Know Your Skill
The Safest Thing You Can Do Is To Understand Your Own Ability Level
Riding motorcycles is one of the most difficult and challenging activities humans participate in. With that weight on our shoulders riders are often put or pressured into situations they are not prepared for. Having a clear understanding of your own skill level is the best defense against getting in over our heads.
How do you assess your skill level?Are you an expert or a beginner? How do you tell? Well, it does not matter how long you have been riding, nor the bike your are riding, not even the gear you have on. It is the ability to control the motorcycle, all the time, that puts a ranking on your skill level.
Going fast does not equal more skill, in fact quite the contrary is true. In fact one of the things expert riders do best is slow down quicker and to a slower speed through difficult obstacles. Speed masks skill and increases the amplitude of the mistakes or crashes, especially when the skill runs out. Remember F=MA? Controlling the bike while using a minimal amount of energy, operating the controls instinctively and being able to slow or stop before something goes wrong are the signs of a highly skilled rider. Ever heard the saying, “Slow down to go faster?” More often than not, the more Novice the rider the less of this important tip you’ll see demonstrated. As less skilled riders are often rushed to keep up or pressured to ride above their skill level and become tense, frustrated and exhausted.
To establish a skill ranking for our schools, we’ve broken down some skill sets to help you evaluate where you stand when it comes to off-road riding. Our definitions may be different than some, but we feel the list below is a very accurate way of establishing levels for training. Participating in a class with different skill-levels of riders has proven to be a bonus in our group classes since riders tend to learn from watching the mistakes of others as much as they learn from seeing drills demonstrated properly. The biggest mistake a rider can make is to overestimate his or her skill level and then become “left behind” by the class.
Beginner: (If you feel you are in this category, our school may progress too rapidly for you. Please make sure you let us know if you are a Beginner rider. We suggest starting at www.dirtbikeschool.com)
- Not comfortable with clutch and throttle operation, stalls often, jerky with application.
- Cannot come to a complete stop and accelerate away without putting a foot down.
- Not comfortable putting only one foot down when stopping.
- Not comfortable standing while riding.
- Not able to ride above 30 MPH on safe dirt roads.
- Comfortable using front brake in slowing.
- Can slide the bike by skidding rear wheel.
- Can come to a complete stop and continue without putting a foot down.
- Able to ride above 30 MPH off-road when safe.
- Stalling from bad clutch use is not an issue.
- Comfortable standing while riding.
- Can track stand the motorcycle for a few seconds at a time.
- Comfortable on single-track.
- Comfortable using both brakes in stopping and able to control skids.
- Can loft the front wheel from a stop and not have the bike move forward much.
- Can do full steering lock turns and figure-eights.
- Comfortable sliding both front and rear wheels and able to produce and control the slides.
- Comfortable riding the bike above 50 MPH off-road in safe conditions.
- Not intimidated by different soil conditions (sand, mud, rocks).
- Not intimidated by steep uphills and downhills
- Comfortable jumping the motorcycle and riding in rough conditions without bottoming the suspension unexpectedly.
Comfortable in all conditions described above.
- Able to loft the front wheel and pivot turn the motorcycle.
- Able to ride up and down ledges that require wheel lofting.
- Can predict braking distance and rarely pass braking points.
- High level of understanding safe speed versus the conditions.
JLR Off-Road Training strives to teach safe motorcycle riding to all levels of riders. We have yet to have an advanced rider feel that even our basic class is not challenging enough. Yet we often have beginner riders overwhelmed with all of the new skills we teach. We do not work magic and all of the drills require practice and time to improve, so be prepared to learn how to make your motorcycle do things you never knew you could make it do.