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BACK TO BASICS - THE FOOT DRAGGER

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

The reason I bring up the "foot dragger" is because I see more and more of it all the time. I'm not sure if this is due to there being a lot of new riders on our roads or just simply a lack of knowledge of the basic riding techniques.

Then again, it can't be just a newbie problem because I've seen people I know that have been riding for over 30 years, drag their feet around an entire parking lot. I know what the problem is, it is instinct. Your instincts tell you, you're going slow, the bike may fall over, so keep your feet down just in case. As I've stated before, riding a motorcycle is not instinct. Most of the time the proper technique is actually the opposite of your instincts, as in the case of the foot dragger. All this came to mind recently while I was doing some filming at the Leesburg Bike Festival. I watched a middle aged rider, obviously looking for a parking space on Main Street, riding about 5mph drag his feet the entire length of Main Street. It was at least a 1/4 mile of some of the worse foot dragging I've ever seen. I had to use the zoom lens on my video cam to catch the entire spectacle. I think many riders aren't ever aware they're doing this. Here's your first clue, if you wear out your shoes before your tires on your motorcycle, you're probably a foot dragger. Another draw back of being a foot dragger is that people who really know how to ride, will pick you out as a "no riding" fool, and they will point and laugh at you behind your back. If that's not enough to discourage you, keep this in mind. You could get your foot caught between the muffler and the pavement and break you ankle. In addition, you really can't control your bike at low speeds while dragging your feet because your foot isn't on the rear brake where it needs to be at low speeds.

The answer fortunately is very simple. As soon as you let the clutch out and the bike starts to move, pick your feet up and put them on the pegs or floor boards. At parking lot speeds (below 15mph) use your rear brake only and stay in the friction zone. remember, at low speeds, if you hit your front brake when your handlebars are turned even slightly, it will pull you to the ground. Using the rear brake while in the friction zone and applying power will keep the bike upright just as if you were going 50mph instead of 5mph. Practice the slow race (going as slow as you can with both feet on the pegs while feathering the rear brake). Remember to keep your head and eyes up and look where you want the bike to go. Never look down at the handlebars or the ground.

Practice this technique and you'll find you have better control of your bike, your shoes will last a lot longer and you will no longer look stupid while riding through the parking lot at the local bike night.

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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25 years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says, "When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to ride a motorcycle."
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