Friday, December 29, 2006


In the last post I wrote about how the process of making New Year's resolutions for self-improvement is a flawed process. This, of course, is just my own opinion. However, I feel like I presented a logical basis for saying so.

Since this blog is called "Musings of an Intrepid Commuter" and not "Musings of an Intrepid Philosopher" one would expect the subject to come back around to motorcyles and riding. I finally accomplished that in the last part of the post. We talk about "surviving" as a rider. Staying alive and unscathed is a great thing. There's just so much more to riding.

It's that "so much more" part that keeps me motivated to keep working as a trainer. I have a full time career apart from teaching. I make a comfortable living. I could be enjoying weekends off. What it must be like to just go ride for pleasure every weekend! My kids are grown and out so Katie and I could be "footloose and fancy free". Yet I'm still drawn into teaching. I went to a meeting at a pizza parlor last night. It was held by the Operations Manager of our training program, Ron. Ron is the one who oversees the scheduling of teaching assignments. I know I'm wandering here but bear with me. Isn't that part of the awesome adventure of riding, anyway? Detouring down a little side road just to see where it goes?

The purpose of this meeting was to get the instructors from our Mid-Valley together for some fellowship and to sign up for this coming season's classes. Pizza was furnished by our program. By the way, I seemed to be the only one crazy enough to ride last night. I'd been out on the bike all day just enjoying being in the saddle. We're getting temperatures in the upper twenties and fog. Some of the roads were a little slick yesterday morning, but not too bad. So many people asked me if I was cold.

"Yeah, ain't it great to feel so alive?"

There was ice on the bike when I left for home about 9 PM after the meeting. This all had a point at one time, didn't it? Right. I've been meaning to scale back on the teaching. I say that every year. The time must not be right for that option, yet. Between my already-scheduled instructor training weekends and the classes I'm signed up for, it amounts to about thirty weekends in 2007. That doesn't include police or track training, either. Even so, I'm happy about it. I'm still passionate about sharing and feel something of a responsibility at the same time.

For me motorycling has been more than physical transportation. My various two-wheeled steeds have been conveyances into a richer and more meaningful life. I really want to help others find the same wonderful experiences I've had. Here's what I consider an important point, though. In order to be able to take advantage of the intangibles, mastery of the tangible is critical. Physical skills have to be developed to the point that they almost take a background role. If a rider has to concentrate so hard on just controlling the bike there's no room for anything else.

It reminds me of a GM truck commercial. Here's a line from the ad.

"Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."

Cops have to reach this level. In order to successfully function while on patrol the physical skills really have to become second nature. Theirs is a special world unto itself.

Not everyone will take their skills to that kind of professional level. That's ok. I do think that everyone has a responsibility to keep improving upon their skills, though. It's like everything else in life. If you accept the role you accept the responsibility. Whether it involves parenting, medical careers, teaching, or whatever, the principle holds true in my mind.

Some people respond like Popeye in the picture above. The full expression goes like this:

"I yam what I yam and that's all I yam."

In Popeye's case, I think it's meant as being unpretentious. He's not putting on "airs" or trying to convince people he's something besides what he is. The same phrase can be used as a cop-out, too. Haven't you heard people say that others will just have to accept them the way that they are? That could mean that people need to learn to be more tolerant and understanding. It could also be used as an excuse for not trying in any way to make personal improvement. As a trainer I've heard so many excuses for why someone can't improve skills. It really should be phrased as "won't" improve. In most cases, it's because they aren't willing to pay the price.

This post is taking on a life of its own. I try to beat most posts into my own picture of what they should be. In this case, I'm compelled to let it have its head. ( that's a horse riding term ) I guess that means there's going to be one more part in this series. Next time I'm going to finish it up by writing more about the responsibility to improve our riding skills. We'll also explore the fact that there is, indeed, a price to be paid. The tender required takes many forms. Most people aren't willing to pay up and so remain forever mediocre. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,



Combatscoot said...

Every day that I ride is a day to practice some kind of skill, whether it be cornering, braking, or certain traffic situations. Once-in-awhile, I'd say, every month or so, I go out and practice sharp turns and emergency stopping in a parking lot. I have infected some of my other scootering friends with this habit- one even went out and bought some cones.
No, it's not easy. It burns more fuel, takes time from normal rides, and puts a little wear-and-tear on the tires and brakes. I haven't toppled-over yet, though that day could be coming. I have put my foot down a few times. I think it's worth-it, though. If I have to turn around in the road, I can do it, even from a stop. And, how else am I to teach my wife, and later my son, to ride if I don't work on myself?

dan_durham said...

May your musings stretch into the new year and beyond!


Anonymous said...

Good for you. What I see as a trainer is that we have a huge demand for the "beginner" classes. Very few come back for any more formal training. Keep sharp!

Thanks for the well-wishes. My warmest best for you and yours!


Steve Williams said...

Your admonishments to improve, learn, and take care on the road don't fall on deaf ears here. I have much to learn and you have become a valuable resource Dan. I will try and live up to the GM commercial and practice until I can't get it wrong.

Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy New Year!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Anonymous said...

Dan, you're over on my blog scolding me for making you think?

What do you call this? ;^)

I call it thought-provoking, and that's a good thing.

As you know, every time I ride, I'm pushing some part of the performance envelope, constantly trying to improve my riding and survival skills.

If I'm not testing myself in some way, I'm usually testing the bike. I can't even imagine just settling into that rut (There it is again!) where you think you're "good enough", and that's all you have to strive for.

What a waste! So, you are definitely on the right track here.

Ride well,

Anonymous said...


This reminds me of a categorisation of the stages of mastery of a skill:

1. "unconscious incompetence"
2. "conscious incompetence"
3. "conscious competence"
4. "unconscious competence". (I think I have got these right.)

Thanks for enlivening 2006 and best wishes (from the UK) for 2007.


irondad said...

There's no questioning your commitment to self-improvement. You have the perfect attitude for greatness.

I'm right with you. Check out the next post!

Thanks for the well-wishes. Right back to you. It's item 4 I worry about. I've done that in the classroom. I know the material so well that sometimes I'm sure my mouth said the right things but my brain doesn't remember it. Great reminder!