Monday, May 09, 2011

It's Great to Know for Sure!

I want to make one more comment on Step 3 of gaining new skills before I finish off with the oh-so critical importance of Step 4.

Since it's been so long between posts let's take just a moment to re-establish continuity.

I've been posting about the four steps I've discovered happen when a person is learning a new skill. In this series these are skills related to riding a motorcycle successfully. I believe the same steps happen in other contexts but this is a blog about motorcycle riding. So we go with our strengths and interests.

Briefly, the first step is what I call finding out what we didn't know. Something new catches our eye and we want to try it. At this point we don't know what we don't know. Training and self discovery tell us what's lacking.

Step 2 is when we discover where we are in gaining these new skills. Mostly it consists of realizing that we really need some more work and practice!

Step 3 ( which is where we've gotten to in this blog ) is when we realize that we're actually starting to see improvement in our application of these new skills. It's perfectly natural and wonderul to do a little celebrating over our newfound competence. Which is what the last post was about.

Besides the joy of accomplishment there's another aspect to reaching Step 3 that I feel we should think about for a bit. It's a precursor to what happens in Step 4.

Ok. Enough Step 2, Step 3, Step 4, and big words. Here's the deal, plain and simple.

Wouldn't you like to know for sure that you can do something rather than just thinking you can?

Let me bring it home and lay it on the doorstep, so to speak. I'll use Katie and I as an example.

Katie is often on the back of my bike. She loves to ride. Sometimes I'll be sitting around the house on a Saturday. On those rare weekends when I'm not teaching, that is. I may have ridden a thousand miles during the week. I wouldn't feel deprived by not riding on a Saturday. Katie will suggest a ride. She's more tied down during the week and so weekends are her free time. Katie's a great passenger and I love having her with me and experiencing riding adventures together.

My lovely bride has an endorsement of her own. She took a class, passed the skills test, and got endorsed. We bought a bike for her. The vast majority of the time, though, Katie wants to be my passenger. Like I say, she's a great passenger and I love having her close. Katie, being an endorsed rider, is well aware of the risks. As am I. She's a great passenger because she understands what's happening as we ride. One time we were out on some country roads and riding Sophie. On a particular corner one day I gently, and on purpose, touched my right foot peg onto the pavement and held it there during the entire time the bike was leaned. Instead of feeling somebody frantically beating on my back, I heard:

"Man, that was soooo smooth!"

It's time to bring this thing home. Katie is excited about riding with me. Despite having a rider's awareness of the risk. Why? One, because it's extremely enjoyable. Secondly, she can relax and enjoy because she trusts my judgement and riding skills.

Here's my big question to myself: Am I worthy of that trust? Not just because I think I might be if the time came. That's conjecture. Conjecture may or may not save our bacon.

At the risk of sounding overly romantic, this woman is my best buddy. She's given me the precious gift of her love, friendship, and loyalty. Her being in my life has made it so much more awesome than it would have been otherwise. This is a woman whom I fiercely love and really love spending time with. Do you start to see the importance this girl has in my life?

I don't take this at all lightly. I don't want to just think I could do the right thing competently if I had to while we were riding. Conjecture isn't nearly good enough compared to the precious passenger blessing my bike seat. I want to know for sure. I know that time and unseen occurrence befall all of us. There are no magic bullets or protective force fields. On the other hand, I want to know that I have whatever skills may be required to stack the odds in our favor as much as humanly possible. If there is a failure somewhere I don't want it to be mine.

And I do know. I have actually done these maneuvers under real world conditions. I don't have to wonder if I can successfully swerve at highway speeds. Been there, done that. It takes a very firm press on the handgrip to make a bike move off line at speed. I know how much because I've done it at over 70 miles per hour. Two up, by the way. I don't have to wonder if doing a maximum braking stop at 35 miles per hour will mean I can still do it successfully at 65 or 70 mph. Hey, things happen at this speed. I've done it repeatedly at those speeds and higher. ( more on that part in just a bit )

Having ACTUALLY DONE IT, repeatedly and successfully, is a source of great comfort and satisfaction. Sure, I scared myself in the process. Yes, it was hard. But this is Katie I'm talking about. You get the picture.

How about you? Would you rather wonder or really know? I don't really mean it to sound like a challenge but then again I do. Sometimes it takes a challenge to get us out of our comfort zones. That's a nice place to be but it stifles growth.

I've been blessed with readers who have been regular here for years. Thank you so much for your support. Those who've been around awhile may recognize the photo above. It's a very long skid mark laid down by a front tire during a maximum braking stop at 100 miles per hour. Yes, this was me. Some of you may find this a little over the top. I wouldn't blame you. I don't have much to offer as an excuse save for the power of the moment.

The only thing I can say is that I now know I can do it. I will also add that I now know I really don't ever want to have to do it again. If you care to read about this adventure you can find the post here.

Stay tuned for Step 4. It's way more critical than we might realize.

Miles and smiles,



Charlie6 said...

Irondad, a soulmate you are truly fortunate to have found.

When I execute a maneuver correctly and smoothly, I grin inwardly and say to myself...there see, just like you were taught.

When I dont do it as well, I usually understand why...

As to dragging one's peg through an entire turn...I bow to the master!


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

Thsnk you for all your helpful hints and tips. Your blog has made me the rider I am today... And I'm telling everybody. :-0

Fondest regards.
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

RichardM said...

I like this post as it covers a topic which has come up around our house every year. Last week, my wife signed up for the MSF BRC partly because I didn't feel comfortable with her riding on the back of the bike unless she had some experience piloting one.

Geoff James said...

Excellent reading Dan!

It seems to me that the hardest part on the road to improvement is getting people to take that first step. Maybe it's seen as not macho to add some skills or fear of failure but it doesn't seem to affect women to the same extent.

Love reading your posts!

irondad said...

Dear Mr. Toad Riepe,

Thank you for writing in and offering to be the spokesman for the Ride Gooder Tomorrow Than You Do Today school.

It is true that you ride more goodly than when you started the class. Imagine my gratification at seeing the light come on for you when you realized that "mounting your motorcycle" simply meant sitting on the seat and nothing more.

I greatly enjoyed seeing you learn to change the motorcycle's direction while actually in motion. As you can see, this is much more practical than stopping to put the bike on the centerstand, rotating the motorcycle to the desired direction, then remounting. This will greatly increase your safety in corners as the chances of being hit by traffic from both directions are much more in your favor.

I have to add that decreasing the space required to move the bike in motion from 40 acres to 35 was most impressive.

Unfortunately, your results are atypical for the average person coming into our school. It would not be doing a service to these new students to have them expect to experience the same improvements as achieved by you. Therefore, I regretfully decline your offer to advertise for us.

Perhaps I can have my attorney contact you. He can arrange for a, shall we say, "compensation" to be paid to you. This would be recompense for you not spreading the fact that you are one of our students. This would seem to be a win for both the future students and yourself. The students would not have false expectations coming into class and you could truthfully say you were a paid endorser. The fact that the payment was to keep your mouth shut would not have to be mentioned.

Warmest Regards,

The Goodest Rider and Instructor

Nikos said...


Thought provoking post.

There is a debate /hoo haa in UK at the moment about the swerve test that is now part of the full bike road licence test. (It may well be removed from the test end of next year as the casualties mount).

In my mind swerving is an essential skill and I have practiced it at lowish speeds but never at 70mph. Too bad a decent simulator could not be produced: consider that airline pilots practice "engine failure on take off" routines every 3 months in perfect safety so that their instinctive reactions are honed to perfection.

Best wishes from sodden England, N

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

That's really cool that you and Katie are a close riding team. So far our oldest granddaughter (16) is the only one in the family who will ride along. I barely know she's there when we ride.

I need work on swerving at freeway speed. I can tweak my body but not the bike... yet.

I agree with Charlie6 on the sustained peg dragging. You're the master!

Raftnn said...

AS always Dan an excellent post. THat fact you have found your soul mate who enjoys your riding and passion is a great bonus.

keep up the good work, I often see your posts, but wait till I have the time to sit down and take in what you say, rather than just a brieft read.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):


Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

irondad said...


I'll be the first to agree on the soul mate part!

As to dragging the peg in the corner, having a passenger makes it much easier. Not as daring as it sounds, I'm afraid.

Take care,


irondad said...


It's good for both the rider and passenger. Easier to pilot the bike, less fear for the passenger when they know what to expect.

Take care,


irondad said...

Geoff James,

Thank you for the kind words. I was thinking about what you said. Perhaps I should do some posts that outline just tiny little steps at a time. Perhaps it's less intimidating that way. Maybe easier to take the first step if it's small. Great insight, thanks!

Take care,


irondad said...


I have read about the swerving thing. Seems like setting up an environment where students can crash more easily is counterproductive.

Honda has a simulator, I believe, that is getting more realistic. A simulator makes for a good way to work up to the real thing but nothing can really substitute in the end, don't you think?

Take care,


irondad said...


When you do decide to practice, please do so safely and out of traffic! Which I know you will, of course.

Thank you for the compliment.

Take care,