by Jerry Palladino
[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:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle
cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division.
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."