For my birthday in June, @HelmutVisor bought me a half day’s bespoke training with Rapid Training (at my suggestion, he doesn’t try and push me into improving!!). I chose the South Shropshire Hills as the area to do it in from the options available.
Yesterday was “the big day”. I had spent all Sunday both nervous and excited and by the time yesterday morning rolled around I felt properly nervous about what the day would bring, probably as nervous as for my bike tests - I suppose opening yourself up to scrutiny from an expert with the possibility that they would say “you’re so terrible that motorcycling’s not for you” is not comfortable for that many people.
Anyway, I rode about 35 miles to meet my coach at a petrol station, we learned a bit about each other’s backgrounds and my expectations - he is a motorcycle - obsessed (his words!) rider of all kinds of bike in all situations, including multiple races at the Isle of Man TT. My motorcycling background didn’t take long to tell him at all, being somewhat more modest than that; the main thing that I wanted to achieve from training were him having a good look at my general style and ability, learning to make better progress and working on my technique around bends in particular. His plan was to make the whole session consist of twisty roads with us stopping frequently for debrief / discussion. There was the option of wearing an intercom, but coaching points are not provided as you go if you do, it was simply for directions, so I chose to go without as it just seemed like a distraction and just watch my mirrors for his indicators when he was behind me approaching junctions which worked fine.
We started off on a fast flowing A - road (after I stalled my bike through nerves setting off - first time since my very first ride on it ) for him to get a general look at my riding and then went on mainly rural B - roads and the occasional fast but twisty A - road with every type of bend you can imagine on them, doing progressively more difficult routes. We also got a good soaking in the pouring rain as the heavens opened for some time as we approached and went through Crossgates (standard). I still have the black hands from my wet gloves as a memento of the day.
We particularly concentrated on road positioning, opening the view up ahead as far as possible by being really flowing across all of the available road, including crossing the centre line where safe to do so. We soon found out that I tend to turn in too early, tightening the bend right up for myself so I had to put in real effort to begin to change that habit. We started off slowly getting positioning right and then adding more speed going into a bend, getting on the brakes and getting back on the throttle as we exited the bend and making more progress on the straighter parts of road that joined the bends together. I could feel a real difference in my riding as the hours progressed and following the coach at times for him to demonstrate really allowed me to feel how flowing it could be.
Including my ride to meet the coach and back home again I covered just shy of 200 miles yesterday, so had a very intense day mentally with the concentration of trying to make the very most of the opportunity I had for professional coaching.
There were far more good points about my riding than I had expected (all within the context of the mileage I have done of course, compared to most people I have a very long way to go!!). The main ones were:
I was very smooth with the way I rode and with the controls which he said was good as when people are not they cannot get much faster without rectifying that.
My riding position was good and I was relaxed on the bike, he said I don’t appear to have to put much physical effort into riding which is a real positive as I am just making small inputs. He did ask me whether I felt physically tired from riding or like I need to do much with the bike - I said that it doesn’t require much effort as all which I had just always put down to the bike but it seems I must be getting something right, albeit accidentally!
My road positioning is good.
My observation is good.
My low speed control is good.
It was nice to get the positive feedback that I did as it’s easy to feel a bit rubbish when you don’t really have any experience to judge how well you might be doing. He said that overall I was a good rider for the mileage that I have done.
My main learning points were:
I act like a bike on the narrow twisty roads because I have to - there is no other way to get round them on a motorcycle and which is why we did them but I tend to “revert to type” ie car driver sometimes on the wide main roads in terms of not taking the opportunities I could. This is something I have been very much aware of since passing my test and I was given some useful food for thought to combat this and to start to make more headway.
I have a tendency to turn in early around bends making things harder for myself and obviously also scrubbing off more speed by getting this incorrect. I made good headway in combatting this but it will require continued effort by me to get my timing consistently better.
I don’t always use every bit of road that I could do to open up my view ahead, I never really “steal bits of the other side of the road” to use his terminology. I also made good headway here too but again will need to ensure I remain consistent to get this embedded.
So - I really enjoyed the day with the coach, he was great and has given me a good foundation to build my skills more from; I need to make sure I try to incorporate it into my riding every time I ride until it all becomes second nature and my riding becomes faster and more flowing which is my aim. I know that after a day of doing the more technically difficult stuff a bend I am always a bit wary of as I get near to home seemed like a doddle as it’s quite wide and sweeping and on a main road (it has always freaked me a bit psychologically as a friend of ours smacked himself into the black chevron road signs looking ahead at them on his bike rather than around the bend; only his pride was hurt, luckily). My plan from here is to take away all of the learning from yesterday, put it all into practice and do either one of Rapid’s trackdays when I have more experience under my belt (to advance things further without the possibility of oncoming traffic!) and / or one of their longer courses.