Natural Riding Ability?

I have always felt that those who grew up on dirtbikes as kids have a far greater ability to ride motorcycles than those who started as adults on the street. I thought this was because we got to play in the dirt without the worry of damaging a $30,000 Harley-Davidson with fancy paint and chrome. I also thought it was the lessons of traction learned by pushing a dirtbike until one knew the breaking point of traction. Not to mention one tends to bounce back up pretty quickly while in their teens. Not now though! I don’t even think I can bounce back after some light yardwork, never mind a spill on a dirtbike.

However I didn’t think of this: Larry Grodsky says in his book Stayin’ Safe that “even limited experience during the formative years rapidly establishes neuro-motor connections which the brain stores almost indefinitely. So an older novice might have more total miles, yet have to think about actions that the re-entry rider does instinctively.” In other words those who learn to ride motorcycles at a young age have a strong advantage because the brain is younger and still forming. The ability to learn comes more naturally at a young age. Instincts are wired into the brain and never forgotten. That explains why some people have that natural duck to water ability to ride and others have to work a little harder at it. Some riders whip their bikes around on a dime and some need a good fifteen minutes to get into a parking position. Some instinctively know how to roll on and off the throttle, feather the clutch and apply the brakes without thinking. Those are the ones who are always explaining the methods to the other ones who have to think about it. The same ones who have to learn it and practice to get on par with those who learned it in the formative years.

I wish I had spent time learning about something valuable back then when my brain was formative. Instead I was riding (and crashing) my dirtbike every chance I got. If the MSF could develop a time machine we could all go back in time and all learn to Ride Like A Pro.

6 Responses to “Natural Riding Ability?”

  1. I learned later in life and I can’t agree more about “natural ability” in the fact that I have to give a lot of thought to what I did. I purchased the “Ride Like a Pro” and can’t wait for the weather to cooperate to try out some of the skills.

  2. I agree with what you are saying here. It was easy for me to move from a bicycle, to a dirt bike to a big v-twin. I have been riding street bikes since I was 16, but you know what? I really didn’t figure out how to REALLY handle a bike well until my early thirties. Age has it’s advantages also, you start to understand why you are doing certain things rather than just doing them because it’s what you are suppose to do. Make sense?

  3. I not sure if it makes sense but I’m just glad to get two comments today. Thanks Viking and Kitchen Witch! I was starting to feel lonely and unread in the blogosphere.

  4. I agree totally with teaching riding and carting skills at a young age. I did both and when I went to the street on motorcycles and cars I was way ahead at control and feel for whichever machine I was the choice of the day.
    Personally, i think every kid should have a go cart and motorcycle. It teaches great lessons before being turned out to drive with no more than a few hours driver education time.

  5. Good point. I’m not sure if carting is a bigger sport where you live but I have never heard someone speak about it like this before. I think you are dead on right!

  6. Diana was asking me about this post earlier today. She wasn’t quite getting what I was laying down. I was just trying to say that I had a theory that people who learn how to ride at a young age “appear” to have natural riding ability. By learning at a young age how to work the controls it becomes instinctual. I was glad to report that I had found some scientific explanation to back this up.

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