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Street Strategies: The importance of posture

Sunday, November 4, 2018   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Jim Ford #61985

There is no better place to start your journey toward becoming a better motorcyclist than thinking about how you sit when riding your motorcycle. Though they’re not usually seated, serious athletes are hyper-aware of technique and body position. A pair of outliers in their respective sports are Tom Brady and Tiger Woods. Both Brady and Woods employ personal coaches to watch their every move as much of their technique consists of choreographed movements. Both athletes are continuously aware of and practice perfect technique relentlessly, and by mastering their respective techniques, they control their game.

Establishing the right physical stance often begins with the human "ready" position. The ready position applies to countless human physical contests including Tom Brady under center, Tiger Woods addressing his ball, Roger Federer awaiting a serve, Cael Sanderson on the mat at the start of every NCAA wrestling match, and even Mike Smith riding Justify to the Triple Crown.

The ready position begins with a person perched mostly on the balls of the feet. Additionally, knees are bent, and the subject is in a slight crouch and leaning forward at the torso. Arms are outstretched, elbows bent and hands are open, palms are facing each other. Finally, eyes are wide open, alert and expecting the unexpected.

Astride your more upright sport-touring motorcycle (as opposed to the exaggerated lean far-forward position of a race bike,) let’s establish this ready position.

Take a deep breath, exhale and sit upright. Initially, let your arms dangle at your sides. Now slide the balls of your feet back so they are centered squarely on the foot pegs. Your knees should be comfortably bent. Then, gently arch your spine and imagine it joining at the hips to form a 90-degree angle. Now relax and lean forward at the crease of your hips. Finally, rest your hands lightly on the hand rests. Think hand RESTS, not hand GRIPS!

Gravity and your thighs are your primary means of keeping you on your motorcycle. Use your core muscles to hold your torso in place. This is not to say that you won't use your hands to hang on. But from now on, rely mostly on gravity and your thigh muscles as the primary means for gripping the motorcycle. Emphasize using your arms and hands for their control function instead for than for primary support. Any time you feel tense or feel the need to hang on tighter, clench the tank with even greater emphasis while deliberately keeping your upper body, arms and hands loose. In other words, express any tension with your legs, and force yourself to keep your arms and hands loose.

Lean forward such that your elbows are slightly bent and pointed down. That’s the point—bent elbows! As you ride, focus on leaning forward slightly and keeping those elbows bent. Let gravity assist. Drop your elbows straight down. Don’t splay them out to the side.

Leaning forward with elbows bent keeps your forearms loose, loose, loose, almost floppy-like. Bent elbows are the best antidote to stiff-arming. For God’s sake, don’t stiff-arm! The goal is for your elbows and forearms to remain loose so that they act as upper torso shock-absorbers and stabilizers as you roll over surface irregularities and lean into challenging curves. Leaning forward facilitates this. When the going gets tough, the tough lean farther forward and they've released and rejected that death grip forever. Discipline your hands to rest softly on the hand rests while operating the controls.

When your hands are soft, tactile awareness magically extends from your palms and fingertips through the handlebars and into the whirring “heart” of your motorcycle. You will genuinely feel the machine. What are you feeling for? Feel for smoothness. Develop smoothness in every phase of the ride. Over time and with continuous practice, you and your bike will motor harmoniously as one. The goal is to fuse with your machine—like the mythical centaur.

Never slam, stomp, jam, whack, crack, crank or yank motorcycle controls. You will feel nothing. Instead, reflect on the sensuous. When detecting a fresh aroma, don't your nostrils flare and lightly sniff? When you taste, doesn't your tongue gently massage whatever crosses your pallet? With that high dollar glass of wine—you sip, not gulp, right? A feathery lightness gives your senses the heightened awareness necessary to distinguish the important characteristics you're trying to discern. Tactile awareness is no different.

Pretend your controls are hollow eggshells. Handle them with similar awareness. Then preside over them with a balance of delicate—yet firm—pressure. As you coax the controls, imagine three single silken threads delicately extending from your clutch, brake, and throttle, each disappearing into its appropriate housing within your motorcycle. Use whisper-light pressure on these threads. Infuse them with smoothness. Think smooth. Feel smooth all the while! As you think, as you feel—so you become.

Overall, good motorcycle form looks a little like a jockey on a racehorse, just not quite as extreme. Whenever you approach anything challenging, assume your "ready position," and sit more like a jockey. Lean forward, stay relaxed and loose. Loose as a goose! Finagle it, fake it, force it, do what you have to, but do it!

Set and reset this ready position regularly. Remember, the journey toward becoming a better rider is a journey of change. By simply improving your seating technique as necessary, you’ve taken a major step on the journey—just like that!

Comments...

Peter Werner says...
Posted Monday, November 5, 2018
@ 78, been riding since a young Marine on Okinawa (stripped down Honda Dream), near 60 years ago. Wife & I just back home from 12,400 mile two-up trip. Love your advice - been practicing most all of that, along with 'intentional' counter-steering, for years. Good advice to do all 'intentional. Pete

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