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Motorcycling on the road presents a unique learning challenge. 

Ernest Hemmingway said that there are only three sports: Bull fighting, mountain climbing, and motor sports- the rest are merely games.  His point was, that it's not a sport if it can't kill you.  We owe it to the people who love us, to not run an UNREASONABLE risk of allowing ourselves to become seriously injured or killed. 

And since death is one of the potential outcomes of motorcycling on the road, we should strive to develop our skill set to a survivable degree of competency.  To do anything less is to fail to take an active role in our own survival- we would simply be alive because the laws of statistical probability had not caught up with us yet.  Yet the longer one survives (while doing it wrong), the more they tend develop a false sense of security, thinking that they actually know what they're doing.  As a result, only the most emotionally mature will accept actual knowledge when it's presented to them- pride prevents the others from taking the advice, even if it would save their lives.  It would be like a group of guys are each playing Russian Roullette by themselves, and thinking that they're getting really good at it, because they've each pulled the trigger four or five times on their guns, and their guns haven't gone off yet.  And then a firearms expert spots them and tries to tell them that they're going to kill themselves if they keep doing what they're doing.  Most of them poo-poo this expert advice, comes the sucky part...the ones that wouldn't listen, end up blowing their brains out.  Since they're dead, they can't go back and tell all the others "Hey! That guy was right.", so the pattern continues with the next generation.  That's how it is with motorcycling on the road.   

But there is no commonly accepted path to this survivable degree of competency- even motorcyclists with decades of experience often manage to avoid learning the basics.  It would be like trying to learn how to dance before learning how to walk.  Recently, I encountered a motorcycle operator who knew how to write a check for a giant engine and knew which way to twist the throttle, but didn't even know how to operate a tire pressure guage. 

There are only three things you can do with a motorcycle to keep yourself alive: stop, turn, and go.  I would define a "rider" as someone who has developed a survivable skill set- being able to do all three of those things (stop, turn, and go) to a survivable degree of competency. In practical terms, that means being able to do ALL THREE of those things better than any cage that you are likely to encounter on the road.  But the vast majority of motorcyclists (I'd guess around 90%) are not able to do at least one of those three things.  I often encounter motorcyclists, some with decades of "experience", who don't know how to brake correctly, and often don't even know which way to push the handlebars to make the motorcycle go in the direction that they intend to go.  Most motorcyclists, once they learn how to get a motorcycle rolling without stalling the engine, basically stop learning at that point.  They mistake the passage of time as increasing skill, when in reality they are simply becoming more comfortable at sucking.  That's why if you tell someone who's been motorcycling for 50 years that he's doing something wrong, the first thing that he's likely to pull out of his butt is that he's been "riding" for 50 years, even though he's not really a rider.  Mistaking oneself as a rider when he is actually just an operator, can be a fatal error.

A modern, competent motorcycle, like the Hayabusa, has a great deal of potential when it comes to stopping, turning, and going.  What most people don't realize, is that the throttle is the LEAST powerful control input of those three.  A stock Hayabusa is only capable of lifting the front wheel off the ground (using throttle only) up to roughly 100 mph or so.  But the brakes are capable of lifting the rear wheel off the pavement at nearly twice that speed. So, of the three major control inputs (front brake lever, handlebars, and throttle), the throttle should be the easiest for us to master, even on a Hayabusa.  If someone has an issue with the throttle, it's very likely that they're also having trouble with steering and/or stopping, and they probably don't even know it.  I often see this expressed as an apprehension about a whether or not a novice motorcyclist can "handle" the power of a Hayabusa.  Steering a newbe towards a LIGHTER motorcycle makes sense,  but steering them towards a SLOWER motorcycle does not- a newbe needs to be able to do all three things (stop, turn, and go) every bit as much as the rest of us.  Why take away one-third of his chances for survival by putting him on a bike that won't go?  My personal opinion is that we should not put newbe riders on anything with a performance envelope less than that of an SV650.  An Aprilia RS250 is fine.  A Kawasaki Ninja 250 is not.

My recommendation is to start off with the MSF beginner's class.  They are really good at teaching people a few of the basics, including their SIPDE threat management system.  The only issue I have with them is that they teach braking wrong, but they do everything else so well, I'd rather have people take the MSF class and then just teach them to brake correctly afterwards.  The MSF class, however, does NOT qualify someone to attempt to operate a motorcycle on public roadways- it just qualifies them to operate a drum-brake bias-ply air-cooled single-cylinder 12-horsepower mini-chopper at walking speeds in a parking lot. 

The next step would be to learn (in the academic sense) the basics of why motorcycles do what they do, and how we can influence the motorcycle to get it to do what we want it to do, in terms of stopping, turning, and going.  Keith Code is a strange duck, but his book "A Twist Of The Wrist II" is the best resource that I can refer you to.  Read it cover to cover, until you understand it.  Once you've learned that, the next step is...

Go do a track day.  I learned more in my first 20 minutes on track, than I had in my 40 years prior to that.  It's not safe to attempt to develop your practical skill set by exploring accident avoidance skills (like maximum braking and turning), on a public roadway.  You need a safe environment.  That's what track days are for.  Once you've got a track day under your belt and developed your ACTUAL skills to a survivable degree, THEN you would be good to go on public roadways. 

what is the "correct way" to set tire pressure?

btw, lots of very great advice in your post.


--- Quote from: blk02ws6 on November 19, 2011, 01:44:12 PM ---what is the "correct way" to set tire pressure?
--- End quote ---

Find out what the tire manufacturer's recommended pressure is (NOT the max tire pressure listed on the tire's sidewall, and NOT the max pressure listed on the bike's tire sticker and/or owner's manual), and start there.  An example would be the Michelin Power One, which people have mistakenly attempted to use at pressures of up to 42 psi, but Michelin recommends 22 psi:

The following tutorial may also be of some assistance:

--- Quote ---btw, lots of very great advice in your post.

--- End quote ---

Thanks.  I hope that it's helpful.  I've seen a lot of people die, for lack of the information contained in that post, and it's tragic. 

Well addressed points!!!


And let's all wear appropriate safety gear every time we ride, starting with a Snell and/or DOT approved full face helmet.  They won't let you out on the track without full safety gear, and the track is INFINITELY safer than riding on public roadways.   :tu:


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