Whether on road or track, everyone who get on a motorcycle want to get better. But how? The bad news is that there aren't any shortcuts or magic potions when it comes to improving your riding skills. But here are a few key things that will help you, ideas to think about, no matter what level your ride at.
When riding relax. We know, it's much easier said than. Those first few weeks or months after you start riding a motorcycle can be intimidating and nerve-shredding.
But for a whole host of reasons, relaxing when you are on the motorcycle is important. Being physically tense will give you back, neck and shoulder pains over a long distance and the strong grip on the handlebars will give you numb fingers and a lot less feeling for what's happening with your front tire and brakes.
So how do you relax? Well, until such time as you unthinkingly slump onto the saddle of your motorcycle, you've actually got to tell yourself to 'relax' and mentally go through a checklist of neck, shoulders and arms, letting them go limp. Consider the grip you exert on your handlebars and the throttle, and see how lightly you can hold on – we'll bet it's a lot less than you normally hold on. How little tension and pressure do you actually need to have on the handlebars? It it less than you think? Being mentally stressed is trickier, but normal. You've got to fight feelings of stress and anxiety by concentrating on the positive aspects of riding. It might sound crazy, but essentially thinking 'happy' and positive thoughts as you ride, from 'slick gear change' to 'nice line through that corner' will slowly help build your self-confidence.
Simple: Look where you want to go. No matter how many times you're told it, you end up forgetting it, right? How can such a simple phrase, such a biking cliché, be so important? It simply is. Fix your vision to the vanishing point of the road, look as far ahead and around a bend as you can. Make yourself do it, remind yourself that you much do it for the whole of your ride. You will be much, much smoother as a result.
Talk to yourself. You know what we mean. Even if it's just to remind yourself to 'relax your arms' or 'drop your shoulders as you go round this roundabout' or 'hang off a bit more' – whatever it is, it's worth saying either out loud or in your head. Keep repeating you 'tip of the day' and, hopefully, it will become second nature.
Be smooth? How? Where? The answer is everywhere. Be smooth when you are getting back on the throttle exiting a bend, smooth when applying the front brake, smooth when you are moving your bodyweight. Smooth, not sudden, jerky or ham-fisted. So when you are braking, give the lever a gentle initial squeeze to start loading the fork, when apply steady pressure. You know what we mean. When you are slowing down to less than walking pace at traffic lights and you suddenly decide to stop the motorcycle dead, you simply grab the brake lever and 'thunk!' That's not smooth is it?
Be smooth getting back on the gas 'smooth' doesn't necessarily mean a slow roll back on the throttle; it simply means twist the throttle in a steady, regular fashion. Don't just twist it like you're trying to unscrew a recalcitrant jam jar lid. Smooth.
No matter which way you look at the statistics, the longer you ride, the more you ride, the better your chances of survival. So, keep riding. Even when the weather is, um, less than beautiful, wrap yourself up and get out there. Every time you ride, you learn something – even if the thing you learn is that you should have worn more water proof clothing...