© 2007 by Jim Ford

There were six of us recently riding to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania including a husband and wife couple. Dennis rode a R1200GS and Becky was on her F650CS. Everybody knows what a great bike the 12GS is. To my mind though the sleeper is the F650CS. What makes the bike so great is its low seat height and easy handling. With a small radius front wheel coupled with tubeless street tires, it’s my choice of second-generation F series motorcycles if what you like doing is riding paved curvy roads. We had two F650CSs on this Workshop that were ridden by women. Becky rode hers well. Liz improved her CS riding once she embraced a particular skill I’d like to explain.

Over the course of a Workshop, I like to ride behind each rider. I become their “wingman.” This way I can add easy, relaxed suggestions as we ride along that will give riders immediate awareness of what they are doing. (I use a powerful transceiver; each rider is furnished with Etymotic ER-6 radio ear buds.)   I am communicating in real time. That’s what makes the instruction so useful. Riders get immediate feedback on the quality of their riding. I give riders ideas on what they can improve and what they are already doing well while they’re riding. I speak easy like. No badgering. I understand that it’s not easy trying on new skills so everything I say is low key and relaxed.

So we’re riding along and I’m being Liz’s wingman. As we take curve after mountain curve, I notice that Liz’s line is subtly weaving in and out of the curve. Her line is neither confident, nor flowing nor smooth. An unsteady line is often the result of poor situational awareness and tension. What happens is that the rider looks only ten or twenty feet directly in from of them as he/she travels through a curve.  This is a problem because as they move through the curve, they have to quickly move their eyes through each individual segment of the curve.  With each segment, they make a small turning correction hence the zigzag line.  Plus the “speed” of each segment comes fast!  It rushes the rider and creates tension.

I suggest turning your head in the direction you want your motorcycle to go when taking a curve. That’s right! When you are taking any curve but especially tight curves like a mountain switchback, literally swivel your head as far as it will go in the direction of the curve. Now your head is pointing where you want your motorcycle to go. With you head turned, a person naturally, almost intuitively summons the various skills necessary to accomplish the turn. Because you’re turning your head, you are looking more toward the Vanishing Point giving yourself maximum distance and especially time. The extra time will dramatically reduce any tension you’re feeling. And because you’re better seeing the entire curve (instead of each segment) you’re carving the entire curve instead of each segment of curve. The execution of the curve just happens. It happens in one fell swoop and it happens smoothly!

I made this suggestion to Liz. Over the course of many, many curves, she slowly begins to turn her head.  (I’m reminded of the Tin Man slowing moving his funnel-topped head, side to side.)  The skill doesn’t come naturally. But through her experience she determines that my suggestion works. I literally see Liz’s helmet turn easier and faster into each curve. She points her helmet toward where she wants her motorcycle to go. Very soon, her line is smoother and I can sense a big boost in confidence.

With a big grin, she confirms it.