Expert Eyes, Part 4—Why riders crash
By Nick Ienatsch January 29, 2019
This week we tap into two new-rider instructors, Chris Carr and Trevor Dech, for their take on the frequent mistakes and possible fixes they see in their world. Both these gentlemen are enthusiastic riders and racers away from the teaching range, and they touch on student and coach improvements.
Chris is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor who operates six training sites in and around Atlanta (twowheeladventures.com/), teaching new motorcycle riders and new Can-Am Spyder riders. This all-in enthusiast has seven AHRMA national championships in his back pocket and has done some crazy cross-country runs that will be discussed in a future article. He is a YCRS Guest Instructor and complete motorhead.
At Two Wheel Adventures we work primarily with new riders or those with extremely limited riding experience. Creating a solid foundation of primary skills is crucial for street riders, track riders, racers, or even professional coaches.
Two of the more important aspects of riding are rider confidence and the eyes.
Confidence. Confidence is unequivocally a required trait for motorcycle riders as it will allow for riders to make instantaneous decisions when the unexpected occurs, and follow those decisions with decisive unwavering response. It is the ability of knowing what to do followed by deliberate action based on that decision.
Confidence is developed by understanding proper technique in conjunction with purposeful practice. Being able to practice under the auspices of professional coaching is essential and required because it short-cuts a rider’s learning curve. They get better quicker. Many of us learned by trial and error, but the problem is many riders quit after too many errors!
Eye habits. It is no coincidence that a rider’s ability to utilize the eyes is in direct correlation to their confidence level. A rider without confidence will ride with their head down, look at their hands, and “ride the front wheel” with the eyes. Their uncertainty prevents them from looking ahead, searching for apexes, or challenges in the roadway. The eyes are the brain’s primary source for gathering information, so to utilize them properly they should be up, and active, continually searching. Whether our riders are on Can-Am Spyders or two wheels, we work hard to get those eyes up and moving—confidence follows.
To ride well you need to understand the skill set, ride with purpose, ride often and immerse yourself with professional coaching. This is not a sales pitch; I see the effect of good coaching for street and track riders.
Coaches who only talk. One of the biggest mistakes I see coaches make on a regular basis is trying to coach a student through a technique with only verbal input. Learning simply cannot be accomplished by dialogue alone. In my opinion, a student needs an experience and the time to allow the brain to record and evaluate that experience and make necessary adjustments. You will find that the best coaches are the ones who make a point, demonstrate that point, and then allow the student to create a new experience utilizing the suggestion.
Trevor owns the Too Cool Motorcycle School (toocoolmotorcycleschool.com/) in Calgary, Alberta, and has been teaching riding since 1991, but he’s been riding bikes since 1970. His trophy shelf holds roadracing championship trophies and he’s a graduate of the Freddie Spencer school and YCRS. He is currently midway through the process of becoming a YCRS 3C (Champions Certified Coach).
I have shared my love of this sport to over 25,000 people so far and would like to discuss a few things I have noticed to help students and coaches. Hopefully this will be a part of everyone’s riding plan not only for 2019 but for many years to come.
Humility. I believe that being humble in this sport is very important. Riders shouldn’t have a fear of riding, but a respect for this sport is needed because it’s the respect that you use to identify certain dangerous traffic situations and dangerous people.
A theme of constant improvement. The best instructors and students seem to be the individuals always looking to get better. This lifelong learning idea is as simple as taking (or repeating) a basic course, going to an advanced course, or attending a track school to practice their craft of riding.
Practice this, not that. The key is knowing what and how to practice correctly and that’s what good instruction brings to you. Think of it this way: If you keep practicing it wrong, in our sport your riding isn’t improving, you’re just getting better at doing it wrong!
Visual practices. The best schools will show everyone how important your eyes are for your safety and what you need to practice correctly for the rest of your career. We all struggle with this as we go quicker, and that means we’ve got to jump those eyes earlier.
Peer pressure. Riders get in trouble when they “must keep up” with whoever is ahead of them. I have often heard, “I had control until I lost it.” I encourage students to not care about what others think, to stick to their plan and ignore the pace of friends, spouse, or the group they are with. You have to recognize this mental and physical trap and really go at your pace. It’s your ride, and if something happens to you, it can affect your family and friends. The ripple effect in this sport is widespread.
The coaching environment. The biggest problem I see with struggling instructors is the environment they coach in. When rider-coaching becomes a job and is not driven by passion, the world starts to poison that individual. It could be because of the lack money or maybe the all-important life balance does not exist; I encourage all coaches to rekindle their passion to change students’ lives, and to get their lives balanced.
Sometimes an instructor’s problem is a lack of mentorship or not wanting to get better. Both are huge factors for being successful as a rider coach. As the boss of Too Cool, my mentorship to all instructors is important to their success. I hope this message hits all lead instructors everywhere because we set the tone and create the environment.
Coaching improvement. The Cambridge Dictionary says a coach is this: “coachnoun: (teacher) someone whose job is to teach people to improve at a sport, skill, or school subject.” I’ve seen some instructors forget that this theme of improvement applies to them as well. I have worked with a few who figured they had nothing more to learn; when I hear that I really feel they have nothing more to give.
I myself went through this “I am really good” phase early in my career and I was soon reminded that I knew very little. I made it my responsibility to be the best coach I can be. I work at it every day and I know all the best do.
C.R.A.S.H. I got this idea from Nick years ago and have modified it based on our experience.
Why do riders C.R.A.S.H.?
Concentration: Mostly the lack thereof! When you put on that helmet riding is all that should matter. Remember: where am I and what am I doing.
Repeating an error: An example is going on a road you know is dangerous, but you go anyway and this time it’s raining. This road might have some bad designs with dangerous oncoming traffic and now the rain makes it worse.
Abrupt use of your controls: Think about the “100 points of grip” that YRCS talks about. Stabbing the brakes or grabbing the throttle…all are just bad habits. Eventually those same bad habits will put you on the ground or into the back of a vehicle or worse.
Speed: Too fast for conditions. Is it really safe to go that fast on today’s roads with all the distractions that drivers have? And I’m including myself in this question. If we continually speed, all it takes is another person to make another mistake.
Hesitation: Now what do I do? By the time you ask yourself this question, it’s usually too late!
This is where riding schools can and will make a difference in rider survival. You are taught foundational safety techniques that will keep you alive.Want more news like this?
A great example is trail-braking. People think trailing-braking is for advanced training only, but that is completely false. Trust me, when I was first employed at a riding school I was told not to teach trail-braking because the owner of the school did not want the bikes tipping over and breaking the levers. That reasoning was incorrect as trail-braking adds safety and reduces crashes.
Riding schools are run in safe environments away from distractions, allowing new and experienced riders to really focus on building confidence. It’s the pointed, correct repetition that