Entering its 14th season, The Rider’s Workshop is a two-day paved-road motorcycling experience for intermediate to advanced riders who want to take their sport-touring motorcycling skills to the next level.
Regardless what level you are presently on, the “next level” requires carving an evermore deliberate line. On the racetrack, the line is the fastest path around the track. In the mountains, the line is the safest path along the road. A genuinely safe line requires emphasis on anticipation, precision, and smoothness.
With a background in aviation, Workshop founder, Jim Ford first slows the rider down. Then, using Bluetooth communication and roadside “chalk talk,” Jim describes how to read a road using visual cues and sight techniques (acquired in the cockpit) to enable the rider to “see” the road as never before.
With these new visual skills, Jim then dismantles, describes and demonstrates specific riding skills required to “fly” a motorcycle along these mountain roads—that is, to ride a motorcycle with confident, effortless, natural speed. Jim discusses smooth shifting technique, trail braking, throttle/speed control. Jim also discusses posture, which begins with the feet and ends with the hands, soft hands being the goal.
Be real. If a rider wants to ride well, he has to be confident in curves. To this end, a rider must go where the curves are, namely, the Appalachian/Blue Ridge Mountains. That’s right! These East Coast mountains have the smoothest first, second and third gear curves found anywhere in the United States. Here, it is possible to ride many tens of miles in first, second and third gears alone. Speaking of alone, you are also literally alone. There is no traffic!
You just have to know how to put the roads together!
Not only is Jim a seasoned rider coach, he is also an author and master guide. He knows the land, its history, and nearly all the great motorcycle roads throughout these mountains. Your Workshop is not only educational, it’s a superb mountain tour as well.
In the Workshop, a rider practices rider skills until he gets them right, then continues to practice until he cannot get them wrong! This is a mental, emotional and spiritual moment when you shift from “conscious competence” to touching on “unconscious competence” or “flow.” It’s that magical place where time and distance compress into a prolonged “moment” along a beautiful mountain road. There’s nothing else in motorsports like it!
Here’s what one rider recently wrote about his experience in The Rider’s Workshop:
I started riding in 1974 and have been an active and avid student of the art and science of motorcycling ever since. I have been teaching Beginning and Advanced MSF courses since 1979. I have read just about all of the standard works explaining the techniques for riding “proficiency, safety, “smoothness, and excellence.”
I have evaluated and dispensed MSF and state licensing tests for probably thousands of beginning and self-professed “advanced” riders. However, never had anyone evaluate ME! How am I doing? Where am I making mistakes? Where could I make style or safety improvements? For decades those questions have plagued me. Sure, I thought about doing a “track day.” But, I wanted to ride my own bike and making the necessary modifications like taping my lights and security-wiring various critical nuts and bolts didn’t seem attractive. Riding at high speed around a sterile groomed course (though educational according to riding buddies) didn’t sound like my cup of tea, either.
Alas, I found just what I was looking for – “The Rider’s Workshop” developed and presented by Jim Ford. I have now been on two of them. Jim brings together everything I was looking for: Breathtaking venues led by a master guide, roads chosen to present a wide variety of technical challenges with little or no traffic, great camaraderie, and most important, the opportunity to be coached via radio and earphones in real-time!
Tiger Woods, like all serious professional in their given field, have personal coaches. If you fly, the FAA requires that you take periodic flights with an instructor to demonstrate competence and ensure current knowledge. Motorcycling is no less serious. If you love to ride, what are you waiting for? Just do it! You’ll absolutely love it. It will forever add to your motorcycling knowledge, enjoyment and skill. Think of it as an investment in yourself.
And … who knows, it just may add years to your life as well.
Mike Dale, Maryland