As some of you are probably aware, I’m learning to ride a motorcycle and so far it’s been quite a journey. This weekend however my education took a giant leap forward and it’s all about positioning.
Without getting too philosophical ‘positioning’ comes into our lives in so many ways ( we jostle for position at work, on the football pitch, when queuing up, house buying… ) so why I was surprised to hear about it being advantageous when it came to motorbike riding I have no idea – call me a slow learner. Anyway, Ross from Yamaha (eventually) joined me for a ride last weekend and the experience was enlightening.
We chose quite a big loop that included some motorway and countryside terrain, a way to mix up speed with some turns, traffic and open roads. My confidence was still high from my past few rides but as we have all agreed, I need more bike time. He started off by following me, I guess to assess my abilities but possibly because his sense of direction is not something Google will be calling upon anytime soon. Almost immediately we hit the highway, which meant traffic, speed and gusting winds – I found it uncomfortable to say the least.
Ross was on the back of the new XSR 900, quite a beast of a machine with a very fat rear tyre. They call it a Heritage motorcycle and it has a very cool retro look. At 847cc’s; the 3 cylinder 4 stroke liquid cooled engine fills the underside of its stylish, ergonomic petrol tank. Looking back at it through the mirror he looked comfortable (certainly more than me at that point) sitting in his dished saddle behind the bike’s wide tapered aluminum handlebars – alright so I had a bit of bike envy!
Anyway, I digress. As we pulled off the motorway we stopped and took a moment to assess my technique and as it turned out – I needed work. First of all, my road positioning. It seems that I prefer to venture towards the kerb rather than ‘own’ my part of the road. I choose to ride on the road in the nearside wheel track of a car rather than on the driver’s side – the result is that I invite other cars to cut across me rather than them giving me the room (and respect) I need. Point number two was my seating position; he expanded further, to where I actually put my knees. Apparently my legs were too wide apart and as such I gripped the bike with my arms rather than with my knees – which gets tiring very quickly. Hugging the bike with my legs eases the pressure on the arms and makes you more at one with the bike.
So with these top tips explained we headed off again.
With a deep breath I ventured away from the gutter side if the road – I have to admit, it’s liberating – your whole demeanor changes, your shoulders straighten and cars give you a wider berth (thanks for everyone that did (does) that. Yes you’re closer to the other side of the road – and the oncoming traffic – but the difference is very apparent – hard to really explain, just a whole lot better.
Next my knees. I squeezed them closer to the MT-03’s tank and moved my feet in while I was at it. It seems that the advice was sound. Movement of the bike is more fluid and (possibly in my mind) the bike was more stable. Less wind resistance, more control. Less stress on the arms, more relaxation, the list of pro’s keep giving – good leg workout too!
So a few things to take away from this latest ride – Position, position, position. A simple lesson but incredibly effective. Where you sit on both the bike and on the road makes a ton of difference to your ride and again to your confidence. Riding with a pal is well worth it too. Motorcycling should be a group pastime, now I’m not saying that you join a biker gang but stopping off for a coffee and a bite to eat somewhere is far better when you have someone to chat to about the ride (but as I said in my last piece – maybe not with the family).
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