Best Way to Improve Riding - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Best Way to Improve Riding

I took the MSF Basic Rider Course in 2009 got my license and purchased a Kawasaki KLX250SF based upon the instructor's/salesman's recommendations. Enjoyed the bike very much and rode it for about 2000 miles. I now own a 2009 Versys which I rode for 5000 miles last year, love the bike and would like to improve my riding. I got a late start riding, I'm 57, but enjoy it very much as I do the forum which I try to catch up on every couple of days. I've read and continue to read many of the motorcycling books recommended on the forum. Being that many of the members on here are lifetime riders and most have more experience than me my question is what would be more helpful for me to improve my riding. Take the MSF Experienced Rider Course, do a track day-Tony's Track Day in NH-I live in MA or take a Total Control ARC class also offered at the track in NH. I'm primarily interested in becoming more comfortable cornering and generally improving all my skills. Appreciate your opinions and suggestions in advance.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:04 PM
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If you're primarily more interested in cornering, I'd say the track day (or possibly the Total Control class - I've not taken that one myself.) If the track day offers an instructor, or you can bring someone well above your level, to watch you and give you pointers all the better. Track days also help you get more brake control which is useful on the street. There is some risk involved. Crashes do occasionally occur during track days, though they normally only involve one bike in the beginner's class.

The MSF Experienced Rider basically gives you practice at more 'advanced' street riding techniques, such as riding over objects in the road and possibly some scenarios you've not yet encountered (or even thought of). This course involves much less risk. Usually the worst to happen is you drop your bike.

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:08 PM
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Get Keith Codes "Twist of the Wrist II DVD". It absolutly is what you are looking for.
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:18 PM
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I agree, I don't think the MSF experienced riders course will help you much. A track day with an instructor is the way to go. That and seat time, preferably riding with advanced riders.



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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:36 PM
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Just ordered Keith Code's #1 and #2 DVDs.....I'll let you know what I think of them.

**Sold**2008 Red Versys, Algard, LSL Frame Sliders, EvoTech Radiator guard, Givi screen, Givi V35 panniers, Moto Werks handlebar riser and footpeg lowering blocks, Aprilia Tuono mirrors, Carbon Fiber FendaExtenda, Spools/Sliders front & rear
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 02:40 PM
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+1 for keiths book. Something else that really encourages confidence for me is to ride in a empty parking lot ( church, store parking lot, etc. ) I set up a course in my mind and go through it repeatedly. I also practice my slalom through the parking spots and lock to lock turning within parking spots too. It's all up to you and whatever you can imagine.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 02:57 PM
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Ride more and don't push yourself too much! The more you ride the more comfortable you will become. If you can find someone more experienced to ride with that you are comfortable riding with, follow them around. You will learn more following someone a little faster than you than just about any other way, but don't push it. If they go faster than you are comfortable riding just slow down. You aren't trying to prove anything. A crash will slow you down faster than anything else. Make sure they understand that you aren't going to try to keep up with them if they ride faster than you are comfortable riding, but push yourself some. It will be much easier to go a little faster if you see someone else doing the same thing with no issues. Also practice panic stops when you can. I started riding at 52.

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 03:04 PM
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Not sure how track days go over your way but the one's but I attended last year of 2 days of track in a row.

First day
Attended safety briefing, watch and discus various videos on braking, counter steering, emergency stops and a few actual crashes from mainly north America where every thing is caught on camera (you guys love filming the ride). One of the most interesting clips that stuck in my mind showed 3 out of 4 riders go off the road as the first rider over cooked a corner and the next two followed him into the ditch but the 4th who also had the camera had a better line. The point was made about focusing on rear of bike in front so if he goes off you will follow etc. This first day had many different bikes and was very funny to watch the big cruisers on the tight track.

2nd day

This was called a advanced day and to be there you had to do the first, there was only me and one other guy there from the first day and there were no cruisers at all as was mainly crutch rockets. This was a very limited theory but all about track time and how to corner correctly. Both days had instructors and you were split into 3 groups, slow, intermediate and fast. Took fast group first day and intermediate 2nd day.

Days like these are great as we did things like front brake stop on back straight at 100km/h or 60 mph, emergency braking practice on hairpin corner where you had to stand bike upright for a moment brake and then carry on around corner. The instructors go out every time the group goes out and will also ride one one one with you if you want there advice on any issues.

Yep am a bit long winded but the things learned have saved by bacon a few times even though i have been riding most of my life. Bottom line it is about your safety and how to get out of sticky situations or at least minimise the damage if a crash is inevitable. Looking 2-3 cars ahead scanning all approaching side roads, focusing on exit point of corners, treating all traffic like they are total morons and do not be surprised when they do something dumb.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 04:08 PM
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a track day with an instructor is called a track school. there are many choices. those are good, though more for fun and stretching your limits. i did california superbike school, i learned a trick or two and had a great time. when funds permit i'll do level 2.

i would not recommend a track day. those are more of a free-for-all and "instruction" is hit-or-miss at best. i have done a few of those and had a ball, but didn't learn anything i didn't know already. it's great if you've been on-track before or you're fearless and aggressive.

were i in your situation, i would take the total control class. it's on my to-do list. from what i can tell, it's more directly transferable to the street than a track school.

another option is stayin' safe course, where you ride with an instructor in the twisties. spendy but probably the best course overall for street riders. http://www.stayinsafe.com/

don't belittle the MSF class. safety on the street is more about avoiding trouble, which means thinking about situations before they occur. that's the point of the ERC, which is so cheap in most places that i can't see not taking it. do it an addition to another course. you can't learn too much.

In a world full of people, only some want to ride. Isn't that crazy?
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 04:59 PM
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I took Lee Park's Total Control classes with the man himself. You learn in a big parking lot with your instructor within earshot. You will drag your knee by the end of the day. Is that important? Probably not. What is important, at the end of the day you ride away intimate and comfortable on your bike and with a greater understanding of it. Fun, non-intimidating class. Get rid of your "chicken strips" without crashing. That's worth the price right there.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 06:36 PM
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Total Control class are the best and the track days are great but your going to learn more learn more from a class with someone teaching you. Again track days are fun but if its being held at Loudoun NH Id look around for another course. That one and Summit Point West Virginia are pretty unforgiving on motorcyclist. Lots of things to hit! VIR in Virginia is a really safe track and designed for motorcycles. Just my 2 cents.

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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 07:02 PM
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I completely disagree on a track day.you are 57 years old. Do you really want to risk high-siding at a track day? It CAN happen and you could really F yourself up doing it. You can get well torn up on a low side too. For those that disagree, MotoGP riders even crash on the sighting lap. I mean no insult to you or anyone. I am 41, and for me...prolly wont go to another one. There are probably guys 70 years old that do them and good on them. This is just my opinion and worth what you paid for it.
On the other hand, if you do go to one. You will learn a lot about riding a motorcycle.
If I may be so bold as to share a tip I learned from an old biker:
Never look at the cars on cross streets. ALWAYS look that their front tire. If you see it moving stop!!!!!!
- That piece of advice is simple and has saved me a few times. I just like to pass it on when I can.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Bear on a bicycle View Post
I agree, I don't think the MSF experienced riders course will help you much. A track day with an instructor is the way to go. That and seat time, preferably riding with advanced riders.
+100. This is what I always believe in. Always ride with advance riders and you get the confidence fast and they are there always with you to correct your mistake and guide you. Track days are good to get basis cornering technique.

Go get a riding buddy and you will enjoy your ride.

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 04:30 AM
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well done getting on a bike at 57 first of all, what kept you?

for general improvement on cornering and street riding. I would'nt particualry recommend a trackday either (or books) . Its very different than whats needed for the street. I.e knee down everywhere a) doesnt mean your fast, and b) on the road you wont last long anyway!. In fact too much tracktime makes you worse at street riding insofar theres a lot more complexity on the roads.
However, cornering is all about confidence, so in thsat respect the track is a great to practise, but its not the only game in town. I would advise if you can get someone to help you on a quiet road somewhere or more courses?, but crucially, where your doing something approaching real world riding and speeds.

Its a big topic but suffice to say .....assume everyone else driving is thick! (stupid) and at least be in position to take a bend. i.e balls of feet on pegs/am I relaxed? /shoulder dropped in slighly direction of bend. and never the use front brake halfway around - no matter how scared you are! You can go plenty quick just by that.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 06:24 AM
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In fact too much tracktime makes you worse at street riding insofar theres a lot more complexity on the roads.

Its a big topic but suffice to say .....assume everyone else driving is thick! (stupid) and at least be in position to take a bend. i.e balls of feet on pegs/am I relaxed? /shoulder dropped in slighly direction of bend. and never the use front brake halfway around - no matter how scared you are! You can go plenty quick just by that.
You make the most important point of riding on public roads! Assume everyone else on the road is out to get you or is about to do something stupid. Drivers are frequently distracted or just don't care enough to look before making their move. You should always look for the drivers eyes to make sure that they can see you. That doesn't mean they will see you, but at least you have done your part and you will be more aware of what they are doing. Stay alert and ride safe.

Steve

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Sounds like a challenge to me!

Now I have four!
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Last edited by sharrison56; 01-11-2011 at 06:26 AM.
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post #16 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 07:18 AM
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I agree, I don't think the MSF experienced riders course will help you much. A track day with an instructor is the way to go. That and seat time, preferably riding with advanced riders.
Bear, your a man of great wisdom but I must respectfully disagree with you on this one. After 5 years of riding, I decided to take a advance riding course with a buddy of mine. I was wondering how well I would do and with having a new dl1000 this would be a great oppurtunity to get up close and personal.

Holy [email protected]@T, I got my ass handed to me over and over again. It was the most painful 5 hours on a bike I ever experienced. I felt every lb. of that top heavy beast and suffered through all the course training and emergency techniques. Most important, I realized no matter how good I THINK I AM there was and always be huge room for improvement. Going fast around a track is fun but will only take your ego and adrenaline in the wrong direction.

Take a advance class, learn at real world speeds how easy it is to make a mistake but more importantly how to improve your ability and skills to avoid problems. It will be worth the time, you'll ride better and in the long run your family will be greatful because you'll still be around. Just my .02 based on experience.

P.S. I never dropped the bike but did sell it 6 months after that class.

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post #17 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 07:23 AM
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I have always said, riding a motorcycle teaches defensive driving better than any other vehicle or class can.

When riding my brain is constantly look at whats ahead...what could possibly go wrong (i.e. Some one pulling out in front of you) and what action I will take if things go bad. It seems like a lot at first but once you get in the habit its kinda easy. The down side is it takes a little away from enjoying the ride but its a sacrifice well worth it.

An observation....how many of us when driving a cage arrive at a destination and can't remember the ride there. Our brains drift off to other thoughts than the ride.....this NEVER happens to me on my bike. I remember every curve and bump.
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post #18 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 07:43 AM
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Track and street riding are very different skills. Once you learn to ride and are comfortable track riding will let you work on certain skills in a much safer environment, but as mentioned before it doesn't do much for learning to ride better on the streets. You don't have to worry about traffic or obstacles in the road. Everyone is going in the same direction with the same basic purpose...plus it is only motorcycles. What you do get from track riding is an opportunity to work on your form. Since you aren't having to worry about all of those other things you can concentrate on HOW you are doing things.

All of that said, I agree that most of these skills don't translate very well to skills you need on public roads. What you will get is more confidence, which will help you ride through situations where you might have panicked before, such as braking in a turn as mentioned by 133bhp. So if you are going to mainly ride on the streets practice on the streets.

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post #19 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 07:58 AM
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Reddot, since it is winter here. Pick up a copy of David Hough's "Proficient Motorcycling". $17.00 on Amazon. Start with the first book, not "More Pro. MC". It is far and away THE BEST book on street riding there is (and I think I have read them all over the years). If you read and understand and follow what he says, you will have made up for lots of lost time on a bike. The book is fun to read. Soon you'll be seeing mistakes that most riders make. I don't mind spending money on books because I figure if reading an entire book can save me one mishap, I'm way ahead of the game what with the cost to repair the bike and oneself.
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post #20 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-11-2011, 11:17 AM
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For me there are two parts to street riding, identifying and avoiding all the dangers that wait for us and knowing how to ride your bike. There is some overlap but I think of these as two separate skills. Proficient Motorcycling is a HUGE help in identifying the risks out there and how to avoid them. But after 7000 miles I'm sure the OP has most of that mastered (though it never hurts to check).

Learning how to ride the bike is harder and IMO you need an instructor. I've read and watched videos and thought I was doing the right thing but was soon found out otherwise after taking a street riding skills class on a local track. Getting that feedback was invaluable to me. If your only two choices are track school and Total Control then take both! I would take Total Control first as you will learn technique from that that you can then practice when you hit the track.

I'm convinced the way to go is to take as much training as time and money allow. I've only been riding two years but I have already surpassed my buddies who have been riding for 10+ years. They are self taught and do okay but why spend years repeating your mistakes when for a few hundred bucks you can learn from the masters? I still have plenty to learn and try to take at least two 'big' classes a year.
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