Sunday, October 26, 2014


Did I mention that there's two main things that we learn in riding schools?  I probably did.  After learning about the racing line, we learn about downshifting.

Because that's pretty much the only technical manoeuvre that we have to learn.  Everything else we already know, we just have to perfect.  That's the same for cars, mind you.  If you can downshift, you can pilot.  If you can't, you can't.

When upshifting, we go to a situation where the engine will turn slower for a given wheel speed.  The gearbox does that transition, usually going from a 1st gear ratio where the engine turns many times before the wheel do, to a high one where they're close to the same speed.

As we normally change gear, our speed doesn't change.  So when upshifting the engine speed must go down.   And that's exactly what happen, whether you're aware of it or not.  The engine, disconnected from the wheels and by the clutch and being choked by a close throttle, quickly loose speed.  The average time it takes to shift a gear is the average time it takes for the engine to loose about 1,000 RPM, which is about what is usually needed.  So it all works out mostly transparently.

But when downshifting, it's the other way around. Because we're going one gear lower, the engine has to turn faster.  Otherwise, when the clutch disengage, the adjustment will be unsmooth.  The bike will jerk as the wheel try to speed the engine up, which acts as a brake, and often traction is lost and the rear wheel jumps around.  If you ride, do you sometimes do that on purpose?  I found myself botching my downshifts recently, to get a bit of fun from the bouncing rear… street driving can be so damn boring sometimes :(

So, to downshift we « blip » the throttle.  That means giving it a shot of gas, quickly opening and closing it.  So that while we're clutched and the engine speed is going down, we send it up a bit.  About a 2,000 RPM bit.  Because it's naturally loosing about one thousand, and we want it about a thousand higher.  So we clutch in, change the gear with the left foot, blip the throttle, and smoothly let go of the clutch to ease the transition and erase any little speed mismatch.

On a bike it's fun because we're braking with the right fingers, and have to give it gas with the right hand.  Grab the lever with just the palm and thumb, and precisely turn it while keeping a precise and constant force on the brake lever.  And the harder we're braking, the stronger the force pushing us forward on the handles and levers.  And on track we have to lean while doing all that.  So it's hard at first, and with enough practice it can become second nature.  Like tying shoes or writing our name.

In cars also, but it's hairier to start with.   Because the three controls involved are pedals, and they all have to be used at the same time.  First, you're braking with your right foot.   Then you clutch in with your left foot.  And your right foot have to give a precise push to the gas pedal without changing the pressure on the brake pedal.  I suggest practicing a bit on a PC simulator with good controls if you want to get it right, since it can make your ride a bit chaotic on your first tries :-P

Isn't that like meditation?  That thing that not everybody does, that we can learn and practice and that makes turns so much easier to handle?  That let us smoothly decelerate for turns, and be in the right gear to exit into the following straight?  And after learning meditation, the rest is mostly perfecting the things we already do?  And having more energy for them, and more fun doing them?   Sound like a good analogy to make.

It seem like it's very hard to do, and it requires efforts to get it, and it eventually becomes second nature.  We just always keep control.  Keep that clear and focused mind that's so efficient.  And consciously enjoy the moments, feel them and treasure them.  Every situation being clearer and easier to deal with.  Emotions being accepted and lived right away, communications being kept clear, and generally being playful and open.  Accepting every moment, tasting it, and letting it go.

And I think that's nirvana.   Not being afraid of the stuff in the news, not being stressed by our bank account, not distracted thinking about insignificant things, not accepting an unpleasant state of mind, just being present.  Open and true.  Yes, I think it's a good analogy.  We learned what we needed to get here, and we may have everything more or less settled, but to go faster that's the thing to add.  To have more control and more fun.   Not to keep fighting the controls to keep things going, but let things flow smoothly and enjoy the show.   To really taste that bite or to really connect with that person.

Isn't it funny that high level athletes have to meditate to reach their peak but that most of us don't even really hear about it?  Like it's a secret for super people?   We don't need it to survive, I know, but we may very well need it to live.  I think it should be taught to every kid and done by everybody.   You learn to blip the bike throttle and “Heel and toe” the car pedals to get your license.

Wouldn't there be less accidents then?  Have you ever seen happy people fight?   Did an insult ever come out of a smile?  Maybe we'd need less laws then?   And less people to check on us and give us fines?   Ok, enough utopia, back to the program.

If you haven't tried it, borrow a book or maybe try some audio guided meditation.  Or ask someone you know who does it.  Give it a shot, I guarantee you'll love it.

Enjoy your day!

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