks and the required braking and lean angles for turning.  I've done it successfully several times with no unsuccessful attempts.  I'm aware of the hazard and change my approach accordingly. Hope the other riders do the same.


Ride with purpose and think like a motorcyclist.  Sometimes it means we need to slow down and be cautious as much as we hate that!


Miles and smiles,


 Dan
P.S.  I'm trying Blogger's new layout.  There's a few things like paragraph spacing and stuff that I'm still working on.  The html codes seem different.  If anyone else is doing the same and cares to share wisdom I'm all ears, so to speak.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cocky with a camera.

The day dawned with the reluctance of a hung-over person getting ready for work.  No sick days left.  The Boss won't buy calling in dead.  So it's going to happen.  It has to happen.  The process will be long and drawn out.  Without grace or warmth but with an inevitability that comes from years of routine.  Rise and shine?  Rising, certainly, but shining?  Not so you'd notice.


Cold and gray pretty much sums up the journey Elvira and I experienced together.  Cold and gray.  The early morning.  The pavement.  The expression on the faces of the commuters.  Circumstances even seemed to conspire to fill the roads with gray vehicles.


Our destination was the NW district of Portland.  It's a place with its own character.  Or a lack thereof, depending on how you measure character.  


This is the kind of place where light meets darkness.  You might even say this is where heaven meets hell.


Someone more poetic than me might call this a "forgotten place".  A place where residents of little means are dumped and forgotten.  Where those with few resources are left to fend for themselves without outside help.  


At first glance it appears to be true.  Everything within these few square blocks is in a state of seedy decay.  People in shabby clothing with dejected faces pointed toward the sidewalk wander aimlessly among the buildings.  Progress is marked by unassuming signs above doorways.  The signs don't need to be flamboyant.  These are not tourist routes.  Drawing attention from the passing hordes is not the goal here.  There are no passing hordes in the first place.  In the second place, those who come here do so for a specific reason.  They know where places are.


The building signs give you a clue as to why someone would come here.  Inside these doors is a "gentlemen's club".  Down the way is a bar that advertises female impersonators.  On the next block is an adult shop.  The sign glows softly purple as it proclaims the presence of an arcade inside.


Burnside Street forms the southern boundary.  A few blocks south there is opulent luxury.  The fancy hotels where political bigwigs and business leaders stay.  On Burnside and Broadway is a building that once housed a Burger King fast food restaurant.  Years ago I used to watch officers of the Portland Police Mounted Patrol take their horses through the drive through.  Today the building is becoming a pile of crumbling bricks.  Once the bricks were red but now they're the color of age.  Darker, mottled, and much less vibrant.  The windows have been boarded up for so long that the wood seems to be sprouting twigs.


Interestingly, in stark contrast to the distressed patina of the building, the parking lot gleams with fancy cars.  From about lunchtime on people start filtering into the neighborhood.  This is a place where the heights of human morality come into contact with the depths of primal desires.  So called "pillars of the community" move furtively about while fervently hoping none of their neighbors or associates see them.  Even if that someone else is there for the same reason there's a deep seated shame at being caught out.  


I am comfortable here.  I have business here.  I do not care who sees me.  Other people's perceptions are their problem.  I also do not worry about the residents of this area.  Law enforcement and life have taught me that there are good and evil people in all economic levels.  I take people at face value until they reveal themselves by their actions.  I have wandered these kinds of places, neither friendly or fearful.  I will admit to perhaps being a bit cocky, though.


Many years ago a close friend at the sheriff's office gave me a belt buckle.  You see, I had a bit of a reputation.  My friend and partner's name was Clyde.  He and I worked some pretty tough areas.  We were very self assured.  Some of the other cops called it cocky.  I don't think it was that bad, but whatever.  Clyde was killed in the line of duty after I left the area.  Sometimes I wonder how it would have went had I still been there for him. I keep the belt buckle as a momento of our partnership.  Those kind of treasured relationships very rarely come along.  Here's what the belt buckle says:  


"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, cause I'm the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley."


My apologies to the women and children as well as to those who may take this as sacrilege.  Some people live more sheltered lives than others.  Some of us have lived hard and seen a lot of stuff we shouldn't have.  We tend to be more irreverent.


I am pulling myself reluctantly back from memories of old days to come back to the story.


This day I was not only cocky, but cocky with a camera.


There is a hotel / halfway house in the slow process of being renovated.  I've been offering my services as a consultant to some of the hardware and code issues.  This has required a trip about twice a month to look at the job.  Normally I park right in front as in the photo below.



These two guys were eating donuts and comparing notes on how their respective group therapy sessions had gone.  There's a lot of healing going on in this world.  It's sad that it looks like there will be a need for a lot more before this carnival ride is over.  The room with the donuts is hidden away.  Things have progressed to the point where I am now privy to this information so I can snag a couple of donuts for myself.  I'm not bashful about eating donuts.  Just ask Troubadour after this past weekend.


The photo above is from a previous visit.  This time I couldn't park anywhere near the building.  The parking spots were barricaded or had stuff in the way like this big truck.


Judging by the truck and other stuff there was something out of the ordinary going on. My guess was that some sort of TV or movie filming was happening. Portland has worked to attract this kind of thing.


By now the sun was starting to slightly penetrate the gray layer.  The warmth was a nice dessert on top of the donuts and bad coffee I had consumed in the hotel.  I had a bit of time on my hands.  I had a camera with plenty of interesting things to take photos of.  I was a bad-ass dude in a bad place.  If I hadn't already been me I'd of been wishing I were me.


Time to go see what I could see in these few blocks.
 
"Does anybody remember the color code to these wires?!"



These kind of brought me up short. Four of the cleanest and most gleaming outhouses I've ever seen.  


Alas, I guess I wasn't Hollywood enough to use them.  I can't tell you how much that pleases me, by the way.  I've never been a pretentious pisser. The blue tape strips clearly indicated these were for the film crew only.  Did they have drink holders inside?  Perhaps heated toilet seats?  Maybe even a valet that waits outside the door with a warm washcloth and towel.  


I've used a lot of outhouses in my time.  I still find the situation extremely funny to think about.  It's amazing the difference that very thin piece of opaque plastic makes.  Recently I saw an outhouse on a trailer in the freeway median.  It was for a road crew.  I had this mental picture of some guy using the outhouse, reading a newspaper and his hairy rear end hanging out.  Right in the middle of four lanes of busy freeway traffic.


I laughed so hard I almost fell off the bike.  Thank goodness for the privacy of plastic, eh?


Check out these boom mounted lights. Can you imagine having these hooked to your DLSR? "Smile and say cheese while I light you up with these babies!" I think the only thing in the photo would be the person's scattered atoms!


I think the funniest part of the little photo expedition was this security guard.  On another street was another truck.  There were about ten security guards placed around.  Each had a block long stretch of street to watch over.  For whatever reason I decided to blow a few megapixels worth of battery power on a shot down the street.  The photo wasn't too good but I didn't delete it on the spot.  Then I wandered down to the other end of the block to take a photo of the lights.


Take a look at the first photo and you'll see the security guard on the right.  


Check out who followed me and is giving me "the stare".

 
This guy looked to be fresh out his Mama's basement where he has a little apartment.  I can picture his Mama making his breakfast.  Three eggs over easy with the toast extra crispy, "Just the way my darling boy likes it."


She probably asked him if he remembered to brush his teeth before work while slicking down his cowlick and brushing a bit of lint off his jacket collar.  Beaming proudly because her boy finally got a job, she waves goodbye while wishing him a good day at work.


As I moved across the street to take the close-up photo of the lights, Junior met me halfway across the street. 


Weirdly enough, the first thing he asked me was if I was some sort of P.I.  I presumed he meant private investigator.  I looked quickly from side to side as if afraid somebody might overhear us.


"Shush," I said.  "All I can tell  you is that I'm not official, okay?"


"You guys and your secrecy", he replied.  I kid you not,  This is exactly how it went.


Then I moved closer to the lights and raised my camera.


"Hey!  We've been told to tell people not to take pictures", Junior informed me.


"Ok", I replied.  "You asked".  All the while setting up my shot.


"What does that mean?" he snapped back.


"Just that.  You asked.  I say 'First amendment and public streets'.  Now do you want to let me get about my business or do you still want to do the monkey dance?"  My answer and demeanor threw him off.  I don't think this was the way he imagined somebody would react to his "authority".  The guy had no idea he would meet somebody like me.  Cocky with a camera.


I thrust in for another parry while he was still staggered.


"How about those women over there with their cell phone cameras?  Are you going to go confiscate their phones?  What about that couple with the little kid?  Gonna go grab the point and shoot?  Actually, you see the kid looking at us?  I'll bet he's asking his mother why that man with the camera is making the security guy all red in the face."


I have got to really hand it to Junior.  Somehow, somewhere, he found a small scrap of dignity that he pulled up and waved like a battle flag.


"Ok, take your pictures.  But don't touch anything or I can arrest you on the spot!"


I waved as I walked off.  "You got it, Sir!"  I resisted the childish impulse to touch one of the lights as I left.  Bravely guarding a very short stretch of city street is hard enough without some cocky bastard totally crushing your cajones.


The exchange I just wrote about was very real.  What wasn't real was this cafe on the corner.  It was real enough to begin with. Once upon a time it had been an actual corner diner.  However, it's been vacant for a long time.  Filming was scheduled to start after dark so the day was filled with preparations.  This place was being transformed into the Mountainview Cafe.  


I was able to gather from this crew that the reason for all the activity was an episode of "Grimm".  The hope was to have it all done in two days but it was turning into three.  


I've seen the trailers for the TV series. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid. I've seen enough evil in the world without having to watch demonic manifestations presented in the name of entertainment. It was fun exploring the set, though, I'll have to admit. I saddled up Elvira and took off for my next destination. In the process I found that the City of Portland has been busy creating a great hazard for motorcyclists in the name of mass transit. Stay tuned. 


 Miles and smiles, 


 Dan

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Oops! Now what?

Ok, here's the rest of the story. I can't believe that my so-called friends were so cynical about this.

"Looks like a set-up." "Somebody is leading us down the garden path." "Look's like you're getting ready to teach us how to pick up a bike."

Sheeesh.

I somewhat sheepishly have to admit that the cynicism was justified. Technically this isn't a post about how to pick up a bike. It's a behind the scenes look at making the video. Sort of like the extra features section on the DVD's you rent.

Meet Pat Hahn. He's the guy in the red 'Stich in the photos below. Pat is the Communications Manager for the TEAM OREGON motorcycle safety program. His duties include our website content.

Pat, knowing that I have an interest in photography and own a camcorder, called and asked if I would like to help him make a short video on how to pick up a bike. Always up for a bit of fun, I immediately agreed. Besides, I like Pat a lot. Thus we found ourselves in a parking lot with a hapless, but perhaps not totally defenseless, ST1100. This also happens to be our Eye Tracker project bike. That explains the paint scheme. More on that in a later post.

It seems like in every class past the basic training somebody asks about the proper way to pick up a tipped over bike. Pat's idea was to post a short video on our website which is in the process of being updated.

Pat came to us from Minnesota. He did a similar video back there and claims the page was the most frequently visited one on the website. It will be interesting to see what happens here. The best bet is to not drop the bike in the first place but it happens. Been there, done that myself.

Before you can pick a bike up you need to get it onto its side. One way, of course, is to simply tilt the bike up, kick the sidestand out from underneath it, then let go. Since we're true bike guys neither of us had the heart to do that. Here's a photo sequence of Pat lowering the bike so it could be picked up again.













Pat looks good, doesn't he? His glasses aren't steamed up and it hardly looks like he's exherting himself. Actually, done properly, it's much easier than it looks.

Pat did the lifting while I played the part of the off-camera narrator. Kind of like the old Wonderful World of Disney shows like "Charlie the Lonesome Cougar" narrated by Tex Ritter. Come on, I know some of you are old enough to remember that.

If there's enough interest I'll ask Pat's permission to post the finished video here. The video is on my SD card and also loaded into my computer's Adobe Premier Elements video production program. One of the takes was video only with no sound. Maybe I'll be playing Bobskoot and doing some sound dubbing.

The video is more or less the intellectual domain propery of the program even though I have physical possession of it. I'm sure permission won't be a problem, though.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

Monday, October 31, 2011

Which Way Does the Shiny Side Go, Again?

Um, I'm not exactly sure how this happened.


I AM pretty sure, however, the bike isn't supposed to look quite like this.

There's also a better than average chance I'm in trouble. This isn't my bike. It belongs to the training program. I was the last to touch the STeed. Now it's on its side. While you're at it enlarge the above photo. See the big scratch on the underside of the right muffler? I put that there during a police class on a track. This is also the bike I did the 100 mph front wheel skid on. Which we recovered from nicely, thank you.

In contrast, this isn't such a glorious moment. Hero to zero?

Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,



Dan

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slaying Dragons and Saving Lives

Whup, whup, whup, whup.

The sound came crashing onto our senses. We're out in the middle of nowhere. You don't expect sounds like this out here. The noise was as out of place as a tee-totaller at a college kegger. Yet, there it was. Wave after wave of thumping sound like somebody beating a gigantic rug with an oversized baseball bat.

A dozen possibilities as to its source raced through my brain. The last time I'd heard a similar sound was the super-sized hail beating the mobile unit in the Blue Mountains. I quickly looked at the trailer. The scars were there but no white rocks were falling from the sky.



Was it some kind of egg beater on steroids? I was pretty sure we were teaching a motorcycle class, not wrapped up in some kind of Kitchen Stadium Iron Chef nightmare. All the different thoughts crashing into each other in my brain were giving me a headache. So I kicked them all out and just stood there looking at the sky. That, after all, seemed to be where the sound was coming from.

Trying hard to resist becoming hypnotized by the rythmic pattern of sounds, I stood silently waiting for whatever IT was to reveal itself to us.

Soon enough, there it was. A gasp escaped from the students. They were locals, you see, and they had some previous experience with this thing. Nobody knew what it was really called. All they knew is that this thing swooped down from the sky with its fearsome chopping mechanisms whirling wildly. As the blades cut viciously at the air, literally chopping it apart, that horrendous noise was produced. Several legs jutted from underneath the creature. The beast seemed to be attracted to fire and heat. Perhaps the heat from the dozen motorcycles was what had attracted it.

Most menacing of all was that dangling hose. The locals claimed that the beast ate fire then sucked up great quantities of water to quench the heat. Anything or anybody unlucky enough to be nearby got caught in the suck zone. Worse, they said, a riding student on a badly smoking bike had recently been sucked up. Gone without a trace.

We all waited to see what this flying menace would do.



Bit by bit the creature revealed itself to us as it descended. I could begin to see the features that the students had described. We were all hoping that it would lose interest in us and fly away to some other place. Alas, it was not to be. The whirling dervish sank lower. And closer. And closer.

By now I could see the thing in all its menace and ugliness.



Most of the students had gathered together in a group. Why is it that humans revert to herd animal instincts in time of danger? Is there really safety in numbers? To my way of thinking the group creates a bigger target. I thought how it might even appear as a sort of smorgasbord type of buffet. All the goodies in one spot. Just pick which you desire.

I, on the other hand, took a sentinel's post. Free to see and observe. Able to act without being encumbered by the herd. Ok, so maybe I was hoping that the flying creature would be attracted to the group and not notice me. Whatever.



Suddenly, from my sentinel's post, I observed a lone student heading away from us all. Was it possible that he was oblivious to the danger? Was he going to sacrifice himself to save the rest of us? Unfortunately, I didn't have two way radio communication with him so I could ask. Are you doing this willingly to save the group? If so, thanks. Oh, and by the way, can I have your truck?

Whichever scenario it was, the student was in danger. As the senior instructor present I supposed it fell upon me to do something to help.

Wait a minute, isn't this the student that's been so mouthy? On the one hand, no big loss. On the other, the paperwork for this kind of thing was sure to be a major pain. Dang, I hate these ethical decisions.



Then there was the story of the previous student. I wasn't sure if it was actually true or not. According to the story the guy was out practicing on his motorcycle. His girlfriend had come along, driving the guy's sports car. This creature had supposedly come along and next thing you know the guy and his bike had disappeared up that big red hose. The only thing left was the guy's wallet which had somehow fallen out of a pocket on the way up. The wallet was full and the sports car was fast so the girlfriend was able to console herself well enough.

As a small tribute she is said to have spray painted the guy's date of demise and his initials on the edge of the runway. Seems the guy was a graffiti artist on the side so the paint was handy. Like I say, I don't know if the story was true. However, somebody had painted something on the blacktop and I could still clearly see it.



I quickly considered defense options. If this whirling menace did, indeed, regularly eat fire then it had to be suffering some major heartburn. Which would also explain the great thirst I'd been told about. I could understand this kind of thing. I have friends who eat molten lava at Mexican restaurants in the name of whatever, then gulp antacids. It doesn't make sense to me but, since I've seen it with my own eyes, I know it happens.



Glancing around, I see no big water puddles, Tums, Prilosec, Mylanta, or anything even resembling them. As my eyes sweep the scene I do spot something that might work. A fire extinguisher! If I could get close enough to the creature, maybe we could work something out.

Imagine my disappointment when I see the extinguisher's needle buried deeply in the red zone.



Come on, there's got to be something. Then it hits me. Mushrooms.



I had taken a hike up in the hills before class. The hike had revealed a treasure trove of magic mushrooms. The "take a trip without leaving the farm" kind. Oh, I would never use such a thing myself. No, riding Elvira wickedly is plenty of thrill for me and I don't have to wake up trying to remember everything that happened the night before.

That's not to say I don't suffer from addictions. Say what you will, but some of you are right there with me even if you won't admit it. We crave riding. We crave newer and better riding gear. Gleaming rubber tires, shining accessories, farkles, and baubles. Like any addiction it takes money to satisfy the tremendous appetite.

So I'd picked quite a few to take back with me. It was a better than average chance that I'd find a ready market for them in the Occupy Portland camps. Now it looked like I'd have to put the fungi to a different use. Sorry, Elvira, but you'll have to wait a bit longer to get your diamond studded wheels.

Pulling the other instructor off to the side I filled him in on the plan. I told him my intentions of acting as a decoy then stuffing the hose full of mushrooms when the creature came for me. To my intense surprise my partner insisted on being the decoy. I complimented him on his bravery. Bravery my ass, he said. I hurt my back and I'm in such pain that being eaten by this creature would be a huge relief!

Whatever his motive, my partner proceeded to attract the creature's attention. We all sort of held our collective breath as my partner waved his hand about.



It all turned out to be easier than we thought. My partner, battling to stay upright in the turbulence created by the heat seeking monster, threw the first mushroom into the air. His aim was good and the mushroom hit right on the end of the hose. With a whoosh the toadstool disappeared. Suddenly the hose started waving wildly about, like a hound locating a scent. Then, like a pointer's tail when it finds a bird, the hose located the pile of mushrooms. It almost looked like the creature was being dragged by invisible hands towards psychedelic nirvana. We all just stepped back and watched. I think my partner looked a little disappointed.

In no time the flying menace had consumed our offering. Soon it began to whirl unsteadily around. Where once only the blades had spun, now the entire body was slightly rotating. I pulled everybody into the trailer for cover. It was all we had since we couldn't all fit into the outhouse.

Making giddy but steady progress, the once fear inspiring flying menace settled onto the ground near a wind sock and passed out. Crisis adverted. We could get back to business.



I am so glad to report that the rest of the class was pretty much uneventful. The photo below depicts what I will say if I ever get pulled over by a law enforcement officer for speeding on a motorcycle.

"I'm not speeding, officer, I am merely flying too close to the ground."



The photo serves a twofold purpose. The second was practice on creating depth in my pictures. To take what is essentially a two dimensional representation of what we see and add the third dimension back in somewhat. I took this at f/22 in manual mode. I focused at five feet using the lense's distance scale. The cone in the forefront, the student on the bike and the plane midway, and the mountains in the distance create the illusion of depth. I was pleased to see that I find my eyes drawn down the runway and into the photo.

Having slain yet another dragon and delivering another outstanding class I made use of the facilities before leaving. Hey, even motorcycling gods have to pee, you know.



It was time to head home in the accomodations to which I would like to become accustomed.





Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking:

I hope you've enjoyed your flight of fancy. Any turbulence you may have experienced is the result of pockets of hot air and bovine excrement colliding.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

Monday, October 03, 2011

Breaking the chains!

Too much time chained to the laptop lately. End of month reports seem to take all month these days. Looking stuff up and putting it on spreadsheets. All at the expense of riding. Time to break the chains!



Enough computer stuff. A good bike is a Search Engine for the Real World!

Miles and smiles,

Dan

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bikes, Boots, and Convertibles.

Just a few photos and comments.

Saw these in Bend Friday night. Not a pair you would normally see together. I think the common denominator was the downtown festival and beer garden around the corner. One of the bikes may be counting on the other to protect it. The question is which one?



In the top right corner of the photo below you can see my patient bride waiting for me to get my photographic jollies. Thanks for all your support, my lovely princess!

This bike was at an ART class I was teaching a while back. Made me think of you know who. Care for a little more bonding with Max?



Here are some photos to titillate the guy with a foot fetish. A guy we dearly love, of course! The first photo is one of the class instructors.



Some assorted footwear among the students. We require the ankle bone to be covered. Boots not necessarily required.







Here's what happens when a student doesn't have over the ankle footwear. They get a dose of stylish duct tape.



Reminds me of a quick story. Notice how the duct tape goes up the side of the leg like stirrups. Then the pant leg is secured to the stirrups. This keeps the pants protecting the ankles, light as the protection may be. More importantly, note how the duct tape is OUTSIDE the pants!

I once worked with a new instructor. A student needed taped. The new instructor assured me he knew about the stirrup and wrap technique. So I turned him loose. There was one small piece missing in the technique. The taping happened under the jeans. The young man who was getting taped was wearing no socks. It was a powerful reminder to me that one should trust, but verify!

Needless to say, the student had the proper footwear the next day. Go figure.

Ever have the urge to buy a convertible?

This one is for sale. Windshield wipers included at no extra charge.







Miles and smiles,

Dan

Friday, September 23, 2011

Foot down? Precisely!

I would like to introduce you to Precision. She is the sister to Prudence and Purpose. Precision is the studious one of the three. She gets straight A's in school and is good at math and science.

Her social life isn't what you might expect. You see, she's not impressed by flash. One or two grand gestures just won't cut it. No, what Precision loves is somebody who makes little efforts to court her favor each day. Some say she's playing hard to get. Others say she's stand-offish and aloof. They misjudge her, I'm afraid. Once a person makes the effort to really get to know Precision they are always so glad they did. It will be a rewarding relationship that will be forever cherished.

When someone writes about riding with precision the first thing that often comes to mind is endless hours of practicing grueling drills. This tends to be a bit overwhelming mentally. As a result, not many start on the journey towards a relationship with Precision. I think more riders would take that trip if they only realized that, like any other journey, it all boils down to a series of small steps.

That's my intent over the next few months. I want to break down the road to excellence into its simple steps. There are small things we can do today. There are small things we can do tomorrow. It doesn't seem like much from day to day. Get a ways into the trip, though, and look back. It's always amazing and rewarding to see how far we've really come.

I saw a poster years ago. It said:

"Success is the sum of small efforts made every day."

It really is that simple. We just want to make it harder than it is. I know I'm taking a risk here. Making it seem simple will probably shatter the illusion people have of my standing as a professional motorcyclist. The mystique will evaporate faster than dew in the desert. That's ok. I've never claimed to be some mysterious motorcycle god. I've simply been around some great people and have worked hard to get where I'm at. It would really please me to have the company of anyone else who wants to tag along.

Speaking of steps, let's start with something literally having to do with our feet. That's the matter of putting our feet down at stops. Or not.

I don't know what it is, but it seems like riders have this sick aversion to putting their feet down. You've seen it. They'll twist the handlebars back and forth, put their tongue between their teeth, blink fifty times quickly, and anything else they can think of in an effort to avoid putting their foot down at a stop.



Sometimes this is ok. Other times it's not.

There are times when being able to balance the bike at very low speeds is a sign of great skills and control. There are also times when it's appropriate to adjust our speed so that we don't have to stop and put our foot down. Coming up to a signal light is an example. We can adjust our speed in order to get the timing down. Hopefully, we'll keep a bit of momentum and be able to flow smoothly through the intersection when the light turns. That's control applied to achieve a smooth flow through traffic.

Even then, we need to be careful. For example, when other drivers are behind us they expect a certain thing. Years of driving with other traffic has taught us that there is an expected point where the vehicle ahead of us will begin slowing for a traffic light or stop sign. It we start slowing significantly earlier than that, we are guilty of causing a ripple in the current, is it were. If a driver behind us were to have a close call, or even hit us, it would technically be their fault. On the other hand, as we point a finger at them there are four pointing back at us. We actually caused the situation by changing the flow.

When we make bad decisions in order to avoid putting our foot down, then it becomes a real problem.

I will be the first to admit that I was guilty of this. A lot of getting to where I am has happened by looking at what I do. I either put it in the "that works" stack or in the "that needs some adjustment" stack. Having been there, I'll write this in the first person. I do not operate the same way now but it will help you understand why I saw the need to become more precise in this matter.

So here I am. Riding a big street bike. Sometimes with a passenger who is usally the person nearest and dearest to me. We are exiting a parking lot. The downward slope of the driveway towards the street is a bit disconcerting. I want to make a right turn and blend into traffic. I can't simply proceed as I need to find a gap. Traffic isn't really heavy but it's enough to make me pause.

Because of the mental thing about putting my foot down and a bit of worry about the slope I'm going to create two problems for myself. Remember, too, that I'm using a parking lot as an illustration but I could be anywhere. A four way stop. Pulling out of an alleyway. The possibilities are numerous. Back to my potential problems.

Firstly, I'm going to spend a lot of time in a really ugly, unbalanced situation. I am barely in control of the bike because we are at like, 1 mph. God only knows what will happen if a pedestrian suddenly darts in front of me. Or what if a car turns in beside me and goes a bit wide? I'm really vulnerable because I'm not in a stable position from which to respond. What if I need to move right but my handlebars are doing a side to side dance in an effort to keep balance? If I quickly pull a bit of throttle I'm as likely to go down as I am to successfully move the bike. I don't even want to talk about what will happen if, in a shocked response to almost being hit, I get a big grip on the front brake while the bars are turned so far to one side. By doing all this shucking and jiving to avoid putting my foot down I'm actually stacking the odds against me.

One reason to come to a stop and create a firm and balanced platform from which to work. If I'm stopped and stable I can also more freely move my head back to forth scan for bogies.



Granted, the odds of having an issue at this point may seem small. I can see arguments both ways. What is not up for discussion is that being in this situation is the opposite of riding with precision.

Now we come to the second, and far more sinister, complication.

Remember the need to pick a gap in traffic so we can pull out? We really shouldn't be seeing how close we can cut it. If we were sitting stable, with a foot down, we would take our time and pick a suitable gap. Instead, here I am, about to crash any minute because I'm so unstable. Again, for whatever reason, I feel my foot will fall off if I put it down and actually stop. This becomes the primary factor in my next decision. I decide to take a chance because I don't want to put my foot down.

Now I pick a questionable gap, pull out, and do some heavy throttle rolling. I'm lucky in that there was room in front of me to get a bit ahead of the car I pulled out in front of. I was also lucky because there was nothing slippery in the road that could compromise traction on my rear tire when I gassed it. I'm also feeling a bit guilty that I put my sweetie in a dangerous spot. Guess what will happen the next time?

Yep. Same-o, same-o.

Like I say, I was often there myself. I see it over and over. That's what I do. I watch riders when I see them. I'm a professional trainer and evaluator. It's in my blood and I can't "not" do it. I know you've seen it, too.

So much better to be precise. Solid stop. Foot down. Ready to respond accurately and intelligently.

Small thing? Exactly. The journey towards riding with precision literally begins a foot a time.

Next time we'll talk about changing lanes and passing.

Miles and smiles,

Dan