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.
Good afternoon officer. Would I do something this stupid if I was sober?
After he stopped laughing and I passed the breathalyzer test, he drove off and Boscoe and I went to the local pub for a Guinness.
In years past, our parents generation, retirement meant selling the house, moving to a senior citizen community somewhere near Palm Springs, Palm Beach or Phoenix and taking up Golf. If you were a little more adventurous you might buy a Winnebago and go see the National Parks or visit the Grandkids. Well, over the past decade or two that scenario has changed a bit. Today, Grandma and Grandpa are just as likely to show up on a motorcycle as they are in a motorhome.
One of my day jobs is coaching new and returning motorcycle riders to be better riders, safer riders and have more fun on two wheels. As I’m planning for the upcoming riding season, which here in Southern California is pretty much all year, I look back through all our customer/client/student files and realize that the majority are of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. When I get a new client, I always ask them what made them want to get into motorcycling? The answers generally fall into three categories… 1; I used to ride when I was younger and want to get back into it. 2; It’s something I have always wanted to do but just never really had the time (the second part of that answer is often, my wife didn’t want me to have a motorcycle while we had kids in the house…um, Ok?) and 3; I’m tired of riding behind my husband! Number three is a lot more common than you might think, as a matter fact, new women riders account for the fastest growing segment of new motorcycle sales. And actually there is a number 4 reason, one of our clients told us that he bought a motorcycle because…get ready, here it comes…”the ladies like bikers.” Now mind you, this gentleman has been collecting Social Security for a while, but he was having fun.
Despite what some may say, motorcycles are big business, particularly in the over 45 years old category, these are the buyers that have the time and the money to get into higher end motorcycles. It was back in the late 70’s early 80’s that Willie G. Davidson (grandson to the one of the founders of Harley-Davidson) said, “It’s not just a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle.” It’s so true and it doesn’t just go for Harley Davidson, motorcycle riding is a lifestyle no matter what you ride. For some people a motorcycle really does define who they are.
How big is the motorcycle business outside of the dealership? Well, cities around the country hold rallies that draw thousands of riders who spend lots of cash, which stimulates the local economy. Look at the biggest…Sturgis South Dakota, Daytona Bike Week (going on right now) and more. But as you look around these rallies, what do see, besides big motorcycles? Grey hair. The American Motorcyclist Association says that their average member age is 48+.
All of that is all well and good for the motorcycle industry and the peripherals but there is a down side for older motorcyclists on the road. We get hurt more often and more seriously than younger riders. Damn…I hate when that happens. It’s really simple…we don’t bounce as good as we used to.
Here are some statistics that should wake some of us up.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2007 showed that motorcycle fatalities involving riders over the age of 45 grew four times (4X) from 2001-2005.
Motorcyclists over the age of 60 are three times more likely to be hospitalized than a younger rider (DUH!!). Serious chest and rib cage fractures are among the most common.
The list goes on but you get the idea.
**These statistics are based on ‘averages’, this can include things like not wearing a helmet, riding impaired, unlicensed, no training, etc..
Ok, why does all this happen? it’s just life. The physiological changes we go through…little things like bone strength, fat redistribution, declining vision, slower reaction times all contribute to potential injury (crashing)…and the fact that modern motorcycles are incredibly powerful!
So, what can older riders do to lower the risk of crashing? Well, for one, more senior (I like that term better than ‘older’) riders do tend to ride more safely (their ego was put in the closet a long time ago), they understand better their limitations. Joining a riding club, such as HOG (Harley Owners Group), GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association) or any other club where you can ride with other motorcyclists and learn from one another. Many riding groups can, and do, bring in guest instructors to help beginning riders become road ready and give refresher courses to more experienced riders. My friend Les Brown of Motorcycle Coaching 101 spends a lot of time with riding clubs helping riders enjoy the road more safely.
We all love riding our motorcycles as much as we can, whenever we can and wherever we can and we want to keep doing it for a long time. So, my advice for older riders is this …keep riding! Go take a refresher riding course, there are a lot of them out there just do a google search to find one in your area, you want to keep your skills up. You want to ride deliberately, not just instinctively. If you’re riding with friends, pay attention to their riding, when you stop, ask them “are you OK?” “Are you tired yet?” and then most importantly ask yourself those same questions.
As I say at the end of my podcasts, “Ride safe, Ride Fast and I’ll see you on the Road.” For a lot of years to come.