Pace Yourself

by Nick Ienatsch,

Sport Rider Magazine - 1993

   The street is not the track - It's a place to Pace
   Two weeks go a rider died when he and his bike tumbled off a cliff
   paralleling our favorite road. No gravel in the lane, no oncoming car
   pushing him wide, no ice. The guy screwed up. Rider error. Too much
   enthusiasm with too little skill, and this fatality wasn't the first
   on this road this year. As with most single-bike accidents, the rider
   entered the corner at a speed his brain told him was too fast, stood
   the bike up and nailed the rear brake. Goodbye.
   On the racetrack the rider would have tumbled into the hay bales,
   visited the ambulance for a strip of gauze and headed back to the pits
   to straighten his handlebars and think about his mistake. But let's   
   get one thing perfectly clear: the street is not the racetrack. Using
   it as such will shorten your riding career and keep you from discovering 
   the Pace. The Pace is far from street racing - and a lot more fun.
   The Pace places the motorcycle in its proper role as the controlled
   vehicle, not the controlling vehicle. Too many riders of sport bikes
   become baggage when the throttle gets twisted - the ensuing speed is
   so overwhelming they are carried along in the rush. The Pace ignores
   outright speed and can be as much fun on a Ninja 250 as on a ZX-11,
   emphasizing rider skill over right-wrist bravado. A fool can twist the
   grip, but a fool has no idea how to stop or turn. Learning to stop
   will save your life; learning to turn will enrich it. What feels
   better than banking a motorcycle over into a corner?
   The mechanics of turning a motorcycle involve pushing and/or pulling
   on the handlebars; while this isn't new information for most sport
   riders, realize that the force at the handlebar affects the
   motorcycle's rate of turn-in. Shove hard on the bars, and the bike
   snaps over; gently push the bars, and the bike lazily banks in.
   Different corners require different techniques, but as you begin to
   think about lines, late entrances and late apexes, turning your bike
   at the exact moment and reaching he precise lean angle will require
   firm, forceful inputs ant the handlebars. If you take less time to
   turn your motorcycle, you can use that time to brake more effectively
   or run deeper into the corner, affording yourself more time to judge
   the corner and a better look at any hidden surprises. It's important
   to look as far into the corner as possible and remember the adage,
   "You go where you look."
   The number-one survival skill, after mastering emergency braking, is
   setting your corner-entrance speed early, or as Kenny Roberts says,
   "Slow in, fast out." Street riders may get away with rushing into 99
   out of 100 corners, but that last one will have gravel, mud or a
   trespassing car. Setting entrance speed early will allow you to adjust
   your speed and cornering line, giving you every opportunity to handle
   the surprise.
   We've all rushed into a corner too fast and experienced not just the
   terror but the lack of control when trying to herd the bike into the
   bend. If you're fighting the brakes and trying to turn the bike, any
   surprise will be impossible to deal with. Setting your entrance speed
   early and looking into the corner allows you to determine what type of
   corner you're facing. Does the radius decrease? Is the turn
   off-camber? Is there an embankment that may have contributed some dirt
   to the corner? 
   Racers talk constantly about late braking, yet that technique is used
   only to pass for position during a race, not to turn a quicker lap
   time. Hard braking blurs the ability to judge cornering speed
   accurately, and most racers who rely too heavily on the brakes find
   themselves passed at the corner exits because they scrubbed off too
   much cornering speed. Additionally, braking late often forces you to
   trail the brakes or turn the motorcycle while still braking. While
   light trail braking is an excellent and useful technique to master,
   understand that your front tire has only a certain amount of traction
   to give.
   If you use a majority of the front tire's traction for braking and
   then ask it to provide maximum cornering traction as well, a typical
   low-side crash will result. Also consider that your motorcycle won't
   steer as well with the fork fully compressed under braking. If you're
   constantly fighting the motorcycle while turning, it may be because
   you're braking too far into the corner. All these problems can be
   eliminated by setting your entrance speed early, an important
   component of running the Pace.
   Since you aren't hammering the brakes at every corner entrance, your
   enjoyment of pure cornering will increase tremendously. You'll relish   
   the feeling of snapping your bike into the corner and opening the
   throttle as early as possible. Racers talk about getting the drive
   started, and that's just as important on the street. Notice how the
   motorcycle settles down and simply works better when the throttle is
   open? Use a smooth, light touch on the throttle and try to get the
   bike driving as soon as possible in the corner, even before the apex,
   the tightest point of the corner. If you find yourself on the throttle
   ridiculously early, it's an indication you can increase your entrance
   speed slightly be releasing the brakes earlier.
   As you sweep past the apex, you can begin to stand the bike up out of
   the corner. This is best done by smoothly accelerating, which will
   help stand the bike up. As the rear tire comes off full lean, it puts
   more rubber on the road, and the forces previously used for cornering
   traction can be converted to acceleration traction. The throttle can
   be rolled open as the bike stands up.
   This magazine won't tell you how fast is safe; we will tell you how to
   go fast safely. How fast you go is your decision, but it's one that
   requires reflection and commitment. High speed on an empty four-lane
   freeway is against the law, but it's fairly safe. Fifty-five miles per
   hour in a canyon may be legal, but it may also be dangerous. Get
   together with your friends and talk about speed. Set a reasonable
   maximum and stick to it. Done right, the Pace is addicting without
   high straightaway speeds.
   The group I ride with couldn't care less about outright speed between
   corners; any gomer can twist a throttle. If you routinely go 100 mph,
   we hope you routinely practice emergency stops from that speed. Keep
   in mind outright speed will earn a ticket that is tough to fight and
   painful to pay; cruising the easy straight stuff doesn't attract as
   much attention from the authorities and sets your speed perfectly for
   the next sweeper.
   Straights are the time to reset the ranks. The leader needs to set a
   pace that won't bunch up the followers, especially while leaving a
   stop sign or passing a car on a two-lane road. The leader must use the
   throttle hard to get around the car and give the rest of the group
   room to make the pass, yet he or she can't speed blindly along and
   earn a ticket for the whole group. With sane speeds on the straights,
   the gaps can be adjusted easily; the bikes should be spaced about two
   seconds apart for maximum visibility of surface hazards.
   It's the group aspect of the Pace I enjoy most, watching the bikes in
   front of me click into a corner like a row of dominoes, or looking in
   my mirror as my friends slip through the same set of corners I just
   emerged from.
   Because there's a leader and a set of rules to follow, the competitive
   aspect of sport riding is eliminated and that removes a tremendous
   amount of pressure from a young rider's ego - or even an old rider's
   ego. We've all felt the tug of racing while riding with friends or
   strangers, but the Pace takes that away and saves it for where it
   belongs: the racetrack. The racetrack is where you prove your speed
   and take chances to best your friends and rivals.
   I've spend a considerable amount of time writing about the Pace (see
   Motorcyclist, Nov. '91) for several reasons, not the least of which
   being the fun I've had researching it (continuous and ongoing). But I
   have motivations that aren't so fun. I got scared a few years ago when
   Senator Danforth decided to save us from ourselves by trying to ban
   superbikes, soon followed by insurance companies blacklisting a
   variety of sport bikes. I've seen Mulholland Highway shut down because
   riders insisted on racing (and crashing) over a short section of it.
   I've seen heavy police patrols on roads that riders insist on throwing
   themselves off of. I've heard the term "murder-cycles" a dozen times
   too many. When we consider the abilities of a modern sport bike, it
   becomes clear that rider techniques is sorely lacking.
   The Pace emphasizes intelligent, rational riding techniques that
   ignore racetrack heroics without sacrificing fun. The skills needed to
   excel on the racetrack make up the basic precepts of the Pace,
   excluding the mind-numbing speeds and leaving the substantially larger
   margin for error needed to allow for unknowns and immovable objects.
   Our sport faces unwanted legislation from outsiders, but a bit of
   throttle management from within will guarantee our future.
   Set cornering speed early. 
   Blow the entrance and you'll never recover. 
   Look down the road 
   Maintaining a high visual horizon will reduce perceived speed and help
   you avoid panic situations. 
   Steer the bike quickly. 
   There's a reason Wayne Rainey works out - turning a fast-moving
   motorcycle takes muscle. 
   Use your brakes smoothly but firmly 
   Get on and then off the brakes; don't drag 'em. 
   Get the throttle on early 
   Starting the drive settles the chassis, especially through a bumpy
   Never cross the centerline except to pass 
   Crossing the centerline in a corner is an instant ticket and an
   admittance that you can't really steer your bike. In racing terms,
   your lane is your course; staying right of the line adds a significant
   challenge to most roads and is mandatory for sport riding's future. 
   Don't crowd the centerline 
   Always expect an oncoming car with two wheels in your lane. 
   Don't hang off in the corners or tuck in on the straights 
   Sitting sedately on the bike looks safer and reduces unwanted
   attention. It also provides a built-in safety margin. 
   When leading, ride for the group 
   Good verbal communication is augmented with hand signals and turn
   signals; change direction and speed smoothly. 
   When following, ride with the group 
   If you can't follow a leader, don't expect anyone to follow you when
   you're setting the pace. 
   Nick Ienatsch