Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do You Talk to Yourself?

Do you talk to yourself? I know, I know, I am asking a very personal question here. Maybe one that might reveal some deep-seated psychological problem.

We have all heard people talking to themselves, and sometimes even answering their own queries. "Demented," we say as we turn away.

I am not talking about demented people now, unless we who ride two-wheel vehicles could be thus considered. (Well, maybe.)

Related to my previous post about the steps in the turning sequence, I read another article about that. This one is by Dan Carter, writing a review in the website of Keith Code's California Superbike School.

Here is the context:
"Here's how the four-step MSF cornering method, slow/look/lean/roll, can incorporate Keith Code's cornering technique.

"Slow. The key to deciding how much to slow before turning is found in Code's throttle philosophy: Slow enough that you can begin to roll-on the throttle as soon as you're done steering. To adopt quick steering, you may have to change your braking habits. Because you can't drag the brake while steering lazily toward the apex, you must get all of your braking done earlier. If, after steering, you find that you must scrub off additional speed to get through the turn, you've entered too fast.

"Look. Code breaks 'look' into a two-step visual process he calls, naturally, the 'two-step':

  • - Select your turn-in point as you approach the turn.
  • - Before reaching your turn-in point, look through the turn and select a target point. When you reach the turn-in point, which you spot out of the corner of your eye while looking at the target point, steer.
"The two-step helps to prevent lazy steering by establishing a turn-in point in advance. Because you plan where to steer, you reduce the temptation to turn too early.

"Lean. Having decided where to steer, the remaining steering variables--how hard and how much to steer--fall right into place. When you steer, you're looking exactly where you want to go, so you'll know how quickly and how much to steer. If you find, as you near the apex, that you must turn more sharply to keep from running wide in the turn, you may have turned in too early.

"Roll. Begin to roll-on the throttle as soon as possible--ideally, right after steering--and continue to roll-on smoothly through the turn. If you can't roll-on immediately and must scrub off more speed, your entry speed was too high."
OK. Good stuff. Note that his description says to roll on after the lean, but as soon as possible afterward.

Now, here are some tips Mr. Carter advocates for practicing quick steering:
  • "Keep speed down and concentrate on technique. At higher speed, your visual field narrows and attention turns to survival--hardly ideal for learning. So maintain a pace that enables you to concentrate on the process.
  • "Practice the visual technique by itself. You can do this even in your car. Select a turn-in point. Select a target point and focus on it while keeping the turn-in point in your peripheral vision. When you reach the turn-in point, steer toward the target. Developing the wide visual field required to spot your turn-in point while focusing on your target point takes some practice. So too does resisting the tendency to 'follow your nose,' or unintentionally steer the bike as soon as you spot your target point.
  • "Practice forceful countersteering. That doesn't mean giving up smoothness, just laziness. Quick steering input can still be smooth.
  • "Talk to yourself. Say 'slow' as you approach the turn, 'one' when you spot your turn-in point, 'two' when you spot your target point, 'lean' when you reach your turn-in point and steer, and 'roll' as you begin throttle roll-on.
  • "Start with your current turn-in points and gradually move them deeper into the turn. You'll probably find that the line you're accustomed to requires a long, slow steering input to put you on the right trajectory at the apex. As your steering improves, you can comfortably move your turn-in points deeper."
More good stuff.

Did you pick up on one interesting thing? He said, "Talk to yourself...."

I thought I was the only one who did that, taking to myself, I mean.


Maybe I am not nutso after all.

Yes, I, too, speak to myself when I am riding. Fairly often, especially when I am in a situation that is unnerving, I will tell myself something. Out loud. Sometimes repeatedly.

Here is an example. When I am in a turn where I am going faster than I feel comfortable with, I say, "I can do this. I can do this." Or maybe, "This is not a problem." Or, "Hold the throttle. Don't let off."

By the way, that last one -- not letting off the throttle -- is one of the hardest things for most of us to do when we are a bit scared. It requires that our intellect overcome our instinct.

I recall that my MSF Basic Rider Course instructor suggested that talking to yourself -- out loud -- when riding is a good way to be your own coach. Essentially, you are reviewing the lessons learned in the class, while you are executing the exercise. Except, the exercise is the real thing when you are on the road.

I have cautiously asked a few other riders whether they talk to themselves when riding. A few have given me questioning looks, and I hear concern in their voices as they utter words like, "interesting," or they say, very slowly, as if the thought of such a thing had never occurred to them, "Noooo, I've never done that."

But some have admitted that they talk to themselves as well.

OK. I admit it. I am a talker. To myself.

So let's all come clean. Do you talk to yourself when riding?

If you do, what do you say to yourself when you are out and about?

Oh. One more thing. It is not the same as talking to yourself, but saying a brief prayer, even if it is only three words in length, "Help me, God," really does help get you through. It shouldn't be an empty request, or only used when you are in dire need, though. Frequent, heart-felt prayer really does do wonders, and helps us well beyond our frail human capabilities.

Yes, it works. Even when riding a motorcycle, and even for those who tend to think they can do it all themselves -- like me a lot of the time, I'm afraid.


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