con·trol, kənˈtrōl/ - noun
1. 1. the power to influence or direct the course of events.
syn·er·gy, ˈsinərjē/ - noun
1. the interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
No doubt you've been wondering why adventure riding is so dull. I'll tell you.
When we're riding, we have nothing to do! Aside from activating the odd turning signal or grip heater or GPS, we have very little that we can do with the bike. The meat of the matter is… a bit salady; we can control the bike's direction - right, left, straight, nowhere, and with a little extra 'body English', up & down - and we can control it's acceleration - positive, negative, & nothing.
We don't even have many tools with which to exert this control. We can fiddle with the clutch, the front & rear brakes, the engine (throttle), and the suspension. This last we can fiddle with indirectly, by pressing (or not pressing, or pulling…) on the bars, the pegs, the tank, or seat, or really any part of the bike we can touch with part of our bodies.
Our bodies. We can't do much with the bike without touching it. Bike control, really, is all about body control: the only way we can control the bike is by touching it - so it pays to develop the skills, strength, & flexibility to enable ourselves to apply our body to the bike in as many different ways as possible. And to develop the endurance to be able to do that a lot, for a long time, when we want to.
So, I started at 'riding is dull' & got to nine things we can do with the bike, coupled with the idea that the more athletic we are, the better able we are to do any of those nine things. Well, I can get more options on a pizza, but maybe it's not that dull…
What are we actually manipulating, then? When we use our body to wield one of those few tools we have available to us on the bike, in order to alter (or keep from altering) the bike's direction or acceleration, what, actually, are we manipulating thereby? Again; not a lot: We can manipulate traction, balance, momentum, and what I will perhaps incorrectly call Angle of Attack, or lean - which may turn out just to be balance, really. So - for now - four things. That's it. Let me know if you come up with another.
Here's where it gets (for me anyway) interesting: We're only manipulating those four things, but I submit to you that 1) We can use ANY of those 4 things to manipulate BOTH direction AND acceleration; and 2) We can use ANY of the tools I listed above to modulate ANY of those 4 things (or, almost any).
So, adventure riding is dull because we only have
1[body] x 6[tools] x 7[directions] x 3[accelerations] x 4['things'] = 504 -
- wait; that's not right. One body we have, but at our best we are in contact with the bike with two feet, two hands, and two knees - at least - and although the other controls can really be manipulated from one place, suspension can be influenced from many, so,
(1[body] x 5[tools] + 6[body parts] x 1[tool]) x 7[directions] x 3[accelerations] x 4['things'] = 924
Nine hundred twenty-four things to do. Hm. This is beginning to sound like work. Or at least - interesting...
In reality, there are probably a few less combinations available that are actually functional, but the statement above makes an important point to absorb, slightly inaccurate though it may be, for it is MOSTLY accurate, and quite revolutionary, from many folks' perspectives. So I'll say it again: We can use our body in AT LEAST 6 ways to wield ANY of the 6 tools at our disposal to manipulate ANY of the 4 things with which we can make the bike go up, down, nowhere, straight, right left, slower, faster, or the same speed.
So now you know why adventure riding isn't very dull; there's so much to do!
"But wait; there's MORE!"
There's one other tool we have for manipulating traction, balance, momentum, & lean. It's sort of a weird one. It's terrain. Admittedly, we must use other tools to manipulate those things in such a way as to guide the bike onto specific terrain, but in doing so, we can guide the bike onto terrain that then helps us further affect traction, balance, momentum, & lean. Compared to the other tools - take the clutch, which we can engage, disengage, or slip - terrain is almost endlessly varied, often in unpredictable ways. Our ability to use it is limited (or broadened!) by strange things like creativity, past experience, or bravery. [... And the discipline (& In Situ SkillzDrill) of Line Selection was born..] This adventure riding thing is beginning to sound downright exciting, to me!
"But wait; there's MORE!" And now, finally, you get to find out why this post is titled Control Synergy: We can use more than one of our available tools, at the same time! And, if we can use ANY of the tools available to modulate ANY of the 4 things we, er, modulate in order to control ANY of those… bunch of things we can control, well, then we can use ANY COMBINATION of … message repeats… How cool is that!
I TOLD you adventure riding is fascinating. But you didn't believe me…
A lot of EarthRider classes focus on a specific riding technique or skill, and implicitly, on the tools most effective in performing the technique, or what to do with your body to get the riding results the class is about. Control Synergy is a different class in that we spend time considering some more seldom-used control combinations, & discuss what they might be helpful for. It's a class that tends to fatigue small muscles instead of large ones, that often requires 'detail work' and finesse, that is as much about riding slower well as it is about riding faster safely. Riders don't generally go home with a specific new skill in their pocket ("Now I can back into a turn!"), they go home with an arsenal of ideas about how they can go out & play on their bikes in a dirt lot for 20 minutes and continue thereby to make notable improvements in there riding.
<inevitable plug>"And its coming up on April 17. Check out the EarthRider website for registration & other information." </inevitable plug>
Really; its always more fun with more riders - & I'm hoping to have a really fun, productive class next month! There are 3 other classes next month as well; again, see the website (or FB page).
Keep the rubber off the asphalt!
This year will round out a decade of guiding day- and multi-day rides, & teaching off-pavement adventure riding skills as EarthRider. EarthRider was born as VCARS, the Ventura County Adventure Ride Series, a series of increasingly ridiculous and often epic "day" (which is to say, "and some night, as well") rides under the Aegis of BMW Motorcycles of Ventura County. The ride reports (HERE is a sample; probably a more entertaining read than the rest of this post - I'd click on it & come back later, during a hospital lobby wait or a bad movie or something...) - what was I saying? Oh yeah; the ride reports still survive on the defunct web page, to tell the tale.
It became increasingly clear that as a general rule, riders of adventurous spirit enjoy (at least, after the fact) biting off a bit more than they can chew, and the more they actually could chew, the bigger that enjoyable bite could be. This common aspect of adventure-rider nature led to numerous requests for riding classes, and to make a long story short, EarthRider was born. What began as one class designed to appease a small group of riders who wanted to slide the back ends of their bikes around has morphed into what I think is a unique training program in the world of adventure riding; a series of twelve classes, most all of which manage both to serve riders well as solo classes, and to synergize with the rest of the series, each focusing on - basically - one specific skill.
Teaching off-pavement adv skills is apparently a bit like smoking: I tried to quit once, but I started to gain weight, and I couldn't find anything else that satisfied in quite the same way. The manager of BMWVC called me out of a brief retirement in 2010, to help noobs come to find the monthly shop Adventure Day Rides more manageable, and at this point, in loose association with the shop, EarthRider puts on two classes a month, running the twelve-month series twice at the same time, the classes staggered by half a year. I also work with individuals or small private groups on occasion, either as a guide or instructor.
You may have noticed by now that I'm an educator and rider; not an entrepreneur: If you live nearby, EarthRider provides a golden opportunity to put in a solid year of good training and practice into easily manageable (&, I am continually told, inexpensive) monthly steps. If you don't live nearby, well, it's hard to justify, for instance, twelve 3-day weekends during which you spend two days commuting and one day in the middle, learning riding skills. Draw a line from Newport Beach to Barstow to San Luis Obispo and you've boxed in 99% of my client base thus far.
Until I - or someone who wants to do me a big favour! - figure out how to provide the content (&, as far as I can see, the resulting necessary format) of instruction I strive to maintain in a way that makes it available to a wider audience, I thought I might … post a bit on XLADV! A well-designed venue of this focus has been a long-time coming, and how I might most effectively contribute here remains to be seen; for now my aim will be to field questions in the Technique sub-forum, and try to post something useful to you in this blog, now & then. Likewise, if you can teach me a thing or two about riding, I'd really appreciate it - & the chance to pass it along.
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