After riding for 18 months, and acquiring a new motorbike, I found myself struggling with some basic skills. I was struggling with slow riding on Rita, in particular U turns. This was not a fun thing and really spoiled my enjoyment of riding as I was constantly terrified of getting to a situation where I might drop Rita and hurt us both.
So, I took action and booked myself an hour with a private instructor at HART (Honda Advanced Rider Training).
The first, very kind instructor, listened patiently to my fears and tears (oh yes, it had come to that), and then explained what I was probably doing wrong. This was confirmed when he took me around the private track and watched me pull up. Oh yes, lovely readers, I was snatching the front brake as I stopped (rather than easing it on along with the foot brake) making the motorbike unstable and liable to tip. Another problem was that I was not putting on enough power when I was performing my low speed manoeuvres; the trick here is to apply quite a bit of power but to control it with the clutch and the back brake, this makes the bike very stable. All this compounded on me feeling unstable on the bike, my survival instinct kicking in and me panicking.
Basic stuff, stuff that I had learned when I was taking those early courses, stuff that I was really good at on my Ninja. Stuff that I had forgotten and stuff that worked differently with a different motorbike.
I was taken through figures of 8 and provided with this feedback. This was of great help as, at least, I knew what I was doing wrong. I had significantly increased the power of my motorbike moving from the Ninja 250 (32.5Bhp) to a Monster 821 (109Bhp) and I had become frightened of it, hence failing to apply enough power in the turns. Plus, it was later pointed out to me, the Monster’s centre of gravity is much higher than the Ninja making slow turns even more unstable.
My instructor recommended that I return and rent a smaller learner motorbike and remind myself of the basic skills before returning back to Rita. This would give me time to process what I had understood during the session.
And I did, I booked myself back in a few weeks later along with a learner bike, a tiny CB125 that, for me, handled like a powered bicycle, easy peasy and I nailed the skills on that thing.
The new, also lovely, instructor informed me, quite bluntly (bless him, he apologised for his directness) that I rode ‘like a girl’. Awesome, I thought. No, he said, the problem that many ladies have is that they are taught to ‘sit up straight’ but that doesn’t work on a motorbike, a slouched body position is actually preferred. I also knew this, I had learned it when I was taking my test but, with so much to remember along with ‘not dying’, it had slipped to the back of my mind. This was a great reminder, I was able to relax and use my body to control the motorbike even more.
And then I got back onto Rita. Wow, she felt like a tank! My terror returned but, at least, I knew what I had been doing wrong and knew what to do, now I just needed to practice. The instructor was great, he told me not to worry and to ease into the practice by taking wide U turn before tightening up. And so that is what I have done, it helped me greatly.
My key takeaway from these lessons is that there is a big difference in knowing what to do versus remembering to do it in the heat of the moment.
$200 very well spent 🙂 .