Dec 12, 2016

#137 Foot Out, Rider Down

All Rights Reserved © 2014 Thomas W. Day

A friend sent me a note this week, complaining about the godawful scooter and bike skills he witnessed near the UofM. He said, "When I was instructing, a favorite thing to yell at students (and sometimes regular folks) was 'pick up your feet'. For some reason that horrible habit has re-entered the consciousness of people that think they know how to ride. A few days ago I watched a young guy on a scooter (wearing a helmet, with shorts and flip flops) stick his left foot out as he arced through the intersection. This evening I watched a young hipster (flannel shirt, rolled up jeans with lace up boots) on a Sportster leave an intersection making a left turn with his boot out like he was at the Springfield Mile. Just a few blocks later, I watched an overweight middle age guy on some bloated metric cruiser wobbling away from a stop sign with his feet down as he tried to gain momentum and stability. Unfortunately he too was wearing flip flops. At that point I was ready to stick my head out and yell."

I'm not sure what to say about this. His comment was inspired by a rant on the site, after one of my weekend classes. I had a young man in the class who was convinced he was an experienced off-road motorcyclist. Every turn was accompanied by him sticking out his foot like he was planning on sliding it around a quarter-mile dirt track. There was nothing special about his speed and his steering input was more bicyclist tactic than dirt biker. I repeatedly told him that if he hooked a heel on the asphalt he might be looking at tearing up body parts from an ankle to a knee to a hip.

He kept saying, "it's a dirt biker habit."

I kept saying, "It's really just a bad habit."

So it went for the day. Apparently, so it is going for lots of riders everyday.

Honestly, like cager tailgating and throttle pumping I think it's a byproduct of kids who play video games deluding themselves into thinking they've done something real. When my wife sees someone flying through traffic, crawling up the ass of every car slowing down the fruitcake's progress, she says, "There goes another video game fool." What she means is that kids who grew up playing dumb crap like Grand Theft Auto or Forza Motorsport have been conned into thinking their "competence" in that moronic game translates to their ability as a car driver. Trust me, punk. It doesn't. Likewise, "success" with MXGP - The Official Motocross Video Game has no connection to actually riding a motorcycle off-road. Not one iota of a relationship. None. Nada. Here's where the real difference lives: if you crash your virtual cage or bike, you restart the game and try again. If you crash your real cage or, especially, bike, you might be dead or so mangled you'll wish you were dead. Video games are (wait for it) games. Racing is a sport. The difference is one is played by effortlessly twiddling your fingers while you stuff your face with Cheetos® and the other is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.

So, just because your virtual "rider" sticks his foot out for every slight change of direction that does not mean real motorcyclists need their feet in the air to turn a motorcycle. That is what the handlebars are for. The tripod method of turning depends on poor traction (so your foot will slide and the rear wheel will spin) and great footwear so your foot and ankle will provide that third leg of stability. Some of the fastest off-road riders reserved sticking a foot out for extreme situations where it was absolutely necessary because of the injury risk involved. Getting a picture of Roger DeCoster sticking a foot out took patience and DeCoster won a Gold Medal at the 1964 International Six Days Trial, was the 1964 Belgian Observed Trials National champ, collected five 500cc Motocross World Championships, and won 36 500cc record-setting Grand Prix races. Putting an unprotected foot out in a low speed, poorly-executed city street turn is just a demonstration of sorry cornering skills.
Anyone dumb enough to stick a flip-flop-shod-foot out toward concrete or asphalt deserves to be fitted for a pegleg. I am not exaggerating. That is one of the world's dumbest moves, right along with wearing shorts and a tee-shirt on a motorcycle. Why not ride naked? You might as well. It's not like that teeshirt is going to be any sort of protection when you are sliding down the road. Remember, you're the idiot who needs to poke a foot out to turn a perfectly competent motorcycle at walking speeds. It's not like anyone smart is going to put money on your riding skills. The house odds are that you are going down, hard, sometime soon. When you do, there is going to be a lot of skin left on the road and you will be making some plastic surgeon very happy (and rich) for a very long time; if you live.

This is when someone who loves you should be suggesting you get some training. Most likely, it might be a good time to get your motorcycle license, too. Since 20% of Minnesota's motorcycle fatalities are unlicensed "riders," (If you're not skilled enough to get a license, you're barely a glorified passenger.) it's a safe assumption that lots of those foot-turners are unlicensed and uneducated riders. Even better, if you want to be the kind of rider who really needs to stick a foot out in corners, sell your scooter or street bike, buy a dirt bike, and go racing. Believe it or not, being on a race track is a hell of a lot safer than riding poorly in traffic.

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