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What makes a good rider?

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Many claim to have "the" answer, yet others accomplish the same ride using another technique. 

 

I am opening this as a way to start the conversation, so what, in your opinion, "makes a good rider"?

 

My idea of a good rider is one who masters traction and understands how to keep a motorcycle upright and headed in the desired direction.  How this happens is a mystery to many and mastered by few, part of why so many raise to the challenge of travelling on two wheels, often on traction challenged terrain with grossly overloaded panniers.

 

So, what "Makes a good rider" in your opinion, and naturally, why?

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That's a great question!

 

Let me take a stab...

 

I'm still just a noob (four years, 55k miles, mostly dirt) but I'm guessing time.  It's like skiing or golf; the people who learned as kids seem to be so much better.

 

Another factor is balance.  I think if you make at first a conscious effort to keep your bike in balance with various drills (learned at Jimmy Lewis), you start to employ that more in your riding without thinking about it.  He makes a good point that we all walk without the use of a cane so why are we so stiff and leaning on the bars all the time?  I've learned not only to use my balance but to TRUST my balance, as in remaining neutral in deep sand and not always putting my ass over the back of the bike (which can cause other problems).

 

A third has to be practice.  So many of us just make a beeline for the trail when we get there and don't spend 30 minutes or so warming up and practicing a few drills.  Again, like skiing and golf, you have to spend some time practicing these techniques.

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I've been riding for over 30 years, the vast majority off-road. Here's my stinky opinion on some of the things that makes a good rider:

 

1. The mental ability & technique to relax on the bike, even as speed increases and terrain becomes more challenging.

2. Good balance and a sense of timing.

3. The ability to read terrain and pick good lines.

4. Knowing your own limits and that of your equipment.

5. Good muscles and even more cardio to feed them.

6. Seat time... lots of seat time.

7. Mastering your bikes controls and riding techniques through study and practice.

 

I recall taking the Shane Watts Dirtwise class in Colorado a number of years back and he show'd me all the bad habits that you pick up being a self taught rider. I felt that I was holding my own, but he showed me flaws that when concentrated on, all make an incremental difference. I'm sure that I've missed something, but these are what come to mind.

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Seat time, I hear this often, but do we understand what this does?  If all of our seat time is done using bad form do we benefit?  Surprisingly yes, it does.  Short of a bad spill, more seat time leads to confidence which allows a rider to ride more relaxed.  Eventually a rider finds that level at which they feel comfortable, allowing for a flowing ride.  Tension IMO, is the number one reason why a rider struggles off road, this tension comes from FEAR, or False Evidence Against Reality. Evolution has us moving at a walking pace and our vision is pretty much fixed for this pace.  Too often a rider is concerned with riding the terrain that is under us, and not in front of us, leaving us tense, trying to muscle the bike through, and at a pace that makes the challenge even greater.  How does a rider overcome this FEAR?  Seat time is a big part of this, but how does a rider go beyond their comfort zone to become more proficient?  It could be a mentor, a friend that has been riding for years that has a good set of communication skills, or it could be attending a course designed for riding these XLADV Bikes.  Instructors are communicators trained at watching and providing proven tips to help enhance a riders ability.

So, quality seat time will indeed improve a riders skills.  If we always ride with extreme tension are we really having a good time?  How long will a rider ride if they aren't having a good time?

A good rider (IMO) is also a good mentor, helping as they can and promoting advanced training as a means to improve the level of enjoyment. 

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prox·i·mate
ˈpräksəmət/
adjective
adjective: proximate
1.
(especially of a cause of something) closest in relationship; immediate.
"that storm was the proximate cause of damage to it"
 
ul·ti·mate
ˈəltəmət/
adjective
adjective: ultimate
 
noun: ultimate; noun: the ultimate; plural noun: ultimates
  1. 2.
    a final or fundamental fact or principle.

I'm not sure what a good (or bad) rider is, or isn't, but I suspect that any given rider has some personal goal for his or her riding ability level that when reached, will provide them with the level of personal satisfaction they seek - or maybe they just want to see a certain rate of change in their skills, to have that feeling... Anyway, the proximate cause for their feeling of satisfaction might be the ability to balance around a slow tight turn, or the ability to see and hit the line they want, or a certain level of fitness or amount of time in the saddle, or whatever. Ultimately though, the core trait that I think must come before any of that, for any rider to become - & stay - the rider they want to be, is personal responsibility. Most adventure riders seem to me to have a lot of it. I've watched a lot of riders trying to improve their riding, to get to that point (or process) at which they will feel good about their riding; those that lacked a strong sense of personal responsibility for what goes on with them & the bike seem always the farthest from reaching that goal - no matter what actual riding skills they have or don't have. Those with a strong sense of personal responsibility often seem to somehow be happy with their riding even as they strive to learn new, challenging skills. They also seem to succeed more quickly at that, than others.

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