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I was just thinking about the very popular and ubiquitous phrase, "Know the limit of your skill and always ride at or just under it." I see and hear this everywhere, online, in person, you name it. I'm not trying to start an arguement but one question keeps repeating over and over in my head: If you're never supposed to ride above your personal skill level, how are your skills expected to improve?
 

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I guess it would depend on what you mean by "skill". If you mean hign speed cornering, the short answer would be, take it to the track. If you mean threshold braking, take it to the parking lot. In other words if you want to push your boundaries, do it in a controlled, off road setting with proper gear and preferably after some instruction.
 

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I was just thinking about the very popular and ubiquitous phrase, "Know the limit of your skill and always ride at or just under it." I see and hear this everywhere, online, in person, you name it. I'm not trying to start an arguement but one question keeps repeating over and over in my head: If you're never supposed to ride above your personal skill level, how are your skills expected to improve?
Skill levels tend to rise with time naturaly. Think about learning to type. At first it is hunt and peck, then your hands and head finally get in tune and you can type a bit faster. When you try to type even faster...you tend to make mistakes. After a few years of typing you find that you can type faster than before without making the mistakes. It is easy to push your limtis here, to see if you can type even faster, because unlike riding a bike, you are not endangering your life.

MSF of course does not want you to take risks or endanger your life...so they came up with the "Ride at your own level or below it" for the shear safety of it. Most riders I know will at some point push their limits a bit, and at some point this will effectively raise the standard that they normaly use to go by....thus they "improve".

The importance of the phrase "ride at your skill level" , "ride your comfort level", or "ride your ride" is to make it clear one should not get forced or coheresed into riding beyond their comfort level.

It is not a suggestion not to improve ones skills. One should after feeling a bit complacent with their riding try taking things up a notch, if only to find their level at that point. But as mentioned, it is safer to push your limits if you choose one specific area at a time and do it in a controlled enviroment.


KM
 

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I can't believe I'm typing this, but I 100% agree with KM :beerchug:. I want to also stress one point, Don't let your buddies or your ego push your limits before you feel comfortable. Thats usually the quickest way to get hurt. Y'all ride safe now ya hear.
 

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Here's a simple yardstick I'm trying out for this very question. It's been working so far for me and others I've suggested it to, for many different activities.

The phrase to consider is "Too Much To Think About."

Any given situation requires a certain amount of your brains and attention to deal with. Standing in line - not much! Riding a cycle demands you pay attention and make decisions on many things at once. As your skill and experience increase, you have to actually THINK less about each task and let your reflexes handle things.

In the beginning you have to think about EVERYTHING, nothing is reflexive. When it's all you can do to drive the cycle, adding traffic, darkness, etc. is Too Much To Think About. TMTTA means something you should be paying attention to isn't being handled right, because the brain is too busy dealing with other things. That one thing you can't deal with will probably be what takes you down.

Instead of trying to judge your skill level versus the task, ask yourself - do I have too much to think about if I do that? Or can I handle it without stressing? It's a quick and simple reality check that seems to work well.

You have to push your limits, but push them gently and make sure you have reserve brainpower at any given moment. When your mind is overwhelmed and you're "out of your envelope" you'll know it. Sort of check yourself from time to time and ask - how do I feel now? Am I in control? How much extra attention do I have if something surprises me? As Constant Thought tasks become Reflexive ones, add in more things to think about.

Good luck and ride safe!
 

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Undercover Sportbiker
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+1 to what everyone else has said. The quote kind of falls in line with "ride your own ride"

There is a time and place to find your limits. On the streets is neither the time nor the place. It's like the old adage "How do I get ti Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice."

I'm fortunate that the riding drills I work on (stopping quick and cornering with better form) I can do pretty much anywhere, since I don't do it at speed. Plenty of large empty lots by my pad.
 

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On His Lady Vulcan
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KM nailed it. Ones skill level improves naturally as time goes on. Example: think back to the very first time you ever rode a bike, remember how SLOW you took your first corner? Now on that same corner how fast are you going today? Keep letting your natural learning curve develop and you'll improve even more.
 

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I should also point out that there is no law saying that you should "Ride to the limit of your skills" all the time. The idea of "riding just under it" is what most folks do anyway.
(But those big groups of Harley riders that get on the highway and ride right at the speed limit, really need to get out of my way)

Once you have learned and developed these skills it is not really nessecary to use them to the full extent all the time. Riding a motorcycle should be an enjoyable experiance, You should feel relaxed, serene and happy. (with still being on guard for dangers of course).

Being older now, I have had my years of riding to the limits of my skill reach the point that now I can easily ride to the limits of the bike itself, but nowadays I ride well below that. I know I can charge into corners ALOT faster than I do, but 99.9 percent of the time, I don't. Been there done that I guess.

I like feeling relaxed and serene ....not "challanged" and definitely not in any hurry. I ride a big insanely fast bike now, but still very rarely shred the corners like I did when I was younger.

I do like having the skill on tap if I need it...and I love having a bike that can match my abilities, but for everyday I prefer just to enjoy being on a bike and not taking every corner marked with a "35 mph" sign as a challange.

Was it Roosevelt that said "Walk softly, but carry a big stick?"...that is my mind set now. I'm a ninja riding a tiger ...there is no need to prove anything to anyone anymore...even myself.

But just so you understand, I do, on occasion, dig in the spurs and fly....one does needs to keep in practice...........


KM
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the replies. In the MSF I took the only thing I remember was "ride at or below your skill level". I assumed that that level would increase naturally over time. I have been practicing certain things (quick starts, hard breaking, swerving, and tightening up the U-turns) in an isolated area though regardless. I just felt while doing it, that I was doing something wrong.

I asked the question because I saw a video online that had guys on huge loaded Harley's that were kinda slammin through turns. I thought "cruisers can do that?" So after a quick warm up (ride through the delsolate back streets and practicing the above) I decided to take it easy and slow but try a little more speed and a little more bank when in the turns I've come to know so well. As I enter the turn with a little more speed than usual, obviously I'd bank a bit more. I still felt confident and in complete control.

The more I did this, the more I realized my overall command of the bike increased exponentially. My radius also tightened up considerably. The tightest turn on "the route" is actually on my way out of it. After several weeks of pracitice, I started to not think about it. The last turn came up, I stayed on the gas, pulled in right bank as needed, got to the tightest part of the turn, and felt my right knee start to drift away from the gas tank naturally. The turn began to end as I righted the bike and away I went.

I guess I also asked the question because I felt like I was breaking the rules by "tryin new things". Now I see, despite my MSF experience, I was doing it right all along - slow and controlled in an isolated environment. I just couldn't believe how much I felt my skills improve over the course of a few weeks by trying something I wouldn't have if all situations remained the same. I'm undoubtedly in a new palce with riding and really enjoying it. I still know that safety's first though its just nice having reached a new plateau.

FYI, I've never banked to the point of "knee drifing" after that one day. Afterall, we're not on crotch rockets. I actually took that level of bank as being my new "bank limit"...
 

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KM nailed it. Ones skill level improves naturally as time goes on. Example: think back to the very first time you ever rode a bike, remember how SLOW you took your first corner? Now on that same corner how fast are you going today? Keep letting your natural learning curve develop and you'll improve even more.
This point did it for me. On my daily commute, I typically ride a set of twisties on the back roads. There are several curves along that route that I remember taking *very* slowly on my first few weeks. I was scared to lean the bike over much at all, and nearly wound up crossing the line of death a couple of times due strictly to my fear of leaning it over. Over time, though, my skills improved, particularly as the words of my MSF instructor came back to me, "these things will lean over a whole lot farther than you think they will. If you ever find yourself going too fast into a curve and approaching the line of death, lean it over harder."

Now, those same curves are a whole lot more fun for me, and I can take them at the speed limit without a problem (and have been lit up by the surprise Officer coming the other way on a couple of occasions for taking them at a rate slightly exceeding the speed limit. Fortunately, he didn't have room to turn around or was just sending me a message). The point is that my skills improved over time.

Someone else was talking about how much you had to think, or whether your brain could process all of the information. I find that the more I ride, the better I am at processing all of what's going on around me. I just naturally tend to drop back a little now when someone in an SUV, yakking on their cell phone and looking everywhere but at me, slides into the lane next to me. I'm just anticipating that s/he is about to cut me off. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but it doesn't require any emergency response on my part because I've already prepared for it (that's not to say that I still don't have to deal with the idiot woman in a Lexus that evidently believes that I have no right to occupy the lane between her and the left turn into Wal-Mart that she just *has* to make. Not that that happened last Thursday or anything. And she didn't just throw her hands up (off the steering wheel) as if to say "what did I do wrong?" after I laid on the horn or anything, either.)

As someone else said, testing your limits and improving your skills should be at *your* pace, not someone else's. If one finds themselves riding with a group that's causing them to press themselves to the limit to keep up, they need to find a different group to ride with...

--FA
 

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I guess it would depend on what you mean by "skill". If you mean hign speed cornering, the short answer would be, take it to the track. If you mean threshold braking, take it to the parking lot. In other words if you want to push your boundaries, do it in a controlled, off road setting with proper gear and preferably after some instruction.
and someoneelses bike :doh:


my biggest improvement in my riding came 2 weeks after i started i decided to take her on a 800 mile jaunt i averaged 45 in the nice rolling river road of hwy 199 by grants pass and averaged 5 over on the way back ... time patients all the skills u acquire along the way will take u to the next level ... it took me a short time to put over 100k under my belt i now feel safer on a bike then i do in a car...

however i still respect and fear my ride i lost that once and i lost controll nearly killed myself... this is a dangerouse sport and if u play with snakes your bound to get bit a time or two
 

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I should also point out that there is no law saying that you should "Ride to the limit of your skills" all the time. The idea of "riding just under it" is what most folks do anyway.
(But those big groups of Harley riders that get on the highway and ride right at the speed limit, really need to get out of my way)

Once you have learned and developed these skills it is not really nessecary to use them to the full extent all the time. Riding a motorcycle should be an enjoyable experiance, You should feel relaxed, serene and happy. (with still being on guard for dangers of course).

Being older now, I have had my years of riding to the limits of my skill reach the point that now I can easily ride to the limits of the bike itself, but nowadays I ride well below that. I know I can charge into corners ALOT faster than I do, but 99.9 percent of the time, I don't. Been there done that I guess.

I like feeling relaxed and serene ....not "challanged" and definitely not in any hurry. I ride a big insanely fast bike now, but still very rarely shred the corners like I did when I was younger.

I do like having the skill on tap if I need it...and I love having a bike that can match my abilities, but for everyday I prefer just to enjoy being on a bike and not taking every corner marked with a "35 mph" sign as a challange.

Was it Roosevelt that said "Walk softly, but carry a big stick?"...that is my mind set now. I'm a ninja riding a tiger ...there is no need to prove anything to anyone anymore...even myself.

But just so you understand, I do, on occasion, dig in the spurs and fly....one does needs to keep in practice...........


KM
DUDE! There's at least 4 quotable quotes in there. And I agree on all counts.

Expanding the skill set and becoming a better rider should not be done so one can ride faster (although riding faster is a natural by-product of being better). It should be done so that 99% of the time you're not using your "enhanced" skill set, and when that 1% situation comes up you actually have not only the knowledge but the *ability* to execute the escape plan.

Ever since I got my groove back, I've been trying new roads again, so I can experience as much as my surroundings can offer. Dealing with different road surfaces, different types of corners, all in varying conditions from chill (about 50 degrees) to nasty hot (over 100). While doing all this, I still try to stay focused on enjoying the ride, because that's critical. The better I get at riding, the more I can enjoy the ride.
 
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