This 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.
When 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.
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
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?
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.
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” . 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?
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.
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,
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.
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.
Ride safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road.
PS…go practice…thats where I’m headed now!
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.
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.
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
There is a saying “only a biker knows why a dog hangs his head out the window of a car” . It’s so true but if you’re really lucky, your dog is on your bike with you!!
Me and Boscoe.
There is a romantic old saying “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it is true love”. However, those of us that race and ride motorcycles know the saying actually goes,
“If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it means you high sided!
When most people hear the term “Motorcycle Club” they instantly change the word club to “gang.” They picture bikers riding into town terrorizing the local folk, taking what they want and leaving the town in shambles. Ok, so I may have watched “The Wild Ones” a few too many times and I do record the “Sons of Anarchy” each season, but not all “clubs” fall into that stereotype, thank goodness.
A long time friend of mine belongs to a motorcycle club that is simply a group of guys and gals that love motorcycles and the motorcycle culture, more precisely the “Cafe Racer” culture. Welcome to the Cretins Motorcycle Club.
First, what is a Cretin? By Websters Dictionary definition you would think a Cretin is a stupid, childlike person full of pointless information that appeals only to other Cretins. If you dig a bit deeper into Cretinism, you find that it is medical term from 18th Century France that describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones. This condition was often attributed to stagnant air in mountain valleys and bad water. Uh, does Pabst Blue Ribbon count as ‘bad water’? Probably.
Second, The Cretins I know are not stupid nor childlike…well maybe a bit childlike (that’s when the fun begins isn’t it?) and yes, in this case we are full of useless information that only we care about…engines, chassis, cool bodywork, fun roads to ride…you get the picture.
The Cafe Racer culture was born in England post World War 2. Blokes would gather at a pub, have a pint and then race each other to another pub and have another pint. There are all sorts of stories about how cafe racers came about, but I’ll stick with this one for now. These were like minded riders just having fun on their motorbikes. And maybe they did terrorize a few motorists here and there. All in good fun…?
Now, the truth about the Cretins Motorcycle Club: These are people that simply love the Cafe Racer motorcycle culture. I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the Los Angeles chapter of the Cretins. This was not my first time with the Cretins. I met them back in 2010 when they hosted the LA Moto Film Fest, but this was the first time I rode with them on their weekly Thursday night ride / meeting. See the photo gallery here
“It was a dark and stormy night” (really it was!)…Scott Fabbro, club president, and I had finished our interview for The Motoworld Podcast about his racing experience at the Isle of Man and headed to the first gathering spot, The Thirsty Crow pub on Sunset Blvd near downtown LA. When we arrived we just pulled up onto the sidewalk parked our bikes and waited for everyone else to arrive. In just a short period of time the sidewalk was lined with bikes. Scott’s classic GS750, a cool Honda CB400-4, First Lady Susan’s BMW Boxer Cup (signed by Randy Mamola!!), my old Honda Hawk and a variety of other bikes. The Cretins are an equal opportunity motorcycle club.
After a pint (Pabst Blue Ribbon of course), it was back into the damp evening and off to the next stop. Now, it was a wet and rainy night but these guys and ladies didn’t let that slow them down. Picture this – a swarm of cafe racers riding in the wet like it was a warm sunny day at the beach. I felt like we were really keeping true to the “Rocker” culture in England.
How about some pinball? That was our next stop…a very cool pinball arcade, ‘Pins and Needles’ in a recording studio somewhere near Downtown. At this point I was totally lost but I didn’t care. I was with the Cretins and having a great time. Some of us played some pinball, some just hung around outside and talked, and after about thirty minutes or so it was off to the club house.
The Cretins Club House. When the Cretins show up it’s not quiet. You can’t have a meeting space in a nice residential neighborhood where Ozzie and Harriet are getting ready for bed now, can you? So, you pick a very cool building in an industrial area and make as much noise as you want.
Inside the clubhouse is the requisite bar stocked with the required PBR (and some other better beverages…all drank responsibly, really). Inside there is all sorts of memorabilia from racing, rides, charitable events (the Cretins are very socially conscious), and good music.
When we got to the club house, members and friends of the Cretins who couldn’t make the earlier ride were showing up and the place came to life. Talk about bikes, rides, races, politics, family and friends was everywhere. The club really is a family of its own. Also along for the ride were two guys from Cycle World Magazine, photographer Jeff Allen and writer John L. Stein. It was very interesting that the Cretins were invaded by two journalist teams (The MotoWorld and Cycle World) at the same time and none of us even knew it was going to happen. But the Cretins welcomed us all with open arms…or was it handlebars? I didn’t get a chance to talk with John but I did get a chance to spend some time with Jeff (who will be a featured interview on The MotoWorld podcast in the near future) while watching him ply his trade as a pro moto/photo journalist.
At around midnight it was finally time to head home. I had had a wonderful night with the motorcycle club. If all goes well this will not be my last ride with the Cretins.
Ride with your mates, share a pint or two, swap stories and carry on the tradition. For this group, this is motorcycling at its best. To know more about the Cretins click http://cretins-la.com/
Thank you Scott, thank you Cretins