Riding Clinic Your riding skills guide
‘ They talk about hard work. Application’ Rupert Paul
Òlook at that Valentino Rossi. Talented b*****d.ó Weõve all heard people say that.
And itõs delusional. Because if you listen to Valentino (or any racer) explain why they won, they never mention talent. They talk about hard work. Application. Repetition. Every time. So for those of us who want to be good at riding a motorbike, there is no short cut. We have to practise.
But practice is quite unfashionable at the moment. Not only are we all short of time; weõve got used to the idea that our informational needs can be sorted with a swipe or a click. But the fact is our bodies and brains are largely the same kit that our ancestors had 200,000 years ago. To get good at something, whether itõs throwing a spear or turning a bike accurately, we need to do it thousands of times. You want to prove it with a little test? Get a pen and paper and estimate your annual mileage every year since you started riding. Next, write down the approximate date of all the crashes you can remember. Now you can see how your crash rate changes over the years. For me, it started in 1979 at one crash every 13,000 miles, then suddenly dropped in 1987 to one every 90,000. So I reckon it took me eight years and 150,000 miles to learn to ride reasonably well. The turning point for me was starting work as a magazine road tester in the mid 1980s. My annual mileage didnõt increase much, but suddenly I was riding dozens of different bikes on road, track and dirt. I didnõt think about it at the time, but I was practising.
Todayõs lifestyles mean most riders average less than 10,000 miles a year. But thatõs OK, because, as my own record shows, road miles on their own donõt get you very far. What seems more useful is experiences that take you a little bit out of your comfort zone, but not too much, and these days we have masses of choice: Track day. Short track school. Motocross try-out. Enduro school. Trials school. Advanced road. Competition. I manage 8000 miles a year, plus at least three of the above Ð enough, I think, to make up for my lack of talent. How about you?