When asked, the majority of motorcyclists consider themselves “good” riders. The problem is that we suck at measuring our own abilities. This behavior is common enough that psych experts gave it a name. The Dunning-Kruger effect describes how average people suffer from the illusion that their ability is much greater than it really is.
To help determine whether a rider suffers from this delusion we need to define our terms. Most people say a good rider is one who displays impressive control skills on the racetrack or in the canyons, can perform a lengthy standup wheelie, or can precisely maneuver an 800-pound motorcycle within tight confines. Sure, these highly developed physical abilities deserve to be recognized, but being a good rider also requires good judgment, sharp visual skills, and effective survival strategies. The best riders also have a humble attitude that allows them to accurately evaluate their abilities.
Good riders rarely experience close calls. This isn’t because they’re lucky but because they don’t let bad things happen to them. They understand that drivers have a hard time seeing motorcycles, so they constantly utilize dynamic lane positioning and other effective strategies to make themselves more visible in traffic.
These riders have a well-developed sixth sense that foresees hazards before they materialize. Developing this sense isn’t that hard, but it requires a high level of alertness to spot the sometimes-subtle clues that warn of an unfolding situation. And when a problem does occur, they resist blaming others because they know that most mishaps can be avoided through their own actions.
Good riders know the limits of their ability, the environment, and their bike and ride within those limits. They never blast through busy areas or enter a corner faster than they can safely negotiate it. They have the ability to place their bike precisely where they want it at anytime. This precision allows them to corner faster than most riders, but they choose to enter curves at a speed that ensures a healthy margin for error. They know that if they enter a turn a bit slower than necessary, they can always get on the gas sooner.
Besides these primary skills, the best riders also strive to brake and accelerate smoothly to preserve available traction and stabilize the bike’s chassis. They’ve learned the language of handing dynamics and tire loading, using them to understand what the bike and tires are saying about the limits of control and traction.
The best riders are eager to learn and practice new techniques and continually hone existing techniques. They seek advice and training from known reliable sources because they understand that there is always more to learn, no matter how long they’ve been riding. Smart riders know that seat time and experience alone don’t make them better if all they’re doing is repeating mistakes and bad habits. Someone might have ridden for 20 years, but too often these riders have one year of experience, repeated 20 times.
No matter how good a rider you think you are, it’s likely you have at least a few skills that could use some work. You probably also have some bad habits, dangerous attitudes, and inaccurate perceptions about riding that can develop over time without you knowing it. And unless you’re actively improving your braking and cornering skills, you’re probably not as good as you think at controlling your bike near the limit.
This description doesn’t constitute a complete list of good rider characteristics, but you can be sure that the best riders possess each of these traits. Do you?