Riding a motorcycle is a never-ending quest for the perfect experience and I'm always seeking ways to improve my riding. Even after decades on two wheels, I never take riding for granted and I’m always trying to get better and better. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on two wheels, there is always room for improvement. Here are ten simple tips to help bring you closer to motorcycle Nirvana on a Honda CTX700.
1. Increase following distances with reference points Riding in traffic can be stressful, especially when you get trapped behind a slowpoke. Don't make the mistake of riding too close to the vehicle in front of you. Every foot closer reduces the time that you have available to react to changes in speed or direction. When you're in a car, you're taught to estimate car lengths. On a bike, time works better. As a general rule, stay at least two seconds back in order to give yourself enough space to react, change direction, slow down or stop when conditions in front of you dictate. Use a fixed object as a reference point to get a sense of following distance. Notice when the bumper of the car in front of you passes that telephone pole, then count in your head ("one thousand one, one thousand two") to make sure that you're leaving enough space. Do this often enough, and at different speeds, and you'll develop a good internal clock. Proper following distance will become second nature in the time it takes you to count to five…
2. Brake lighter, brake longer Jumping on the brakes when you want to slow down can have some seriously negative effects on traction and we’ve seen our share of high sides from clamping down as hard as you can. It may seem obvious, but try to get on the brakes as smoothly and softly as possible. When it comes time to release the brakes, roll off of as smoothly as you rolled on. We promise, your riding will be smoother as a result, and you'll find that your bike feels more controlled and easier to handle and nothing is wrong with that. Also, you'll find that you're ready for the unexpected -- you're already on the brakes, already under control, and ready to increase the brake pressure without drama in case something happens.
3. Adjust your speed before corner entry It's happened to all of us. You go into a corner way too hot and suddenly discover that you have make a series of rapid-fire adjustments in order to stay on your line and keep the bike upright. It may sound silly, but repeat the mantra "Slow In, Fast Out" every time you approach a corner. Try and adjust your speed and make sure to get the bike under control and in the right lane position before you enter the turn and before you put any lean into your bike. There's always time to accelerate out of a curve, and if you've entered the turn at a comfortable speed, you're in better shape to power out. Remember everyday riding isn’t always a MotoGP race.
4. Cover your brakes at every intersection Intersections are vulnerable spots for all vehicles, especially motorcycles. You have to trust that other motorists are going to obey the rules of the road -- which isn't always what happens. Automobile and truck drivers are looking for other cars, and often say that they "didn't see" you and your motorcycle until it’s too late. We've all heard the sad stories. So, it's just smart to be one step ahead of the game at every intersection. Covering your brakes and reducing your reaction time by a split second might make the difference between avoiding that left-turning SUV or smacking into its rear quarter panel. Practice covering the brakes at every intersection, and you'll always be ready for the unexpected.
5. Use your speed to get safe space Sometimes slowing down isn't the safest thing to do. Sometimes you have to use your motorcycle's acceleration and agility to get to maintain safe space. You're going to be able to out-accelerate just about every car you’d encounter in an urban situation, that Porsche and Ferrari next to you included. Make sure to use your speed wisely and create an open space after each traffic signal. On the highway, avoid riding directly in other motorists' blind spots. Use a burst of controlled acceleration to get away from a tight situation, and claim your safe space on the freeway. It may seem simple, but trust that the guy in the SUV, texting on his the phone while eating a burger, isn’t going to see you.
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