This has a surprisingly complicated answer for such a seemingly simple question. In this article National Observer Norton Hawes shines some light on this tricky question
A question that sometimes gets asked is what makes some riders seem to be that bit faster, smoother and better than others? The answer to this key question is a difficult one to answer simply!
We asked some top riders the question - Marc couldn’t reply as he was out buying elbow and shoulder sliders at the time, Valentino says it is years of experience, Jorge says it is being precise all the time and Andrea says having the fastest bike helps.
As that wasn’t very helpful we then asked some of our more "experienced" road riders in the group for the answer and distilled the various written and spoken words into what follows:-
All will say that it comes from experience and clocking up the miles on all sorts of roads and in all kinds of weather. One thing is certain - the System - IPSGA - is still the key - it is how you use it that matters.
VISION UP - look at the road ahead as far as possible, not at the bike or car in front, scan around. Be aware of what is happening around you, in front, behind and to the sides.
Look, see and register what is around you all the time and prioritise that information, what can you see, what can't you see and what might you reasonably expect to happen?
Use the information to make quick decisions based or your capability and that of the bike, look where you want to go.
This should become instinctive, keep thinking, am I in the best position whilst maintaining my Safety Bubble? Change position to gain information, e.g. looking up the inside of the vehicle in front.
Always appropriate - Make good use of the brakes, not just the gears. Know what the bike will do in terms of both acceleration and braking.
Be in a responsive gear for any hazard, don’t be lazy with changing gear.
Use the available power and torque, know how the bike will respond.
All the above applies to just one hazard/bend and is over in seconds and leaves you ready for the next hazard and a repeat of the above. Experience and repetition mean that you get faster at doing this and that gives you more time to plan ahead. More time means you can plan a smoother, faster line for the next hazard and so it goes on.
If you are unable to process all of the information presented to you in order to adopt it into your riding plan in the time needed to react to that information, you may be travelling at a speed inappropriate to safely negotiate any hazard which presents itself from that information phase. Too much information usually means slow down to allow better reaction time.
Putting in the miles on the bike are key, reflect on your ride, concentrate on precision and making quick decisions. Don’t ride too fast (or too slow). Often slowing down a little and being precise will lead to a smoother, faster ride as you gain confidence and get a better feel for what the bike is doing on the road.
Being comfortable on the bike and "with" the bike is important, be in the right "frame of mind" for the ride and be comfortable in yourself and your riding gear before you even get on the bike. Understand the acceleration capabilities of the bike in different gears and how you can use the brakes from gently to firmly. Courses such as the MCD and track based IAM Skills days are fun ways of learning about what the bike can do. In addition there are other training courses such as Hopp Rider Training, the Ron Haslam School and the BMW off-road course in Wales , many of their techniques can be applied to road riding. LAM also offers Post Test Rides (PTR's) for full members who have passed their test recently, or many moons ago, to help refresh the above skills.
There is a lot of material out there that may also help, such as The Police Roadcraft book and Keith Codes "Twist of the wrist" books, as well as YouTube videos.
We all make mistakes! Hopefully not serious ones and there are three things to remember about mistakes:-
Recognise your mistake, don’t blame the road or other road user, YOU are in Control.
Work out what happened and why.
Learn from the mistake and try not to do it again! Then hit the "reset" button.
Know your own capabilities and be prepared to extend them bit by bit. Become the "Thinking Rider".
Finally relax, breath and enjoy the ride and – above all - never stop learning!
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