Saturday, September 3, 2016

Fearless Riding Book First Draft

Well folks, I'm nearly done with my first draft of the "Fearless Riding" book. All the parking lot exercises are written. I might put in two more quick parking lot games to make practicing more fun. Next up, is the three essential Road Games. I didn't want to even suggest Road Games until my readers had a good understanding of using Vision and Relaxation to control the ride. But, with that covered, we can now get these techniques on their feet, up and out into the real world. More soon.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Moxie Nixx Finds the Friction Zone

I'm just not a Friction Zone kind of guy. I like things simple and the FZ is not simple--it's tricky and, at least for me, elusive. Also, my hands don't work right and tire quickly (darned muscle problems), but, with some encouragement from Donna Palladino over at Ride Like a Pro, and some hints from Top Gun competitor Doug Roberts, I finally found it!

Before shooting this video, I played with the adjustments on my clutch lever and with my hand position. I have the lever set at five, and my hand is as far OUT away from the pivot as possible. I'm in second gear with the engine at idle. When you see brake lights, it is the rear brakes only. The circle is 24 feet.

When I started to get the hang of it, finally, I now see why this is the better technique for tight quarters. It is the only way to accurately control your speed when you need fine control.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Don't Get This Wrong

The most important skill for motorcycle safety is not threshold braking. It is not the ability to make a U-Turn in less than 24 feet. It is not even the ability to swerve-brake-swerve (although, that's a good one). No. According to a new study, the most important motorcycle safety skill, by far, is the ability to get your eyes up and see what's coming.

"Rider Training and Collision Avoidance in Thailand and Los Angeles Motorcycle Crashes," by James Ouellet and Vira Kasantikul, MD (find it here) summarizes it like this:

Both the Thailand and Hurt studies concur that the time from precipitating event that begins the collision sequence to the impact itself is so short--less than three seconds in the great majority of cases--that even a well-chosen, well executed evasive action is unlikely to be effective. This suggest that rider training should emphasize teaching riders the knowledge and skills needed to prevent precipitating even from occurring, rather than how to react after it has already occurred.

That's why vision is the central focus of my Fearless Riding system. Of course, being a Recreation Leadership major in college, I like to make everything into a game. So, I invented a game to make if easy and fun to practice this most vital motorcycle skill. The game is called Time Travel and it may be the most important game you ever play. Here is how to do it.

As you are riding, move your eyes up. Look down the road as far as you can see. The point where the road disappears, around a corner, over a hill, or way off into the distance, is called the Vanishing Point. In the picture below, the Vanishing Point is past the oncoming rider, almost around the corner, before you get to the tunnel.

Photo of motorcycle rider in Switzerland.
When you find the Vanishing Point, pick out a landmark next to the road at that point. Maybe it's a rock, a sign, a tree or a tuft of grass, but find something as a visual reference point. As soon as you find your reference point, start counting up from zero. See how long it takes you, in seconds, to get to that point. That's the whole game.

When I started playing this game, I could barely look ahead 30 or 40 seconds. My current personal best is 2:10 on a highway coming home from South Carolina. Beautiful day. As I was riding, I kept one eye on my reference point, and the other eye on a huge storm cloud off to my right.

For some of you, watching the Vanishing Point is old hat. When I started playing Time Travel, it was a bit disconcerting. At first, I felt like I had no control. I was no longer looking at the road right in front of my front tire. What if there was sand? What about gravel or oil? It got so bad, I had to back off and practice the technique in my car for awhile. When I realized I felt more relaxed and more in control by looking well ahead, I started to really enjoy the game.

On one ride, I saw a near accident developing 4 cars in front of me. I was already on my brakes and slowing down before the car at the front of the line realized the idiot in the parking lot was about to pull in front of him.

Now, there is a problem with playing the Time Travel Game. You can begin to feel so confident about what is happening around you that you stop worrying so much about cars you've already seen and discounted. So, I invented another road game called Dodge Ball. More on that later. For now, just remember the goad isn't just to get your eyes up to the Vanishing Point. The goal is to see well ahead of the motorcycle and take appropriate action.

So, get out there and ride. Start in your car, if you need to, but learn to get your eyes up. That way you will automatically and effortlessly avoid problems that might catch other riders off guard. It is the very essence of Fearless Riding.

What? Lost an Entire Chapter!

So, I've been trying to simplify my writing by using Google Documents. When I started to have problems switching back and forth between chapters (different files in Google Docs), I decided to put everything in the FREE OpenOffice Writer. When I went to get chapter two from Google Docs to put it into one big Writer file, the whole chapter was gone. Gone. Lost. Deleted. Must of been me, but I sure didn't do it on purpose. Anyway, I remember what I wrote, so I'll just re-write it. Hopefully the new chapter two will be even better than the old chapter two. Oh, well!

Google Docs is free and it works, but so is OpenOffice Writer. 

The Best Place to Practice

Some people love parking lot practice or track days. I believe the best place to practice is on the road and in the parking lot where you park. The idea is to actually and consciously apply all those things you already know about Fearless Riding. As you ride, look up and find the vanishing point. Relax your grip before you make your turns. Look past 90-degrees, then let out the clutch and ease around and head home. Nothing  against practicing but honestly, the idea is to use those Fearless Riding techniques every time you ride. So, get out there and practice, er, I mean enjoy the ride.
I practiced finding the vanishing point on my way to lunch at Waffle House.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Motorcycle U-Turn from a Stop

So, the problem is those pesky U-turns from a stop.

Try practicing  by stopping in a parking lot with your left foot on a devider line. Now you can look along that line and know you are looking 90-degrees left. Look back to the end of that line 3 spaces over, and you know you are looking at least 135-degrees behind you. Even better, you have a specific focus point, not an area or a zone, a real visual anchor.

Start doing turns in 3 parking spaces, then see if you can work it down to 2 parking spots.

Have fun.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fearless Riding at Slow Speeds

Thanks, Wing World Magazine, for publishing my article. Here it is for my loyal readers.

Author Moxie Nixx out for a ride with Esmeralda. 

I ride my Gold Wing almost daily. For years, I’ve been working on a set of motorcycle techniques I call Fearless Riding. If you take five minutes to try the five experiments described below, you may discover a new way to control your bike at slow speeds. From what I’ve seen, standard slow speed riding techniques don’t work well for everyone. Sure you can get good at them if you practice for hours or are naturally gifted, but if you have a neck injury, such as I do, if you’re a bit clumsy, such as I am, or if you’ve just never been able to ride fearlessly at slow speeds, then take a few minutes and learn these five things about you and your motorcycle.

Engine Launch Speed

Coordinating clutch and throttle – it’s the bane of new riders. When I bought my Gold Wing, I discovered the bike had so much torque it would take off in first gear with the engine at idle. If I'm taking off and riding slowly around a gas pump, or making a U-turn in a parking lot, why do I need to add more throttle than that? If you want better slow speed control, you need to know how slowly you can rev the engine and still be able to take off. I submit that for a Gold Wing, the Engine Launch Speed is the same as the idle speed.

You can easily test this yourself on your next ride. Find an empty parking lot and stop the bike. Look around to make sure you won’t get run over, then take your digits off the brakes, let the engine idle, and ease out the clutch. See what happens. When I tried it, my Wing (Esmeralda) effortlessly moved forward at a walking pace.

It was so easy, I wondered if this technique would work with other bikes. Surely this was a fluke only possible with a Gold Wing’s massive 6-cylinder motor. So, I borrowed a little, twin-cylinder Harley- Davidson 883 and tried the experiment. The little Harley took off easily in first gear with no gas, no brakes and no sign of stalling. Now, it is your turn to discover how slowly you can rev the engine and take off without stalling your motorcycle.

Takeoff Distance

When I discovered I could get moving with the engine at idle, I learned something else: I could have the clutch all the way out without stalling the bike, bucking or jerking, in less than 3 feet. I’m not going to tell you exactly how much less, because you probably won’t believe me. Instead, I’m going to challenge you to find your own bike’s Takeoff Distance.

See how quickly and smoothly you can let the clutch out with the engine at idle. Measure your Takeoff Distance by how many feet forward you need to move in order to get the clutch all the way out. No friction zone. Just ease the clutch out smoothly and progressively in one continuous motion. You can pull up to a painted line in the parking lot, or just guesstimate, but remember that distance because we’re going to use this when we discuss Focal Distance.

Idle Speed

The next thing to learn is your bike’s Idle Speed. Not the engine idle speed. I’m talking about the speed your bike will travel with no gas and no brakes. What? Really. Stay with me.

When I tried this experiment, I found my Wing would idle along at 5 mph. That’s darned slow. That’s slow enough to do many everyday slow speed maneuvers. If I can idle along at 5 mph, no gas, no brakes, and do most everything I need to do, why do I need any fancy riding techniques? If I can let out the clutch and just ride fearlessly, why should I make things any more complicated than that?

Again, I wondered if this was a fluke of the Wing’s monster engine. So, back on the 883, I learned that the little H-D twin idled at 10 mph. That’s okay for lots of stuff, but I felt it was a little fast for close work.

Stall Speed

What if I’m riding at 5 mph on my Wing, or 10 mph on a Sportster, and I need to go slower? Don’t I have to start using the friction zone and balancing throttle and rear brake? To find out, I tried idling along at 5 mph on my Wing as I added some rear brake. I thought the engine would immediately stall. I mean, it’s barely idling! Right? Nope. What I found was that I could add a little rear brake and the bike would slow down to an indicated two mph without the engine bogging, lugging or stalling.

Was it a fluke? Yes and no. When I tried this experiment on the 883, I found I could only get down to about 5 mph before the Harley twin started to complain. But still, I believe most people would find they could do almost everything they needed to do in a parking lot at 5 mph.

So, if you do the four exercises described above, you will know your Engine Launch Speed (probably the same as your engine idle speed), your Takeoff Distance (probably less than 3 feet), your Idle Speed (probably less than 10 mph), and your Stall Speed (perhaps as low as 2 mph).

You can now ride fearlessly at slow speeds without having to balance a twisting throttle with an in-and-out clutch while steering the bars back-and-forth. By not revving the engine and not using the friction zone, you will have a lot more attention available for steering the darned motorcycle.

There is still one thing missing – Vision.

Focal distance

For years, I have tried to start or end each ride with a U-turn from a stop. I figured I would be developing my slow speed control without having to take time out from my busy schedule to find a parking lot, setup cones and practice (ick). What I found was that the standard visual control techniques didn’t work very well.

If I tried to keep my eyes up and look “back there,” I would lose focus and run wide. If I tried to focus on one gray spot on the asphalt among thousands of gray spots on the asphalt, I would lose focus and wobble. When I did manage to keep my focus on a specific point way back there, I would sometimes hit bumps or humps that knocked me off my line. I found this very uncomfortable.

So, I tried pulling my vision back toward the bike. Not all the way back so I was staring mindlessly at the pavement going past my foot pegs. Just back far enough so that I could see where the heck I was going to be in the next few seconds.

One day, as I played with pulling my vision back, I found my sweet spot, my Focal Distance: at Idle Speed, my Focal Distance is 6 to 8 feet in front of the motorcycle and on the inside of the turn. Suddenly, the bike was going where I wanted it to go, because I was guiding it with my eyes, and bumps and imperfections in the road didn’t bother me, because I could see them coming. Experiment and find your ideal Focal Distance.

Start by looking all the way back there to where you want to end up. This is to make sure the path is clear and no one is about to run you over. Then let the engine idle and ease the clutch all the way out (remember your Takeoff distance). Once the clutch is all the way out, throttle closed, both hands on the grips, turn your head and eyes, turn the bars and, while you’re turning, search for your Focal Distance. You probably won’t find your sweet spot on your first try, so ride on and have fun. Just come back to this exercise once in awhile. You’ll get it.

Now Go for a Ride

Do the experiments. Just to see. Just for fun. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they won’t work for you on your bike. On the other hand, maybe they will work and really add to your riding pleasure. Either way, it will be fun to find out.

This stuff is easy. It takes five minutes to learn. I believe you will find that letting the clutch all the way out with the engine at idle, dragging a little rear brake when necessary, and looking where you are going, will give you all the control you need for fearless riding at slow speeds.

. ... ***... . 

Moxie Nixx is the author of "Gold Wings are Murder: The Crying Stone." Available now at

Gold Wings are Murder: The Crying Stone
Available now at