Sense And Sensibility on the Racetrack | Code Break

There was a very clear moment, back in the 1970s, when I realized others weren’t experiencing the same joys of riding I was. I honestly felt they were being robbed. I earnestly thought, "C’mon, don’t you see what you’re missing? You’ve got to push it some. You’ve got to challenge yourself. You’ve got to taste some danger. Just find the passion button and push it!" What can I say? I was naïve.

The obvious solution was to teach them how to ride. Big problem: I couldn’t just do a Vulcan Mind-Meld and transfer all of my touchy-feely impressions of what it should or should not feel like. It’s hard to relate what the curtain of red mist creates in you when it takes over your senses. There weren’t even accurate descriptions in English for either the correct procedures or the mistakes. Riders were smooth or choppy; brave or chicken; they had rider DNA or were squids. The experts told them, "Ride more and you’ll improve." That same old vague advice, used commonly enough, was boring and useless to anyone smart enough to know they could be better.

I figured there were two parts to my job: Figure out how to ride, and then pass it on. To do that, I needed to give riders an environment that would allow them to discover they had wings and really could fly. That required getting them out of the urban/two-lane jungle and into some kind of riding paradise.

Riders like to hear stories of riding adventures. They desire to grasp a piece of that potential, if only vicariously. "Near-miss"... "got my knee down"... "ran from the cops"... "smoked the geek in a Porsche"— daring feats for the soldiers of fortune in an urban jungle; war-zone kind of stuff. The problem was those were pretty much all connected to street riding. The solution, even for riders with no interest in getting a knee down, was to get them to the one place that fit that riding paradise description: the racetrack.

On the educational side, the "just ride and you’ll improve" crowd would believe I’m daft to say there are 52 points that affect your riding position; up to 72 things riders notice when cornering a motorcycle; 18 definable senses that we rely on when we ride. They would honestly think I’m being quite pedantic about it all. What can I say? Everyone knew the earth was flat for thousands of years...

Shaping riding into an integrated package of practical skills and drills that produce quantifiable results seemed the right way to go. What really began to blow my skirt up was figuring out and testing things to see if they really worked to improve riding. I was so excited when I came up with my first riding drills in the early ’80s, I nearly peed myself!

Once a rider has enough savvy about the core technical skills, it opens many doors. But students still had problems and uncertainty. Later, in the '90s, I began to understand and catalog the eight instinctual survival reactions that impeded their abilities, and that discovery opened up even more avenues to approach riding. Now, we have 30 well-defined technical points of riding, and each can be drilled or coached.

Nothing matches the feeling of working with a world-class rider and watching them improve by drilling and coaching them on the very same technical skills that are lacking in the average rider. And that’s the whole point: These skills are understandable; they can be practiced; they provide a solid foundation. They are vital to success, and they do build confidence and control at all levels. Even somewhat misguided training is better than no training at all. And if it’s done at the track, your opportunity for success improves immeasurably.

That urge I had, way back when, has unfolded into this amazing array of techniques. The greatest part for me has been figuring them out, writing them down and sharing them. Get yourself to the racetrack soon!