Balancing Bikes or, Don't Fear the Sidestand
One of the Internet rider lists I monitor had a discussion amongst some "vertically challenged" riders about how they got on and off their bikes, or put their sidestands down without dropping them. A couple of 6 foot 6 inch guys chimed in and said they were also afraid to get off a bike without having first deployed the sidestand, even if they were going to put the bike on it's centerstand.
These exercises won't all work for heavier bikes but the principles are sound and will greatly improve anyone's confidence in moving bikes around or getting off without a stand already deployed. Also, anyone whose kids or spouse is learning to ride should really consider adding some of this to their training. Sounds kind of funky but it works.
At the very worst it can't hurt and it will give your buddies a hoot.
When the Eastern Europeans were dominating world level motocross (late 60's - early 70's? I have a few memory gaps from those years!), they had state run MX schools where the riders lived and trained. I believe it was a CZ school that had a regimen that started with new riders having to push their bikes around for a long time. This included pushing from the right side and front as well as the left and pushing the bikes backwards as well as forward. Uphill, downhill. Every combination of ways to push. Often for many miles at a time and running. Sometimes rapidly pushing the bike backwards through a "slalom course". Another exercise was they would walk around the bike, holding on, kickstands up, every which way. Including hills, rocks, water, sand, mud, one-handed, etc., etc.
The idea is to totally remove any lack of confidence in handling the bikes, knowing the balance points & hand-holds intimately, making it second nature rather than something new every time they grabbed the bike, crashed or whatever.
Another interesting exercise was every morning just at dawn, they would go out to a large, flat, grassy field still wet with dew. And ride their bikes with the front wheels locked - brakes full on! I understand many of them got good enough at this to do it pretty much at will and go clear across the field. I've tried this on a scrambles bike and I am sure everybody busted their ass!
Now these guys weren't riding big heavy street bikes by any means, but the concept is very transferable. My Son got his first bike when he was 3. He pushed that little sucker all around the place long before he ever rode it. Ditto for the succession of bikes that came later. This training also included entire rides where he was not allowed to touch tiny butt to bike seat at all. Rides that were front brake only, rear brake only, and no brakes at all. Rides using only one or two very inappropriate gears. Rides with no clutch lever. He always thought all this was a ripping pain in the ass, but he damn well learned to ride a motorcycle and looks back on this "training" with a laugh and gratitude.
I do the walk-around bit and a good amount of pushing with every new bike I get - you would be surprised at how this shortens the "bonding-curve" with your bike and really helps prevent driveway tip-overs and side stand "oh shit's".
That's all I'm really suggesting you do - the rest is true but is included just for fun. If anyone masters the locked front brake ride, please let me know! Have fun and don't fall over...
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Revised: January 29, 2008 .