Last weekend, I met up for the first time with the SoCal Sport Bikers Meetup group and we did a long run through Angeles Crest National Forest, on the Angeles Crest Highway and Big Tujunga. I was really impressed at the quality of the riders and the way the group was run will feature in an upcoming blog post on group rides as it really set a great standard. Even though I don’t ride a sports bike and am only on a Versys 650, I’m experienced enough to hold my own alongside the faster, bigger bikes thanks to years of experience and techniques I teach as part of my rider courses.
One of the biggest components covered by the Road Strategy umbrella is “following distance”. Simply put, this is the distance at which you are “following” the vehicle directly in front of you. They talk about this in various highway codes as the “2-Second-Rule” which means the suggested minimum gap between you and the car in front should be two seconds of time. Or as long as it takes you to actually say “only a fool breaks the two second rule”. The rule is more a guide to reaction times and safe stopping distances. When applied to motorcyclists however, the 2-second rule is somewhat inadequate, largely due to a motorcycle’s small size and greater reliance on rider visibility and positioning. Let’s look at why such a premium is placed on following distance for us bikers.
As any graduate of one of my courses will tell you, some time spent in a quiet parking lot practicing emergency braking drills is an important part of the day. Why? Braking performance is where one of the biggest disparities in motorcycling is to be found. One disc (rotor) or two up-front, different makes of caliper and pads, ABS, non-ABS, linked brakes or non-linked – all contribute to a massive disparity in braking performance from bike-to-bike.
With huge power to weight ratios, extreme grip and none of the protection, stability and size our 4-wheeled counterparts enjoy, riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity. In fact, you are 27 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than you are in a car one. Despite the dangers, there are many things riders can do to lower their propensity for an accident or crash (and we teach them all here at SCPR), but here are our top 5 mistakes we see riders making that usually (eventually) lead to getting hurt on two wheels:
We all know that ABS on motorcycles has been around for a while, but what it might surprise you to know is just how long it’s been around. According to the Wiki, BMW launched an 11kg (!!) ABS system on its K100 series way back in 1988. I was only 13-years-old back then and am in my forties now…. Because the system has been around for a long time and is becoming a standard feature on most bikes nowadays, a long-held assumption I’ve had is that the vast majority of today’s riders are au fait with the system…
If your motorcycle isn’t blessed with shaft or belt drive then you will have a chain connecting the engine to the rear wheel. The chain is completely exposed and as such picks up all sorts of dirt, grime, grit and dust when riding. It’s especially bad in the wet as the water also tends to strip any lubrication that’s on there.
With the dozens of riders I’ve coached over the years, it’s always a source of bemusement to me that the two most important tools for riding a motorcycle are the two I always find used the least – counter-steering and the rear brake. Counter-steering may be considered an advanced technique but rear-braking is firmly in the “basic motorcycle control” one.
I am fortunate enough here at SCPR to meet and train riders of all ages and experience levels. I’m always interested in folks’ path into motorcycling in terms of what machine they started on. It tells me a lot about the sort of rider they are, even before I’ve seen them turn a wheel on a bike. All riders come to SCPR on all sorts of machines – from 125cc beginners to 1300cc Harley’s, but the universal truth about almost all of them is that whatever the bike they are on, they’ve adjusted themselves to the machine to make riding it work. But it really should be the other way around. The machine should be responding to your control – not the other way around.
A student on a recent rider course recently asked for some tips on riding two-up. I gave him a couple of tips. Then a few more. And a few more. I ended up giving him so much advice I realized carrying a pillion / riding 2-up is almost a discipline by itself and certainly worthy of a blog post in its own right.
There are so many different factors and variables that contribute to successful corner execution and reading about them on a blog isn’t ideal, mainly because of the problems involved in learning a practical skill from the written word, but since so many riders have a tendency to corner extremely badly, I thought I’d examine a few of the major areas of cornering that you can take with you and practice.
This blog post might be the first time you have come across the term “counter steering”, or maybe you’ve heard of it but think “pfffft I don’t need to do that in order to steer MY motorcycle! I just lean it over!” – but here is the honest and total truth: in order for the motorcycle to turn at higher speeds, you must counter steer, whether you realize you are doing it or not. Consciously counter-steering, and practicing it will open up a whole new world to you as a rider because it enables incredibly precise, quick and effective turning – far more than using your body to lean the motorcycle over will ever achieve.
I don’t do this one very often as it’s a bit of a trek to get to the start point, and due to the
altitude it goes up to, this ride should really only be attempted in summer. If spring or fall, wrap up warm as it gets cold at the higher levels and this is pretty much unridable in winter due to ice and snow. That said – as rides go, this is one of the most epic rides any motorcyclist can do and should be on every rider’s bucket list. It’s pretty simple, start at the Shell gas station (which is the meeting place for all riders tackling this great road). Take Highway 2 (the Angeles Crest Highway) which takes an elevated, winding, sweeping course up through the Los Angeles National Forest National Park. Stop at the excellent Newcombs Ranch cabin restaurant for a bite to eat, then do the entire ride in reverse back down to the start point. Mega!!
I spend 90% of my riding time commuting up and down the 405 and 118 freeways, but it’s not all work and no play. With incredible year-round weather, amazing coastal scenery and huge network of roads here in SoCal, it’s good to get out on the occasional ride at weekends. Over several years of exploring and various hookups with other riders, I’ve got some pretty amazing rides in the memory bank and thought I’d detail some of them here for other riders. Enjoy!
Anyone who has perused – or been a member of – a motorcycling forum will know this is probably the question most frequently asked and the one most hotly contested. Everyone has a definitive, authoritative opinion on the subject. Most seem to hold the Owners Manual in scant regard, preferring their own schedule based on x years and y experience or what the dealer recommended when they sold the bike to them…
We get calls here at SoCalProRider from new riders who have just completed the Motorcycle Safety Program at their local state-sponsored training facility. Whilst we’re thrilled these folks are looking for further training, the checklist is usually the same – they don’t own a motorcycle, they don’t have any gear and they don’t have a learners permit. They’ve taken the MSP course perfectly legally on their driving (car) license; motorcycles and gear were provided by the school. They spent two days riding round a parking lot, got their completion certificate (which waives the DMV riding test) and are fast-tracked straight to a full, unrestricted Class M1 motorcycle endorsement.
It had been a few years since I said goodbye and good riddance to my Harley NightRod, a purchase I readily admit was based solely on lust and looks. In many ways, I look back on my time spent with the Nightrod like I look back on a few months dating a gorgeous girl. The looks are great at first, but as time wears on, annoying personality traits start to shine through which start to take the edge off the looks and ultimately ruin your experience with her :-)
In this post, I share details of the system of riding I’ve developed that I apply every time I get on the bike. It has allowed me to ride efficiently and safely these past fifteen years and I hope sharing it here will do the same for you.
In my opening post on this site I mention I teach the UK police pursuit method, along with my own system I’ve developed over my years of riding. I call it SOAP (Speed, Observation, Anticipation, Positioning). It’s a system of riding developed over many years that is easy to learn and can be applied easily to any riding situation.
Commuting on a motorcycle makes a lot of sense. Unlimited access to car pool lanes, huge savings on gas, easy parking, cheap insurance, quicker journey times, no more sitting in traffic and turning a long, boring grind into something actually fun – the appeal of commuting on two wheels is a hard one to resist.
Lane-splitting, filtering, white-lining. It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s a huge irony that the single greatest advantage of riding a motorcycle also happens to be the most dangerous…
In the second part of his review on the California Motorcyclist Safety Program Motorcyclist Training Course (CMSP MTC), Jason touches on more areas of the course that failed to educate new riders on the basics of motorcycle handling and riding…