Yesterday I spent the afternoon with some pros working on my skills.
I also gave my brake lever a cooooool new custom bend…and ordered a new one at the Honda shop. I got off lucky though, another rider decided he needed a new wind shield and used gravity a tad more robustly than I. When I had my gravity attack it wasn’t a big surprise because I’ve learned one thing while leaned over at 3 to 7 mile per hour. There’s this thing I call “The Death Spiral”. It’s a point where as the bike leans and slows, instead of throttling up and out we tend to roll off, slow, and fall.
Go do couple of low speed figure 8s, then just start doing full lock 360s and 540s…you’ll see what I mean. There’s this magnetic vortex in the middle of your circle that pulls you in like Odysseus to a Siren…you….just….seem….drawn…in.
It’s like a reverse Fibonacci Spiral. You know–that increasing series of numbers that, when correctly graphed looks like:
I had been feeling it all day but I didn’t really see it until another rider went down in the “Snowman” (a series of 540 rotations of decreasing radius). You just suddenly start losing speed and then things just spiral in from there. To stop a death spiral you have to commit what seems to be an unnatural act: use the damn throttle. You power out of the spiral, by applying power you can stand that bike up and break the sequence.
Power works. By throttling up and feathering the clutch you get control back. The unfortunate natural reaction is to power down which means less momentum, less control and, finally, gravity takes over and you get a brand new brake lever/fairing/scar out of it.
This spiral, the collapse into gravity is very, very real and is one of the principles of riding that is often ignored. Once things start going bad we allow a cascade to happen that drags us faster and faster to voidable disaster. Read that carefully, avoidable disaster. There’s an almost universal feeling that motorcyclists get when things are going wrong. Even accomplished motorcyclists will surrender control and allow a situation to spiral in. I believe part of this is due to the fatalist vision that “Everybody crashes”. We pre-program ourselves with the idea that we will fall ingrained into our vision as an unavoidable outcome.
Myself? In my head, after falling, I said, “Knew that was going to happen today.” A resignation to fatalism. Which it shouldn’t have been. I should have thought, “Power, throttle, clutch, needed more…just let that thing suck me into the ground…gotta fight.”
As riders we shouldn’t surrender to fate. When you feel that “Knew that was going to happen” turn it around and make it “HOW did that happen AND what can I do to avoid that in the future?” To quote The Clash’s Joe Strummer: “The future is unwritten.” May I add, “Keep it that way. Don’t stop breathing. It ain’t over until you decide it is.”