If you're thinking of a part for your bike, think about suspension. But, if you really want control of your bike get Total Control.
Total Control is a book written by Lee Parks and published by Motorbooks International. I saw this book in the store and purchased it. I'd never heard of the book but I'd heard of Mr. Parks. Lee was the editor of Motorcycle Consumer news for five years. Prior to that he finished second in the 1994 AMA 125 Grand Prix Championship and after his stint with MCN he formed a team and won the 2001 Wera Lightweight Endurance Championship on a 1999 Suzuki SV 650. Lee still races a part time schedule.
Okay, maybe you want to be a racer and maybe not. This book is not written just for racers but if you would like to become one the book will get you prepared to make the next step to track riding. Lee, after years of requests, decided to fill a niche. He designed a class for the riders that had gone through the MSF course and experienced rider course of the MSF program but were not ready to get on a track. Parks put together a course called the advanced riding clinic. Over years of running the clinic the author slowly honed a series of exercises, which have been compiled in this book. This book is much different from other books such as those by the motorcycle safety foundation or some of the other nationally known riding instructors. The chapter with ten steps to cornering will give you the most complete understanding of how to turn possible, short of a physics class.
I recently spent three hours on the phone with the author. I wanted to get some more detail on a few things and, hopefully, have him provide insight on some items the book didn't cover. First, I wanted to know what topic was toughest to teach a rider or a racer. Lee said it depends on the individual, which is why it's important to have personalized instruction. You have to get people to change their mindset about how they approach riding and why they should or should not perform actions in one way or another. Anything done incorrectly causes multiple problems. Doing things correctly will resolve multiple problems. He went on to say that lots of people fight the bike and doing so causes fatigue, which leads to mental errors, which leads to more physical errors.
I went on to ask him if it was better to go through a racing school and go straight to racing or if it was better to do track days and, after spending a lot of time on the track, venture into racing at a later date. He insisted it's better to do track days long before racing. His reasoning was that racing doesn't allow riders to practice their techniques. Track days allow riders to focus on improving their riding skills without the pressure of trying to finish well in the race. He also said you generally get what you pay for in riding instruction. Most track days will offer instruction but provide little if any. So, research the track organizations thoroughly. Parks added that you should plan which items you want to work on during your track day. Take someone with you who can watch you, all day, and help you with notes or feedback after each riding session.
As with anything, lee emphasized that repetition helps to make an activity less taxing on your conscious mind. His example was walking. The author states that for most people walking is an unconscious activity, or, an activity that requires so little thought that the mind is free to concentrate on other things. Riding must be practiced extensively and you should only practice one item at the time until it becomes second nature. Once comfort is achieved with one area of riding another may be practiced. This allows the mind to be open to instantaneous events rather than being preoccupied with events that have not occurred. It allows the rider to be much more relaxed.
I wanted to know if he had any tips for cold weather riders like myself, because he's a native of Illinois. His tip? Lower tire pressures thee to five pounds below manufacturers' recommendation for street riding. Lower pressures cause the tires to flex more, the temperature to increase faster, and higher temperatures to be sustained during cooler weather. That is not to say tires will get hot in the winter or, that tire pressure should be allowed to stay low year round. Tire pressures must be monitored weekly and manufacturers' tire pressures should be followed during warmer months.
Lee is a funny guy, some stuff that was the funniest I wouldn't print. I did, however, want to know which motorcycle magazine editor was the fastest because he knows them all. In true diplomatic form he was honest enough to say that it would probably depend on the bike. Each editor has a favourite bike and has spent more time on some bikes than others resulting in a high degree of comfort on a particular bike or class of bike. Mr. Parks said he prefers small displacement bikes because he isn't worried about constantly breaking the tire loose in a turn or on acceleration.
One final item I'll pass on is the advice he would give fledgling racers. While he is working on an upcoming book, which will address racing as a separate topic, he gave the following pointers.
1. Buy a used racing bike. All the work has been done.
2. Make sure the bike is working correctly as far as the carburetion, transmission, and suspension settings. Even if you have to pay someone to help you, you'll be miles ahead.
3. Have realistic expectations. No matter how good you think you are on the street, it will all change at the track. Be consistent. Don't try to make monumental improvements at one time.
4. Don't skimp on riding gear. The inexpensive gear is going to destruct and you don't want to destruct with it. The most expensive gear is cheaper than the least expensive skin graft or bone pinning.
Lee does his advanced riding clinics across the country. If you are interested in having him conduct one in your area you can contact him through his website. His book, as well as other products to assist riders, may be found at http://www.leeparksdesign.com
Bill Taborn Jr.