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It's me
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It’s important to mentor new riders, but to what extent?

Author: An anonymous submission

At Eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, I poured myself a cup of coffee, grabbed the newspaper and slipped out onto the deck, looking for some peace and quiet. My kids were already running through the house, begging to play Tourist Trophy on the Play Station, smacking each other in the head, and doing anything else they could possibly think of to jump on my last nerve. Stepping through the door I’d expected the weather to be decent, but what I walked out into was the most beautiful spring morning so far this year.

After I’d been out there for a bit just sitting and relaxing, my ears suddenly perked to the distinct scream of a sportbike far off in the distance. Immediately, I considered the direction of the sound, and calculated which road the bike must be traveling. As the rider let off the throttle, the sound would disappear. After a few seconds, I heard the note pick up again as the rider exited a small set of twisties and accelerated onto the next long straight stretch. My God, I love that awesome sound, and the still morning provided a perfect setting to just listen and try to imagine what the rider was doing by the note of the engine screaming through the exhaust pipe. Few things are as relaxing to me as the sound of a lone bike getting ripped at a distance. As I listened a bit longer, the rider drew closer and the sound faded out as he slowed to adhere to the 30 mph speed limit entering town. Interest peaked; I waited for the bike to pass by so I could see who it was. I’d only met a few riders since moving to the area, and was eager to get a mental picture of everyone on a sport bike with the hopes of catching them out and getting a few riding partners for the many nice summer days to come.

The rider rounded the bend on my road and locked up the rear brake, sliding to a screeching halt right in front of my house. It was Bob, a nice younger guy I’d met only a few days earlier at a gas station. I liked Bob right off the bat. He had a great personality, a very level head, and was just a little cocky. Not unsociably cocky, but displaying a very high level of confidence with an equally good mix of rationality. No wonder, since the kid was damn smart; a junior in college working on a Bachelor’s degree in engineering. Being a father myself, I’m always compelled to ask about grades, and his reply was that he’d never gotten anything bellow a “B”. Obviously, Bob was a well rounded kid with a good head on his shoulders. He had a pretty sweet ride too. It was a modern, heavyweight-class Japanese inline-four sportbike, and he knew the machine intimately. He’d made a number of modifications to his cycle, but had forgone the usual chrome and bling, instead going for performance upgrades he‘d read about on some internet forums. The bike sported an Ohlins rear shock, Race Tech springs and valves, PCIII, and that loud-ass, attention-getting D&D pipe which he surely could have done without. Impressively, he’d done all this work himself. Not bad for a college kid with 6 months of motorcycle ownership under his belt. Clearly though, he’d yet to learn about protective riding gear.

My kids had left a hard rubber baseball out on the deck, and it happened to be lying conveniently close to my chair. I picked up the ball and gave it a good throw. With perfect accuracy, I succeeded in bouncing it right off the side of Bob’s head.
“Hey, stupid,” I jeered. “If you’d been wearing a helmet that wouldn’t have hurt, would it? What the hell‘s wrong with you boy? Put a lid on that ugly head of yours.”
“Shut up and get dressed old man!” Bob replied. “I’ll show you some good roads if you show me how to ride them faster.” And with that, the course of our day was set.

I went down and let him in, fixing him a cup of coffee while offering up a solid scolding for his not wearing a helmet. Safety first, right? From there I headed upstairs, got dressed and grabbed a helmet for him to wear.

The ride started off with an explosion of adrenalin. I headed out of town with him in tow, clicked my beloved machine into third gear, stepped back onto the passenger pegs, revved the bike to six grand, grabbed a few fingers worth of clutch and rolled on a fistful of high-octane throttle. Up, up, and away I went, just to show my young friend who was the alpha dog in this pack. I passed the 55 mph speed limit rolling past 110 while still on the rear wheel and by then the front wheel had come to a complete stop. I eased off the gas, set the front down, scooted forward and a little off the right side, put my head down and threw the bike into a long right hand sweeper. Up the hill and into a long straight I slowed down and let him catch back up so we could ride to the next town for gas.

While stopped at the gas station, the kid bombarded me with questions about how to do stand ups and how to take turns so fast. At that point the “old man” side of my personality kicked back in and I steered the conversation toward safety, limits, consequences, and getting on a track as opposed to going fast on the street. After that I started sharing some of the easier tips about going through turns. I explained to Bob about hanging off the side of the bike with his head and shoulder down, looking through the turn and holding one single line from entry to exit. I figured that these were things we could work on at speeds closer to the posted limit. He seemed pretty receptive to my words and was eager to get out and learn. Bob suggested that we ride to a road he knew of that wandered through some hilly country and was littered with sharp turns. How could I turn down an offer like that?

When we reached the good twisties, I waved Bob around me to take the lead. As I followed him, what I’d originally expected to be a mildly heated run through the curves quickly became a dangerous attempt on Bob’s part to drag a knee. Considering that he was only dressed in jeans and was still a long way from knowing what he was doing, I passed when I could, took the lead and slowed the pace until we reached the end of the road. At this point, I had a stern talk with him about what I’d seen.

We spent the rest of the day on that one road. It was an ideal stretch for what we were doing, offering eight miles of turns, no houses, good pavement, and very few cars. Things went well and I felt that Bob was really starting to pick things up and hit the turns as he should. We even managed to stay relatively close to the speed limit throughout most of the day. I kept pushing the idea that Bob should consider doing a track day and continue his education in the proper environment, but to be honest, what we were doing was still pretty damn fun. For the first time I was teaching the thing I love most, and experiencing the joy of seeing my student really move up.

Eventually, the sun began to fall behind the hills, so we made one final ungodly-fast run down the road. It was really cool seeing this kid rail through the turns on our last run. We’d been up and down that road at least 20 times, and on his first trip, Bob had been doing all he could just to hold one line, stay in his own lane, and keep his bike on the pavement. On that last blast, he was totally smooth, easing on and off the front brake, not touching the rear brake, using the clutch to smooth out his entrance, taking the entire curve in one flowing arc, and lifting his knee to keep the road from eating up the 1/16 of an inch of denim that was between his skin and the asphalt. My heart swelled with pride as Bob demonstrated how well he’d applied my teachings for the day.

We stopped at the end of the road, said our goodbyes, and thanked each other for a day that I’m positive I will never forget. Again I reminded Bob that though we’d been on an isolated stretch, the kind of riding we’d been doing and the speeds we’d been running should really be avoided on public roads. I gave Bob one last pitch about doing a trackday, reminding him that a closed course is always the best place to rail. Then I told him that the helmet was his to keep if he made me a personal promise to never ride without it again. He agreed, we shook hands, and we went our separate directions home.

When I got home, I found a missed call on my cell phone from Bob. The voice mail was odd, seemingly nothing but what might have been the sound of an idling engine. Later in the evening, I got a call from his sister. I’d been the last call Bob had made on his cell phone, with the call time coming just minutes before a passerby took the phone from his hand to call 911.

At 20 years young, Bob lost his life and the endless possibilities that stretched ahead of him. I only got to know Bob for about five days. In that short span, I learned just enough about him to mourn the bright future destroyed that evening. I know about the girlfriend who inundated his thoughts. Bob was so excited talking to her on the phone that afternoon, telling her about the great day he was having. That last “I love you” he said now means more than any “I love you” she will ever hear again. I also know that the visit his parents were planning for the next weekend will be one of sorrow instead of joy. The anticipated smiles and hugs over his good grades have now been transformed into little more than an unexpected final goodbye.

What I must live with now is the thought that I should have never taught him to do what he was doing out there. Would it have happened anyway? I’m inclined to think probably not. Bob was an accident waiting to happen before I taught him how to handle his machine, but at least he had a bit of fear to keep him in check. By teaching Bob I helped him to overcome that fear, but his newfound confidence very likely contributed to his end. The final result is now just another statistic. Bob is now just one more rider down whose short lifetime won’t be considered when the numbers are tallied. Instead, his death will be just another number on a sheet of paper which outlines the many dangers of this sport that we all hold so dear to our hearts. But to me that added number means so much more. That added number was caused by an experienced rider who should have known better. By someone who should have practiced what he preached. I can only hope that by sharing this story, I may be able to prevent the next would-be mentor from making the same mistake with the next fresh young rider who looks up to him. Through this story, maybe another needless loss can be prevented.

I’m a hard person to bring to tears. I’ve seen more than my fair share of death and have had the honor to sit with more than a few loved ones in their last moments of life. I’ve become pretty hardened to death over the years, but for the life of me I cannot come to a comfortable conclusion over the loss of someone not even old enough to legally enjoy the rum and coke that I’m clinging to as I type this with tear filled eyes and trembling hands that can’t seem to find the right keys.

The only thing left to say is the very thing I said so many times to Bob. The very lesson that I was ignoring as I tried to teach it. The one phrase that I uttered a hundred times, even as my actions spoke louder than my words. “Take it to the track.”

Godspeed, buddy. Godspeed.

(Editor’s Note: Experienced riders are almost obligated to help newcomers to the sport. Every day, beginners buy high-performance sportbikes without having the first clue how to handle them. Who else is going to save these riders from themselves, if not those of us who have come before? The problem lies in deciding what, where and how much to teach. The preceding article horrifically illustrates just how wrong you can go when you’re trying to do the right thing. The best course of action is to teach, preach, and exhibit safe riding practices on the street, then bring those green riders to a trackday where they can explore their machines in the relative safety of a closed course environment.)

From: Trackdaymag.com
 

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Premium Member
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That was a great read.

This is EXACTLY what I was trying to pound into the heads of certain individuals recently who don't think about the affect the advice they give will have on new riders.
 

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reminds me of a sign I once saw in Winter Park, CO..."know your limit, ski within it"...applies to my riding.
 

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It's me
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Discussion Starter #5
650r said:
reminds me of a sign I once saw in Winter Park, CO..."know your limit, ski within it"...applies to my riding.
Hey new guy, welcome to the board :twofinger

We need to see more pics of that bike though, I love that color.

Ron
 

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John 18:33-37
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The importance of mentoring new riders is important enough around Polk County that we pretty regularly have pre-ride meetings, and very often stop on a ride before we get to stretches of road that have claimed other riders in the past.

Mentoring riders is a good thing. To make it invaluable, the recipient of this important information MUST be receptive, willing to learn, and above all - be willing to put into practice concepts such as riding within one's abilities.
 

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I'm mentoring someone now. My wife. She is coming alnog pretty well since she passed the msf. She will probably be the only one I mentor unless my children get into it later down the road. Other than that, peeps do what they want and only hear what they want.(General Statement) If asked I will offer some, but most folks get a ton of information from various sources. So I myself just stay out of it. Like most folks that have been around awhile. I have a lot to give. Just don't.
 

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I'm glad that I have such good friends to teach me, and enough advice from everyone to head in the right direction. I'd like to get to a track sometime and learn more...

I learned so much on that group ride back in April. Someone suggested I ride through point 6 a few times, and boy did I learn a lot from that... I realized I've got a long way to go - longer than I had expected, haha.

In any case, my friends who don't ride and don't understand the reason why I ride have all given me the best advice:

"Be careful."

:) They tell me that every single day. Means the world to me.
 
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