Thursday, May 22, 2014

Training: Learning Precision Curves and Turns with Brigitta

Last week, I got an email from Colleen who runs the T3RG Motorcycle Schools, asking me if I was interested in some free training.  You see, they had an instructor-candidate to put through the paces and needed some sample-students for him to train and be trained.

There were several slots open this past weekend and next weekend so I asked and was approved to send the invite to anyone I knew who was an experienced rider and would like some free training.

The training would end up consisting of the curriculum described here on T3RG's website: LINK.  Note: All the pictures and videos were taken during Sunday's iteration of the training when there were more students.  I was too busy on Saturday being a student to take any photos or videos.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous about taking the course as I'd seen what graduates of said course were capable of doing: LINK.  Still, training is training so I attended this past Saturday's training session.  Two of the planned four students (including me) didn't show so it was basically two instructors and two students.   Bob Ucman was the main instructor and Abdullah was the instructor-candidate.  My fellow student was named "Digger" and he rode a big white Goldwing motorcycle, I rode Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer.

Abdullah has only been riding for a bit over a year now but he's got great talent and a great passion for motorcycling.  The skills he demonstrated during the exercise demos were to be envied for sure.  He's an orthopedic Surgeon back in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Yep, he flew all the way here for the training!

Bob, I'd met before at the last Civilian Top Gun Rider Competition in which he competed.  Another rider with enviable riding skills and I can confirm now, excellent training skills and experience as well.  He had us settled down and comfortable immediately and would lead us through each exercise with such ease and confidence it wasn't hard to focus on the task at hand.

As the curriculum in the LINK above describes, the students learn to improve their riding into curves and tight turns.  We got warmed up on some offset cone weaves,  Bob and Abdullah steadily moved the cones closer and closer together as we completed each circuit, making for sharper turns and more careful use of aim points for entering each gate.  Fun Stuff.

We progressed onto figure eight maneuvers where one has a gate in the middle of the figure eight.  You have to execute a sharp cutover as you transit the gate and set your motorcycle up for the next portion of the figure eight, still, it wasn't too bad yet.  My apologies for the distortion in the center frame of some of the videos, seems I've got scratches on my camera lens!

The small orange and green cones represent the figure eight

Then, things got interesting for me.   Next up were a series of three circles called keyholes.  Why keyholes?  Because during competition, riders must enter the circle through a narrow corridor, sharply cut either left or right and ride around the different circles and exit via the same gate they entered through.  The keyholes started with a comfortable 32 foot circle which was OK, then as we completed the task, Bob would wave us to the next keyhole.

Keyhole Exercise

The second keyhole was 26 feet worth of circle and seemed much tighter to me.  Still both Digger and I completed this one without too many issues and we moved onto the 24 foot circle and last keyhole.  This one took a few tries for me to complete to both Bob's and my satisfaction.  The cut over is sharp and one has to then transition and go into full lock in the opposite direction in order to complete the circle without hitting the cones.  Slowly but surely, I learned to keep my eyes up, ignore the cones, push the motorcycle away from me and "commit" to the turn; all the while staying in the friction zone, keeping my revs up slightly and using my rear brakes as needed to control speed.  It's a lot to think about but Bob's and Abdullah's instructions, coaching and tips made it all quite doable!

Abdullah demonstrates the execution of the 32 foot keyhole exercise

The group executes the 32 foot keyhole exercise

Executing the 24 foot keyhole exercise

We broke for lunch.  It was prior to lunch that I discovered Brigitta's charging system wasn't charging her battery.  The guys had to push-start Brigitta and we carried on with the training.

After the keyhole exercises, Bob merged all three keyholes into a snowman-shaped formation.  There were entrance and exit gates at each end of the snowman, and gates linking each keyhole circle.  Abdullah demo'ed the sequence, with ease and elan I might add, and then it was our turn.

Digger and I took turns entering the gate at the 32 foot circle, making a complete circuit of it, then lining up our motorcycles to enter the 26 foot circle, execute another full circuit of it and finally enter the seemingly much smaller 24 foot circle and completing a final circuit before exiting out the gate!  Quite the challenging exercise for me, as it was the keyholes but in sequence one right after the other!  We did this several times and with Bob and Abdullah's coaching we both got this exercise down.  Fun stuff, really!

Above video shows Dezso on his F800GS making it look easy as he executes
the snowman exercise.

After a break it was time for the Iron Cross or Intersection exercise.   Picture if you will road intersection, each arm of the cross composed of basically a 24 foot circle but with the straight edges of a street represented by orange cones.   Click this link for more info on the setup of an Iron Cross:  LINK

Bob started us off first with a cone in the middle, representing a turning circle, to get us used to the Iron Cross' pattern and routes.  I got totally confused of course and managed after a couple more tries to get the route correct.  Then, to make it fun, Bob removed the center cone and circle and we had to execute the turns into each arm of the cross, cutting sharply into each arm, circling within it, then onto the next cross arm all the way around and exiting at the top of the cross after completing all four arms.  Challenging but fun!

Here's a link to Bob and Abdullah (who is in the lead), going through the Iron Cross together:

They make it look easy don't they?

Before the final exercise, which was running through the whole series of obstacles starting with the offset cone weaves, through the keyholes and snowman and finishing with the Iron Cross, Brigitta's clutch cable broke!

Luckily, I carried a spare cable (much to everyone's amazement) and with everyone's help Brigitta's cable was replaced and training resumed in less than 30 minutes I think.

So, in sum, almost eight packed hours of intense training and riding!  I learned a lot and now must get some traffic cones of my own to set up and practice the above exercises more!  My confidence in slow tight turning maneuvers has increased a lot and I owe it all that to Bob and Abdullah along with the great training environment and opportunities provided by T3RG Motorcycle Schools.


Unknown said...


All I can say is WOW, and I would never be able to do it

A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

redlegsrides said...

Bob, I believe not only could you do it, but you'd be just fine....