It doesn’t increase your bike’s displacement, make it look fast when sitting in front of Starbucks, or cut pounds from its weight. It doesn’t increase horsepower, or armour you in carbon fiber, Kevlar or aluminum. Still, this product will likely make you ride faster and safer than any other piece of equipment you buy.
It is a book. Sport Riding Techniques by author Nick Ienatsch to be precise. For your mind it is like taking a little pill that will enable you to ride smarter, faster and safer on the road, but without any nasty side-effects or explaining after-parties to the police.
Sport Riding Techniques could easily be a curriculum for a high-end track day, no coincidence as Nick Ienatsch is an instructor at Freddie Spencer’s High Performance Riding School. But if repeated track days aren’t an option, then Sport Riding Techniques is a close second for your motorcycle learning curve, and like a good curriculum your teacher has a goal; improving your street riding.
Like any self-improvement book, reaching your goals will require some buy-in. You will have to acknowledge that riding skills are hard-pressed to keep pace with motorcycle engineering and sheer Newtonian potency, and that as riders we are the weakest link in the entire man-machine equation.
That done you are free to focus on techniques that will make you a faster, smoother, and safer rider. Yes, faster. Speed and safety are not always inversely related (within reason) in Ienatsch’s eyes. To reach your goal, the book verses you in a number of crucial riding techniques from the basics of body position, braking and steering, through to complex maneuvers. You are unlikely to find a better explanation of trail braking and throttle blipping in print.
As we read, a few myths beyond straight-line prowess are debunked and street riding is de-stigmatized. Prepare to be shocked, but racers do use their rear brake, albeit with finesse and subtly. Even ABS and linked braking are touched on and, from the aspect of street riding, deemed to be effective. Reading this you feel the empathic relief/told-you-so of BMW and VFR owners the world over.
Less popularly covered topics like the riding environment and urban rider survival skills receive the same treatment. The fine art of cornering is broken down to an easy to apply conceptual “equation” that takes into account the sliding scale of road quality, conditions, and lean angle. It certainly has you rethinking the sudden urge to pass on the inside line.
It’s not all jargon-free text and theory though. And while it’s brilliant that Sport Riding Techniques gives its strategies practical context, discusses the bike rider dynamics, and lay-physics of each, what really makes the book sing are the photos and illustrations. Rich, high-quality images and clear illustrations flesh out this learning experience – it’s like a concert of Triumph triples for the eyes.
But be prepared, this is hands-on learning; by the end of the first chapter you will be pining for a large parking lot. A really large one. With good run-offs. Where you can get up to 80mph and really learn to emergency stop. Practice exercises are given for each technique, meant to tune your integration with the bike and refine your ability to ride quickly, efficiently and safely. These exercises practically beg you to leave tire marks in the Home Depot parking lot (“All in the name of safety… Officer!”) or the track.
It’s not a guide to a track-free life, then, but to Sport Riding Techniques the track is a learning tool, a safe place, a place to improve the effectiveness of your riding. And if anyone knows how to train using this tool, Nick Ienatsch should. A twice over AMA National Championship winner, rider of 29 years, and veteran motorcycle journalist, the author has credentials. Having teachers such as Keith Code, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer behind him probably helps; through the book one feels the presence of Nick’s mentors as he channels their experience and philosophies along with his own. But Ienatsch has done something many of the accredited haven’t: contributed to the philosophy of the sport, first by co-authoring the “Pace” and now with Sport Riding Techniques.
There is an idealistic difference between this book and some of its cohorts. Sport Riding Techniques acknowledges the track but actively discourages the testosteroneronics of track-style riding on the street. This is done not punitively, but through explanation, example and exercises to demonstrate your bike’s effective limits on the street. And how close to those limits hanging-off in the local school zone is.
There are a couple minor faults: Pullouts for the practice exercises would make them easier to manage come riding season when you’ve found your nirvana training area. The writing style is clear but the occasional anecdote is repeated, though it’s forgivable, as they do tend to drive their points home.
Sport Riding Techniques is one of the most informative instructional coffee-table photo books you’re likely to run across. Expect to read this book in five passes: text, sidebars, practice exercises, as a reference book, and on bitter cold and frozen off-season days just for the photos. Those are the days you’ll hate it!
Sport Riding Techniques: How to Develop Real World Skills for Speed, Safety and Confidence on the Street and Track.
Author: Nick Ienatsch
Price: $24.95 USD