Back into the saddle
PHOTO BY CATHY LARSON, GRIZ GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY
Have a question about riding techniques? Ask a coach!
This week, your coach will be Pat Jacques, adventure motorcycle off-road instructor and tour guide of ADV Woman.
I haven’t ridden my bike for over 8 months now, and when I start again, I will have missed a whole year of off – road riding already. I’m a bit unsure! How do I begin again?
First of all, relax! The fact that you’re asking this question tells me that you’re a careful rider. Awesome! It sounds like you have some time to prepare for getting back on the bike.
I encourage you to spend some time checking out your bike to make sure it is safe and mechanically sound. That means checking tire pressure, oil level and making sure the battery is charged. If the bike has been sitting for some time, the gas may have gone bad. If you don’t know how to do these things, please have a knowledgeable service person assist you. It’s important to have confidence in the working order of your motorcycle.
I also suggest you spend time finding your riding gear and making sure everything fits and is in good working order. The last thing you want to do is scramble around looking for your helmet or gloves and getting frustrated.
Before even starting the bike, you might consider just getting the feel of your two wheeled friend again. Practice standing next to the bike, balancing it as you move around the bike, maybe even roll the bike back and forth just to get the feel of it. Try sitting on the bike shifting weight and feet side to side. You can do some dead engine balance drills of sitting on the bike, pulling your feet up to balance and then putting them back down. Pull in and release the clutch lever, gently twist the throttle and feel the resistance. Try out your front and rear brakes. Muscle memory will probably kick in pretty quickly as your body remembers.
When you’re ready to fire up the bike and go for a ride, make sure you’re not rushed. If you feel more comfortable with a friend, invite one, but only if s/he is patient and willing to go slow and easy. Find a flat open area without obstacles or traffic to practice. Doing a quick review of the basics in your head will set a powerful intention. Remember these tips:
• Ease the clutch out
• Gently roll throttle on
• Head up and looking forward
• Gently apply front and rear brakes
• BREATHE AND RELAX
Once you’ve done a mental review, you’re ready to ride. I suggest practicing a series of drills on flat ground. My “Rock It,”“Crawl It,” “Walk It” drill teaches clutch control. I start all my classes with this drill. Here’s how it works:
Rock It– feet down, no throttle, just slip the clutch out until you feel it begin to disengage and then pull it back in, then repeat. The bike should gently rock slightly back and forth without really moving.
Crawl It– feet down, no throttle, release the clutch until you feel the bike move forward a few inches, then pull the clutch back in. “Cover the clutch” keeping two fingers on the clutch at all times. The bike should crawl a few inches before rolling to a stop. Do this several times until you’re comfortable with this technique. (Some smaller motorcycles might require a tiny bit of throttle.)
Walk It– begin with your feet down, apply a tiny bit of throttle, gently release the clutch so the bike moves forward a few feet. If you can put your feet on the pegs great, otherwise just let them slide along the ground. Pull the clutch back in and let the bike coast to a stop. Remember to always “Cover the Clutch” by keeping two fingers on the clutch lever. Repeat this drill until you are comfortable with clutch control.
Now that you’ve gotten a really good feel for the clutch and your confidence is building, you’re ready to simply ride forward in a straight line shifting gears. Then come to a complete stop. Ride forward in a straight line again, shifting gears, and come to a complete stop applying even pressure to rear and front brakes. Practice riding from a seated and standing position. Challenge yourself by doing the straight line drill with quick emergency stop at the end.
By now this is probably feeling pretty comfortable. Time to practice some big circles in both directions. Challenge yourself by tightening the circles. Add variety by doing figure eights. Mix things up stopping and starting at different points. Remember to “look through the corner” to where you’re going. And remember to practice both seated and standing.
Practicing these kinds of drills is time well spent. And now that you’re back in the saddle again, go out and have some braaaaping fun!
On and off her motorcycle Pat Jacques is a genuine, courageous, authentic BadAss! She’s a pioneer woman who raced men’s motocross, successful entrepreneur, and founder of ADV Woman. In 2016 she hosted the first ever Adventure Rally for Women, by Women emphasizing on range and classroom training. All ADV Woman coaches are women.
Pat’s passion is empowering women through personal and motorcycle coaching. She’s been riding, racing and teaching motorcycling over 40 years. She has a unique talent for breaking skills into teachable pieces, inspiring confidence, and helping riders to achieve tremendous success.
TRAIN AND RIDE WITH PAT: ADV WOMAN