I had the privilege to qualify and race two times in the A.M.A. National at Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals Motocross Championships. Usually over 1200 riders try to qualify in each class, but they only have 40 positions on the starting gate at Loretta Lynn’s annual race. The best of the best in the country race there.
Usually the riders have the latest equipment. But one year I remember they had a kid show up that stood out from the rest. His riding gear was torn. His gloves had holes in them. His motorcycle was a 20-year-old two-stroke 125 cc Kawasaki. The bike looked like he pulled it out a dumpster. The plastic was faded and cracked. The seat had tears and you could see the foam sticking out. Yet when the gate dropped, the rider was in the top three riders and made the podium the first moto.
All the riders had ability or they would have not made it to Loretta Lynn’s. But this rider was different as he had tremendous skill and talent.
The most important part of any motorcycle is not the motorcycle–It is the rider.
Anyone who has raced motorcycles knows this well. The rider is by far the most important part of our own motorcycle. We as riders, are the most important factor in motorcycle performance and safety.
So, what are you doing to make yourself a better rider?
The slogan, “Use it or lose it”, applies to motorcycle skill retention. You should never stop practicing. You should never stop learning. Not only learning new skills is fun but it could save your life in the street. It is a hostile environment for motorcyclists. Accidents are at an all-time high. Distracted drivers and crashes caused by drivers on cell phone texting or using apps have increased dramatically. It has never been more important to keep up your motorcycle skills. You need to do more than know how to do an emergency swerve and implement your S.E.E. strategy on every motorcycle ride. (If you don’t know how to do an emergency swerve or what a S.E.E. strategy is-you need to go enroll in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation MSF or Total Control rider instruction school immediately!)
Motorcycling operation is a complicated science. It is the sciences of physics and engineering. Motorcycles are wonderful complex devices! They are magical! You can do amazing things on a motorcycle track. Learning new skills is really fun! Here are a few suggestions. Pick one you enjoy and start from there. Have fun and learn!
- Take a MSF Dirt Bike Course and learn to ride in the dirt.
One of the safest and best ways to learn how to deal with counter steering, (If you don’t know what that is please get to a motorcycle course immediately!), braking, cornering and handling obstacles. You will make mistakes but falling down in the dirt is a lot better than falling down at higher speeds on an asphalt highway. (Just ask anyone with scars at your next Harley dealer open house bike night about road rash—not fun and very painful.) For a site near you go to http://www.dirtbikeschool.org. If you can’t go to a school, partner with a dirt biker as ask to go out with him or her to learn and ride trails or practice on track days at a local motocross track.
- Take a MSF Basic Course
Taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course is one of the most important things you can do to improve your chances of not getting hurt in a motorcycle crash. I can’t tell you how many clients I have had, not take the MSF Basic Course, get in a crash, and then go back, pass it, and always thank me for suggesting it. They always state they had fun doing it and learned a lot. No one has ever taken a MSF Course and told me it was a waste of time or that is was not fun! This is not expensive. The State of Louisiana will loan you a 250 cc motorcycle and teach you with certified MSF instructors for $100. (Go to www.lsp.org) What a deal! You get to practice all your street survival skills in a small group of 6-12 students with a certified instructor for each 6 students. You will get personal attention and learn the skills you need to survive on the street. There are private MSF courses too at slightly higher but reasonable costs. You can learn on a Grom or Ninja 300 at NOLA Motorsports fantastic facility in Avondale, La. Then you can practice on the go-karts tracks on Wednesdays 1-4 pm before hitting the street! It does not get more fun than this! Go to https://nolariding.com. Some of the Harley Davidson dealers also offer MSF Basic Rider courses on 500 cc Harley Davidson motorcycles. Some offer reduced tuitions for new riders for the course. (Go to http://www.hammondharleydavidson.com or in New Orleans area http://www.neworleansh-d.com/with-us-you-can–learn-to-ride or in Alexandria http://www.renegadehd.com/ride-better–learn-to-ride. Also check out this website that lists several MSF Courses throughout the state of Louisiana at http://www.motorcycledrivingschoolcafe.com/motorcycle-riding-schools-learn-ride-motorcycle-louisiana/.
- Take a MSF Intermediate or Advance Course
The State of Louisiana offers not only basic but MSF Intermediate and Advance motorcycle instruction courses for some very reasonable costs. These are information packed and fun. Your skill levels will increase. The intermediate and advance MSF course deal with advance braking and cornering techniques. Go to www.lsp.org to sign up and for more information. You can use your own bike for these courses. These are great to take after the MSF Basic to maintain your skills. If you don’t practice, you will lose your skills over time.
- Sign up for a Track Day at your local road-racing track
Many road-racing track facilities have track days. You can rent safety gear like full leathers and boots at many facilities like NOLA Motorsports in Avondale, La. This is really fun but many drivers are intimidated since they have never been on a real race track. Have no fear for Sport Bike Track Time is here! (Go to https://sportbiketracktime.com) This is great! They divide the riders into different groups of novice, intermediate and advanced. They offer instruction and break how to safety ride on a track with multiple progressive sessions. Your skills and knowledge build with each exercise and session. This is very safe. (There are no drivers with cell phones to hit you!) It is a good way to push your motorcycle to its limits. Your motorcycle is far more capable than you will probably ever be unless your last name is Rossi, Marquez or Lorenzo (i.e. MotoGP riders of extraordinary skill). You are the weak link and you need to constantly improve your skills. This is a fun and excellent way to do so in a safe format.
I am addicted to Track Days at NOLA and am working on my AHRMA racing license. I am building an AHRMA track only bike. You don’t need a race bike to enjoy and learn at Track Days. You can bring any motorcycle. (Even Harleys!) You just need to prepare it with Water Wetter or water instead of slippery anti-freeze in your radiator and tape up your glass and remove the mirrors or breakable glass/plastic stuff that might leave debris on the track if you fall. You don’t even need leathers for the novice track days. You can wear the Joe Rocket full pants with attaching synthetic jackets, full gauntlet gloves and boots or rent full leathers at the track. No excuses! Get out there and have fun. You get used to the high speeds with time and instruction. Then your skills at lower speeds increase. You will become a safer rider and do it while having fun! Track days are not a race. You will be fine. Your skills will increase dramatically. You can do it! The cost is $125-$150 for each track day at most tracks including the valuable instruction.
- Go to Race School and get a motorcycle race license
There are many schools that are one or two days of instruction and you can get your motorcycle race license. AHRMA is an organization that offers vintage road racing. AHRMA has a one day course that you can attend on Friday and race on Saturday and Sunday on a road course! They are offered at some famous race tracks. The cost is reasonable. You can attend the course with a non-vintage motorcycle. But you need a vintage motorcycle to race in AHRMA that is fully prepared. Go to http://www.ahrma.org/new-racers/fast-safe-roadracing-school/. Pass the class and race the weekend. What a deal. WERA, another race organization also offers similar classes. Go to https://wera.com
Here are 5 ways to have fun and increase your level of skill on a motorcycle. Increasing your motorcycle skills means you have a better chance of avoiding a crash on the street. You mind and body needs to exercise your motorcycle skills to remain proficient. Recurrent training is necessary. This can be a labor of love. I have made new friends, learned new skills, and I am venturing into new areas of motorcycling I never imagined I would enter. It has been a great adventure! I want each of you to have the same great experiences and enhance your skills.