Category Archives for "Track and Teaching"

Jul 15

Hustling the K1200 GT

By kevin | Track and Teaching

One of the popular misconceptions about the big K bikes (courtesy of testers who ride them for a day or two) is that they somehow don’t handle, or don’t handle as well as their obvious competitors.  Having put 24,000 miles on what many think is the best handling bike in the class, the mighty FJR, and over 6000 miles on my K1200 GT including time on the track, I can say without equivocation that those arguments don’t wash.

The truth is the K bikes fly, including the GT.  You just have to know what you’re doing.  The GT has more ground clearance than any bike in the class and provides fabulous stability at the front.  To that point, I am now convinced that the BMW Duolever front end is the safest choice bar none for the average rider.Continue reading

Feb 17

Learn how to sit on your bike: Meet Master Yoda

By kevin | Track and Teaching

Few, if any of us, were taught how to sit on a motorcycle. Or much of anything for that matter. As a result, we just go with what our bodies learned (squatting if we grew up in Asia, "sitting up straight" if we grew up here in the big PX) or what the motorcycle designers had in mind.

If you spend any time at all around motorcycles you can intuit what the designers had in mind for your body by looking at the placement of the controls (and I include the seat in this list).
  • Sport Bikes want your weight forward (load the front wheel) and your butt off the saddle so you can move laterally on the saddle. So that’s how they’re set-up: pegs high, bars (clip-ons) low
  • Sport-Touring, Standards, and Touring bikes all have in mind the "sit up and beg" riding posture. The details of control placement are different but in general, you look in profile like you’re reaching for the mashed potatoes. Your weight tends to be on your butt, or more specifically the base of your spine via your hips.
  • Cruisers promote anything from a "sit up and beg" to "sit back and relax" riding position with hands placed anywhere from here to there . . . same with your feet.
  • Dirt bikes and big Trailees have in mind that you’ll spend more or all your time on your feet and the bars, in particular, are place accordingly.

If you have any desire to ride for more than a couple of hours on any of the many Sport-Touring or Standard bikes that are popular with us "mid-life" riders, it’s time you actually learned how to sit properly if you hope to survive in style. Towards that, you may have run across this thread elsewhere. If not, you’re in luck. It’s a long post on the bmwsporttouring forum by "Master Yoda", in which MY details what is now popularly referred to as the "Master Yoda" riding position.

The keynotes to "the" Riding Position are:

  • Bend at the HIPS, not waist
  • Maintain a SLIGHT arch to the back, not allowing it ever to "curve"
  • Move the butt AFT so the weight is OVER YOUR FEET.
  • Apply pressure to the feet, using the THIGH muscles, so you are sitting "lightly"
  • ELBOWS BENT, now DROP the hands to the bars.

One needs to move fore and aft on the seat to make ALL those things happen. Except for the Hip Bend, they are NOT Absolutes, but rather RANGES. Move about until you can see ALL of them are happening to some extent — and NO weight is being placed on the handlebars.

Do this when the bike is STATIONARY. Sit on the stopped bike. TAKE TIME TO do this. PRACTICE. LEARN.

In fact, one must TEACH their own body. This is called TRAINING. You’ll notice all GOOD training is done by ABSTRACT EXERCISES, not "just running off to the playing field and doing what you HEARD."

LEARN to press down with the feet. Then, when riding, CHECK that’s what you are actually doing. You SHOULD be able to lift your butt off the seat at a milisecond’s notice: As when knowingly approaching a severe bump in the road.

LEARN to bend at the hips. Do it BOTH ways, and show YOURSELF that you CAN operate the body differently. BE WILLING to touch that frigging gas tank. SOME people are incredibly fearful of touching a gas tank — It’s almost laughable. WHO SAID you shouldn’t touch the gas tank? (Afraid of scratches? Poo, poo. Get some clear tank protector.) Better to think "The gas tank is my FRIEND." It WILL be some day when you are six hundred miles into your ride and still two hundred miles from your destination. OR, while you are LEARNING to ride this bike and may be only an hour or so into your ride. Your body is NOT YET… TRAINED to operate that way.

FLOP YOUR ELBOWS. PROVE you have your weight supported, mostly by your feet, and by your butt. Do it while riding too. Even after 25,000 miles on an RS I STILL end up leaning onto the bars somewhat and need to readjust my position.

Practice this. It works.

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Feb 12

Pay attention: Good words from Keith Code on controlling your bike

By kevin | Track and Teaching

I have yet to go to Keith Code’s famous California Superbike School but I have read his books. A Twist of the Wrist 2: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding is a classic and should be read by anyone serious about staying alive on his or her bike. Here’s a clip from his website about controlling your bike.

Good throttle Control crops up in just about every lesson and is based on the fundamentals of motorcycle design. "It should be your intention every time you lean the motorcycle to use smooth throttle through the corner," Code says. A bike’s suspension is designed to work best under moderate acceleration, according to Code.

Under braking and with a trailing throttle the weight of the bike tends towards the front and loads the front tyre so that it’s more likely to lose traction in a corner. The tyre has to work harder and the suspension becomes compressed and can’t deal with bumps well. Under hard acceleration the bike’ weight tends towards the back, making it more likely to slide because it can’t cope with the power, or the suspension won’t work over bumps because it’s compressed. Hard acceleration can also make the front drift wide because it goes light.

In between, with moderate acceleration, the suspension performs best. Bumps are absorbed better because the suspension can move freely and the tyres are loaded for most grip. Good throttle control is when the bike is kept at this optimum attitude, which is achieved by gently rolling on the throttle through the corner. Sounds easy, but there are many obstacles and, according to Code, most of them are in the mind.

SURVIVAL REACTIONS are the involuntary adjustments your body makes in situations that it feels are dangerous. "The body isn’t smart," says Code. "It’s only interested in right now." Survival reactions are bad. They make you brake too hard, turn in too early, tense up, get tunnel vision, chop the throttle and do a host of other things that interfere with good riding. With practice and skill they can be defeated.

ATTENTION Code believes you only have a certain amount of attention to share between the various tasks of riding a motorcycle. There are certain "high interest items" when going through a corner that is likely to trigger the survival reactions if you feel they get out of control. These are:

  • Speed- are you going too fast?
  • Lean angle- are you leant over too far, far enough?
  • Traction- are the tyres going to grip?
  • Road surface:gravel, diesel, bumps?
  • Directions: are you going the right way?

If all your attention is focused on one aspect of riding, probably due to a survival reaction, then you won’t be able to ride well. Keith calls this "being busy."

Here’s my version of Keith’s concept of $10 of attention . . .

You’re on a motorcycle heading into a corner at about Warp 9. You need to get hard on the brakes, set your body, and get yourself through the corner as fast as possible. As the corner continues rushing at you, a thought pops into your head. “I wonder when I should hit the brakes?” Bam. You’ve just spent $1 worth of attention.

Hard on the heals of that thought comes another. “I wonder who’s behind me?” Bam. You just spent another $1 worth of attention. As you hit the brakes and start to shift your weight, you think to yourself, “Gee, this saddle is kind of slippery.” Bam. Another $1 worth or attention. Maybe $2.

Four dollars worth of attention out of an available $10—the idea being that attention is finite and how we spend our $10 worth of it matters—and you’ve gone no faster. In fact, if you’re racing, you’re probably just put yourself at a competitive disadvantage to the bloke—who was behind you and now probably isn’t—who’s focused on one thing and one thing only: getting through that turn and getting back on the gas as soon and as hard as possible.

If you’re just out riding, the issue is less about staying ahead of the guy behind you (or it should be), and more about staying safe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the penalty for inattention is high. The person spending all his or her attention on the right things is going to win every time. On the track, that means podiums. On the street, that means making it home for dinner.

[amtap book:isbn=0965045013]

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Sep 30

Get your bike on the track

By kevin | Track and Teaching


I got out to the track three times in the summer of 2007 to Pacific Raceways near Seattle. Twice with the 2-Fast School, once with the folks at Puget Sound Safety. I’d been to the track before on my FJR . . . what a huge difference on the SV.

A couple of bits . . .

I spent a few bucks with Barry, the Dunlop Guy, who set up the sag and damping. What a huge difference that made. I had previously put in elka in the back and race tech in the front, also a big difference maker, but getting it set up by someone who knows what they’re doing . . . a great $40.

Both the outfits i mentioned run a good operation. Very different in more ways than are worth counting. What i would say is that if you haven’t been to the track, go. If you go, spend a few extra jollies and do the school part. The class sessions may or may not be useful, but following someone around that knows the lines, and then having them follow you is worth what it costs and then some.

The SV1000S is a wonderful track bike. The slim profile and bags of grunt make it a real sharp instrument in the corners. For my own reasons, I hold the top to about 105 – 110. Something to do with being 51 I suppose. Lap after lap, guys would blow by me mid straight on their Gixxers or whatever. By the tip in point at the end of the big straight, i was back on them, and by mid corner usually all over them. And those were the fast corners. In the slow stuff, the open classers have nothing on the SV.

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