Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School - Staying Smooth And Relaxed

Text: Kevin Schwantz, Lance Holst • Photography: Kevin Schwantz, Lance Holst

Like the lessons we've talked about in previous Riding Skills Series stories, remaining relaxed and smooth on a motorcycle is something that sounds easy in theory but proves difficult in practice. Being relaxed is the body's natural state but when we're riding a motorcycle there are any number of distractions and concerns that cause us to tense up.

Remember that smoothness is the foundation on which all the other skills depend. To ride a motorcycle effectively, we need to be smooth and to be smooth we need to be relaxed. Being mentally relaxed helps relax us physically, so let's start with the mental aspect.

Give It Time
The most effective way to stay mentally relaxed is to give yourself the time to process information, make decisions and execute the proper inputs. The key to this goes back to the first RSS lesson: "Looking Ahead." By keeping our vision two to six seconds ahead of the bike, we give ourselves the time to keep from being rushed (and hence tensing up). We must also keep our concentration focused ahead of the bike at all times. It takes only a momentary distraction, from "What do I need at the grocery store?" to "How did I mess up that last corner so badly?" to get behind where the motorcycle is on the road and behind in your thinking. As long as the motorcycle is moving forward, you need to keep focusing ahead with your eyes and your mind.

Think Smooth
Everything we do on the motorcycle, from the way we scan with our eyes—rather than constantly shifting our focus from point to point—to the inputs we make with our body, hands and feet, needs to be smooth. Without smoothness, we cannot approach the limits of the motorcycle. Once in motion, our bike is balanced on two tire-contact patches smaller than the size of your palms. Considering that, the need to be smooth should be obvious.

There are a lot of reference to flicking a motorcycle into a turn, which can be taken the wrong way. Flicking, or turning a bike quickly, still requires smoothness. Though it might not be apparent from watching the best racers on a track, data acquisition systems show that the inputs made on even the fastest laps are smooth and controlled. Think about your input on the bars as you would the rowing of a boat. You start at rest, steadily build motion, then you end at rest. It's not a quick slap or shove that some people mistakenly infer from the term flicking. It's a controlled motion with the force and speed being determined by the type of corner you're entering.

Look ahead,

think ahead and

think smooth.