Author Topic: Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review  (Read 3858 times)

Offline kokomosam

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Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review
« on: January 25, 2008, 10:33:40 PM »
Hello all,

I am a Bandit rider for the last few years  :motorsmile: and a new poster here.  As a way to introduce myself here.  I thought I would post a review I wrote about last year about an advance riding class put on by Ride-Chicago called the SRTT.

General / Repeat Stuff
Street Rider Technical Training
From the Web Site:
"SRTT originated in Japan and the goal to learn to ride “with” the motorcycle and not “on " the motorcycle.
Any style bike applies, Sport bikes, Harleys, Touring bikes, all of them can benefit from this type of riding style
SRTT has no classroom time, or writing around in lines, only pure riding time. This will give you the confidence to ride anywhere, in any weather, in total balance and control.
You will ride more smoothly and more confidently than you ever have before. During the class, you can push yourself going anywhere up to 75 mph on the SRTT course!"

I am always curious to see what kind of bikes show up to classes like these.  The total number of bikes was 11 I think.   The largest contingent was cruisers (both metric and harley),  but the second largest was even more surprising to me... there were 4 naked ducatis.  The rest consisted of two Japanese sport bikes and me on my Bandit. 

Don did the introduction and helped clear up how someone in Chicago ended up teaching a class from Japan.  It turns out he spent some time with the U.S. Motorcycle Military Police in Japan and he was teaching MSF classes there.   As part of an exchange program, he went to the Japanese Motorcycle Training class. Where he found out that they were teaching much more advanced techniques then the MSF classes he had been teaching.  This was the SRTT.   He eventually became an SRTT instructor and when he came back to the states he continued to teach it. Or at least that is the summary from what I can remember. 

Braking Exercise (braking flame war begin)
The first exercise was braking and led to my assumptions about braking being challenged.  The SRTT teaches to use the front brake, rear brake and the engine all at once to get maximum braking power. This goes against what I have heard and come to practice in braking.  I have been operating under the school of thought that the best way to brake is clutch in, don't touch the rear brake and 2 fingers on the front brake lever only.  This thought is part MSF and part wisdom from fellow rides and some reading I  have done.  I was a little perplexed, but I wanted to see where this was going so I kept my mouth shut for this first exercise.   He had each student one at a time ride towards him at a comfortable to us speed.  He would then hand signal for us to stop and he evaluated what are braking skills were.  It was hard for me not to grab the clutch and to use my rear brake.  I had gotten out of the habit of using my rear brake in all but niche situations.  I guess I did ok, as Don didn't have too much correction to give me.  After he had seen the whole class do this a couple of times, he stopped the exercise and pulled us all together to talk it over.  During this discussion about braking, I started to ask more questions about the differences in breaking from what I view as the common belief about breaking and what he is teaching in this class.  For everything questions I raised he seemed to have a ready answer. The most important line of questioning, at least to me,  was around the risk of locking the rear tire up. I won't go through the whole conversation here, but let me sum up his response by saying that keeping the tire connected to the engine (engine braking) will force the tire to keep moving a little bit and keep the rear tire from locking up.  (of course this only works if the engine doesn't stall.. more on that later)  Again, I am hoping that Don will stop by our friendly little region 4 web site and clarify any points I might not have right.

I am guessing that this isn't the first time that someone has challenged him on this technique.  I couldn't seem to find a way to stump him on the spot regarding his technique,  but I this seemed so fundamental that I didn't want to let it go.  After I had been asking questions for a while, he asked if I would help with a demo.  I said yes.  What followed next was an interesting experiment.  He asked me to re-do the braking exercise.  Only this time to try the different techniques of braking. 

So I did 4 runs trying to brake with different methods.  Keeping the bike in first gear I ran it up to a steady 25-30 mph and tried to start braking at the same line.  As I did this Don marked my stopping point with each method as the class watched on.  What he asked me to do was this..

    * Rear brake only with clutch lever in
    * Front brake only with clutch lever in
    * Front and rear brake with clutch lever in
    * Front and reat brake with clutch lever out(ie with engine braking)

I really did my best to give this a fair shot.  I tried to the best of my ability to get the same speed and braking point for each run. 

As you would guess, the "rear brake only" was very long and involved a skidding rear tire and a bit of excitement..  The front brake only was easily half the distance or less then the rear only.  Using the front and rear brake with the clutch lever in, was shorter then the front only again as you would expect.  While using the front and rear brake with no engine braking, I managed not to skid the rear, but for me, full braking with the clutch in it seems really hard to brake hard on the rear with out locking it up. This issue was one of the things that helped move me to the "front brake only" school of thought.  Finally, I tried it the SRTT way.  I got the bike up to speed and at the appointed line I applied both brakes, but left the clutch lever alone. As the bike came to a stop, I pulled in the clutch lever to keep the bike from dying.  The result to me was surprising, I had stopped a good 4 to 5 feet shorter using both brakes and full engine braking.  However, there was one thing that I noticed about using this technique, there is a sound that I can't clearly explain.  There seemed to be a bit of a "clacking" sound that came out of the rear of the bike during this test.  Previously, I had noticed that when Don ran the course as a demo, I could hear a similar but louder noise coming from his bike (FZ1) when he was braking.  I asked him what this was and I can't recall the exact words, but it was related to the chain and engine braking. 

So I have some real life data that says the fastest way to stop a motorcycle is the one the SRTT is teaching. I still have concerns about locking up the rear wheel and the odd sounds that this technique involves, but I will have to re-evaluate my braking techniques.  Still after having said all that it was a very challenging experience and if nothing else all the practice and focus on braking probably makes me a better rider.

Riding the "autocross" course:
The rest of the day at SRTT was spent riding around a kind of mini road course laid out in cones and chalk marks in the parking log.   This was very much like an autocross course, but with more tight spots. The course included slaloms, straights(50 to 75 mph), sweepers, hairpin turns, corners and turn around's of all types.   They broke up the course into sections and had us ride through a section at a time to introduce us to the course following Don on his FZ1.  With each section new riding skills were introduced and discussed.  In general the more important new skills that were introduced after straight line braking were using your legs for major steering input and trail braking.  I can't relate here all the techniques taught, but I want to cover at least what I thought were the major points.

Steering with your legs was less of a challenge to my assumptions then the braking but still wasn't exactly what I had learned in the past.  The technique taught in the SRTT emphasized the legs for big movements and  stressed the arms (i.e. counter-steering) should be used for small adjustments only.  This goes against my general belief that the only way to turn a motorcycle is to counter-steer. Closely related to this was holding on to the tank with your legs.  This part of the class is what can really make your legs sore.  Anyway, as the course went on I started to believe that using your legs does have an impact on controlling the bike, more so then I had thought.  At the end of the class he did a demo where he rides the bike around in a circle with no hands, however, he never demoed changing directions with no hands.  In the end, I am coming to believe that legs and body have an important role, to play in steering a motorcycle, but I still haven't seen anything that makes counter-steering not the only way to start the turn.  It seems to be that your body weight can help the bike transition faster, but if you don't start with the handlebars i am not sure if it will work.  This of course is just my $.02

The other 'new-to-me' skill at SRTT was trail braking.  As a demonstration they set up a single corner with chalk lines to show when to brake with front and rear and when to trail brake too.  The sequence being both brakes, front brake off, throttle on, rear brake off.  As I mentioned earlier, I had not been using my rear brake for some time and had put off by the idea of trail braking as a more racing related skill.  However, this is a skill that I am sure I will take away from this class and use.  Trial braking seemed to really settle the bike and ease the off throttle/on throttle transition.

After the course and skills were introduced Don and his assistants lead the class through the whole course stopping every few laps for comments and discussion.  Also, this started a real fun part of the class.   In order to get each person used to what we should be doing on the course, Don would take us for a ride on the back of his bike.  This is where holding on with your legs really gets challenged.  Don can ride the hell out of that course and I am sure he was taking it easy on us.  He was telling us that he wanted us to use our legs from the back of the bike to steer the bike.  I seemed to have some impact on transitions even from the back of the bike.  This was very noticeable on the slalom.  The one upside/downside of my ride with Don was to point out it me that I wasn't holding on with my legs nearly tight enough.  It is 2 days out from the class and I have sore muscles in places in my legs I didn't know I had muscles.  I need to buy a thigh-master or something.   DOH!   During part of the ride with Don, when I was hanging on for dear life, I got a cramp in some small muscle at the top of my leg near my crotch...  this is not a muscle a man should be working out seated that close to another man!   LOL   All kidding aside, the ride with Don is almost worth the cost of the class alone.

So introductions done, course learned,  we were given instructions to ride the course and try out our new skills.  For all of the morning and most of the afternoon we were instructed to run the course in 1st gear only.   This worked very well for me since first gear on a 1200cc bike geared like the bandit is very flexible.  The only time that I would have normally shifted was in the back straight where there was enough room to rev the engine near redline in first gear. 

After we had been running the course for awhile in first gear.  We were then instructed to run the course for 3 laps using only second gear and never touching the clutch.  I think the purpose was to teach us to have more flowing lines and to get back on the throttle earlier.  I must admit I had some issues with this. The trick to using second gear in during the tighter stuff is to trail brake through part of it with the throttle held open to keep the engine from dying.  This ended up being harder for me then I thought.   As i was going through a tight corner (but not the tightest) on my first lap this way, my bike stalled.  I was leaned over, trail braking the rear and try to keep just enough throttle to keep the engine from dying....   well I miscalculated.  Mid corner at full lean, the bike stalled and then stopped instantly.  I ended up just jumping off and away to keep it from landing on me.  I was un-hurt and the only damage to the bike was the right turn signal. ( I really need to get a recessed turn signal).  I suffered humiliation and embarrassment, but nothing more.  One of  my class mates came over and helped me get my bike up.  Don and one of the assistants rode over to check on me.  I was able to remount and continue the class minus the right turn signal. 

After I was able to complete the last 2 laps of 2nd gear only without incident, were were brought in and told to try the course again for 3 laps using only our right hands as control.  After my mishap on the previous exercise, I must say I was still a little unsettled, so when I started this exercise, I put both hands on the handle bar during any slow tight stufft the first lap.  As I regained my confidence, I rode the whole course with just one hand and found that it was much easier then trying to ride in second gear.  One handed riding felt much safer then I thought it would.  It also really helps to drive home the skills that were taught.  Using your legs, trial braking, braking technique, etc..  By the third lap this way I was getting very comfortable with riding one handed.

After this the main part of the class was over, Don covered a couple of tricks on U-turns and other stuff and the class was over.

First let me say that I liked this class and will probably take it again.  I thought Don and his staff were professional and made the whole experience fun.  More importantly, I think that it made me a better rider.

However, there are some things to consider.  Before I took this class, I was concerned about using my own bike to learn new skills and push my riding envelope. My concern was great enough that I had decided that i would not push my self  very hard for this class.  I would learn, but be safe....  well I wasn't able to pull that off.  Once in the class, I was having fun and really tried to push my new skills and go faster.  My fear of dropping my bike came true.  Now for anyone else considering the class having similar thoughts, let me say that I felt no pressure from the staff to push my self.  In fact, the class was told several times not to try to impress anyone and ride to you speed / level.  If I felt uncomfortable, there was no one pushing me to do something I was uncomfortable with.  At any time I could of slowed down, down shift, blow past cones with out going around or whatever I felt I needed to do to be safe.   Dropping my bike came from pushing myself, learning and trying to implement a new skill and a miscalculation.   The corner that I had my problem was not the tightest/slowest as I have already said and the solution for making that turn safely was actually to go faster..  Why I had the problem there is hard to say, but I don't blame the class or staff.  I made a mistake practicing a new skill.  It happens.  In fact i was not the only person to drop their bike during this exercise.  I am not sure the total number of problems, but I know of one other person that dropped there bike for sure and I was later told that one of the cruiser guys had dropped his bike earlier in the day.  Of the 3 drops my bike took the worst damage at a turn signal.  All happened at slow speed parts of the course. The only way I think that some one could really get in trouble on the course is washing out the front by braking too hard after a faster section.  However, if we were totally risk adverse we wouldn't ride motorcycles.

Summary:  Great Class, challenged my skills and made me a better rider!
« Last Edit: January 26, 2008, 04:07:15 PM by kokomosam »

Offline pmackie

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Re: Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2008, 12:34:30 AM »
Great Post Kokomosam :clap:

Welcome to the board. It looks like you were (and maybe still are) on I hope you find us a welcome bunch here and stick around to contribute some more. :welcome:
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Offline rkfire

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Re: Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2008, 12:04:49 PM »
I haven't been reading motorcycle forums until I got the Bandit in the summer of 06. Since then, I have read a number of braking technique threads here and there, with most talking about front brake only, and some mentioning clutch pulled in.

Maybe font only and clutch in is a newer theory and technique, but I go back to the days when brakes weren't all that powerful and neither was the rubber that sticky, and you used both brakes and engine braking as well. I'm somewhat pleased to read that someone out there is still suggesting that both brakes plus the engine are still a good method.

Of course I also understand with more compact sport bikes, and even better front brakes and stickier tires, they're likely to have even more weight transfer in hard braking and the rear tire have little to no traction under maximum braking.

Having said that tho, last summer I had a van pull out in front of me at a blind driveway. I'm no lightweight, and had a passenger as well. I was going about 55-60mph. Luckily I had a notion that since my view of the driveway was blocked by a large trailer, anyone that might be headed out of the driveway would also not be able to see me coming. Sure enough a van pulls across and STOPS in my lane. No time to downshift or anything, but I grabbed the front brake hard, and I have no recollection but assume I hit the rear brake pedal too. Later my passenger said she was pulled off the seat under the braking force. The van driver waved (embarassed) and finally decided it might be a good idea to pull out of my path. I did come to a stop before I'd have hit him, but it would have been really close. I felt I got about everything out of the brakes and tires. Bear in mind too, between the bike, full tank of gas, 2 not so lightweight passengers, and a full tailpack, I probably had a gross weight nearly 1000lbs!

All I could think of later on, after my heart rate slowed down, was: I'm glad I ride with fingers on the brake, I'm glad I had the notion that this situation was possible, and finally, I'm glad the Bandit has great brakes and better tires than my old bike. I also reflected back, and know there was no escape route either. I'd have T-boned the van if I was still riding my old BMW. Also, as a side note, I didn't lock up either tire, but travelling back on that road later I noticed a single dark tire mark where I braked.

Offline kokomosam

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Re: Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2008, 02:32:34 PM »
Great Post Kokomosam :clap:

Welcome to the board. It looks like you were (and maybe still are) on I hope you find us a welcome bunch here and stick around to contribute some more. :welcome:


I am and still am on   That is were I originally posted this review.

As i continually find that I like my bandit and as I am getting married this year and can't afford a new one anyway.  I have decided to do a couple more farkles and unfortuntaly maybe fix some stuff too.   My bike got knocked over in storage and I think I bent the handlebars.  Anyways,   I thought I would come check out a Bandit specific board.

Only the nicest people ride a bandit right?


Offline Pillage

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Re: Chicago Based Advanced Riding Review
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2008, 02:35:27 PM »
After this the main part of the class was over, Don covered a couple of tricks on U-turns and other stuff and the class was over.
Wow, excellent post.  :clap:
I'd love to hear more about the u-turns tricks & other stuff.
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