Elite or Elect?

It was a group ride to the North East of Turkey to visit (and for many revisit) historical places. More a ride concerned with the destinations than the roads to use. It was a matter of motorways and well serviced national highways very convenient to cover many kilometers in reasonable time. Inevitably, on the first group dinner, some riders expressed boredom and dissatisfaction: “not roads for real bikers, not enough corners, too much of the straights and of the traffic”

Often the Dancers (riders who like to cover no more than 200K per day in narrow, twisty, country style roads) debate with the Truckers (riders who can ride much more than 500K a day if there is a good reason to go there) and dispute the competence of the latter.

Dancers are not happy if a stretch of roads covers more than 200 meters between corners, Truckers look for the fastest, relaxed and serviced way to reach destinations far away. So truckers see the world and Dancers see the art of cornering: two good sightseeing’s that may improve personal culture.

There is obviously a category in between: riders who choose the itinerary according to the reason of the ride: for fun at speed and lean they select Dancers roads without complaining, if the objective is clear, to cover long distances with the Truckers.

These hybrid bikers may sometime cover long distances on twisty roads or select a motorway for a visit to grandmother 50K away.

And so the discussion went on around the table, nothing new but quite entertaining that was till we touched the “competence on riding” subject.

At that point few Truckers (and some Dancers) casted the gauntlet: promotion of competent riding is “elitism” a wicked word one of the mortal sins in a society where inequality grows but “we are all equal” is the popular creed.

Accusing somebody of ELITISM achieves at the same time several objectives all very much “liked” by the egotistic social community:

  • “You consider yourself to be above all others”
  • “You strive for a level of perfection not reachable by all”
  • “You set yourself apart and do not want to share”
  • “You are a privileged out of touch with the interests of average people and out of connection with new generation”

Motorcyclists, we know, are a strange breed: on one side we represent the extreme of individualism in a mass oriented society. We ride alone, outside the square protective box, we ride when other humans stay put at home, we travel isolated in our helmets.

On the other hand, we are a community animal: although my father told me not to speak with people I have not been properly introduced to, I do not mind to start chatting with a perfectly unknown person if he/she is on a bike.

Group riding is very common and if you cross a bike travelling on the opposite line you better look for the group to follow.

So, lonely wolf living in pack. Some of them love acquiring new knowledge, learning new techniques, sharing the result for better hunting.

These are the ELITE: “a choice or select body, the best part. From Latin eligere “choose” (see ELECTION). Borrowed in Middle English as “chosen person”

Nothing bad in a community selecting good people for a specific role: nothing wrong till we look at the elections that are taking part all around the five continents and the corruption associated inevitably with the process of choosing.

And we call democracy the power of money because we have no better alternatives. And you can enter the elite of “real bikers” just by spending the annual salary of a worker for the acquisition of the latest big-bike-model-cum-bags.

When the process of selecting and therefore the position of “selected” (elite) goes wrong: not an easy analysis and one that we leave to more qualified (selected) pens. What we can do here is to go back to the biker’s dinner and to the “accusation” of elitism.

The riders that promote competent riding, that want to distribute knowledge (as most of the teachers and masters in any craft) are they elitists in the negative sense of this word?

Mastering a skill and then sharing what learned makes one person Elite, as in “separated by normal folks” “crème de la crème” among us, simple milk?

While listening I remembered the words of Joe Glydon I reproduced on Bulletin 107.

“Like any other broad-based avocation, motorcycling has its share of irritating assholes. One group that never fails to give me the pip is the brotherhood of self-righteous safety mongers I like to call the boy scouts.

They’re easy to spot. They favor big adventure-touring- oriented bikes. They waddle off these bikes, so swaddled in compound layers of synthetic armor that their movements conjure images of tragic birth defects lurking beneath the foam and Cordura. …

Like pulpit-less fanatics of motorcycling religious right, they bellow from the phantom altars that they occupy on curbs and in parking lots…They call for the redemption of misguided youth who ride in shorts and tank tops. … Boy scouts love attending, and discussing at length, riding classes conducted at racetracks. The racetrack aura seems to give them a sense of manly daring while the rigid rules and protocols provide a sense of security”

And, while the dinner was coming to end and the discussion, fuelled by abundant libations, moved to more male oriented subjects I felt Joe’s words hitting me personally: how many times I used the “role” of instructor just to spoil the pleasure that novices were taking from biking?

How many time the welcome of a new person in the group was “Do you really want to ride with those jeans?” instead of “let us have some fun and ride”?

It all depends where the source of power is based: if the source is “in the position” (being trainer, being a director, being a boss) then the sharing is just a show off of presumed competence, a way to put people down and a call for the burning of white T- shirted pagans with dirty jeans and Malboro’s rolled in their sleeves (Joes words).

A way to pretend to be in the ELITE without doing any of the service that an elected person is expected to do for the community (being bikers or citizens or team peers)

When the source of power is based on knowledge and the sharing is done in full appreciation of the participants, then the “elected” serves the community, move ahead with the team show kindness in understanding and equality in the search.

The role of a knowledge based “elite” is to serve the group, the team, the community without taking any leading position.

Then the Elite move the community one step ahead to create students that will beat the teacher at the same game; with the full joy of the Elected.

The “elite” gives service and work hard to make itself over time useless. True in competent biking and true in any serious transmission of knowledge.

To quote one of the spiritual master of our times, Kahlil Gibran “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

BECOME A THINKER

In December 2014 I received copy of an article appeared in IAM Advanced Riding magazine and written by Peter Rodger.

The title (Become a thinker: some thoughts to prompt your own thinking) and the content had a striking similarity with the OMM way of considering “motorcycling”: more important, this article was a good case against “dogmatism” a vice that is infecting not only the MC training community but the social culture and, by reflection, our relationships and our behaviors.

  • Peter Rodger has been Chief Examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists since 2006. Peter retired from the Metropolitan Police in 2005 having served as an inspector in traffic patrol, driver training, and with direct involvement in issues surrounding driving standards in the service for 20 years.

Mr. Rodger opens his consideration observing a search for dogmatism in many of the riders working to improve their skills “Whether it’s letters into the IAM office or sessions with observers on test standards, many questions seem to be seeking a form of ‘rule’ that can always be applied. Issues are queried around crossing or straddling double white line systems, speeding, and being on the right-hand side of the road in, or approaching, bends. The impression is that a decision on whether it was always right, or never right, in a test scenario, was what was being sought”

Peter offers then examples where the decision on what to do (modifying speed and/or direction) strongly depends on circumstances and where circumstances prompts some alteration to the idea that there is an “I would always” answer.

REAL-WORLD SITUATIONS

Where this takes us, is where driving and riding become interesting. This is the bit where the person sitting at the controls of the vehicle – be it a lorry, motorcycle, car or bus – has to look at the circumstances they are dealing with, apply some interpretation and reach a decision.

So does a black-and-white rule stand up to the rigor of real life? I don’t think it does … However, when I’m pressed for black-and-white rules about what is allowed in the IAM test, I find that these issues are there all the time.

The advanced driving or riding test is performed in the real world among real people going about real journeys. You will sometimes face real decisions, in that conforming with “Always do” or “Never do” produce results that are not the best outcome – or may even conflict with another rule.

So the response to the question is “It depends…”

Advanced driving and riding is not about being black and white and having things laid out in simple rules. It is about being mature, sensible and applying principles to the circumstances. It is about being the thinking driver or rider.

Actually, ‘ordinary’ driving and riding is not like this – let alone advanced driving and riding. But without the flexibility to meet circumstances and deal with real life head on, safely and sensibly, advanced driving or riding would be valueless and not worthy of your time, or mine.

BECOMING A GOOD DECISION-MAKER

When you first become a parent, you control the life of your new-born child. As the baby becomes a toddler, you allow it a little more freedom, but you decide when it goes to bed, and you put it there. As the child grows, that bedtime tends to become later and later. When your child has grown up and left school, you no longer tell them what time to go to bed, but you might remind them “Don’t forget you have to go to work in the morning”.

 Riding is similar.

When we first start, our instructor needs to give us close attention and help, with easy to understand ideas and rules. But as we mature, we need to be allowed more room to think and make decisions – to use our experience and understanding. Of course, there are principles we should abide by: be safe, be systematic, be legal and be smooth. Sometimes they conflict with one another, and the one that must always come out on top is safety …it is better to be wrong but safe, rather than right but dangerous. (Please don’t write in about dangerous driving always being wrong – I’m trying to make a point here about prioritizing.)

If you are an observer/trainer – doing that brilliant thing that so many of you do to help people develop – help them become ‘thinkers’. If you are an examiner – look for the ‘thinking’ solution. We all need to give each other enough space to allow for the thinking to happen, allowing people to grow and develop. Examiners must give candidates room to adopt the ‘thinking’ solution and observers need to help the ‘thinking’ develop. We all need to think when we drive and ride.

Advanced driving and riding is not about being black and white and having things laid out in simple rules. It is about being the thinking driver or rider The thinking driver or rider must take the rules and apply them sensibly to everyday situations.

ESSENTIAL LIBRARY: “one of the most widely respected books on safe street riding.”

It comes late on the list but the wear and tear on my copy is true proof that I return again and again to the wisdom of David Hough and to the direct simplicity of his teaching. Mr. Hough has written columns on competent riding and safe street riding for over 25 years for many magazines and for the one I respect most “Motorcycle Consumer News”.

In “Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well” David Hough does not write arid theory but meditated experience unpacked with joy and humor. His “situations stories” are building up the bag of experience that everybody has to fill before the bag of luck runs empty.

SO FAR, IN THE ESSENTIAL LIBRARY:

When not listed differently all books are available in English on line at Aerostich

  1. Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook to Better Motorcycling (available in Turkish at OMM Shop)
  2. Full Control (available in Turkish at OMM Shop)
  3. Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques by Lee Parks (available in Turkish at OMM Shop)
  4. The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  5. “The Upper Half of the Motorcycle: On the Unity of Rider and Machine” by Bernt Spiegel
  6. “Bodies in motion” by Steven L. Thompson
  7. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
  8. Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well by David Hough

Counter-steering vs. Body-steering By Keith Code (Posted June 23, 2015)

How to steer the Bike? This is probably the end of many barstool debates…

Twist of the Wrist author, Keith Code, explains the difference between steering a motorcycle through handlebar input and body lean.

The California Superbike School has a special motorcycle with a second handlebar rigidly mounted to the frame to illustrate the ineffectiveness of body-steering alone.

Most barstool debates tend to devolve into generalities, opinions, and hearsay, in the absence of defined terms. Debating generalities just gives me a headache.

The age-old countersteering versus body-steering argument—one of the oldest motorcycle-related barstool debates—is one that could especially benefit from some solid definition. Let’s forget the “body” and “counter” qualifiers for a moment and just define steering as the act of accurately and predictably guiding and directing an object toward or away from a known location in space.

With that definition of steering in mind, let’s investigate the common claim that bikes will “steer” with footpeg pressure alone, which is the basis of the body-steering claim.

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, often shortened to “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” can be used to shed some light on the body-steering debate. This law is often misunderstood. It sounds like an object being pushed upon, like your footpeg or fuel tank, responds to the pressure by moving an equal amount. That isn’t what the third law means at all, however. What it actually means is that force always comes paired: There’s the force that is initiated; then there’s the resistance to that force.

Press on your desk with a force of 10 pounds; if the desk pushes back at you with a force of 10 pounds, nothing moves. The desk pushes back? Yes. You can say it resists your pressing, but in the end it is really just pressing back at you with an equal and opposite force. Are you getting a headache yet?

More examples might help: Picture sitting in a rocking chair. If you press your foot on one of the rocker tips, what happens? Not much. Sit in your car and press on the dashboard. Will the car move forward? Pressing on the footpegs or the tank of your bike has the same effect. These parts will resist, in an equal and opposing direction, any force you apply to them. The tank might cave in or the pegs might bend, but the bike will not steer.

On the other hand, if you shift or throw your body mass forward and backward in a rocking chair, the chair will begin to rock. You create an imbalance of forces, and the chair moves. Riding a bike no-handed is a similar phenomenon. Pressing one peg or the other creates a slight imbalance, and the bike compensates by tilting a little. The tire rolls over onto a smaller diameter, and the bike will begin to arc slightly.

Peg weighting can account for, generously, perhaps 1 or 2 percent of steering. Do it if you wish, but understand that without the countersteering inputs at the handlebars, a bike will not weave through cones at 15 mph, carve precise lines at speed, avoid a pothole, or enter your driveway. It isn’t steering.

Countersteering isn’t rocket science. Press the right bar and the bike leans and turns right; the more you press, the more it leans and turns. Conversely, stop pressing and the bike stops leaning any farther.

It’s quick and easy to teach, it works 100 percent of the time, and it performs brilliantly by our previously established definition of steering.

Most of us, unaware at the time, learn counter-steering by riding a bicycle. Once an action is committed to so-called muscle memory, it remains there, uninspected. We do it without even thinking about it.

If weighting pegs makes you feel more connected to the bike, that’s fine, but understand that the minor, 2-percent influence peg weighting contributes to steering cannot correct a bad line or save your bacon in the event of an emergency swerve.

It’s in direct conflict with Newton’s laws of motion. And without these laws, motorcycles would never have been built, much less accurately steered around Laguna Seca or even to the corner.

FAMOUS MOTORCYCLES IN MOVIES

I have been questioned why I focus on Books while so many movies are based around motorcycling. Several reason why: I list here books that are at the same time inspirational (increasing the love for biking) and educational (helping in improving the riding skills); only books can accomplish the two tasks simultaneously. The second reason is that I am more taken by books then movies and I am not so competent in selecting movies to recommend. Following the request here I open a new chapter on “Famous motorcycle in movies” counting on the contribution from readers.

I like very much this selection of five movies that comes from HOLLY REICH blog at http://knowhow.napaonline.com

If you look up famous motorcycles in movies, you’ll find thousands of them. Most of the movies involve shoot-outs, reckless driving, terrifying situations, crazy characters and larger-than-life plots. But these memorable scenes also involve skilled, smart and technical driving, which is sometimes almost too amazing to believe. Ready to dive into the action? Here are the top five famous motorcycles in movies.

The Great Escape: 1963 (Triumph Trophy)

The British World War II film, directed by John Sturges, reports the escape of British prisoners from a German POW camp. Most remembered for the classic scene when Steve McQueen escapes the prison. His famous motorcycle is a Triumph TR-6 Trophy 650CC revised to resemble a German-made BMW. As McQueen tracks over hills chased by a posse of German guards, he makes a daring leap over a barbed wire fence. However, as much of a racer and car buff that he was, McQueen was not allowed to do the leap for film because of insurance reasons. Instead, stuntman Bud Eakins made the jump.

The Girl on a Motorcycle: 1968(HD Electra Glide)

The film otherwise penned Naked Under Leather was directed by Jack Cardiff and stars Marianne Faithfull as Rebecca. The newlywed leaves her husband in France to visit her lover in Heidelberg. The big draw? Rebecca’s ride is a 1967 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.

Easy Rider: 1969 (Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide)

Directed by Dennis Hopper, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) take an epic motorcycle trip across the country. After smuggling cocaine from Mexico, they broker a drug deal in California and hide the money in the gas-tank of their bikes. Along the way the hippies spend time at a commune, get thrown into jail and have a bad trip in a cemetery. The bikes in the film, Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glides, were something to be seen though. Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy handcrafted them into “choppers.”

Kill Bill: Vol 1: 2003 (Kawasaki ZZR 250)

Uma Thurman, “the deadliest woman in the world” comes out of a four-year coma and pledges to seek revenge on a list that includes everyone at her wedding party. In this Quentin Tarantino movie, Thurman tracks her enemies on the streets of Tokyo tricked out in a dazzling yellow motorcycle suit and riding the quick Kawasaki ZZR 250. The street bike, also bright yellow, matches her outfit.

The Motorcycle Diaries: 2004 (Norton)

The movie, directed by Walter Salles, follows the original journey of 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevara who traveled with his friend Alberto Granado from Brazil to Peru on motorcycle in 1952. The carefree adventure turns into a life-changing event for Ernesto as the young men encounter South America’s substantial poverty, sickness and the inequality between the poor and the rich. The journey catapulted Ernesto into becoming the revolutionary known as Che Guevara. Restored Nortons were used in the film; along with some new Suzuki bikes for the stunt scenes.