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Knowing Your Limits

Are you ready to buy some lumber, build a couple of ramps, zip up your leathers, fire up your engine, twist the throttle and jump a motorcycle the Grand Canyon? After all, on May 20, 1999 Robbie Knievel proved it could be done. It was arguably the most famous of the 20 world records he has set so far during his career featuring more than 250 jumps. All it would take for you to match Robbie’s feat is to tune your bike very carefully and make sure you hit the ramp straight at exactly the proper speed.

I suspect most of you will pass on this opportunity to join Robbie’s profession regardless of how strong the fantasy might be for you. You probably realize you don’t know how to design the proper ramps nor calculate the exact speed to obtain the necessary trajectory that leads to a flawless jump. You likely recognize that you don’t have the necessary experience to engineer and execute stunt successfully and you’re almost certainly not willing to deal with the results of failure in this endeavor.

"You won’t accept the challenge to jump the canyon because you know you would be in  way over your head."

In short, you know your limitations. You won’t accept the challenge to jump the canyon because you know you would be in something that is in all probability way over your head. So you’ve made the wise choice of staying within your limits when it comes to canyon jumping, but what about in your everyday riding? Do you know what your limits are on the road? Do you stay within those limits?

Do you know the limitations of your motorcycle? If you have to stop quickly, how much distance does it take to bring your bike to a complete stop? How rapidly does it respond to a twist of the throttle? How quickly does it respond to a press on the handlebars to make it swerve? How tightly will it turn without dragging parts and scraping the road? How do these limitations change if you pack a week’s worth of gear on your ride or add a passenger to the pillion?

Do you understand the limits of your riding environment? How does riding in the rain or on wet roads change your limits? What about riding at night? How does worn concrete or new asphalt affect your riding? How does heavy traffic influence your riding? What additional challenges does riding alone in the wide-open spaces of back country roads present? These limits also change as we ride.

What about your own limitations? How easily do you recognize potential problems? How quickly do you decide your best course of action to avoid or minimize the situation? How aggressively do you scan what’s going on around you to identify where these predicaments might be developing? How finely tuned are your physical skills, like maximum braking, advanced cornering and swerving? How do your limits change as the day wears on, or as you are roasting in the midday sun or freezing in the early morning frost?

Robbie obviously has a higher set of limits due to experience and advanced engineering. Responsible riders understand the limits of their bike, their environment and themselves and ride within those limits to manage and reduce the risks they face when they ride. Staying within your limits will enhance your enjoyment and keep you out of the canyon.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!