What is riding technique? And what makes a technique successful? Is riding just a composition of good or bad technique, or is there something more basic?
Shifting with or without the clutch represents two workable techniques for changing gear. But what technology, or basic principles, do they both rely on for their workability?
To define it, technique is the physical actions taken. It is the method used to access the underlying technology.
In a motorcycle transmission, once a gear is selected it will resist change as long as there is force on it from either acceleration or deceleration. For example, it’s impossible to change gears while at full throttle unless you use the clutch. The clutch disconnects the power going through the gears. Reducing that force allows you to disengage one gear and select another.
Downshifting without using the clutch involves a rapid “blip” of the throttle. That throttle blip reverses the deceleration force on the transmission. In that brief moment of transition from deceleration to acceleration, the load on the gearbox is relaxed, which allows for a downshift the same way the clutch does. Plus, as the gear is being selected, there is another brief window of time when none are engaged. In that moment, the throttle blip free-revs the engine, allowing a perfect downshift with revs matched to the new gear.
Upshifts are similar: You interrupt the acceleration power with that same throttle blip, off to back on, then the power is relaxed and you change up.
Understanding the engine, clutch and transmission and the laws of motion that govern them allows that technology to be accessed by two very different techniques.
Even Ben Bostrom's technique is based on a solid understanding of his Jordan Motorsports S
There are definite benefits that go along with understanding this. Clutchless shifts are quicker and smoother. They also eliminate two control actions: pulling and releasing the clutch lever. Wear on the clutch is reduced because it is never used except for starting and stopping. While rough gear changes may not jack up your survival reactions, they can be distracting.
We can also look at technique vs. technology in a more stressful setting—for example, handling quick, flick/flick sections of road or track. We must first coordinate our physical actions with our outward perceptions to gather information, which escalates the potential for confusion and errors.
Many things come into play: timing your steering inputs and throttle actions (off and on), choosing an entry speed, deciding if braking is necessary, deciding on a gear change, assessing your line-of-sight to read the radius of a turn, reading the road’s surface, etc.
The answer to the question of why all riders do things a little differently is contained in their unique responses to any given situation.What they do, however, either follows the underlying technology of the technique, or crosses it in some fashion.
To be a successful technique, the method must have a solid base in: 1) the bike’s design; 2) the technology behind it; 3) the physics principals and laws of motion involved; 4) the freedoms and limitations of human anatomy; and 5) the freedoms and limitations of the rider’s senses and perceptions.
A good technique is in agreement with all five points. The question for you is: How much do you need to understand about what you are doing to create the level of confidence you would like? The difference between the physical laws of motion that govern the bike and the laws that govern the rider is the perceptions the rider must rely on for his information, which he then uses to control the bike’s speed and direction.