written for Countyline Publications and printed in Wisconsin and Illinois Biker Information Guide – second quarter 2010 by Dale Lumovic, President, DRILL Spring must be on its way.  The snow around the neighborhood has started to melt at an increasingly shocking pace. The International Motorcycle Show, which we so looked forward to in November, has passed and everyone keeps commenting how they’re itching to ride. Yup, spring must be close by. Yesterday, the sun was bright and the temperature was much warmer than it’s been for months around Chicago, and a lot of friends were commenting how they were looking forward to the forecasted rain, to wash the residual salt from the roads and avoid having the dust eat away at the metallic finishes on their bikes. I can understand that urge clearly. There is a trigger that goes off in my head as soon as the International Motorcycle Show comes to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois every February. Up to that point, I would mention to folks, how I couldn’t wait for the riding season to arrive. In fact,  it was more of a half hearted comment than how I would feel while attending the show or immediately after its passing. At that time I become like a smoker that’s been forced to go cold turkey and forgot to apply their nicotine patch for four months! That’s the time where I need to go to the garage to work on the bikes even though a real ride may be weeks away.  My wife looks upon this ritual, shaking her head in disbelief, but she’s come to understand that at this time of the year this kind of behavior is expected.  There’s no avoiding it, the time has come to get ready to ride.  That means you need to prepare yourself as much just as you prepared your bike for winter storage.  Getting it ready for the riding season by changing the fluids, checking your tires for dry rot and adjusting for proper pressure.  What’s meant by that is that you need to get your riding skills that have been dormant for most of the winter season ready to go for the coming saddle time. We tend to think that because we’ve ridden for years, there’s nothing I need to do other than remove the bike cover, fill up the tank with fuel and hit the road. Oh, no my friends, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You would benefit in spades if you take a couple of pre-emptive steps to kicking off the season, like signing up for several riding schools offered by MSF; Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and/or other reputable local enterprises. Schools like MSF’s beginner and experienced riders clinics, ICS (Illinois Council of Safety), various riders and ladies only clinics, Chicago’s Motorcycle Riding School,  and  many others. I’ve attended some of these clinics at the beginning of the season to brush up on my skills and persuade many members of our club; DRILL – Ducati Riders of Illinois to attend. In the same way that you would warm up before hitting the diamond for a baseball game or the grid-iron for a football game, it’s wise to wake up those muscles and skills that have been dormant for months. The reason I attend is that every year I learn something new about a skill I was lacking, which I thought was already flawless. You can’t see yourself the way a knowledgeable instructor can see what you’re doing wrong or right and offer some critique or praise to improve your riding skills. Early in the season we tend to be over taken by the intoxicating spring weather and become a bit relaxed. This is the perfect environment for a careless auto or truck pilot to perhaps put us in a compromised situation because of our relaxed state. What many of these clinics teach us is not only to be better riders in general, but to react in the presence of a dangerous environment. Have you ever found yourself in a situation on your bike where a car or truck veered into your path?  Instead of reacting by taking a quick change in direction, you froze and locked up your front tire and hopefully were able to ride away from it without harm to you or your bike. I have done that too, and thankfully the classes I have taken have given me the skills to react with the proper response. The nice thing about these classes is that the drills they practice are done at low speed. That will become routine as the speed increases on the road and highway once you’ve completed the school. Another advantage is that most are relatively inexpensive; MSF only requires that you make a minimum donation to their foundation. What’s most important is what you learn in a day with the instructors and other riders allowing you to be much better prepared for what you may encounter on a day’s ride and get you home safely to do it again another day. Throughout the year we hear about many of our fellow riders that are injured or killed by careless drivers or even their own lack of experience that put them in increasingly dangerous situations. Two years ago at an MSF class at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn one rider attended the MSF experienced rider class on a custom chopper! It was one of the most impressive motorcycling sights I have ever experienced. It doesn’t matter what you ride, full dresser, chopper, touring rig, sport bike. You can benefit by preparing yourself and your bike for the riding season not only mechanically but physically and mentally also. Even if you feel that you’re too talented to benefit from a day at one of the many riding schools, please consider taking one if even for argument sake. I guarantee you will be glad you did and leave the school stronger and more prepared for what the roads ahead have to offer. Be safe and I’ll see you on the road.
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