Sunday, 17 April 2011

Improving my riding

Shaking off the 'wobbles'
With the bike safely in my garage it was time to get to know it a little better and improve my riding skills. Whilst I could ride in straight lines reasonably well - as on the motorway - I struggled still to control the bike adequately at slow speeds. Time therefore for some intensive practice around the local streets.

There are some quiet residential streets near me so I selected a group of several very short streets and used these for practice. Around mid-morning or early afternoon I'd take the bike out for 20 minutes or complete a few circuits. Because the streets were all short I had found myself constantly gear changing, giving signals and dealing with slow bike control. This simple - but intensive - practice helped me to develop these skills quickly.

My local neighbourhood

I'm now beginning to mix the kind of riding I do and include busier roads to familiarise myself with riding in traffic. Last week I rode the bike along the A3 into work for the first time. It was a bright, mild day and the journey - undertaken in the less busy times - was a delight. I guess I need to continue with this practice but begin to include some countryside riding also. Once the warmer weather kicks in - and I have a bit more time to myself - I fancy this will happen naturally enough.

Slow control
I realise that I'm struggling with controlling the bike at slow speeds. I practised slow 'figures of eight' in the local supermarket car park early one Sunday morning. It took a while to keep control under these conditions - but bit by bit I could feel I was starting to improve. I'd never realised it before but I wondered whether there might be shortage of quiet spots for practice. However, this proved not to be the case. I found another - quite by accident - the local medical clinic car park that was closed on the weekend. I went through he 'figures of eight' routine again and this time it felt much better. I'm getting this feathering of the clutch and balancing at low speed.

Counter steering
In my reading  - and watching YouTube videos I keep coming across this term 'counter steering'. I certainly never counter steered when I rode before. Coincidentally I had just bought David Hough's book. This is an authoritive, well written text in which he explains - in clear detail - how to tackle cornering, emergency stops and riding safely on roads. In particular, he has a very clear section on counter steering. Bit by bit, I'm learning to do this.

Long journey
I went for a 250 mile ride down to Bristol and back to tend to the family grave. The motorway is boring but I came off the M4 at Hungerford and took the old A4 to Bristol passing through Malborough, Calne and Chippenham. This was a much more interesting road with wide lovely (easy) bends to help me a little with leaning over the bike. With each ride, I'm gianing in expereince and confidence. However, becoming proficient at riding is taking much longer than I imagined it would.  Riding a motorcycle really is a complex activity.

New practice route
I've worked out a fairly varied practice route from home now which provides a range of road types for me to ride on. I begin through Epsom and Ashstead with high street traffic, then on to Headley and Boxhill on narrow, bendy country roads; next, come fast roads on the A24 & A243 to Malden Rushett. The route finishes with a couple of miles on the back roads (and roundabouts) to West Ewell. I'm finding this trip is helping me with plenty of riding skills; it's also a very pleasant tour of Surrey besides!

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