Way back in the day, a couple of young fellows used to hang out at the legendary Rock Store in the Malibu Mountains. They’d wait until a suitable victim rode out of the parking lot, then proceed to follow, and one would pass him. These young fellows would then keep a lively pace for a ways and as they entered, say, a second-gear turn, the leader would leave his breaking almost hopelessly late. The pigeon would belatedly realize he was coming in way too hot, invariably lock one or both wheels braking, and crash.
The victim had gotten SUCKED IN. It’s what happens when you allow yourself to leave your personal riding comfort zone, that envelope of speed and road conditions where you can cope with situations – turns, hazards, obstacles, and so on – based on your experience and skills. You can leave that zone willingly, on your own, by riding over your head. Or you can get yanked there by trying to keep up with unfamiliar riding partners, as in the case of our two unsavoury predators. Either way, the result is generally the same: a broken motorcycle, possibly accompanied by bandages and plastered limbs.
How do you keep from getting sucked in, then? It requires equal measures of discipline and the ability to be scrupulously honest with yourself. Discipline is merely a matter of riding your own pace, your own road, your own bike, or whatever you wish to call it. This simply means not letting anyone or anything else (including your own ego) determine how you ride. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, either trying to keep up with another rider or trying to make time on your favourite backboard, until you’re picking decorate plants out of your visor. Public roads are no place to indulge the competitive instinct because nobody wins – not that you needed reminding, of course.
Being honest with yourself is simply admitting there are riders faster than you are. And you’d better believe some days even seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi himself has to own up to that fact.
So find your riding comfort zone and stay within it. Expand it when you’re ready by going to riding schools, track days, or safely practicing drills you’ve read about between the covers of [your favourite riding book]. And, for whatever reason, if you find yourself getting drawn outside the confines of that zone, return to it safe in the knowledge that the best, fastest racers in the world would do the same thing.
Because even they know crashing sucks.
**From the pages of the November 2006 issue of Motorcyclist, written by Charles Everitt**