Recently a conversation regarding survival tips for new riders came up, with many words of advice. As I have seen and heard many times in the past, often repeated was the phrase of “ride within your limits.” I was reminded of an experience I had a couple years ago and I think it’s an important point for riders to understand, especially when we are spouting off advice to newer riders.
New, or even semi-experienced riders probably don’t know their motorcycle riding limits. There, I said it. I had been riding for nearly 7 years when I started doing track days, with around 60,000 miles under my belt by this point. Granted, I had no education beyond the MSF and then a bunch of “figuring it out on my own” with a bit of advice here and there, but no formal training or coaching – and a lack of natural talent beyond a love of the sport. My first couple track days were awesome fun and I felt like I was doing really well. In fact, it was probably around my 4th or 5th track day when I began to realize where my (not the bike’s) limits were, many of them due to poor technique.
The more track days I did, the more I came to recognize just how close to my limits I had been riding on the street, all the while believing I was “well within” them. In a street environment, you can last a really long time riding with the impression that you are “well within” your limits, all the while being right at the edge. Until experiences that really test your limits are presented, you really have no idea what your limits are or are not. You may think you know, but without a baseline of “this is my limit” it’s an impossible thing to judge.
For me, I sorted out where and what my limits were on the track – probably one of the safest environments to do so. Street-only riders will eventually encounter situations that will put them on the edge of their limits and give them an understanding of what they are. Yet, time and time again I see new riders come out and not see, or downright ignore, the warning signs that they are at their limits. That butt pucker? Ya, you’ve just hit your limit. That minor crash? You have more than exceeded your limit. That line you blew? Exceeded your limits again, even if you stayed in your lane – if you weren’t where you wanted to be, you were beyond your limits.
In my experience, it is nearly impossible for the average rider to understand their limits until they are put in a situation where they finally can (safely) find those limits and realize they are there then work on the skills to improve them. Track days and now racing have dramatically changed how I ride a motorcycle, and I have barely begun to scrape the surface of what these machines are capable of. I think it’s imperative for a new-ish rider to understand that they do not know their limits, only if they are doing things wrong or right. Continuing training can provide opportunities to really discover not only what your limits are, but sound advice on how to improve those limits so if you need to react to a less than ideal situation, you can do so with confidence.