As a long-time, yet relatively low time rider, I have always been envious of the guys who seem to have the ability to sweep through turns and twisty highways with grace and subsequent speed. I follow these guys like an old lady on a moped, slow and unsteady. Was never quite sure how they accomplished this smoothness, so I signed-up for Jim Ford’s Rider’s Workshop a few weeks ago – determined to find out.
Five riders at varying skill levels met up at the Super 8 Motel in Thurmont, MD last week-end to begin the course. I have to admit that I was probably one of the least skilled and most cautious. I just didn’t relish a 650 lb motorcycle sliding on its side at 50 mph with me between it and a guardrail. Weather was cool and dry – but changed to cold and rainy by the end of the course.
True to his website propaganda, Jim took us through the paces on some very twisty and curvy roads of MD, VA and WV, totaling about 270 miles the 1st day. Seasoned with a little of Jim’s armchair philosophy on Zen and the Art of Riding Smooth (and life in general), the rider’s stew covered issues such as:
- Posture and relaxation
- Appropriate engine rpm for optimum speed
- shifting, shifting, shifting – the right gear for the curve
- entering the proper track for the curve
- Situational Awareness – being ready for anything
After a stay in the Natural Bridge Hotel, the 2nd day was more of the same with a bit more emphasis on partitioning up the lanes, precision steering through the corners and putting it all together. The day was cold (mid 40s) and raining. Word had it that we were feeling the impact of a nor’easter somewhere off the east coast and everyone was a bit cold and wet inspite of the thousands of dollars in riding gear. By early afternoon, we took a well-earned break and warmed up with a little Turkish coffee complements of my new best friend Avner (actually everybody’s best friend while coffee was brewing), and a few Turkish delights to fill the void left by breakfast 4-5 hours earlier. This really hit the spot and bolstered everyone’s spirits a bit.
In hope of avoiding boring those without an interest in technical riding, I won’t get into the details of the riding and instruction. If you have an interest, I would strongly suggest that you check out Jim’s website – reached by clicking the logo:
The bottom line: A very informative and well run course for riders at all levels. I learned a lot about technique, my bike, safety and putting it all together. All this said, the skill needs practice to master and that is what I intend to do. However, I am a pragmatic rider, one who typically rides with a place to go, seldom riding for the sake of riding or practice. In order to acquire the smoothness demonstrated by Jim and others in the course, lots of time is required. This is not to say that the principles can not be applied to every turn you take – whether running to the corner store or riding to Alaska – precision riding is safer, faster and dramatically more fun…
After a quick lunch at about 3pm near Harrisonburg, VA, we all headed our separate ways: some for home relatively nearby, some for hotels and me for my 4 hour slog back to Schwenksville. The 4 hour drive turned into 6 and I got home at about 10pm in the driving wind and rain. A very difficult ride, not due to weather, but to the “fog proof” pin lock system of my Schuberth Helmet. The visor fogged up in the 1st 50 miles and stayed almost opaque the rest of the ride home. Half of the ride was done at highway speeds with the face shield up – not a pleasant experience… From Schuberth’s website: “Guaranteed condensation-free thanks to its double glazing technology” – Phooey! Guess I had better test the guarantee policy of Schuberth with an e-mail or phone call.
Ala in all great week-end. Improved skills and knowledge and one more chapter in the book of experience sure to be tested on the Ride to Alaska coming up in about 40 days!