Monday, March 29, 2010

more on the class...

Now that my brain has processed the class a bit more, I thought I'd write more about the range exercises. I tried to find some of them on You Tube but haven't had much luck. And MSF doesn't publish the range exercises on their web site either. That's too bad because the descriptions would make more sense if you could see the way the cones are set up for each exercise.

The exercises all built on previous ones, much the same as the ERC and BRC classes do. The Advanced class focused on braking, swerving, and cornering and ultimately, all three. Even though we were still in a parking lot, shared with another class even, our speeds were a bit more lively than the less advanced classes. And we were encouraged to pick up our speeds during the later exercises.

One of the swerving exercises involved coming around a corner and into a situation where we needed to avoid an obstacle (line of cones) by going around it, and then coming to a stop after the swerve was completed. That was an exercise that will probably come up in real life fairly often - 2x4's in the road, road kill, rocks, etc. You may not always need to stop after but the swerving is good practice. There's a big difference between doing a cone weave and an avoidance maneuver although they both are more or less the same technique. An added feature at the end of the exercise was an acceleration to one side and another stop. So, it went something like this:
1. ride through the corner, accelerating out of it.
2. approach the obstacle at speed (20mph or so)
3. swerve around and return to your initial lane of traffic
4. come to a complete stop with a foot down
5. accelerate while swerving to the inside
6. come to a stop with a foot down
7. accelerate to the next corner and repeat on the opposite side

I liked that exercise. I had trouble accelerating quickly. I also missed getting all the way into first gear once and was in neutral as I tried to accelerate after the swerve and into the avoidance maneuver. It was a very good exercise.

We did the same quick stop or emergency stops that are done in the other classes. Hit the first set of cones and then brake, stopping quickly without skidding. I kept activating the ABS on this exercise. It was our first one after the warm up cone weave. It took me a while to get the hang of it and it wasn't until the final loop that I think I got it. But then we moved on so I couldn't practice it more. I'll have to do that on my own. I had the same problem as before in the ERC. I don't use all of my front brake. I practiced that on the way to work today to try to build some muscle memory. It's hard for some reason. I mean the lever is really hard to squeeze. Maybe hubby and I can take a look at adjusting it later. Thanks to the ABS I didn't lock up the wheels. But, still, I wasn't doing it properly and need to get that technique down before it's too late.

Another cornering exercise involved a new leaning technique. This exercise started in the classroom with images of various riding positions. The typical lean where the rider and the bike both lean. The high speed sport bike hang off the side cornering technique. The counter balance lean for slow speeds. And a combination. This involves shifting your weight forward and to the side in the direction the bike is turning. You do this by dropping your elbow down to the side of the tank and leaning forward and slightly to the side. By doing this you can turn your bike without as much lean which maintains the contact patch of the tires on the road. So, you can enter a corner at the same speed but at a less dramatic lean angle. This will enable you to stop quicker if you need to because the bike doesn't have to travel as far back to the upright position and because you already have more of your tire contacting the ground. Again, this makes more sense when you are doing it on the bike. Even sitting on the bike on the center stand it doesn't really make much sense. I practiced this on the way to work this morning too. While riding a slight curve at about 35 mph or so, I alternated between the bike leaning and this newly learned riding position. The bike could maintain the same speed and as I shifted between the two positions, the bike would change the lean angle to suit the riding position. It was pretty cool to be able to do that. I'll have to show hubby later. Very cool. :-) On the range, this position made the difference between dragging a peg and not on some of the tight turns we practiced. That's a good lesson to have learned as well. The GS seems so tall and yet I easily scraped a peg. Maybe I should slow down? Or correct my riding posture? Very cool skill. This you tube video demonstrates the riding position a bit. Without throwing the knee out is how we practiced it.

The other parts of this exercise involved slowing on a curve. There were two circles set up on the range, one smaller than the other. On the smaller one, we practiced the riding posture to demonstrate how you can increase your speed without increasing your lean, if you use the correct riding posture. On the larger one, we did the same but at a higher speed because the circle was larger. Then a second part was added to each circle. The smaller one added an obstacle we could either avoid by going around on the outside or going inside. That was a good one too, as we had to maintain our path of travel after avoiding the obstacle. On the larger circle we were instructed to slow at a certain point in our path of travel and then accelerate back to speed. That was to demonstrate how the bike adjusts to the different speeds when you are cornering. Also a very good exercise.

The decreasing radius exercise was also pretty fun and interesting. The course was set up like a corkscrew where we traveled on a decreasing radius and exited into a curvy path of travel. We did this in both directions. The key to this exercise was to look well ahead through the exit and into the next entry. Keeping your head turned and looking where you wanted to go was the only way to make the next curve. This one is hard to explain without a diagram. I was so focused on making the correct entry and exit that I forgot to use the new riding posture. So, I scrapped some pegs on this one until the instructor asked me if I'd tried the new riding position. After that it was all good and much more fun! I must have also increased my speed a bit as both instructors made comments to me about that.

It was on this exercise that one of the instructors gave me the most compliments of the day. He said he thought I had excellent riding technique and posture and handled the bike very well. The other also complimented me on my smooth throttle control on this exercise. That made me feel good because those were the main reasons I wanted to take this class. I needed to work on smoothly controlling the new bike, getting used to the throttle and the friction zone, and just start feeling more comfortable on the bike in general. I think I succeeded! I certainly have a good base on which to grow now. Starting out with good habits is much better than trying to break old ones and learn new ones I think. Yay!

The last exercise we did involved a lane change. This wasn't my favorite but did involve using and canceling our turn signals which is also something I like to practice. Because there were only 5 of us, we didn't have to slow too much for traffic because we were all traveling in the same direction. There was supposed to be a point where we could potentially cross paths and need to yield but that didn't really happen. But, we all got the idea.

After the range exercises we went back to the classroom to recap and take a test. I missed only two but we didn't review the correct answers so I'm not sure what they were or even what the question was. Oh well. Our course completion cards were passed out along with some schwag. We finished about 2 ours early because of our small class size.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Advanced Rider Course

Today was the MSF Advanced Rider Course held at the Mile High Marketplace (formerly the Mile High Flea Market). This class was originally scheduled for last weekend but after the big snow storm, they pushed it back a week. The official description for the class is:

Based on the Military SportBike RiderCourse, this one-day course is for experienced riders who desire to learn and practice more in-depth riding techniques. Classroom activities use small group discussions and interactive activities to address personal risk management strategies; to discuss options for cornering, braking and swerving; and to improve visual perception to identify collision traps. On-cycle range exercises provide practice in cornering, braking and swerving. There is no skill test in this course.

It isn't just for sport bikes. There were 5 students, including myself on the GS. There was a Harley Road Glide, an SV650, a CBR Blackbird, a Honda 919, and I can't remember the 5th one. Bummer. One of the students was actually an instructor. Here's a photo of some of the bikes lined up.

It was pretty chilly leaving the house at 7:30 am. It was about 30 degrees. But, fortunately, we spent the first few hours in the classroom. We spent the classroom time introducing ourselves and discussing some basics - braking, curves, attitude, etc. We did some interesting exercises that tested our road sign knowledge and ability to recognize the signs in a short amount of time. Another exercise involved viewing a photo of a real road situation, usually an intersection, and then trying to analyze what we saw. The image was only on the screen for about 2 seconds. Then we were given three choices and had to choose which was the most appropriate based on what we observed. It was very interesting and a bit unnerving too. But, I think that was part of the point. Stuff happens very quickly and you need to always be aware in order to make the proper choices.

Then we hit the range. Here's a shot of the range. It was a beautiful day! It was comfortable enough with our gear on until a little later, after lunch, when it really warmed up.

We did a warm up exercise riding around the range and doing some swerving between the cones. After that, we did some quick stops. The quick stops have been hard for me on the new GS with ABS. It's been hard getting used the ABS. I've never even driven a car with ABS so I wasn't sure how they worked. And I wasn't even sure when they were working or if they were working when I would brake. Well, the class helped with that. I had this problem on the Rebel too. I don't use all of my front brake for some reason. On the Rebel, I just stopped squeezing the front brake. On the GS, it is much harder for me to squeeze the brake lever all the way. My hand isn't strong enough or something. But, on the GS, in addition to not squeezing the front brake all the way, I'm also using too much rear brake, which sets off the ABS. Which means I'm doing it wrong. So, I got to practice the correct way to brake and eventually got it down. I really have to think about squeezing the front all the way and doing it smoothly. And also think about less rear. I really need to practice it more.

After those two exercises, the rest were all new to me. We practiced some cornering techniques, decreasing radius turns, going around obstacles in a curve, slowing in a curve, and also changing lanes. The exercises all built on the previous ones so by the end, I was doing quite well and started to feel much more comfortable on the GS. Which was my main goal.

I wanted to take the class because the new bike is just that - a new bike, a new experience. Even though I had lots of miles on the Rebel, all of that was like starting over with the GS. In fact, that was one of the factors we talked about in the classroom. The Hurt report found that most crashes happened to riders with more than 3 years of riding experience but less than 6 months experience on the particular bike they were on when they crashed. Except for the crash, I fit those statistics. And taking the class was my way of working on not being a statistic. I feel much more comfortable now than I did before. The friction zone is becoming more clear. The braking is getting better. I now have some skills I can build on.

Our class wasn't the only one going on. These Nighthawks were part of the Experienced Rider Course for riders who have been riding for a while but don't have their endorsement. That was interesting to watch too. Lots of engine revving going on and horn honking. LOL!

It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I even learned some new techniques that I plan to practice when I'm carving canyons. :-) Ha, not that I do that often but now I feel more comfortable about it.

Balancing your risk level with your skill level will allow for safer riding. As your risk taking increases the chances for crashing also increases. As your skill level increases your chances for crashing decrease. However, most people tend to increase their risk after learning new skills which offset each other. Managing risks while increasing skills is a better risk offset. This lesson was discussed in detail. Ride within your limits. We hear it all the time and know it's a good idea but do we put it into practice? Minimize risks, increase your skill set, ride well. It's not just about the ride. It's also about the return home. If you summit the mountain but have to be rescued or die on the way down, does it count?

Some books where mentioned as good references for keeping up with your skills. Anything by Pat Hahn, was mentioned. "Sport Riding Techniques" by Nick Ienatsch was in the classroom but I didn't get a chance to look at it, it was highly recommended. A new Pat Hahn title, "Maximum Control: Mastering Your Heavyweight Bike" was also mentioned. I'll have to check some of these out from the library.

So, it was a fabulous day and I'm very glad I participated in the class. I got some good feedback from the instructors. One was quite impressed with my skills. :-) That is always a good thing. And the other instructor commented on all of our improvements during the range rides. I could certainly tell I was improving as the day went on. We started at 8:00 am and were scheduled to go until 5:00 or 6:00. We finished closer to 3:00 because there were only 5 of us doing the range exercises. That was good too. I wasn't nearly as tired after this class. Being March and not July helped too.

It was a good day. I think hubby will enjoy this class too.

Shiny side up!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Toasty warm!

Rode to work this morning and got to test out the Hippo Hands for the first time. It was pretty chilly this morning even though the high today ended up in the 50s. The Hippo Hands are fairly narrow but they fit the bike ok. It was a bit weird not being able to see my hands or the controls. I practiced a bit before leaving the driveway. It was a quick adjustment. I started out without the heated grips turned on and was comfortable. I thought I'd take highway 93 part of the way so I could get up to speed for this test. The weather is certainly getting warmer so I may not need these at all in a few weeks.

About half way to work I turned on the heat. High got warm very quickly and was a lot warmer than I remembered. :-) It was toasty warm! I actually had to turn the heat down. Sweet! On the highway, the bike didn't seem to handle any differently. I didn't think it would but you never know until you try. It wasn't a windy ride anyway so that was a good thing too.

The openings are not very large. My right arm would catch the edge if I wasn't careful. But, I can adjust that. Because they are so narrow, the tops of my hands touch the top of the inside of the hippo hands. But, not enough to make me worried. The hang guards will keep the hippo hands from collapsing.

I'll post photos later.

I think I'll like these very much. :-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Warm weather is surely on the way!!

I just received my pair of Hippo Hands in the mail yesterday. Warm weather is surely on the way now! In fact, this morning, it was too warm to try them out and I didn't even need my grip warmers for most of the trip. So, I suppose the review may have to wait. They are a bit oddly sized it seems to me, but that's the way they are designed. I went home sick yesterday so luckily was home when the mailman arrived. But, I also didn't get to try them out. Oh well.

I did manage to ride to work almost every day last week. Didn't ride on Friday because I had some place to be and needed to be there in the car. It was glorious to be out again!

On Saturday, while hubby worked on replacing his tires on the GL650, I did a short ride to Boulder to try out a new app on my new iPhone. There is an app called iMapMyRide that is for bicyclists to track their routes, mph, and time. I was hoping it would work to map my routes as I some times have a hard time keeping track of where I travel exactly. It didn't work. But, I think I'll try it again and do some fiddling with where I store the phone. I went to Boulder because of the phone actually. I needed to have the AT&T store submit some proof of employment so I could get my discount on my plan. I also went to Whole Foods to have a snack for lunch. After that, I realized that one of the nice things about traveling solo is that it takes me so long to get geared up again. My hubby is often waiting for me when we ride together. I like to take my time, gather my things and my thoughts, and then get going. Not that he ever makes me rush. But, I am quite slow. So, it is nice some times to just be on my own. :-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Forecast - fingers crossed

I sure hope this forecast for the week holds!! :-) So far, there hasn't been any new snow today and what fell yesterday is rapidly melting.