Perpetual Motion – Riding Within Your Limits

Diana Pillion Princess

In a recent post on Motorcycle Philosophy, Steve Johnson discussed with some friends some of the benefits of Learning to Ride the Hard Way.”  They were saying that if you have an accident you can take from it a valuable learning experience.   The philosophy being: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The problem is, this method of learning might kill you!  In the post, the question was raised How am I supposed to improve if I don’t try pushing myself? 

Here’s my take on the matter: 

When I completed the BRC at Cecil Community College in August 2005, I took a lot from my instructors.  After skills tests were completed, written test scores were tallied, and certificates of completion were issued, the lead instructor charged us with the following words:   

“When you all first walked into this room 48 hours ago, I would not have even imagined taking any of you out onto the interstate highway.  Now I would have no hesitation in doing so…with no other traffic, and all of the entrance and exit ramps closed off for several miles in each direction!  Just because you have met the minimum requirements to be eligible for your motorcycle endorsement, that does not by any means make you an expert rider.  Take it slow, know your limits and ride within them, never ride outside of your comfort zone.”

I took those words to heart.  My first rule for myself was not to ride on any roads with more than one lane in each direction or with a speed limit greater than 30 mph.  I wanted to ride my bike to work which was located on a 40 mph, 5-lane, very busy street.  This proved to be a challenge, but I formulated a route through neighborhood roads where I came out across the street from the high school and crossed Reisterstown Road at a traffic light, directly into my parking lot.  It took me about twice as long as it would taking a direct route in my car, but I got there safe and sound.  After work, I would generally take a few laps around the neighborhood before turning into my street for the evening.

 After a month or two of this, I was beginning to feel quite comfortable with the shifting, steering, braking, and general operation of the bike.  I decided it was time to step it up a notch.  I chose a stretch of road which was still only 2 lanes but had speed limits of 40 mph.  My entrance spot had clear visibility in both directions, and plenty of room for me to turn around and go back just in case I decided the traffic was too heavy or if for any other reason I felt like I needed to bail on the idea because I was outside of my comfort zone.  I made an easy right turn onto the road, and had several turn-offs available to the right that I could take any time I decided that I’d had it.  That never happened.  Instead, my little Sporty buzzed with excitement as I hit fourth gear for the first time ever!  Then in a flash, I could sense that she wanted to go to fifth!  Wow!  Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I sensed a euphoria never before experienced!  I was really riding

Now I considered riding my bike to places that I hadn’t before.  I rode to my hairdresser in the next town over who was soooo jealous I had my own bike and she didn’t.  She admired my new Harley, and then laughed as I mashed my freshly styled hair under my helmet for the ride back home!  I devised all kinds of routes that kept me off the main strips and on two-lane roads.  Speed quickly became a non-issue.  It was time to tackle the next step:  the 5-lane road… 

Next morning, I took my “regular” route to work–this time on my bike.  I entered Reisterstown Road by making a left turn at a traffic light.  I moved directly into the right lane, where I stayed for the half of a mile until my right turn into the high school parking lot.  After work that day, I pulled out of the lot and followed that big scary road (not any more) for the entire 2 miles until it drops down to 30 mph and two lanes, then I turned off through the neighborhood towards my house. 

Riding within my limits? always.  Out of my comfort zone? never.  Moving forward, improving my skills, becoming a better rider? absolutely!  (Last week I even rode on an Interstate!) 

As you practice skills or repeat experiences, they will eventually become routine…thereby naturally moving the limits of your abilities and comfort zone perpetually forward.  In this manner, you will always be improving your riding skills without ever having to learn anything “the hard way.”

12 Responses to “Perpetual Motion – Riding Within Your Limits”

  1. Good post. Pushing yourself will always lead to the next level. You will eventually bite off more than you can chew without fail. You will always have an accident if you follow that philosophy. I love your method of learning to ride through building confidence. Time, patience and riding your own ride. Train the mind and your ass will follow, or in this case, your bike will follow.

  2. Great post Diana!

    I can’t say anything more positive than what Dave already did. so Ditto.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I usually ride on the back of the husband’s bike, but now am learning to ride my own. This is a great post!

  4. Thank you everyone for your compliments. The system seems to be working well for me. I am really starting to come into my own this season. I wanted to do this post so I could share my experiences and maybe help someone who is just starting to ride.

  5. Great post pretty lady. I think you nailed it right on the head. Never let anyone push you to a level you aren’t comfortable with. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever push yourself. It only means that you step up when “YOU” are ready.


  6. I must have logged at least 200 miles in my neighborhood before I ventured out on the streets. I was completely confident with my shifting and cornering before I wanted to do it with the distraction of traffic mixed in with it. This was a great post Di, thanks for sharing.

  7. Lady R said almost to the word what I was going to say. It is a great way to learn. Trying to do it all before one is ready to is when the problems happen.

  8. The system is really working for me. On Saturday we went for a ride with 2 other couples from our club (I’m sure Jay will do a post about it soon) down to St Michael’s and Tilghman Island. We were taking a bunch of country roads, twisitng through farmland for quite awhile…and we overshot our destination by about 20 miles. It wasn’t a big deal, but we got onto Rt 50 which is the main thoroughfare for all of Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington DC to head “daywn the oshun” as they say in “Balmer”. Three lanes of heavy summer weekend traffic–luckily we were headed AWAY from the beach! When we pulled up to the first traffic light, our leader told me the plan to head up Rt 50 to Easton before we turned off, and asked if I was comfortable with that. I was, so we were off.

    Within a few blocks, it occurred to me that we were going over the Choptank River bridge. My initial mental reaction was not “Oh shit” as I would have guessed, but rather “woo HOO!!” 😮

    Going over the cool water was like very much welcomed air conditioning for the 95-degree temps (if you count the heat index –> 102!). Six lanes of traffic flying 60 mph over a mile+ long bridge didn’t phase me in the least. It was fun! As I was going over the bridge, I actually thought “wow, I could just ride back and forth across this bridge all day long!”

    By day’s end, I had logged 250 miles on my bike — over bridges, on highways, and through farmland. And it was all good. I am really coming into my own on the bike. 🙂

  9. Thank you for posting this!! I’ve already bookmarked this post for future reference. In the next year I plan on getting my motorcycle driver’s license and getting a bike, and your post is very informative to me. So thank you!

  10. You took the correct approach. Glad you shared it. Some people stay in parking lots way too long. Better to go out to where you’re actually going to ride. Limited exposure to real world conditions with as little multi-tasking required as possible. That’s the key. It’s not usually the actual road or street that’s the hazard. It’s the other users. Motor skills have to be internalized to the point they take up less attention. Once that happens there’s more attention available for watching for bogies.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a post ( which means laying in bed awake composing it in my head ) on expanding limits. More specifically, how the bike talks to us and how we shouldn’t interrupt it by our inputs. Should have it on the blog in the next couple of days.

  11. Cool, Dan…I’ve actually been thinking lately that my bike is talking to me. I have been driving a manual transmission car for decades, and I can shift through the gears in my sleep. As far as my bike, I noticed recently that I am starting to be able to “feel” what gear I am in, particularly in the lower gears. I still want to shift up one more time when I am already in 5th gear though…maybe I just need to get a 6-speed!!! LOL

    I’ll be looking for your post. Sounds interesting.

  12. Good post, and thanks for the link. I think half the skill involved in a riding a motorcycle effectively is understanding the limitations of that motorcycle, such as how hard can you brake without locking up, and how far can you lean, without losing traction. Riders would feel more comfortable if they had a full grasp of these limitations.

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