Dropped by PRS (during my rain ride) and had a good chat with Kramer/Mark about how far I had progress. He reminded me that I was always the cautious one (or perhaps the worst student ) and he applauded my determination on riding out in the rain just to gain the experience.
I shared my experiences with him and he nodded ever so patiently. I told him that there were things that we couldn't understand during our lessons but they all became useful once we started riding.
"You are not listening" yells Chris during our lesson at PRS in the parking lot. Everyone that teaches at PRS does a lot of yelling. My thoughts were "How can I listen when you are yelling at me!". In fact everytime they yell, my bike quivered. In the real world everything/everyone is yelling at you and you have to respond accordingly. There isn't time to think about riding, you just have to respond.
"Keep your eyes on that happy face" yells one of the instructor, as they dash in front of you and you attempt to look through them. The consequence of not concentrating on the happy face painted on the wall behind the instructors' head, was a cup full of water thrown at you.
Applying the principles.
1. look where you are going. I struggle with this one for ages even though I knew about the concept that the bike will go where you are looking, my body, arms and thoughts fought against each other during those lessons. Turn the dam steering wheel? (steering wheel?) Ok handles.
and the light comes on "AHHHH!!" and it was a surprise to me when this came naturally to me. After being on the bike for less then a month, my muscle memories are already kicking in.
Turning is no longer a thought process. In fact the bike already begins to turn as you look in the direction of travel (there is really no steering at all!!); and the reason for this is your body muscles does the steering naturally.
Countersteering is useful on longer curves when you don't have a final line of sight, just push harder in the direction of the turn.
2. draping your body over the bike but keep your arms loose.
Well we didn't have to drape our bodies over the PRS bikes, but we did have to keep our arms loose. With my sportbike, this advice came back to me in a flash as this is the natural bike sitting/lying position. So I draped my body over the bike, holding the tank with my knees and gently holding the handles.
The looseness of holding the handlebars keeps the wind and any other body reactions from feeding into the bike. It also allows the front wheel to self adjust itself over bumps, rocks, etc. From time to time, I would drop one of my arms while riding to remind myself to keep my hands on the handlebars loose.
3. Countersteering. I cheated on this one when I was learning this at PRS by faking a right push to go right when I was actually turning the handlebars right with my other hand. It doesn't work was my thoughts at that time.
Countersteering came naturally to me on my heavier sport bike. In fact sometimes I think of countersteering as even pushing the handle in the direction of turn, to hold it from hitting the tank. At higher speeds I am pushing harder to turn tighter into the corners.
Now to make this work, you really have to let the other hand loose on the handlebar (no pushing or pulling) although they say you could pull it to assist the pushing of your other hand.
Countersteering works. Just remember that if you want a tighter turn, drop you elbow and push in the direction that you are turning.
4. the 20 second look ahead rule.
I have been practicing this for years in my car, however it isn't the same when you are on a motorcycle. Everything is a potential hazard and you have only your prediction and your fallback plan to go on.
I was sandwiched following a car, a semi trailer beside me and the curb on the other side. I had attempted to keep at least nose to nose with the semi almost tailgating the car in front, predicting that the semi may decide to change into my lane; and it did. I slammed on the brakes, falling to about half of the length of the semi before it took notice of me and changed back to his original lane. He waved at me to pass as well as waving an apology.
Ever since, I've been playing the prediction game. Predicting who is going to change into my lane, who is going to turn left without signaling, watchful for cars coming out from side roads, pieing every corner. It is a constant game of vigilance.
5. slow hands (throttling). I failed this one at PRS quite miserably as I gunned the engine on and off. Thereby I used a lot of clutching to keep the bike from lurching at the school.
I spent a solid week (over 40 hours) getting my muscle to respond gently to the throttle on my sport bike and even then, every now and then I would get a muscle twitch and the throttle would flick. Remember the saying that Road Riders have on/off hands and racers have slow hands?
At this stage after riding for awhile, muscle spasms happens a lot less and when they do, my clutch hands still saves me from a violent lurch.
However I do notice that my hands now have a safety lock (strange to think of it that way), but even when I want to turn quickly, it moves quickly but slowly. My body no longer allows me to flick the throttle, or perhaps it was the memory of when I did flicked it and I almost flew off the bike (once) that prevents me from doing it again.
6. slow riding? remember the hours of really slow riding on the parking lot? well it becomes useful during a traffic jam. I have been coasting at close to 0kph (I think the digital read out doesn't register anything going slower then 3kph) while the cars are inching forward. A favorite past time of mine (during traffic hour) is to coast to the next red light just in time to start off without putting my foot down.
7. Relax. I was never relax during my lessons at PRS. My arms would hang loose, but my body would be rigid. During my road rides, my attention is riveted to the bike in front of me and my attention was to my head set listening to Chris yelling to "check the boys" (shoulder check).
It wasn't until I rode with my own bike that I began to relax. What a difference that made to the riding. The bike was more responsive, cornering was easier and so forth. When I find myself too close to a meridian, I find myself tensing and the bike starts to go straight. All I need to do is to remember Chris yelling "relax, drop your elbows" and the bike begins to follow the curve naturally. Relax when you ride, it will save your life.
"Check the boys!!!" yells Chris
ps. I am just reminiscing. If you have tip to share, please share it.