Monday, December 10, 2007

I appologize. Thought I had published this to the blog from Google Docs.

James Ford's Rider's Workshop proved to be of great value to me. After being rear-ended a year ago and going through fairly extensive back surgery that was still painful, my riding had become increasingly timid. I felt like I was riding more and more like a beginner. Signing up for two days under Jim Ford's supervision, proved to be the cure.

He gave us radios with single earpieces to listen to him. We met in Thurmont Maryland then a small group of us rode, with him coaching, to Wellsboro, PA. He showed us how to find "invisible" roads: beautiful local roads that are invisible to most motorists, who take faster through-fares. My confidence came back quickly once I learned to keep my RPM's up closer to the range of maximum horsepower. After that I could concentrate on lessons and learn to ride with even more skill, smoothness, and safety. Explaining how I felt after the class may give you some insight into it's benefits.

First Day after the Rider's WorkShop:

As I rode to work this morning, gradually the lessons of the last weekend returned. Even before getting on the bike, I started it and turned the electrics on high to get seat and grips warmed. It is the first sub-50-degree day of the Fall. On the road: practice discipline, don't just ride, plan where you want the bike to go and PUT it there. I look down at the two stars on my instrument console and remember to relax and work on smoothness. Traffic is slow, but I pre-load to shift up to second and a few seconds later pre-load to shift down to first, slowing for an upcoming stop, minimizing brakes. Off again; a corner approaches and I make a point not to "bust" the "double yellows" after another pre-loaded down shift and controlled acceleration through the corner. It would have been better if I had turned my head more and LEANED even for a slow speed corner.

As the ride to work continues, I continue to re-adopt improvements. I PUT the bike in the left-hand mini-lane, look for the vanishing point, clear the view then roll. I'm in no hurry as I turn down Quackenbush and pick my line through the pot holes. Providence give me a break in the traffic and I'm quickly across 16th Street, one of DC's main ingress routes, and descending on the S-curves of Joyce Road into Rock Creek Park. I keep the rev's up in first gear, watch for the vanishing point in a tight S-curve, and my peripheral vision spots a deer standing at attention a few feet from the road. It is watching me. Intuitively I make eye contact and realize the deer knows it is safe where it is. We've met before, further down the road and even raced together side-by-side a bit. As I continue, I meditate upon the deer -- this time so serene -- having grown up on venison, I can only hope fate doesn't bring us together in less pleasant ways.

More tight S-curves below the Ranger Station that I've seldom done well are no big deal. Same for faster curves as Rock Creek Parkway approaches Georgetown.

Getting on the bike later that day, for the ride home, my trip meter says 88.0 and I remember Highway 880 during the workshop. I recall the gas station where I refilled and last set the trip meter to zero, near the completion of the rider's workshop. I have a feeling of amazement that such roads, such riding as we saw after that gas station, are less than a tankfull of gas from downtown Washington, DC. This gives me a powerful sense of my motorcycle's reach.

Two weeks later:

My cornering skills have improved further as I'm getting the habit of leaning, and not having to think about it so much. When I'm not doing anything else, I practice shifting with pre-loading while riding down the road. That will take more work to become a habit, but I'm getting better and now know what Reg Pridmore means by the "blip" that you hear when racers shift although I do not hear it as often as I would like. I've found my magnifying glass. It does make map reading easier. Now I await my Delorme Pennsylvania Atlas and wonder what maps I'll use for the upcoming Void Endurance Rally.

The Riders Workshop proved to have great value. My riding skills probably doubled, and likewise my safety margin. There was also great pleasure to be found in riding great roads under the watchful eye of a master, listening to his coaching on upcoming sections of road, and the question & answer sessions between segments. At a more practical level, since I'm keeping my engine in the range of it's optimum performance, my mileage has improved by about 20%.

I look forward to taking the Total Control class as well. I've seen them working at Frederick Community College, while I was teaching a BRC nearby. Total Control teaches different things and maybe sometimes different aspects of some of the things we learned in the Rider's Workshop. Probably most of us would do well to take both classes. Probably, I will take the Rider's Workshop again in the Spring to sharpen my skills, further perhaps, at the beginning of the next riding season.

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