When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I was a dedicated fan of the TV show CHiPs. California was portrayed as the land of perpetual sunshine, with highways patrolled by two cool guys on motorcycles, officers Poncherello and Baker. When they weren’t saving the day or making time with the ladies, “Ponch” and Baker demonstrated their motorcycling prowess on a motor officer drill team. Nowadays, I look out for, rather than up to, the CHP, but that’s another story.
Jerry “Motorman” Palladino, star and host of the Ride Like a Pro V DVD, is a motor officer in Florida. Palladino had ridden motorcycles for 25 years before his formal motor officer training. He had considered himself a better-than-average rider with many years of experience, but the reality was his first year of experience was repeated many times. The same applies to many of us. Through repetition, our bad habits have become deeply ingrained.
Palladino describes three simple techniques that are the foundation of motor officer training and which can help us reform our bad habits. Unlike a movie, I’m not giving away anything by revealing these techniques, since Palladino covers them in more detail and outlines a series of exercises to put them into action. To comfortably handle a motorcycle at low speeds, Palladino suggests that you must 1) stay within the friction zone of the clutch, 2) keep pressure on the rear brake and 3) point your head and eyes where you want to go.
Using the clutch’s friction zone–the gray area where the clutch is not fully in or out–in conjunction with the throttle makes it easier to modulate speed at a slow pace. It is like a rheostat for adjusting the amount of power that reaches the rear wheel. Maintaining light pressure on the rear brake, while perhaps counterintuitive (at least it was to me), makes the motorcycle want to stand up rather than fall down. Pressure on the rear brake also limits the amount of power available at the rear wheel. Well-orchestrated, simultaneous use of throttle, clutch and rear brake gives the operator control over the motorcycle.
The third technique–aiming head and eyes in the intended direction of travel– is common to most motorcycle training since it is vitally important at low and high speeds. Target fixation is a problem whether you’re making a U-turn in a parking lot or negotiating the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. If you don’t want to go down, don’t look down. If you don’t want to hit that pothole or patch of gravel, don’t look at it.
Being the fifth edition of Ride Like a Pro (rather than the fifth in a series), the techniques and exercises have been refined and expanded over time. For the exercises, you need a large deserted parking lot, some traffic cones or other markers, and a long measuring tape for setting up the obstacles (a handy fold-out exercise guide is provided). The exercises are demonstrated by “Motorman” and his team, plus there is footage with commentary of students making mistakes doing the exercises. As Palladino wisely suggests, when learning new motorcycle safety techniques and skills, it is better to make mistakes in a safe practice area than out on the street. These are perishable skills; only with repetitive, correct practice can we overcome instincts that work against us. We all should set aside time and space for practice, not just riding, and this content-rich DVD provides useful motorcycle guidance and exercises.
For more information contact Ride Like a Pro, 12702 Split Oak Drive, Hudson, Florida 34667; (866) 868-7433; www.ridelikeapro.com