Street Savvy: Ride Like A Pro

You've read a lot of stories in Motorcyclist about high-speed riding schools, and maybe you'd like to try one someday. Yeah, that's the stuff for you: lap times, two-wheel-drifting and acquiring the skills necessary to blitz parked cars like they're standing still. Don't forget the umbrella-holding hotties fawning over your hero-chafes-all this is waiting at a racetrack near you.

Yep, you'd be palling around with Keith Code toot-sweet if you could just get your Gold Wing out of the driveway and onto the street without dumping it. Which is where Jerry "The Motorman" Palladino comes in. Officer Palladino's Ride Like a Pro ( system of books, DVDs and classroom training is geared toward mastering low-speed motorcycle handling. The tag line "Never fear dropping your motorcycle" is printed on all RLAP products.

The team at Ride Like a Pro understands that combining an 800-lb. touring bike with a few choice parking lot tip-overs equals a rider scared of his or her own motorcycle. Using a modified version of the police training system, RLAP takes the rider through ever-tightening maneuvers, easing fear while building confidence.

The class I attended, set up behind a warehouse in Hudson, Florida, consisted of simple layouts: a figure-eight, an intersection and a slalom. I'm not lacking in confidence, and with 40 years on two wheels I reckon I'm about as experienced as you can get. I'm damn good, you know? So when I started knocking over orange cones on the beginner course, I figured I better sit up and pay attention.

Ride Like a Pro stresses three skills: slipping the clutch, applying light pressure on the rear brake and looking where you want to go. The first two work in conjunction to settle the chassis. By easing the clutch against the tension of the rear brake, a range RLAP (like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation) calls the "Friction Zone," the rider can eliminate that out-of-control, herky-jerky motion commonly associated with imminent doom.

This Friction Zone stuff was news to me. I use the rear brake off-road on flattish, high-speed turns as it controls the back wheel better than messing with the throttle. Other than that, I could live without it. Using Officer Palladino's technique, I was able to smoothly putter around, doing tiny little circles on my Kawasaki ZRX1100 without dabbing a foot. This beats my old duck-walking method hands-down.

The third skill-looking where you want to go-teaches the rider that themotorcycle follows your eyes, See the cone; hit the cone. This skill is drummed into your head over and over until you start looking where you want to go just to shut the trainers up! I sure could have used this skill that time in the Laguna Mountains when I watched my buddy Gene crash 100 feet ahead of me only to find myself following helplessly in his scrape marks.

My classmates were a mix of male and female, some experienced and others less so. Some of them had all but stopped riding because they were worried about dropping their bikes. Officer Palladino had a cure for that problem as well. RLAP shows riders how to pick up their downed behemoths without leaving sexy bits lying on the road. Even the smallest woman was able to right a gigantic touring bike-and she had to, after dropping her Hog. The cocksure attitude gained from her newfound ability was obvious-that's one chick that doesn't need us dudes anymore!

Ride Like a Pro's books and DVDs are great self-training aids, but who wants to be a lonely old hermit? To really have fun, attend a training session. I had a ball at the class. Chatting up the other students and watching them flatten cones added to the enjoyment. Having an instructor on the spot to point out errors was very helpful. Ride Like a Pro schools are located throughout the U.S. and more franchises will be popping up as soon as Officer Palladino can find more motor cops to teach classes.

If wobbling up to the gas pump and dragging your feet through an intersection on the way to the racetrack is your mien, then wrap your mind around learning to go slow. Don't worry, the umbrella girls will wait for however long it takes.

If you've got a big bike, you've got to know how to pick it up if you lay it down. Ride Like a Pro teaches you how to do that-and more importantly, how to prevent dropping it in the first place.