By David Rusk
Physical things like a tires grip or suspension travel can be observed and measured but overarching all of the mechanics and physics is the psychological. I’ll call it The Line and it hides, lurking in the grey matter between our ears and the fun begins when we step on it. Do you clumsily trip and fall (?) or manage to deftly take a step back and survive to ride on. Maybe, because you practice and you have the feel, you can stay upright and tentatively touch a few toes over the line and into the unknown.
Let me take you there, let me take you over the precipice. You struggle through the corner and slide back behind the wind screen. You raise your eyes, trying to judge the straight and look to go faster. The bike feels off as you twist the throttle and the front goes light, skimming the pavement but something is wrong, skittish.
A moment of time eats up the pavement as you realize the problem and it’s you. Moving forward lets you relax on the controls and as things settle the bars give a slight wag as weight returns to the front, the world is right again.
A little more and you control everything.
A little more and between the horizon and your mind the world slows and your path through it becomes effortless.
A little more and the roar falls silent.
A little more and..…
Instantly the corner is upon you and reality jumps to warp speed. All your precise actions mutate from the serene to panic and caresses turn to stabs at the controls. Perception that was complete an instant before tunnels into streaking colors and bizarre new sensations and just like that, you see and know nothing. Stepped on, your line jumps from the shadows and with teeth bared, it’s ready for the kill. Sublime under the chaos of chattering forks and a lashing chain lies the realization that you just crossed your line and what happens next determines your fate.
So, how do we save ourselves and I won’t entertain that you have not experienced it because we all have. You and I have simply learned to shorten that frozen moment between surviving and a crash using practice and experience. Granted, when mastered it seems non-existent but if we honestly examine ourselves there remains that instant of, something. Not hesitation but that tick of time as we combine the horrific consequences we all know are possible with our course of action to prevent it. In that moment, the slippery paint of our Line gives a wiggle as we mesh horror with delight.
There is a mantra I have on the top of my fuel tank and it gets read every time I reach for the ignition. Look, lean and believe. The three words that will save us but the first one is the key to everything. If you manage to Look then the rest will happen as your subconscious takes control and if you trust in this, then that first step becomes easier.
Look has two parts, especially for the less experienced. First, you have to look away from your first destination because that’s a very bad place where you definitely do not want to go. This is the crucible, that moment when you step on your line and if you can’t look away then a crash is inevitable.
The second look is our universal motto, you go where you look and in the instance of a botched corner you need to instantly tear your mind and eyes away from the bad and look through the corner. No matter how impossible making it may seem, LOOK and instinct will release the brakes and apply the perfect counter-steer push to achieve the insanely correct amount of LEAN required. Try your best to not freak out as you lead with your head and upper body to carve through the turn, at which point you will BELIEVE.
I can not stress enough the mental scream it will take to ‘Look’ but if you make it, if you overpower the Lines paralysis, stop a few meters away from your buddies. Far enough that hand gestures will seem appropriate because your vocabulary will be limited to gibberish and as you realize that leather nicely contains bodily fluids (you are wearing proper gear, right?), flash your mates a quick thumbs up. If you can’t release the death grip on the bars then a nod of the helmet will work. That will be no problem, just convert the shaking into an up and down motion.
Now, quickly before they catch on, check that the bike is in first gear and channel all available resources to the control of your hands and feet. Check for first gear again and then proceed with your impressively smooth getaway, like you didn’t just about die. Do not linger because the town crazy is about to show up and he’ll be raving half formed obscenities like a lunatic and if that happens well, the jig is up. Go! Now, before you discover that it is you who is the town looney, go before the freak show begins or your friends will forever look at you differently.
Look. Lean. Believe.
Three words that are actually one smooth action and the more you experience it, the more it will become seamless. Look and it will happen. Lean and believe in your tires and bike, believe in you. Look to save yourself.
Next time, the correct response to seemingly sadistic healthcare providers and instructions for cleaning the inside of your leathers.