Things we think of while riding down the road

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The Kentucky Kid, Race in Peace

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 6.06.32 PMA number of years ago I met Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca Raceway during a MotoGP event. My Podcast had only been running a couple of years but Nicky was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with me. I found him just as warm as his smile and our interview was as wonderful as can be, I walked away smiling ear to ear. The following year at Laguna Seca they had a not so small gathering of the former American GP champions and again I got to talk to Nicky and again it was a great conversation.

Another great visit was with Earl Hayden, Nicky’s dad. We met at Daytona there with his other two sons. We had a good visit. I asked him about him being a dad of these great racers and his reply was “well, you probably ought to ask the boys about that…”. My few minutes with him will stick with me all my life, he’s that valuable to racing. Also, an incredibly humble man, you can’t walk away from Earl and not feel good.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 6.00.04 PM

Enough has been said about Nicky’s career from dirt tracking as a kid to MotoGP World Champion. When last I saw Nicky at the Long Beach Motorcycle show I asked him ‘if‘ when he retired from Roadracing would he go back to Flat Track. All he did was smile and say I love dirt track.

Nicky was/is a universally liked racer both on the track, in the pits and off the track. Always smiling (well not always but a lot of the time). Nicky Hayden represented the best of what motorcycle racing is all about. A fierce competitor, a team player and a great sportsman.  The racing world is missing you now and will continue to miss you. I will cherish the minutes I had with you.

Thoughts and prayers from our family to yours are in our hearts. Race in Peace and Rest in Heaven, you have deserved it.

Paul

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Where are we going?

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 8.53.55 AMWe’ll know when we get there. That goes for a lot in life but for those of us that travel on two wheels thats all part of the grand adventure.

Some trips we have to be in a certain place at a certain day so we plan our trip accordingly. Some trips are based on I have be home this date because I have to go back to work. And some trips require calling your local post office and asking them to hold your mail a few days longer…and calling the credit card company and telling them you will be using your card for gas three times a day. These are the basics. And then there are  the types of travelers that we are.

Everybody has different travel styles. Some are planners … everything is planned out before they are even out of the driveway. Mileage each day, where every gas station is, restaurants for breakfast lunch and dinner, rest stops, hotels, how many hours they will ride each day. Everything is planned on a GPS and the bike is packed a week ahead of time (you know who you are). We all know that type and have ridden with them.

And then there are those that know they are going on a trip, have a general idea as to where they are going, but as how to get there, well…Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 8.54.29 AM

So, you wake up on the day of departure figure out what you need to pack, load it into your throw over the back seat saddlebags, grab some AAA road maps put those, a compass, some granola bars in your tank bag…oh and don’t forget your cell phone charger. Check the tires and the oil and one hour later you’re riding into the Sunrise. Now the fun begins.

I happen to fall into the latter category of traveler. When you make your breakfast stop you lay out a map on the table or counter (a counter if you have chosen the right place for breakfast) and start looking for interesting roads and places that will get you somewhere by dinner time in the direction you want to go.

The adventure of travel is just that, an adventure. I want to see things I haven’t seen before and meet people I don’t know. Ok, I didn’t really meet her but you never know who you’ll meet on the road.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 9.13.30 AM

I just got home from a trip to visit friends in Southern Arizona. I can do that trip in one day but this time the question was ‘why’? Lets take our time and see what we can see. The dessert scenery was wonderful. Believe it or not there was still snow in the mountains above Palm Springs

Some of the choices were good, a great low price motel in Blythe, Cal. Budget Host…I recommend highly and a great restaurant La Casita Dos right around the corner.  Then there were the times that weren’t so great like having to deal with Phoenix traffic in the middle of the day when it was 105 degrees. My motorcycle and my wife weren’t having a great day.

After visiting our friends and sharing a couple of really good rides, again without maps or GPS and only a basic idea of where we were going it was time to head home. This time it was truly the long way home. And what a great adventure. We found ourselves in small towns, funky restaurants (one was the absolute worst I have ever been in) and a gas station that had the coolest gift shop I have ever seen on the road…and the best restrooms.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 5.46.08 PM

Meandering through life sometimes doesn’t work all that well but when you’re on the road, meandering is a very good thing. Enjoy your ride, don’t hurry (unless you have to be back to work tomorrow because you have already been meandering). See new places, talk to people you don’t know and the beauty that is riding your motorcycle wherever you want to go.

Ride safe, Ride far and thank your motorcycle at the end of very ride.


Take a breath

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-6-13-30-pmThis goes for so many things in life. When you first are born you get smacked on the butt and you start breathing outside the womb. When you ask out a girl for the first time and when throw your leg over your first motorcycle. These are great times that we always remember…well maybe not the first date thing ( mine didn’t go so well..).

When I first started road racing, Keith Code looked at us all in his class (1981) at the end of the first classroom session and said “we’ll go the track when I see the adrenaline level drop in your eyes”. Good advice and I have carried it all my racing and riding life since that day.

Years later I was racing at Willow Springs Raceway in Southern California when then Race Director Danny Farnsworth came to my pit area and told me that I need to breathe. He noticed that when racing my shoulders were somewhere up around my ears. He explained to me that breathing smoothly and constantly always helps your body relax and when your body is relaxed you have a better feel for your motorcycle and what it is doing. When you are all tightened up your motorcycle is going to fight you and that is never pretty. That was truly a lesson learned… I won the next race..I let my motorcycle do what it was designed to do.

Lets bring this back to the real world. As a Motorcycle Riding Coach I spend a great deal of my time watching somebody ride. I watch body position and I listen to the engine (throttle management) and I watch the suspension (to see how you are braking). Many times I will stop a client either in a parking lot during an exercise or on the road and tell them to breathe. I can see shoulders tighten up and controlling their motorcycle becomes very stiff. I show them the video and then they get it. So we practice breathing. Deep breathing. Shallow breathing actually wears you out faster and then your muscles aren’t willing to do what you want them to do…they’re tired! And so are you. Exhausted motorcycle riders aren’t having fun and are not riding as safe as they can or should be.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 9.37.19 AMWhen you get in the habit of breathing normally you would be amazed at how much easier it becomes to control your motorcycle and you’re more willing to finally step out of your comfort zone and your skills go up. Here is one of the keys to breathing naturally while riding…head up and eyes out. Look where you’re going, not where you’re at. When we target fixate we all tighten up, hold our breath and pray we don’t crash. If we simply look forward and keep looking at where we’re going, maintain smooth throttle control and have a good feel for all our controls we can manage most all situations.

Breathe…sit on your motorcycle in the garage (if you have one…a garage I mean). Look ahead and play with all the controls but breathe. The key here is to always be looking ahead. Don’t look at the controls or your front wheel. Look ahead and breathe. It is a simple exercise  But when you really get used to it it is another one of the ‘Ah Ha’ moments and you learn “Motorcycle Meditation”.  Smooth easy steady breathing allows you to feel your motorcycle work underneath you and it always allows you to enjoy the scenery, your fellow bikers. Enjoy the ride.screen-shot-2016-04-07-at-5-30-09-pm

Think about it like this…your motorcycle needs to breathe, no air…no go. A clogged air filter doesn’t let your motorcycle breathe and performance goes way down. Its the same with us . Practice breathing while riding your bike, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and ride.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the Road

Paul


From the “What was I thinking” File

Or… according to Elvis Costello…Peace, Love and Understanding.

I have spent up until now, 100% of my motorcycling life  (50 years) on Sportbikes, Sport Tourers, Vintage bikes  (Honda, Yamaha, Triumph, BSA, Ducati, BMW….), dirt bikes and a couple  of Adventure bikes along the way but never a two wheeled Winnebago’s (read, Gold Wing).

A number of years ago after finishing the WERA 24 hour endurance race  (third place, beating 2 factory teams), in my exhausted state I made my daughter 2 promises (motorcycle related only) 1; I would never buy a Harley ( I didn’t want to buy into that lifestyle) 2: I wouldn’t buy a Gold Wing (I will never be that old). Well, I kind of broke both promises. I have a Buell (powered by Harley Davidson) and I did buy my dad a Gold Wing and kind of enjoyed riding it but was happy to pass it along.

So, here I am today straddling the biggest motorcycle I have ever owned, a Yamaha Stratoliner. 1900cc, 800+ pounds and what feels like longer than my truck. What in the world was I thinking?Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.58.56 AM

Now to the subtitle. Peace, Love and Understanding.

1; Peace. Coming to grips with the fact that Sportbikes are in my past (although I still have two in my barn). Medicare, bad backs and arthritic wrists are not big fans of clip-ons and rear sets. My son was instrumental in bringing me to that peace. His comment, ” it’s really sad seeing some old guy on a 1000cc Sportbike going slower than a sixteen year old kid on a 125. My ego was brought down a notch or two, or three. But I am learning to be at peace on a Cruiser/Touring bike. Somebody help me…..Please.Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 2.49.06 PM

2; Love. I bought my Stratoliner for a number of reasons. The first is Heather. She is not a tall woman  and getting on a tall Adventure bike is no fun, I have to make it easier for her.. Number two; the comfort factor. We travel quite a bit so having a motorcycle we can ease into while loving the ride is perfect. When I first got the bike all I could picture was the Queen Mary on two wheels and then I started riding it. Other than being bigger than anything I have ever owned I was was instantly enamored  with how well the bike handled. Yamaha did a great job designing this motorcycle; chassis, suspension, and tons of power that is easily  managed…what more could you ask for.  I started to love this steamship of a motorcycle.

3; Understanding. This is where it gets weird…at least for me…understanding the ‘Cruiser Mentality’. A long time ago a local dealership carried both Yamaha and Harley Davidson , on the Harley side they had a T-Shirt that read “GOD rides a Harley”, on the Yamaha side the T-Shirt read “If GOD rides a Harley , GOD rides slow” .Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 6.52.27 AM  I have noticed that sitting on this two wheeled BarcaLounger has changed my riding…as in “Hey, when did I slow down?” Loafing around at the speed limit is well, very depressing. When little old ladies on skateboards are going faster than you, you know you have a problem.  There has got to be a support group somewhere…Cruisers Anonymous?screen-shot-2015-11-05-at-7-47-10-am

Another level of the understanding is that as a professional motorcycle riding coach many of my clients ride BIG motorcycles (read born in Milwaukee) so I needed to better relate to what they had in order to be a better coach. Henceforth the Queen Mary.Queen_Mary_Long_Beach

I have to go to Confession at least once a week to confess that I have come to peace, love and understanding with my new motorcycle and the lifestyle that comes with it.  But I still have a question…”What Was I thinking?”

PS…the guy in the picture is not me…he really needs to go to Cruisers Anonymous!

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road,

Paul


Tapping into your Inner Rider

Many of us have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence. I have read read it twice and still don’t get it. Robert Persig did a good job but I continue to wonder why it is as popular as it is. Doesn’t matter, a lot of people like the book.

screen-shot-2016-04-07-at-5-30-09-pm  There is a Zen to riding a motorcycle , whether it’s daily commuting , casual riding on a Sunday or Racing…you have to tune into your inner rider. Because you have to focus on everything around you,  the rest of the world fades away. Its you and your motorcycle.

What is your inner rider? It’s the person that has the flow and the feel… the connection between you, your motorcycle and the road. Looking ahead …where am I going?, not where I’m at.

The Inner Rider breathes deeply and smoothly and takes in everything around he or she.You see everything around you but more than that you are aware of everything around you. As you ride and you look, and listen it can become all too easy to be complacent and too casual about your riding. Enjoying the beauty, the warm weather and not paying attention,  that is when things can go a bit wrong.

So how do we prevent that? Take time to practice the skills that you have learned. You can’t use a skill you don’t have. I was told once that a lesson learned is only learned when you apply it. And that takes practice. Every now and then, just go find a parking lot somewhere near you and practice the skills. Practice your Friction Zone control, work on quick braking ,do some tight circles, do U-Turns and weaving. Get the muscle memory.

When you do these riding skills regularly riding goes from habit to instinctive. You know what you and as equally important, what your motorcycle can do. You feel, you know and now is when the Zen of motorcycling really comes in. I see and feel everything and this is why I ride a motorcycle.Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.24.21 PM

Ride safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road.

Paul

PS…go practice…thats where I’m headed now!

 


The Blind leading the Blind

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As a professional motorcycle riding coach I work with all types and styles of riders. There are those that are scared of the streets, those that aren’t quite sure if they should be riding a motorcycle at all and those that have more ego than ability. This article is about the latter and it is very serious to me.

I recently acquired a client that is just learning to ride and so is her husband. He passed the MSF course and she didn’t. He bought himself a high powered Sportbike and off he went thinking he knew everything about riding a motorcycle. “coming into a corner too fast…just lean it over more”. That is what he said to his wife who has never been out of first gear.

I took them to dealership to buy her a motorcycle. We found what I believed to a good choice for her but the husband wanted her to have something more like his. A motorcycle way out of her ability. So this what I have to work with. After a few sessions of private training in a parking lot (which I had to ride her bike to…) she started to develop some OK skills. Was she street ready, no.screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-12-34-18-pm

On a day we had scheduled for a coaching session she told me that her husband and son (both beginner riders) told her she didn’t need any  more help, she was ready to go, so off she went. Her son rode her motorcycle home from their shop where she kept the bike (and crashed in their parking lot) and then her husband took her out to ride around the neighborhood. I went out one time and rode with them. Honestly I had never been more scared for a rider than that day. But there was nothing I could do. I don’t want to get in between a husband with more  ego than ability and his wife. Telling someone who has never been out of second gear that they are ready to get on the highway when you shouldn’t be yourself…??? I have video of the two of them and to be honest , she actually rides better than he does.

There is a lot more to this story but I’ll let it go here. I am concerned about the wife but more than that I am concerned about the husband…more ego than ability. Wise old saying “Never twist the throttle with your ego”

I just needed to get this off my chest because I care.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road

 


Two wheeled therapy

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There is a saying, If you want to be happy for a day…drink. If you want to happy for a year… get married. If you want to be happy for life…ride a motorcycle.

When I started traveling on a motorcycle I found a peace that even the Hippies of the Sixties didn’t know about. It was the connection between man and machine and all that Mother Nature can throw at you then at the end of the day you set up camp (or crash at a cheap motel) and reflect on your day and a big smile shows up on your face.

The reason this blog is called Helmet Time is because inside your helmet you have times of heavy concentration and others that you are just enjoying where you are at. The feel of the weather, the ability to look all around, take in the beauty with no impediments. The feeling of your motorcycle whether it be an ultra smooth multi cylinder Tourer or a vibrating thumping Tourer, you settle into a state of pure bliss. I’m on my motorcycle.screen-shot-2015-05-11-at-9-09-28-am

Very few cars offer a true connection… with air conditioning, power widows to seal everything out and a stereo system that shakes the road and power steering, most cars isolate you from the world. But on a motorcycle you feel the world. On a motorcycle you need to be aware of everything, and that is part of the enjoyment of riding. You’re engaged, you’re focused and that is a form of meditation. Body and mind come together along with your machine, you have a flow.  Settle into it and enjoy every moment…well unless you happen to have to commute on the 405 Freeway in Southern California then you know you did something bad in a past life and you’re having to repent.

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Oh, and when you’re meditating on your motorcycle, try not to be this relaxed!!!

Ride safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road…Paul