I am a 44 year old male with plenty of life experience, and it takes a lot to get me excited. I rode a Honda Interceptor in the early 90’s and rode approximately 10,000 miles. Eventually I laid that bike down on a technical curve in California and left motorcycling alone. The love of riding motorcycles however never left me and I said to myself, if I ever ride again, I am going to train myself to be the best rider I can be. With all of that said, I purchased a 2011 Kawasaki Connie in May of 2011. I took the basic Motor Cycle Safety Course and I was on my way. 5000 miles later, I got myself prepared for an advance class. I read up on a lot on motorcycle classes and Jim Ford’s Workshop appealed most for what I thought I needed. Curves have always made me uneasy, especially the memory of laying my first bike down. To make this long story short, I took Jim’s Canaan Vally two day workshop in September 2011. There is not enough verbs in my vocabulary to describe the feeling of confidence Jim taught me in two days of motorcycle riding. I use to ride my bike, Jim taught me how to fly my bike like a plane. I learned to become one with my bike by adjusting my posture and seating position. I learned proper positioning in the lanes and when I should change lanes. I learned confidence in the curves and crashing is something I no longer think about, especially when I apply the techniques that Jim taught me. I’m pretty new at motorcycling and the guys I rode with were experienced riders. We all dropped our jaws in amazement watching Jim ride through the twisties. During the ride through the great invisible roads, we picked up a local motorcyclist his Honda CBR and he followed us for quite some miles. We stopped at a gas station and the young guy approached us on and asked us, “Are you guys instructors?” He began to comment on how smooth we were riding. I was taken back by the comment. Jim has open my eyes to motorcycling and the adventure of riding well. This is a great course for the immediate rider and the advanced. I will be back for sure, Thanks Jim, you are the MAN!!!!! Jesse Spence Jr. Laurel, Maryland
I’ve been a student of motorcycle riding for several years now. I’ve read a lot of books and taken numerous parking-lot-oriented classes, but I’ve never had any real road-based training. Jim’s classroom is a continuous series of open, twisty roads, and he does a great job of equipping your mental toolbox with everything it needs to safely and proficiently negotiate them.
On my return home, I made a point to take roads locally renowned for being twisty and ones I’ve never felt comfortable riding. These roads were now straightforward and fun – in the rain.
Jim took a passion of mine that I spend a lot of time doing, and he showed me how to do it really well. It would have taken years for me to arrive at this place on my own. This was truly a transformational experience for me. Michael Wadsworth, Palmyra NY
By Mary Baker, Editor BMW Owners News
In 2006, I attended my first BMW MOA Rally in Burlington, Vermont, on my first BMW motorcycle, purchased in 2005. Despite years of motorcycling, I didn’t feel I was riding well. I was looking for some tips and thought I might find some in the seminars at the Rally. It was a safe place to garner information without providing any in return. After all, I’d done most everything in life on my own and I would conquer this beast too.
I’ll admit here and now that it was largely ego that kept me from acquiring the skills I needed. I took several MSF classes back in the early ‘90s when I’d first been licensed. A couple of bikes later, I thought my skills had progressed sufficiently to have confidence when I rode; yet, I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
Enter Jim Ford and his seminar on The Art of Riding Smooth. He explained the concept of power band and maximum torque; by keeping the bike in lower gears at higher RPMs, the engine would run better, you’d gain more control and you’d ride your motorcycle more smoothly. This was a concept I immediately tested and implemented. It worked exceptionally well for me. That was the only idea I took away from this seminar, but I did remember Jim Ford and the Rider’s Workshops he conducted through the Appalachian Mountains.
Since 2006, I’ve joined a number of BMW Charter Clubs up and down the east coast and ridden with more skilled riders than myself. This, I thought, was a clever way to steepen my learning curve. I soon learned it was also a way to get into trouble, which I did. I became absorbed in books on riding techniques and practiced these on solo rides–my preference. If no one was around, then no one would witness my various blunders. Finally, I started to reach a level of enjoyment and thereafter, riding became a central part of my life. While going through a particularly challenging life juncture, riding was my saving grace. It taught me all about staying in the moment. As I headed off on a ride, all worldly concerns disappeared.
Last summer I rode across the country from Virginia to attend the Rally in Redmond. At this point I’d put on many miles but was again sensing that I had hit a plateau. I attended the launch of the F800R in Los Angeles in December 2010 and rode the canyons of Malibu with photo-journalists in attendance. Many of these guys had rich and diverse backgrounds in the motorcycle industry and they could ride! I felt like a girl, when my aspirations have been to fit in like one of the guys and be a damn good rider. I vowed to find a way to bring my skills to a higher level.
It was no coincidence that Jim Ford and his Rider’s Workshop entered my life a second time. I had the opportunity to head east for one of his two-day workshops, which included technical riding on the mountainous and scenic roads of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. How better to ramp up my skills than with an instructor who had taught me a thing or two before? While I’m not always open to suggestions, I was eager to learn. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and so it was. There were four other riders, each of us coming to the workshop with different skill levels and experience. With energy, enthusiasm and as one who embraces the ride, Jim first met each of us where we were on the motorcycling continuum and then set to work polishing and inspiring us to become our own personal ideal.
In the short discourse of this article, I can’t begin to tell you all we learned. Suffice it to say that Jim was thorough in preparing us. Some of the highlights included; selecting invisible roads that have little or no traffic; positioning for alertness, to be seen and for the clearest view of what’s ahead; lane positioning; reading the road and vanishing point, sizing up the view; paying attention to your emotional state of being; downshifting, upshifting and carrying momentum; the power band–I hadn’t forgotten this lesson; smooth application of throttle and brakes; risk management, meeting challenges, accelerating out of harm’s way; riding smooth in curves: approaching, scrutinizing, entering, in the curve and exiting.
We’ve all heard portions of this information before. It was the manner in which Jim disseminated it, giving us mantras and making analogies to life–drawing us all in and engaging us with his discourse. Aside from a feeling that the workshop was abundantly Zen, it was also a tour of the Appalachians. Jim has a remarkable wealth of historical knowledge rivaled only by his amazing ability to navigate a complex network of invisible roads. He would ask us, “how continuously, how precisely, how thoughtfully can you place your bike on the pavement for safety and traction first, and then for the absolute clearest view of the vanishing point?” Then there would be a long silence as we climbed up a sweeping mountainous road or came upon a breathtaking, scenic vista.
As often happens with riders, our group of six bonded during the workshop; we shared the fine feeling of learning to ride well, experiencing the scenery and general beauty of the natural world. Jim’s gift is tapping into our potential and inspiring us to take our passion for the ride to a higher level of proficiency. We got our money’s worth. Each of us earned a newfound sense of accomplishment and confidence that we would take home from the workshop and use for the rest of our riding careers. We all agreed that we were enlightened with more usable riding instruction than we’d gotten elsewhere.
Jim says, “Our motorcycling journey is one of becoming. It’s to a lofty place called getting better, a destination we might never reach. But with regular practice, and the earnest intent of arriving, we all become more of ourselves as motorcyclists and surely become pretty damn good riders.”
That’s what this workshop is all about. Look toward your own experience with the Rider’s Workshop at www.ridersworkshop.com.
I’m writing to tell you what a great couple of days I had with you and four fellow riders over Memorial Day weekend for the Canaan Valley Rider’s Workshop. The instruction, roads and camaraderie were superb.
Until recently I fancied myself an experienced rider. I’ve had a motorcycle license for over 30 years and have ridden well over 100,000 miles. For five of those years motorcycles were my only means of transportation. I’ve ridden on-road and off, in rain, snow and red-clay mud. I’ve done my share of asphalt riding on back roads and Interstates alike, including cross-continent trips twice in the last five years—from Maryland to British Columbia via the TransCanada Highway and from Maryland to Oregon via U.S. Interstates. One long weekend in 2008 I rode 1,308 miles in 24 hours during a trip to Utah just to meet friends for pancakes. After breakfast and a nap I turned around and rode home.
Others have more impressive motorcycle resumes, but the previous (immodest) paragraph was designed to establish my bona fides. I’ve done a lot of riding over the past three decades; however, you’ll note that I qualified my bragging by starting that paragraph with the words “Until recently…” In this case “recently” began over Memorial Day weekend when I participated in your workshop and began learning methods to evolve from a rider with good instincts to a rider with good skills. As a result of your course, I have a much keener awareness of the terrain I’m riding across, how to take curves safely at speed and improved control through tactical use of shifting. I also have a better sense of the ergonomics of riding and how to ride all day without beating myself up. And that’s just a partial list of what I took away from your course.
There was another major advantage to riding with you, Jim, and that’s your mastery of blue highways. You call them “invisible roads.” Those twisty, bucolic byways that, while nearby, are a thousand miles from the Interstate frame of mind. I was truly unplugged from the stress that too often finds its way into my riding bliss when I’m cruising down one of our local highway racetracks oblivious to the natural beauty around us. I used to think I had to take the Interstate to find the “good riding,” but one of the most important lessons I learned in the Rider’s Workshop is that with some planning and a taste for adventure there’s plenty of good riding on the way to the “good riding.”
In the two-day course I only experienced one disappointment—our five participants all rode BMWs. I realize there’s a correlation between this type of advanced rider training and Beemer people. Many of us believe there’s a skill involved in being a safe, experienced rider, and skills can always be improved upon. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see more brand diversity in this training regimen. As noted above, I’ve been riding for over thirty years, and only the last three have been on a BMW. Let’s call it a process of evolution. Before that I rode a Suzuki, a Honda, a BSA Lightning, and two Harleys. I’m now a born-again BMW rider, but the larger lesson I took away from the Riders Workshop is that it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you ride. Anyone interested in taking his or her riding ability to a higher level of evolution and replacing instinct with skill is going to benefit a great deal from your workshop. Tim Love Crownsville, Maryland
I received the photos from the 5-6 Jun TRW. Thanks much. I’ve attached a few for your scrapbook. If you have emil for Ginger, Dan and Mark let me know please.
So, as i mentioned, I am very remiss to let you know how much I have enjoyed the workshops i have attended, so here we go.
The Riders Workshop in 5-6 June was my fourth, and was just as enjoyable as the first three, if not more. We traveled some familiar and favorite roads, discovered new roads, plus got in a stretch of the awesome Blue Ridge Parkway.
You might remember my first TRW was back in April, 2008 to Canaan Valley, WV. TRW number two came not long afterwards in Oct, 2008 and we were off to Natural Bridge, VA. In May, 2009 I was fortunate enough to join an advanced four day workshop, going through VA, WV and SE Ohio.
OK, so I have enjoyed what i consider four great workshops with terrific roads, beautiful country side and good fun, but what’s really made these great?
Well, lots of things; meeting new riders who share common interests (some of whom have become friends), as well as discovering and riding some beautiful back roads (several of which I’ve gone back on my own to re-ride) are high on the list. However, the main reason TRW has been great, at least in my opinion, is selfish. My riding skills have improved a quantum leap.
I had a lot of miles under my belt before my first TRW and wasn’t sure what I’d learn. My motivation to sign up for TRW was simply to discover new riding areas (I’m from the West Coast and wasn’t too familiar with the Eastern riding areas).
Jim, little did I know what i was getting myself into. You have such an uncanny ability to find super back roads, and from my very first TRW your knowledge of riding and your teaching style continues to raise my skill level to be a much smoother, faster and safer rider. My riding fun factor level is approaching an “11” to steal a reference from “This is Spinal Tap”.
I have enjoyed hearing your voice in my ear, regardless if your hints are directed towards me, or one of my follow TRW riders. Your calm and consistent reminders carry over whenever I hop on one of my bikes for a ride – long or short. These days I use your hints about looking to the vanishing point, gear selection, riding posture and using telephone poles to predict the next turn on every ride.
Jim, thanks so much for the outstanding training, opening my eyes to new levels of motorcycling enjoyment and friendship. I’ll be back for more.
Thank you for a terrific 2 days of riding instructions over Maryland, PA, VA and WV lost roads — 2 lanes or 1 and half lane roads without guard rails through beautiful country.
Your instruction methods were low key, yet very effective (confidence building) and most important not intimidating.
As the senior and slowest member of our group I thank you and my mates for not complaining about my slowness. Rather, they and you, encouraged me to drive correctly and not worry about who gets where first.
As I mentioned to you when I signed up for your lessons, I needed to learn to make 90 degree and sharper turns with a narrower turning radius. You succeeded beyond my wildest expectations as evidence by our last run Saturday evening down a road from what looked like a 3rd world country – a lane and a third at best without guard rails, and with plenty of gravel, down along a mountain side with nothing but switch backs. Your confidence in me was shown by not following me to pick up the pieces but allowing me to tackle this on my own and within my comfort level while you and the others went on ahead.
And, to think we all wanted to do this at the end of a very long day-8:30AM-7:30PM when we enthusiastically agreed to go 1 last run for what turned out to be another hour- a real tribute to you, Jim!
In closing, Jim, in my opinion your biking instructions, your concern for rider safety, your knowledge of these lost roads, your common sense and your overall manner in schooling those of us who realize we need on the job instruction makes it easy for me to recommend Rider’s Workshop to anyone who asks for my recommendation. I feel I have benefited greatly.
Thank you, with warm regards,
Harry B. Berryville, Virginia
Thanks again for a memorable weekend. First class accommodations, delicious meals ,and good conversation. I feel I am a better rider after attending, but more importantly you gave me the theories and techniques to become a really good rider. On my ride home,after having some time to digest what you taught us, I understand how keeping the mind and the body focused on the ride will lead to the precision needed to really ride well. I understand that these skills are not acquired easily, but with constant practice and execution, can be raised to a level that makes the ride more than I realized possible. You have raised the bar and I am now on a mission that will last as long as I am able to ride. I feel that I will be back to your workshop for more instruction. Thanks again, Sam Mead Princeton, IL
What can I possibly say that so many others have not already said? I suspect not too much. We have ridden together on numerous times, as student/teacher and, on other occasions, simply as friends. We’ve shared many good laughs together and many serious talks about a variety of subjects, often getting back to riding.
Thanks to the instruction given during the Riders Workshop, and the comments made while we have just ridden, my skill level has gone to a place most will never attain. Not that they can’t of course, it’s just that many either already think they are already expert, or have no interest in becoming better. I have taken the principals you teach and honed them until they are second nature. When we ride together I tuck in behind you and just follow that perfect line you always find.
Some ask what it has done for me? The answer is simple. First, I am a much safer rider today than before we met. To wit, I now where the road is going without always seeing it; I know where to put my eyes; I am confident and know where to put my bike at all times; I know how to “feel” the road for traction in all conditions; I know the gear to be in; I know how to use and I employ a trailing brake; I know how to find the great invisible roads; I shift smoother; and I ride with greater precision. I’m safer.
Second, it really is more fun when your speed has increased significantly and others just can’t understand how you can go that fast and make it look so easy. The better one becomes the more fun it is. As an example of this, I was riding home from out last excursion, through the some of the great twisty roads in Southeast Ohio, when I drove past a service station with two riders on BMW’s – one on a K12 GT and the other on an R12 RT. I was going to stop for fuel but decided to push on and stop in another 40 or 50 miles. The two guys tucked in nicely behind me and we became a nice tight unit out for an afternoon ride. Not too many miles ahead we were in some of the best curves Ohio has to offer, and that was the last I saw of them until I stopped for gas. They pulled up next to me and said “we saw you go by us on the big Adventure and decided we were going to have some fun and show you how real bikes handled in the corners. You embarrassed us, there was absolutely no way we could stick with you. Where did you learn to ride that fast?” Of course I gave them the brochure you had given me and told them to do themselves a favor and spend a couple of days with you. I then gave them a big smile and said “do you want to tag along until the next fun section and I drop you?” I rode on completely smiling, alone with my music and thoughts.
I am safer because I am better and I am better because I am safer. Thank you. You played a key role in this.
Ken D’Arcy Rochester, NY
“Was it worth it..You BET! I learned alot and went right out and bought a tool set for the bike (never again he says). I am sure that one day in the future I will really enjoy riding again. Before, I was blissful and carefree but probably not a good rider ( e.g. an accident-my fault would maybe indicate that). Now, I am not blissful or carefree, I study the road, I shift a million times, I am all over the road as the conditions vary, I seek the vanishing point…….scenery, carefree thoughts….sorry can’t multitask safe riding and bliss. One day, maybe the brain automates the things that I have to think about (kind of like golf) and I will ride and be focused but still be able to enjoy the rest of it. For right now, I like being safe and doing a trailing brake, just for the fun of it.”
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Ron Baroody with 48,000 experience from New York
Thanks for a terrific weekend of riding. I’ve been riding for 15 years, but I learned a ton …….. lane positions, vanishing points, corner entry, relaxing, soft hands, cornering with a fist full of torque, and slow riding/”U” turning tips. And my favorite new technique, the proper way to trail brake. It worked so well.
To talk about those things is one thing, but your workshop allowed us to practice them over and over on hundreds of miles of beautiful, curvy, hilly, unforgettable hidden roads of the Appalachians, while actively coaching us on the intercom. Your techniques are pretty much ingrained in my riding now, and thanks to you, I feel that I’m a much better rider. I practiced all the way home.
Every rider who is serious about wanting to ride well should take your course. I’ve spent my fair share of money on lots motorcycle stuff, but your workshop is by far, the best value. Your quips over the intercom are still fresh in my mind ……. “Local traffic doesn’t stay on local roads very long”. “When in doubt, downshift”. “Take a deep breath, relax and nice soft hands on the handle bar “rests”.
You are a gentleman, a genuinely nice guy and a great riding coach.. Thanks again for a great experience.
Tom Callahan with 100,000+ experience from Alexandria, Virginia
I can’t thank you enough for the Rider’s Workshop last weekend. I hope you don’t mind if I go on a bit here with a few specifics that you can share with others who are thinking about taking the course. Please also feel free to pass along my name and number to anyone who would like a “live” testimonial.
I am an experienced rider of 30-plus years and well over 100,000 miles. This is just some of what I learned or improved in your two-day workshop:
- Choosing gears more effectively for better control, confidence, and smoothness in curves
- Reading a road better, looking to the “vanishing point,” and taking in the full picture of the environment
- Using my GPS to anticipate curves beyond visual sight
- Using a trailing rear brake in a curve to enhance stability, particularly in descending terrain
- How to get a tactile feel, while riding at speed, for the traction of the road surface under varying weather and surface conditions
- How to up- and down-shift more smoothly
- How to ride with more precision, attention, and awareness
- How to identify and seek out the countless lightly trafficked “invisible roads” that are outstanding for motorcycle riding
But the whole of the workshop was much greater than the sum of these parts. The experience reinvigorated me and my love for riding. By taking your approach toward riding as an art with a focus on precision and smoothness, every road and curve, no matter how familiar, becomes new and fresh to me.
Ten years ago, I paid about $700 for an Aerostich riding suit (they are $847 today). The suit was a good investment, because it makes riding safer and more enjoyable in varying weather conditions. For about the same money, your workshop is an even better investment in riding safety and enjoyment. I know that it will pay me dividends for many years to come.
I look forward to riding with you again soon.
With best regards,
Craig Titus 90,000 miles of experience from Southern Maryland
Wow! My second workshop was even better than the first, and I had thought that one tons o’ fun and tremendously beneficial (and make no mistake, it was indeed). However, what I know after my second workshop—2 years and 20+K miles of twisties after my first—is I had quite a bit more to learn.
Though I went this time ready to challenge myself, I was shocked by how much improved I was and how effortless the change seemed. Jim quickly recognized what skills I needed, and simply showed me a better, more efficient way of riding the mountain twisties as well as invisible roads. He showed me what true mastery is of a motorcycle and that there is yet far more for me to learn. For now, there are skills I need to continue practice to make my own.
That said, my riding has changed already. Gone is the mental fatigue I was experiencing due to allowing myself to become somewhat lazy about my visual habits and posture. Gone are the “Oops” moments I had actually grown accustom to by over-riding my skill set by over-focusing on speed (the habit of grabbing handfuls of throttle for a “cheap thrill”). Gone are former worries and concerns about gravel and poor traction. I can now say without question that I have grown significantly as a rider. I have re-embraced the efficiency, power, and thrill of riding smooth, which is already increasing the joy my riding experience.
For me, Riding Smooth is about riding with grace; maintaining a heightened awareness, striving for precision of action, and seamlessly responding to conditions of every moment of every ride. I’m grateful for Jim’s course and am certain I will attend again next year (if only one of the one day courses).
The learning experience aside, it was spectacularly enjoyable weekend. Although I know and have before ridden many of the roads we traveled on during this workshop (as I live in the area), the experience was completely different; at once less intense on the body and mind, and more intense to the memory and pleasing to the soul. In a word … Zen.