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!
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.
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
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.
I have been interviewing motorcycle racers for a number of years now, some interviews are notable for how good they turn out and a few are like “well, there is a half hour I’ll never get back”, and then there are the ones that just make you feel good all over, you’re laughing your ass off through the whole thing and you talk about it months and years after. My interview with Tommy Aquino was one of the latter.
We were at the AMA races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California and Kevin Foley of Yamaha set up an interview with the ‘Young Guns’ Tommy Aquino and Josh Herrin.
When I arrived at the appointed time and place (the Yamaha mega trailer) I met the two while they were playing video games. Mind you, these were not motorcycle video games but your basic shoot ’em up games and they were having a great time. The interview was conducted with all kinds of distractions, background noise and a lot of fun. That interview has been a consistent favorite of The Motoworld Podcast. I spent nearly an hour with the two of them and found them to be very fun, welcoming, smart and above all else, they loved racing motorcycles. They also were great teammates.
Being a follower and reporter of motorcycle racing, and specifically a follower of those we have interviewed, I have kept track of Tommy’s career. Tommy moved on from AMA racing to the British National Series in the 1000cc Superstock class, which is a stepping stone to British Superbike which is THE stepping stone to Worlds Superbike and MotoGP. In 2013 he had a good season, he was on his way. Sadly, Tommy’s career was cut short while training at a local motocross track.
Piru motocross track is only 9 miles from my home and I happened to be riding by the track at about the time of the incident, it wasn’t until the next morning that I heard the news that Tommy Aquino had died. My heart was broken and my thoughts and prayers went out to his family and friends. Tommy was only 21 years young with so much ahead of him.
Racing has lost a wonderful young talent and the rest of us have lost a wonderful young friend. To hear my interview with Tommy go to
Good-bye Tommy you are missed.
At about 15 or 16 years old my daughter decided she wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I was roadracing at the time and she had come out the track a few times but somehow the ‘bug’ never got her. Until, she met a boy who rode motorcycles. Great? Well, at least it was better than falling for a surfer or football player…maybe?
“Dad, teach me to ride!!!” I was one happy guy. My daughter had gotten ‘the bug’. The good thing was we had a little Honda ‘Step Thru’ (a 1959 Honda Super Cub) in the garage that was a perfect basic trainer. Ok, that training session lasted about 15 minutes…”Dad, can I ride ‘The Mighty 350?”
Now this is one of my prized motorcycles…it’s not a museum piece, it’s just a bike I have had forever and have ridden everywhere. In a weak moment I agreed to teach her to ride on ‘The Mighty 350’. By the way, ‘The Mighty 350’ is a 1972 Honda CB350 with a sh#t load of miles on it. Again after about 15 minutes, my daughter was off into the sunset. She returned an hour or so later with a great big grin on her face.
Leah moved her way up onto her brothers Honda HawkGT but as she has told me many times, it was that little Honda Super Cub that really gave her the biggest fun.
The boy she had met was also a roadracer. While out at the race track on weekend, she and her friends decided to take on the boys to see who was fastest. The boys were quite surprised.