Riders often talk about learning more about riding – and this is a good thing. Increasing knowledge about our sport is a great step toward better riding. But it’s not enough. Here’s an excerpt from our December newsletter:
Your knowledge does not matter. What?? Did he just say ‘Your knowledge does not matter?’ Yes, but let me clarify – if your knowledge leads you to successful action, then it matters, but it only matters as far as your action matters. If you ‘know’ something, but take action or make a decision against that knowledge, then that knowledge isn’t helping you. Here are some examples:
• I knew I entered that curve too fast, but…
• I knew I shouldn't have ridden home after having a few drinks, but…
• I knew that riding the clutch would have helped me with low speed control, but…
• I knew that I should have looked through the turn and not at the guardrail, but…
• I knew that wearing quality riding gear would have reduced my road-rash and head injury, but…
Knowledge doesn’t mean you have the ability or desire to actually act on it. Food is another good example. Most of us KNOW what to eat in order to be healthier. This knowledge sometimes bears little resemblance to what ends up on our dinner plates.
Skill. So, skills must be where it really makes a difference, right? Not exactly. To paraphrase from above:
Your skill does not matter. What?? Did he just say ‘Your skill does not matter?’ Yes, but let me clarify – if the skills you have are successfully executed on the street and you avoid a crash because of it, then it matters. But it only matters as far as your actions taken in ‘the moment of truth’ matter. If you can do certain skills – such as maximum braking - in a parking lot or on the track (under controlled and predictable conditions), but when a car pulls out in front of you on the street, you lock up the rear tire and lay the bike down, then that skill isn’t helping you.
I know that may sound harsh, but if our goal is preventing crashes, then if the crash still happens, we have not met our goal.
Performance. So, what’s the difference between ‘skill’ and ‘performance?’ Here’s an example – I have a tremendous singing voice in the shower…seriously, worthy of a standing ovation!
Now, in front of people…uhhh…well, that’s a different story. In the same way, there are riders who can perform all kinds of very cool braking, corning, and balancing skills on a practice pad or parking lot, but when it comes to a critical moment on the street, they falter. How do you get from skill to performance? Practice to the point of developing new habits. Here is an example:
• You know (or you learn) that the front brake gives you up to 70% or more of your stopping power. (KNOWLEDGE)
• You take a rider training course or go out and in a parking lot to try it out and develop the ability to do really good quick stops several times. (SKILL)
• You consciously use both brakes every time you slow or stop – even when it is a very gradual stop. This builds up to hundreds or even thousands of ‘practice sessions’ of using both brakes.
• One day, an oncoming car turns left in front of you, or the car you are following stops short. You immediately apply both brakes and get your motorcycle stopped, avoiding the collision. (PERFORMANCE).
Performance is where the ‘rubber meets the road,’ and all the prior steps are simply to get us to point of performance in ‘the moment of truth.’ Gain knowledge, develop skill, but go the final step to performance for success on the street. Ride more…Crash less.