The Motorcycle Front Tire and Your Brain

Frontal Fascination

Rely on the front tire completely
Obliterate the separation between your brain and the front tire. Strive to make The Connection. And always remember: It’s not a crash until you stop riding.©Motorcyclist

I wish I could break down the wall between the front tire and my brain. Better still, I want to bypass my brain entirely, creating a direct conduit from knobby tire to nervous system. I want the chemical-electrical current fed directly from contact patch to neuron to synapse.

It’s happened to me a few times: I made The Connection. Everything hinges on confidence. A grippy front end can turn Clark Kent into Superman. Push the thing low into the corner, secure, leg cocked and ready to fire. Scan for big rocks but don’t make major corrections to avoid them. Take them dead center. Let the bike twist. Your body will absorb what the motorcycle cannot.

Stay on top, relax your grip, but don’t lose The Connection. Stay on top, all the way up by the triple trees. Let the bike drift to the outside then tighten the arc. Stuff the wheel hard to the inside. Now harder still. Let it wash. Force it to wash. Hold the bike up with a stiff leg, tri-cornered and stable. You can’t be mousy with the front wheel. You must master it.

The rear brake is the anti-throttle, mere child’s play in comparison. It tightens your turn while on the gas. Fall into the rear brake, like sinking down into the ocean. Use the rear brake to buy time, to get the front underneath or to stop wheelspin and control drift. Anyone can use a rear brake—even me. The front end is where the action’s at, man. Lock up the front wheel then release. Lock up and release again until a skidding front tire becomes normal operation, just without rotation. The harder you ride the front the less you’ll care what the back is doing.

If you ride long distance off road the wall crumbles easier. Exhaustion draws energy from your brain and you will become thrifty with your movements. The gulf between rubbery input and metal shrinks. The fewer things you ask the motorcycle to do the more closely it can follow your instructions.

Ride until your back hurts, feel your arms pump and your hands cramp. When you’re tired a motorcycle can get dramatically out of shape. Don’t give up—it’s not a crash until you stop riding. Follow the motorcycle’s trajectory to its logical conclusion. A ditch or a cliff may be the new path. There’s no going back—that other way is gone.

It’s arrogant to drive a dirt bike like a choo-choo train. Suggest a course but leave the exact line to the whims of that precise instant of space-time. You must be confident you are where you need to be.

As your speed increases there’s no time for Plan B. You’ll be occupying more space and doing it in less time. Make the decision now to accept a certain amount of sloppiness. Great speed reduces your riding choices to the right one or the wrong one.

The right path is the one you take, always. Don’t restrict yourself to the dull or the gray. Stick that front—it’s all that matters. Duck under instead of swerving. It may seem as if your errors are increasing, but you’re covering much more ground so the error rate over distance is actually dropping.

Five hours off road at speed and you’ll be riding the motorcycle, not analyzing your technique. Maybe hurtling instead of riding: an explosion of effort that lasts for hundreds of miles. Slide up, push down, jab, a touch of rear brake, stay on the gas. Rely on the front, completely. The motorcycle will drive out of the corner if you only let it.

The wall survives through fear. Push the front end farther than prudence dictates. Lean heavily on the contact patch, shoulder-to. Break down that wall and then tell me how it feels on the other side. Oh, and one other thing: Watch out for trees.