Let me start off by saying that I am definitely a believer in professional motorcycle training. Speaking from my own experience as well as the experience of my friends and colleagues, getting professional coaching makes a huge difference in your progression as a rider. I always tell all my riding students that investing in yourself by getting professional coaching is going to have a much greater return than any upgrades or aftermarket parts you can buy for your motorcycle. Lately I’ve noticed more and more riders jumping on board the professional coaching train and as awesome as that is, I’ve also noticed them promoting it as the one and only way to advance as a rider. Now here is where I have a problem.
Professional coaching is really expensive. A private lesson with a coach could cost anywhere between $1500 to $3000 per session. I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t have that kind of cash readily available to spend on one day of coaching. Even if I saved up and was able to rally enough cash together to get one day of coaching, is that really enough to have a huge breakthrough as a rider? Well it would definitely help because I’ve done it before but in order to truly progress, you need consistency. How consistently can most of us get coached at that kind of cost? So what now? Unless we can afford regular professional coaching, we are screwed and have no way to improve our skillset? I refuse to believe that.
In my search to find ways to progress as a rider on a budget, here is what I found really helpful.
Understand how your bike works
Most of us just wanna ride. We don’t really care about the how’s and why’s of brakes, clutch, tires, suspension, etc. We don’t care about how they work as long as they work. Well one great way of improving as a rider is taking the time to actually understand how these crucially important components work. When you squeeze your front brake, what exactly does that do to the bike, to the suspension, to the tires? Understanding the basic engineering of a motorcycle will help you understand why trail braking works, why we don’t fall over even when on the furthest edge of the tire, why we can’t crank on the throttle in a full lean. Understanding these things will give you more confidence in your machine and ultimately help you progress as a rider.
We are incredibly lucky to be living in a time where we have access to endless amounts of information through a click of a button. YouTube is flooded with video tutorials about how one can improve their riding skills. Not all these videos are any good of course, you have to be careful and selective about which videos you trust. If you see a video from FastBoi420 and he is giving a tutorial on how to curve canyons while wearing jeans, Jordans and a tank top, that’s probably not the guy you want to trust. But many of the same guys who offer expensive one-on-one coaching, have YouTube channels with free of charge tutorials. If these guys have a proven record of a successful road racing career or coach successful racers, we might want to pay attention because they probably have some pretty useful information.
Watch motorcycle races
This is something I started doing fairly recently. I’ve been watching motorcycle racing for a long time and it’s always an exciting and entertaining experience. Never have I thought of watching others race as educational until a racer friend of mine pointed it out. As we watched MotoGP together, he would ask me things like “Did you see how much later Rossi got on his brakes?” or “Did you notice how quickly Dovi stood his bike up after that turn?” It made me realize that although we are both watching the same thing, what we see is very different. Ever since then, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what the racers are actually doing and to my surprise, it’s actually very educational. We can learn so much by watching their movements and how their bike reacts to what they are doing.
Same as with videos, there are a ton of books written by professionals on how to advance your riding skills. I found that I retain information a lot better when I read something and then re-read it over and over until it starts to make sense. Especially when it comes to understanding motorcycle engineering, books with pictures, graphs and diagrams can be extremely helpful. I also found that there are a ton of legendary riders who are a bit too “old school” for making videos but they express themselves extremely well and just as effectively in writing.
Use control riders
This is one that so many riders don’t utilize. If you continuously do track days and find yourself stuck making the same mistakes or just simply stuck at the same pace without any idea why, ask a control rider to follow you for a few laps. Although it might look like control riders are just riding around and having fun, remember that they are there to work. They are there to not only ensure everyone is riding safely but they are also there to answer your questions, show you lines, watch you ride and give you feedback. You paid for your time at the track and they are there for you so use them! No matter how many times I go to the track, I always ride with a control rider for a few sessions just to see if they give me feedback I haven’t heard before and guess what? They usually do! Every control rider has their own style of riding and their own perspective so there is always something to learn.
Find inexpensive classes
Last but not least, seat time is seat time. Any class, any clinic, any workshop that offers instruction and seat time is going to help you improve. Even if it may seem like a dirt riding class may have nothing to do with you progressing as a street rider, believe me it does. Although styles of riding can be very different, they all cross over in one way or another. So do some research and find out what cheap riding classes are available in your area and start knocking those out. Dirt, Supermoto, flat track, mini bikes, gymkhana, all these classes are usually fairly inexpensive yet so fun and so beneficial to your riding career.
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