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June 8, 2018

California SuperBike School - The Senses of Riding

California Superbike School - Keith Code discusses the Art of Cornering

The sum total of what can be done with a motorcycle is changing speed and direction. But these two acts can be broken down into more than a dozen key skills supported by a similar number of perceptions. Every basic riding skill relies on our ability to accurately sense the environment and the bike. This is our intimate connection to the riding world. Our senses and perceptions provide the vital raw data input that permits us to interface, smartly or clumsily, with the bike's controls. Taste, touch, sound, sight and smell are the traditional five senses. Taste and smell have little to do with riding. Touch gives us sensitivity to the controls. Sound can be of some help but is minor compared to sight, which we rely on heavily. But that's a very sketchy picture of riding.

Riding motorcycles is one of the most difficult multi-task activities known to man, and not everyone is wired for it. Taken one at a time, these tasks and the skills necessary to perform them are simple. Riders easily grasp basic ideas such as throttle control, choosing lines, braking, reference points, steering and so on. Each has its own set of dos and don'ts, rights and wrongs that can be observed and coached. It's the imponderables that puzzle us. How far can I lean? When will I lose traction? How fast is too fast? There is more here than meets the five usual senses.

2018 California SuperBike School

California Superbike School - A Sense Of Motion

We all have a Sense of Motion that breaks down into Perception of Speeding Up, Perception of Slowing Down and Sense of Cornering Forces. Our Sense of Speed allows us to compare one velocity to another; it is its own category. We sense and monitor Lean Angle. The ability to Perceive Location in Space is huge and has two parts: Where am I now and where am I going? Then there's our Perception of Traction, our Sense of Timing for Control Inputs and the relative Stability or Instability of the bike. These are all perceptions we have. None should escape us as we ride. None are trivial. All are both independent and interdependent.

Is this just a theory? Perhaps. But data from all of these "senses" is recallable. Take a moment and think of a friendly corner you've ridden. Notice how many of the above perceptions come into play when you review that corner. Whether aboard a sport-tourer or a road racer, we use them all and we use them virtually every time a corner presents itself to us. Are we multi-tasking yet?

Taken one at a time, these perceptions are manageable. Combine them, as we do when strafing a turn, and they can overwhelm us because these "senses" often seem fleeting or fragile. They're extremely hard to quantify and decidedly elusive.
Rider education is an interesting proposition. Beyond the coaching and drilling, you are training the rider to use their senses in an orderly fashion; to apportion their available awareness; to connect their perceptions to the right control actions at the right time and in the right amount. We are all guilty of errors in this department.

2018 California SuperBike School Mondello

California Superbike School - Throttle Control

Take the completely illogical action of looking at your hands as you prepare to engage a gear. All new riders begin that way and the majority of us continue to do so forevermore! Habit? Sure. Good or bad? If you roll this misappropriation of your senses to other riding situations, the answer is bad. You should be surveying the space ahead, not the hand controls. Try too hard to set your entry speed and you miss the line. Fix your attention on the line and you can forget your throttle control. Too absorbed by lean angle and you worry about traction. Fumble a downshift and braking becomes choppy, entry speed blown. Look into the apex too early and you turn in too early, prompting mid-corner steering and throttle corrections. The list goes on and on. Solution? There is no pat answer except to rewire your mental hard drive and become aware of what you are aware of while you are riding. By first isolating these perceptions and then knowingly combining them, you will be successful in the re-wiring process.

Practice makes perfect...sense(s). See you in Mondello later this month!

The California Superbike School take over Mondello Park later this year. Book your place now.

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