Even when the riding is good, don’t discount the advantages of using non-traditional training techniques. Most of us know that taking an MSF class, attending an off-road school, or advanced training, like Lee Park’s Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic (TotalControlTraining. net), is a good idea. However, using cross training can sometimes reap huge benefits.
Cross training, or the use of non-motorcycling activities, can be used to develop and improve riding skills. This involves learning things off the bike that could never be learned on one. The cross training method is frequently a part of the program when I work with all levels of riders, including those in law enforcement and U.S. Special Forces motorcycle training for tactical environments. Lee Parks has the only other school I know of that utilizes cross training drills together with on-bike skills to improve riding ability.
To become really GREAT riders we must remain diverse, not limiting ourselves to a single focus style. A street rider can only learn so much on the street, a racer on the track, and an off-road rider on the trails, etc. The majority of the students who come through our school are street riders, so I often find myself looking for comparisons to help explain why, as street riders, they should consider adding adventure or dual-sport bikes to their stables, and then attend training such as our multi-day adventure camp (AdvCamp.com).
The issue is getting riders to open up and look at things from new perspectives. For example, one of our greatest fears is falling down on sand, oil, painted lines… or some other type of slippery goo. What happens in an off-road environment is that our brains learn how to identify slip more quickly, arming us with better reactions when it happens on a paved surface. This, coupled with an understanding of weight placement for traction and other related dynamics, better prepares us for situations where slip is not expected or wanted. If you are reading this article it is likely you already know that as soon as you leave the pavement slipping and sliding is just part of the fun, and doesn’t need to be a fear-inducing experience.
Besides motorcycle training there are great benefits to be had from cross training. Let’s use football as a comparison; even if you’re not a football fan most people have heard of football players taking ballet lessons to improve footwork. I have never seen ballet on a football field but it obviously helps the game or they wouldn’t do it. Why would motorcycling be any different? When a street rider takes to the dirt they gain benefits like increased confidence on loose surfaces, becoming more comfortable moving their body mass on a bike, improved balance, mastery of the clutch, throttle, brakes, and better low speed techniques. On the same note the adventure rider can gain similar benefits from attending track-based training.
Let’s simplify our goals into two categories; mental and physical. I am going to leave the realm of traditional training and offer some ideas for cross training. One example is snowboarding. Snowboarding was not a natural activity for me at first and it often scares the @#$$%% out of me just looking down a hill. There is something about strapping one’s feet to a board and then hurling down an ice-covered cliff that just doesn’t seem natural! Snowboarding relies on two skills that are also very critical to riding a motorcycle, vision and keeping your body relaxed when you’re stressed. How vision is used in snowboarding is similar to how you use it on the bike, by keeping your eyes on the horizon, and always looking where you want to go… look down and you eat snow! The second skill is keeping your body relaxed; this is not a physical skill as much as it is a mental one. If you can train your brain to keep your body relaxed, even when you feel fear or are stressed, you are way ahead of the curve.
It is difficult to train your mind and body what to do safely while riding, yet in a situation like snowboarding, kickboxing, or skydiving, you can learn to control your fears without putting yourself into high risk situations. The real jump occurs when you make the cognitive connection between one activity and another. Once you make the connection you can apply the skill of maintaining visual control while remaining relaxed in fear-generating situations. The key is to learn how to stay physically relaxed even though you are stressed or scared.
We train to overcome survival instincts (that often get us into trouble) like tensing up our bodies when we sense danger. It is up to you to cognitively connect these activities to your skills as a motorcyclist. Your brain doesn’t care if you are on a motorcycle or not, but it is up to you make the connection between cross training and riding, so you can carry the learning over to the bike.