As the RCMP officer stepped out, motioning me to stop my motorcycle, my first thought was this guy must be, like, 6 foot 5. Oh oh.
My second was, “Look, lock, lean.”
“Yeah, you got this!” he responded, waving me on to the next element of the Motorcycle Skills Challenge course.
I eased out the clutch, rolling into the funnel of orange traffic cones, turning my head to search out the exit and align my Husqvarna TE610 for the restricted left, right, left sequence. Revs up, drag the rear brake into the corner entry, feather the clutch – and exit.
Yes: the humane society asserts that no cones were harmed in the making of this short film!
Now to attempt that dastardly “W” shaped sequence that tripped me up last time…
Kevin finally makes it through the dreaded W (video).
Who would of thought riders would volunteer for a police lineup?
But they did, dozens of them — even in the early morning rain.
Braving the rain – as well as the sun that joined us later in the day – the Burnaby RCMP’s motorcycle officers set up a course that challenged the skills of both women and men mounted on everything from Euro crotch rockets to burly adventure bikes to Harley and Victory cruise liners. And, of course, Yvonne and I with our dual-sport Yamaha and Husky.
Positioned at the entry point of each course element, officers clad in high-viz riding jackets pointed out lines, analyzed errors and offered detailed, actionable coaching to seasoned and inexperienced riders alike.
As a result, my second lap was better than my first, and my fifth better than ever – though not, I have to admit, better than Yvonne’s: she nailed that “W” sequence every time, looking smooth and confident.
Watch Yvonne’s smooth, slow-speed control (video).
And our friend Greg, riding less than a year, put in an impressive performance, too. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a rider in the bunch who didn’t notice improvements, thanks to the perceptive and targeted instruction.
Five techniques to hone your riding skills
According to these motorcycle cops – who complete hundreds of hours of advanced training on their big-displacement Harleys and BMWs – there are a few techniques you can use to ride better in any situation. Are you doing all five?
- Look where you want to go. The cone (or pothole) you look at is the one you’re going to hit.
- Keep your chin up and your eyes will do the same – since, you know, they’re attached to the same head.
- Use engine revs to steady the bike (Google “gyroscope”). Or go buy a gyroscope. Remember the gyroscope you had when you were a kid?
- Apply rear brake to settle your bike for corner entry; stay off the front lever at slow speeds, or you’re likely to tip over in a parking lot. (Done it.)
- Chew gum.
Okay, now you know the techniques – oh, wait, what’s that? Why chew gum?
Well, sometimes a rider’s mind is his or her worst enemy. Trying to decipher, “Look, lock, lean,” or focussing on the natural anxiety that accompanies an upcoming obstacle, we start spinning thoughts that monopolize our attention and detract from the fluidity and instinctive responses that accrue from training and experience.
Chewing gum distracts your thoughts just the tiny bit that might allow your training to regain the upper hand. If you try it, let me know what you discover. Does it make you a more instinctive rider?
Thanks again to the Burnaby RCMP detachment’s motorcycle officers for a great day.
See you next year!