by Jerry Palladino
Last week at one of my citizen's classes,
I had 10 enthusiastic riders, ready and raring to improve their skills.
I always start them off with the slow cone weave, which consists of 6
cones in a straight line set at 12' apart. This is a great exercise to
get the riders used to turning the handlebars quickly from side to side
to avoid hitting the cones. It also teaches the rider where their focus
needs to be, which is on the very last cone in the line. This exercise
also simulates obstacle avoidance, such as, in a case where a truck in
front of you drops his load and you must weave around the obstacles.
Generally, it takes the average rider 5 or 6 runs through before they
can complete the exercise without hitting any cones. But, on this day, I
tried something a little different. In an effort to teach the students
that the proper techniques for riding are mainly in your head. In other
words, mind over matter.
Instead of using 12" traffic cones, I placed 6 tennis balls, cut in half
on the ground. Still set of course at 12' apart. I then stood down at
the end of the line and told the riders to focus on me at about my eye
level and not to look down at the tennis balls. Every rider made it
through the weave without running the tennis balls over. I had them
perform about 5 runs through the exercise. I then placed the 12" traffic
cones on top of the tennis balls and had them run the exercise again.
Low and behold, every rider struck at least one of the cones. They all
swore that the cones were set closer together than the tennis balls,
even though they saw me place the cones right on top of the balls. It
took another 5 or 6 runs through the exercise before all the riders
could complete the cone weave successfully. Thus proving, that it was
all in their head. The exercise hadn't changed one bit. What was
actually happening of course, was that they were now looking at the
cones and of course, wherever you look, that's where the motorcycle will
go, so the riders struck the cones. Once I convinced them of this fact,
and got them to focus on me standing at the end of the line, they
breezed through the slow cone weave without error.
I then set up the U-turn exercise at 24'. I had the riders turning to
the left. I removed the right side line of cones so the riders could not
see the actual edge of the 24'. All the riders made it through turning
their bikes in 24' or less. A few were even able to make the turn in
less than 20'. As soon as I put the line of cones on the 24' mark, once
again, everyone had difficulties making the U-turn. It appeared to them
that the size of the U-turn had been reduced. Once I explained to them
that they had all made the U-turn previously in well less than 24' and
repeatedly told them not to stare at the cones on the 24' line, they
once again were able to make the U-turn with no problem.
The moral of the story is, focus only where you want the motorcycle to
go. If you look at the edge of the road or the curb when making a tight
U-turn, you will surely hit it. If instead you focus where you want the
bike to go, you'll make that turn every time. Remember, motorcycling is
90% mental and 10% physical.
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Back to Basics Series:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle
cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division.
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25
years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show
which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police
bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles
around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying
gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding
a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a
motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the
highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive
motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says,
"When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to
ride a motorcycle."