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BACK TO BASICS - THE TIMID RIDER

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

[This month, I'm going to talk to you about the timid rider. Everyone knows at least one timid rider and in fact, you may even be one and not know it. You may even think as all timid riders do, that you're just being cautious. There is however a big difference between cautious and timid.

In order for you to understand the difference, let me introduce you to "Timid Tony". Tony is someone I actually know, but of course, I've changed his name, even though I'm sure he wouldn't recognize himself in this article. Tony's been riding for more than 30 years, but in all that time, he's lucky to have traveled twenty thousand miles.

Tony is a real short guy, maybe 5'2", and feels that he absolutely has to have both feet firmly planted on the ground on whatever bike he rides, and of course, he has to ride a big heavy Harley cruiser. That means he has to lower the bike considerably, so he has the bike lowered 3 inches in the back. That means he now has severely limited the ground clearance and has virtually no suspension travel on his bike. In short, (no pun intended), he can't lean the bike now since it will rub the frame on the ground and lever a tire. That's ok, because Tony is scared to death of leaning his motorcycle anyway and it gives him a great excuse as to why he has to slow down to a walking pace to make a turn. This causes a major problem for the group riders behind Timid Tony and like most timid riders, Tony loves group riding. It's also very annoying to the riders in front of him because they all have to slow down to allow Tony and the riders behind him to catch up. This causes another problem. Tony and the poor bastards behind him now have to accelerate rather quickly to catch up since the riders in front had to slow, you now have the classic accordion effect. Timid Tony has no faith in his brakes or his braking ability and almost never uses his front brake because he believes it will put him over the handlebars. He starts braking slowly, the riders behind do likewise and before anybody realizes what's happening, Tony now jams on the rear brake and starts to slide sideways. The riders behind are now put into a panic braking situation for no reason. Maybe he lucks out and via dumb luck, avoids a crash. The problem is, Timid Tony is now scared even more than he normally is and slows down even more than usual.

Since he's now obstructing traffic, cars start to pull around him and wind up splitting the group ride even further. All this occurs because Timid Tony is afraid of his motorcycle and has no confidence in his ability to control his bike. Let me add, Timid Tony has taken an experienced riders course. He listened intently as the instructors told him what he was doing wrong, but stubbornly, he refused to use any of the techniques they instructed him to apply. In other words, the course was a waste of time for Tony.

So, what should you do if Timid Tony reminds you of yourself? First, don't lower your bike more than one inch. Instead, have the seat cut down 2 or 3 inches, that way, you won't severely limit your lean angle. You can also buy a lighter weight bike. Maybe a Standard would be better for you. Their seat heights are higher, a Standard or naked bike as they're called, now can weigh 1/2 of what a cruiser does and can be balanced easily on one foot. Their shorter wheelbase also makes them a lot easier to maneuver at low speeds.

The next thing to do is to retake the MSF Beginners Course, then a few thousand miles later, take the Experienced Riders Course. As you gain confidence, you might even try one of the track day courses. If none of these work, find another sport, quit riding and save yourself and everyone around you a lot of grief.

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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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