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Getting Hard

Getting hard has many connotations or meanings. Steel hardens by treating it with heat. Water becomes hard by mixing with minerals or by turning to ice as it cools. Cookies get hard and turn into little flat rocks from sitting out in the open air. Concrete sets and solidifies through the chemical process of hydration. Gardens, lawns and fields grow hard as they dry out due to a lack of rain over an extended period.

People harden, too. Their muscles and joints become stiff as they age. Even their skin loses some of its elasticity over time. As people get set in their ways, their minds, and sometimes their hearts, harden as well. They may be more comfortable with how they do things and grow to be less tolerant of new ideas. Time and routine can be hardeners of the soul.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden." Could the same thing be said of your riding skills? Have you ridden for so long with the same set of skills that bad habits have snuck into your riding style? Has rigor mortis slowly crept into your approach to riding?

Your immediate answer obviously is "No!" "No!" and "Hell No!" But does this very answer contradict itself? Does this answer really indicate a hardening of your attitudes? Have you experienced what you consider to be more than your share of close calls?

Motorcycling should be a continuous learning activity. You can never know too much about riding and street strategies and you can never have too many skills in your arsenal to meet the challenges you might face on the road.

If you learned on your own or from friends who taught themselves, there may be a few things you didn't learn like using your brakes fully without locking your wheels. Good cornering skills, including the value of appropriate visual control, are often unthought-of of concepts. Even if you learned to ride by completing a basic rider course, you may not be aware of some of the more sophisticated skills such as traction management and advanced braking and cornering techniques.

Obviously formal classes are one way to improve and hone your riding skills, but there are also many other ways to become a better rider. Track days focus on cornering skills. Police training courses for civilians can improve your overall control and enhance your street riding abilities. There are numerous books and videos available to help you get better. Internet motorcycle forums and discussing riding skills with other riders can alert you to tips and techniques that you can add to your riding repertoire.

Regardless of how you gain new skills and ideas, they can only be useful if they are fully integrated into your riding style and that requires purposeful practice to both gain proficiency and permanence of these concepts. Through repetition, maybe in a parking lot initially, the skills you continue to acquire can help your riding become even more enjoyable.

It's up to you to change, renew, and rejuvenate yourself so you don't harden or meet some other hardened object.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!