You see the pictures everywhere on the Internet. Leathers, lean angle and lots of throttle. Look good? This could be you too. Here’s how to carve a canyon.
Make no mistake, this is dangerous. Cars, cops, sand, gravel, animals and yes…fellow bikers all represent significant hazards. While you can still get hurt with it, head to toe gear will defray some of the extreme risk.
But what to wear? A one-piece race suit will give you the most safety and the most freedom of movement — something you need as you slide from one side of the bike to the other to hang off in corners. Continue that race theme elsewhere — race boots, race gloves, race helmet, race back protector and race chest protector. Not only is that the absolute safest stuff out there, but it’s designed to facilitate the sport of fast riding. You need a dedicated sport helmet because its horizon is higher than other types, enabling you to see forward when folded across the bike. You need race boots because they allow you to feel the pegs and levers and are designed to keep your feet intact even in the most extreme impacts.
Plus, you want to look good in photos, right?
Photo by Mark Muller
Prepare Your Bike
Whether you’re planning to do this on an R6 or an FZ-09, you can’t leave your bike stock if you want to go fast. Start with the tires. Stock ones are garbage on both those examples, so put them on Craigslist and buy your self a set of Dunlop Q3s. Don’t be that guy that thinks he needs track tires, they’ll actually give you less grip and control most of the time on the road as you’ll struggle to heat them up, then to keep that heat in them. That’s not a slight on anyone’s riding, they’re just designed to work best in a different environment.
Next, you’ll need to alter your ergonomics. Consider any stock bike a starting point only and tailor it to fit you. New handlebars, new rearsets, StompGrip on the tank and a higher windscreen are usually enough (and likely the minimum you’ll need to do.) But, you can play with different seat materials and pads, different levers and all sorts of other things too.
And, did we mention how dangerous this is? Protect your investment by fitting your bike with significant crash protection. Check out an owner’s forum for your particular make and model and see which frame sliders, swingarm spindles and front axle sliders are reported to be the most effective. There’s some cheap stuff out there that just doesn’t do anything when you go down. You may also want to fit bar end sliders and flip-up levers or just hacksaw a groove in your stock levers so you’ll have something left if they touch down. Track bodywork also tends to be both tougher and cheaper than the stock items; the best works as sort of an all-over frame slider.
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Do Your Homework
Buy a copy of Nick Ienatsch’s Sport Riding Techniques and read it through. Now, go back and break down all the individual skills you need to learn. Pull out your calendar and write one of those skills down on every single Sunday until the entire list is on the calendar. You know what you need to do now — every Sunday for the foreseeable future is now a school day. Go out and practice that individual skill, all day, until you have it mastered. Don’t do anything else, just practice trail braking or whatever it is you’re supposed to working on that day. Start with the basics and work up to the more advanced stuff, adding new skills on new Sundays as you learn more about what you need to learn to go fast.
Don’t Kill Yourself
Caught onto how dangerous this can be by now? Well, it doesn’t have to be. The whole point of riding a motorcycle is that your safety is totally — 100 percent, don’t even argue it — in your own hands. If you crash while riding fast, you’re the one that caused it. You’ve given yourself the tools to ride fast while riding safely, now it’s up to you to use them. Ride at a pace where you can catch it if something goes wrong. Only ride as fast as you can see — you should be able to stop within the distance you can see ahead. Look as far ahead as possible and develop total situational awareness; everything within your domain needs to be observed and monitored constantly. Don’t try to keep up with guys that are faster than you, don’t push beyond your own limits.
Photo by 7mary3
Stay Out Of Jail
Depending on where you are, the very act of exhibiting total motorcycle control may cause cops to smile and wave or cause them to call in the helicopters. Want to avoid them? Stay away from the popular roads and don’t hit the canyons on weekends. Know where you’ll never find me? In the back of a Crown Victoria, that’s because you’ll also never find me on The Snake or Angeles Crest at noon on Sunday. When I’ve got a two-wheeled itch to scratch, I hit roads you won’t read about here on weekday mornings.
If you must be one of those guys, ride the popular road on Sunday, then leave. Don’t sit there doing laps with a bunch of other morons, doing so creates complaints and complaints create cops who have to be seen to be doing something about them. There’s no faster way to guarantee a book gets thrown at you than to tick off a local with a cell phone.
Ready to start carving canyons? Still have questions? Already a master? Share your techniques.