So You Want to Ride.. Part 3 Advanced Motion
Ok.. motorcycling is dangerous.. You learn to ride at your own peril. If you read this, do what I say, and get hurt.. that's your fault. I'm only imparting what works for me.
Now that you know how to work the clutch and are hopefully able to creep around the parking lot at a crawl, it's time to add a little adrenaline to the mix. We'll cover accelerating, gear changes and braking.
Start by using the clutch to get the bike moving the way you've been practicing. Now, give the throttle a little twist. Every bike is a little bit different. But you'll probably want to get about 3000 or 4000 rpm on the tach if you have one. If you don't, you'll want the engine to sound like it has maybe 5 or 6 hamsters churning it up pretty good. Or something to that affect. Now, place your left toe under the gear shift lever. Don't lift up yet. Pull in the clutch, and at the exact same time, let off the throttle. Immediately after letting off the throttle pull up on the gear shift lever. ( providing your bike has a standard pattern.. adapt the foot motion as necessary). give the bike a little bit of throttle and let the clutch out medium quick. You don't want to snap it out, but you don't want to let it out too slow either. It'll take some time to get a feel for it.
Don't forget, you'll be in second gear now.. and you'll be travelling faster. Probably faster than you can travel on a bicycle at this point. Make sure you're wearing enough protective gear. Fall now, and chances are you'll give up riding.. especially if you tear up your own skin. And yes, you should be scared if this is all new to you.. so that means, pay attention.
Now, you're moving in second gear. It's time to learn to stop. Remeber when I said your front brake is your friend? You're going to find that out now. There are a lot of dynamics to cover when it comes to braking effectively, but for now we'll just cover straight line braking. How many of you have ever locked up the back brake of a bicycle and slid the bike to a stop.. perhaps slewing the rear of the bike from side to side? If you havn't, you should probably try this on a bicycle first. I want you to use just the rear brake on the motorcycle.. and stop as quick as you can. Make sure you pull the clutch in first and let off the throttle. You'll find that you can't stop very quick using just the back brake, and chances are, you'll slide the rear wheel when you try and stop harder. Don't be afraid to lock up the rear brake and see exactly how little stopping power there is. Remember that. Get a feel for exactly how much or how little pressure you put on the rear pedal. You want that action to become automatic, so practice it a lot. You want to get a feel for how much pressure you have on the pedal before it locks up. Chances are you'll just be resting your foot on the pedal and not pushing down a whole lot.
Now, you should try stopping with just the front brake. You'll find that you can stop very hard with the front brake. Don't be afraid to squeeze the lever hard. Be prepared for the g forces. Also, be prepared for the front wheel to lock or the rear wheel to lift if you squeeze too hard. Your reflex action in that situation needs to be to release the front brake. With practice, you'll get a feel for where the limits of traction are. Practicing in the dirt would be best. As I've said before.. and can't say enough.. learn to ride in the dirt first, and you'll be a much better rider. Braking is probably the most important skill when learning to ride. Don't slack off in this area. As you practice stopping, I'd recommend that you stop a little harder each time you stop. Get to the point where you feel the front end starting to lock.. and or the rear end lifting.. and then quickly let off. It's the only way you'll learn what it feels like. Take your time getting to that point, and if you get scared. Take a break. Don't be in a hurry to learn to ride. Take your time and get the skills down right.
Now that you know what the front brake feels like, it's time to coordinate the two. Chop the throttle and pull in the clutch at the same time, work your front brake and let your foot rest on the brake pedal at approximatley the same time. You should come to a well controlled stop at this point. Practice braking hard.. see how quick you stop. Build up those reflexes.
Now, this next part is hard.. and you can bypass this part for now if you don't feel up to it. Downshifting.. You'll have to downshift and there are two ways to do it when coming to a complete stop. You can either downshift while you're stopping, or wait until you're almost stopped before doing your downshifting. Here's the drill. As you're slowing down.. perhaps braking.. You will let off the throttle and pull the clutch in simultaneously. Then stomp on the gear shift lever to catch the next lower gear. (again, make sure you have the right shift pattern and adjust as necessary). Now comes the tricky part.. blip the throttle to get your revs up.. you'll want the pretty high.. so give it a good quick forceful blip.. but let off right the throttle completely and quickly.. as soon as you let off the throttle.. let the clutch out. The revs should be pretty closely matched to the speed of the bike in the next lower gear.. and engine braking should begin to be felt. It takes a very coordinated effort especaily when braking with your right hand and right foot. Now, it's not necessary to blip the throttle.. this just allows for a quicker more smooth downshift. You can skip the blipping and simply downshift after pulling the clutch in.. and then let the clutch out slowly so the drag raises the engine rpm to match the speed and the new gear ratio. This will be a frustrating thing to master for most people. You should certainly try and master it. If you do.. you will certainly be well on your way to being accepted into the inner circle of motorcycling.. and not just a poser. Even new racers with their factory sllipper clutches are losing the skill to blip when they downshift.. but like the lost art of heel and toe shifting in the auto world.. only the truly elite will posses this skill.
During your free time, I'm sure you'll be thinking about riding during the learning phase. Go over things in your mind. If you don't have anything going on, then go over controlling the bike in your mind. Work the throttle in your head.. coordinate gear changes.. practice braking.