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Flexing Muscle Memory

October 11, 2011

How Does CornerSpin Transfer to the Street?

The last post found me geeking like crazy about my weekend at Cornerspin: ’Roadracing in the Dirt’. I do not own a dirt bike or dual sport, and I do not road race. I had a great time slipping and sliding on those little bikes, but I wasn’t sure how many muscle memories I possessed until I got out on the street to carve up some mountain roads.

My first ‘aha moment’ was for my braking technique, which I noticed right after pulling out of the driveway. Not only was I doing it much more confidently, I was also shifting my weight fore and aft to compensate for the loading on the bikes suspension. I learned through drills how to execute a panic stop without my usual worries about front wheel traction.

We have many roads here in Western NC on which to practice downhill cornering on decreasing radius off camber turns. The slow speed Cornerspin drills came back into play. I modified my downhill corner approach to brake hard before the turn-in point, eyes on the corner exit, then dump the bars into the turn while picking up the suspension with the throttle. It worked. Downhill corners have been my nemesis.

This was a fantastic revelation; for once I wasn’t coasting, and debris on the tarmac didn’t rattle me as much as prior to all the dirt work. I can also feel the front tire better, and when it does lose traction due to slick road paint, or debris I don’t slam the throttle shut.

I also find that I am working with visual reference points more naturally and automatically. Sure, I’ve read about all this stuff over the years, so what I’m saying is not new. What is different are my muscles, they have been trained to automatically react to braking or uneven traction without getting my pulse into the stratosphere.

Recently, I was approaching a left 90 degree corner. I realized that I was entering it too hot, I got on the binders and the rear wheel locked up. No biggie…except that I was fixated on looking forward, not where I needed to go. For a millisecond my body locked up, then everything slowed down and I overheard an internal conversation.

“See that turn point in your peripheral vision? It’s getting closer, you have to react.”
Wow…I am going fast, too fast to plow ahead and stop in time!
“I know, here comes that turn-in point…you’re going to blow past it.”
Shit. What do I do? (eyes finally coming off fixation mode and starting to look into the corner for the solution)
“Commit to the Turn! Dump the bars and roll on the throttle, Slick. You can do this!”

I had conjured up my personal lessons from Cornerspin
*Commit to the turn.
*Don’t wait for the bike to settle down and solve the problem for you.
*Look past the corner.
*Commit! Move your body, drop the bike into the turn, and
* Stay committed: roll on the gas.

I did it. The tires held and we hissed around the bend without mishap. I’ve been in this situation before, attempting to wrestle my body away from my mind when it’s target fixated. This corner was different. Once I put my eyes on the turn exit, my body took over fluidly. This was a great feeling. But what are you going to say to your riding buddy when you stop?

“Hey I did a really bone headed move back there, and I didn’t crash! Woo Hoo! Isn’t that cool?”

Exactly…who’s going to say that? These moments are personal, little souvenirs from the asphalt. I have to give the credit to Aaron and the Cornerspin instructors.

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