by Ken Condon
By Ben Goebel
“Being in the zone”, “In the groove”, “Feeling the flow”. For our divine application, these are all word constructions alluding to the highest level of ‘oneness’ between the interaction of motorcycle, rider and road. In his 1990 book Flow, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘being in the zone’ as an optimal experience. Is this why we ride? Driving my truck is very rarely an optimal experience. Achieving competence in this zone is a lofty goal, but one that definitely has its rewards when applied to riding well. If you are going to set goals, you might as well aim high!
With seat time commuting, road racing, dirt, touring author Ken Condon has been heavily involved with motorcycles for a long time. He has instructed for the MSF for over a decade, teaching beginning and advanced riders. He is also a track day coach, again teaching beginning and advanced riders. Many constant motorcycle readers may recognize him as the writer who replaced Motorcycle safety guru David Hough and his monthly “Proficient Motorcycling” safety/skills column in Motorcycle Consumer News magazine.
The book is broken down into three main sections. “The Confident Rider” looks at what exemplifies a confident rider. It also examines confidence-sapping threats to the skilled rider, be it internal and external. “Mental Skill Development-Taking Command of the Environment” discusses many risk-reducing strategies, high level visual acuity, and ways to develop a refined sense for available traction. “Physical Skill Development-Mastering Motorcycle Control”, introduces actual riding techniques for the actual braking, acceleration, and cornering precision control inputs that will lead you on the path of motorcycle control nirvana.
The Mental stuff is very close to what the MSF offers, but with much more elaboration. The riding techniques are a mix of MSF rudiments and higher-level techniques taught in performance riding courses. Mr. Condon’s extensive teaching experience with a wide variety of skill levels and different curriculums has lead to a kind of distillation. Certain givens emerge, certain truths become apparent. These are the things he writes about. Is it ground breaking? Not really-most of the material has been discussed before in other sources. What this book is though, is, cohesive. A very nice addition is the included companion DVD. This DVD helps to illustrate visually, the concepts and skill development exercises in the book. Not the most exciting DVD in the world, but it is very functional.
A word of note: Like most how-to-ride books, even the most accurately chosen words often fail to get the complex concepts and processes across in a meaningful, comprehensible manner. Because of this, Condon chooses his words in the book and in the DVD, VERY carefully. Every sentence within is painstakingly constructed to be as accurate, comprehensible and concise as possible. This type of writing is like reading philosophy or a highly technical treatise. It makes a demand on the reader. You must actively, both read and process each sentence and apply it to the myriad of scenarios to be found on the street and the resultant ramifications of each action. Like playing a musical instrument, you cannot take a pill and be able to play. Effort will be involved.
Want to be a better rider? Work diligently towards mastery. Like the saying goes, The More you Know, the Better it gets.
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