Our HOG chapter holds a monthly skills day almost every month of the year weather permitting. We always try to make it but we have missed the last three or four because of other commitments. After the Blue Ridge parkway trip I knew I wanted to work on my leaning, u-turns and circles. During that trip I saw the importance of feeling confident while maneuvering the bike. Seeing how we are in Texas and it is July skills day was scheduled from 9-12 in hopes of beating the heat. As we road up I noticed the group was fairly large today, about 20 bikes. The group was a mix between very new riders, seasoned riders and everyone in between. I know each rider has their own reason for going to events likes these. here’s why I go
- we practice skills that are useful on the road
- it builds my self confidence
- we encourage each other
- I get to know my bike better
- I push myself in a safe area with road captains around to help
We got parked, signed in and I got to meet a few new ladies and their husbands. Doc, our lead road captain introduced that days road captains and briefly went over the course before Kim and Richard gave us a demo. ** If you are curious what it means to be a road captain check out this post: Fort Worth HOG Road Captains. It isn’t an easy job and it doesn’t come with pay.** It is odd how nervous you get when you start lining up and waiting for your turn. You feel like all are eyes are on you even though everyone is focused on what they are doing or are about to do. The first section was to take off, turn and go into a u-turn followed by a cone weave, s-pattern, another u-turn, cone weave and then a 24′ circle. I took off and followed the course. I did okay but didn’t lean much which is odd considering how much I did on our trip. I started the day off thinking I really wanted to push my lean but here I was in a controlled environment and I was hardly leaning. I let fear take over and I was just wanting to get through it. I went around the course a few times and improved but still never really pushed myself and to be honest I looked very rough. Several people dropped their bikes multiple times, which is okay and to be expected when you are pushing yourselves but it intimidated me. We took a short break while the road captains changed things up a bit. This time they broke it into a beginners section and a more advance area. Well I was determined to do the harder area despite the fact that it had been months since I had been to skills day. It started off with a slow area, you try to go as slow as you can without putting your feet down, then into a right u-turn, then off-set cone weave and ending with a 22′ circle. As I waited my turn I began to get nervous and self doubt set in. I found it hard to shift my focus as I went from the slow and steady and into the turn. I put my foot down in the turn and as I looked at the arrows on the ground for the weave I panicked. I went around one cone and then as I approached the second one I dropped my bike. Doc, our head road captain was by my side instantly and helped me get going again. This was the third time I’ve dropped my bike but the first at a skills day. It wasn’t hard a fall, I didn’t even get off my bike but it rattled my confidence. Doc turned my bike off and told me to restart it and take off. I made the decision to go back over to the beginners area to calm down and try to get my mind reset. I did fine on the u-turn and regular weave but my circle was bad! I went through it twice and finally Kim suggested I go and ride in the open area and a larger circle to build my confidence back up. I did and then redid the beginners area and did much better, even scraped my floor boards a few times! Then Scott rode up and mentioned he had seen the hard time I was having earlier. I told him abut dropping the bike. He told me not to let it beat me and to go and try it again. I knew he was right but I was still scared. I got in line again and still wasn’t able to complete the off set weave. I didn’t drop my bike but I did run over a few cones. Scott watched me and said I was trying to take it too tight. The off set weave is meant to be taken with larger turns, especially as a newer rider. By now I was determined to get it but I was also getting hot, tired and my clutch had was hurting. While everyone took a short break Scott and I walked the area, he showed just how wide I should be approaching the turns and where my head should be looking. Okay, I got this was what I kept telling myself. I spent the remainder of the day in the advanced area. I never did complete the off set weave but I did get it to where I was only missing the last two cones out of 8 I think and I did the 22′ circle all the way once. I was proud of myself for not giving up but I spent the rest of the day pretty upset and replaying my mistakes over and over in my head, not a wise thing to do! I should have focused on how well I did in other areas such as my u-turn and eventually the circles. Always celebrate your victories! Monday and Tuesday rolled around and I found myself scouring YouTube for videos on the offset cone weave maneuver. I watched and read a few tips and decided that I wanted to practice it this week-end. I sent Scott an e-mail at work and he looked up the dimensions to set it on our own. We probably won’t get to it this week-end but I am not giving up!
Here is a short video from skills day. You will notice that there are road captains every where ready to help riders that need it. I think it is important to push yourself and improve your skills but make sure you have someone around to help you before you try something new and wear your gear.