Hi and welcome to my SMOOTH. It’s called SMOOTH because that is the way to get fast on a bike and safe at the same time. What do I know about being smooth, well I have raced at clubman level, around some of the great tracks in the world. I’ve been through the Police advanced rider training for two different countries and have been riding for around 37 years on four different continents.
I believe competent, fast track riding is 80% craft and 20% heroism. The Craft, woven on top of other road skills translates into safe, confident and skilful progress through the hazards of our tin top world.
Being a compulsive mentor I have been coaching as an advanced instructor both on road and track for over 20 years in a number of different countries. I instruct for a very selfish reason, the only way to experience the sheer joy of those firsts on a bike, again, is vicariously through the smile on your dial.
This book is about passing on some of those skills to anyone who cares to read it. Through the ramblings here you will hopefully learn some of the dark arts of riding a motorbike and raising your own enjoyment levels.
That’s the goal at least. I hope you enjoy.
Riding a bike is, for me anyway, like some sort of drug. If I go for too long without my fix I get withdrawals but the moment I throw my leg over a bike everything is alright.
It has been that way since somewhere in my tenth year when my drooling finally got the better of my much elder motorcycle riding brother-in-law and he threw me over a 1950’s BSA bantam and said “that’s the throttle, you twist that bit. That’s the clutch; you pull that before you use that thing to select a gear. The last thing you need to know is that thing... its the brake for slowing down”. He then went inside and left me in the paddock in front of the house with the keys.
It took me 30 minutes to work out how to start it. It was a very entertaining 30 minutes, at least it was for my brother-in-law, watching from the kitchen window as I found the kick starter, used the kick starter and learned how to fly. Late 50’s BSA bantams could really kick back if you kicked them with anything less than a total commitment and left them in no doubt that you were the boss and they the servant.
You do have to remember I was 10 and to a 10 year old a Bantam was a serious piece of motorcycle. Anyway, long story short, after 30 minutes to my surprise and slightly before I would have simply burst and needed to collapse onto the ground as a signal to my watcher that resuscitation was needed, I got it going.
It was approximately 4 minutes after that that I got my first lesson in Twiddly Bits & Wobbly Bits and ended up parked gracefully through a wire fence, hanging by my feet and entwined through the mess in a sway with the bantam.
This was my first and probably most significant lesson in motorcycling. I learnt a very important lesson. It was not as simple as you twist the throttle or pulling on the brake. The more I learned about staying up right and going faster, the more I learnt that each control did a lot more to a motorcycle than its obvious function.
Slowly I learnt that the trick was using all the twiddly bits so that none of the wobbly bits got to wobble except in exactly the right way and at the right time. I became more of a choreographer than a rider and I got fast without even realizing it.
Getting there took me years, literally years. I remember many years into my riding career being on a track and having done reasonably well in the last race. I was sitting beside my bike in the pits when a local hero walked up to me. I was a little star struck and then he said “You are really fast out there for a new guy, really fast”. My head was almost ready to explode with sheer pride and ego when he continued, “but you ride like shit, dude if you don’t learn how to get smooth you’re going to be very fast... to the hospital”.
But he was right; I had been riding for many years by then and still hadn’t even heard of counter steering. The reason was simple, no one taught you how to ride in those days, you got thrown at a BSA Bantam or a fence and slowly you worked out how not to do it.
But that was then and this is now. We have many many books and instructors out there and we have broken down the how to fine detail so you can learn in weeks or months what took me years. But in some ways we are still just scratching the surface.
I have been teaching people how to ride for many years now. Not teaching the basics but the advanced stuff mostly and I am continually amazed that people know all about counter steering but not how to change down correctly, or what a corner set is or why you would want one.
More importantly I find when I absorb books about how to ride I get them, but I suspect that I get them because I understand some of the more basic concepts. I’ve learnt them over years and years and it would be very easy to take them for granted in your own knowledge banks. But I have had too many people over those years suddenly light up when I have explained some subject in exceptionally simply terms and they have got it. I mean really got it, as in understand it and be able to build upon it.
That is what this book is about, not twisting this or pulling that, or even how to twist this or pull that, but a real honest attempt to put things into focus so you can GET IT and start your own high speed choreography of those wobbly bits.