Slow speed skills

I love riding my motorcycle on early Sunday mornings. Sun starts to rise, fire up the bike and head for the hills. The weather is cool, the roads are mostly empty and quiet. It’s a wonderful time to ride.

This morning I hit a lot of back roads on the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, going around Dripping Springs and Wimberly. On my way back home I ended up in Buda so I opted to stop into Cabela’s. Why not? 🙂 Look for a S&W 640 (nope) and for .22 LR ammo (nope). Ah well. I did get to fondle a Ruger LCR. Comparing to a S&W 642 they had, the LCR was noticeably lighter than the 642. Specs say the LCR is 13.5 oz and the 642 is 15 oz, and you could certainly feel that difference. Of course, the LCR is .38 +P only (642 could do .357 Magnum). Size wise, they’re ultimately the same in terms of outer dimensions, but the LCR does “bulge” a bit more than the 642, e.g. the LCR’s trigger guard is a bit more rounded out than the 642. Nothing that should really affect carry or concealability, IMHO. I’d be curious to shoot an LCR side-by-side with a 642 and a 640 (all shooting the same loads) to see how they all felt. I wasn’t able to get a pinky on the LCR (I honestly can’t remember if I tried with the 642). Anyway, nice little diversion.

I arrived at Cabela’s before they opened. Instead of sitting around, I used it as an opportunity to practice. Cabela’s has a huge parking lot, including an area in the back for large RV’s, people hauling trailers, and the like. Just wide open space. So I took the opportunity to practice some motorcycle riding skills, especially slow speed skills. Things like turning tight circles left and right, figure 8’s, weaving, starting into a turn from a stop , and even some emergency braking. I actually need to pull out my Jerry “Motorman” Palladino “Ride Like a Pro” DVD again and review a bunch of those techniques and practice drills. I think I could make it a regular thing: if I visit Cabela’s, take 15 minutes in the back parking lot and do some drills.

I was doing fairly well, but for some reason I was having a tough time with counter-clockwise circles (turning to the left). I couldn’t get those circles as tight as clockwise/right circles. I’m not sure what it was, need to work at it more to try to figure it out. I can say that I love Palladino’s approach for slow speed, which is to keep the clutch in the friction zone, keep power to the rear wheel, and feather the rear brake. I recall from my Rider Safety Class that they only taught the friction zone, no rear brake technique. But it’s really the feathering of the rear brake that makes it all happen. You have so much more stability and control with the rear brake use.

Everyone likes to focus on high-speed riding skills, and certainly those are important. But slow speed skills are important too. If you haven’t checked out “Ride Like a Pro” you should. The skills he teaches are valuable and will make you a better rider at any speed. Ugh… this just sounded like a commercial… it wasn’t supposed to. I’m just a satisfied customer.

No competition for me, yet.

I mentioned before that I’ve wanted to get into competition shooting.

Austin Lone Star Practical Pistol Club has a steel match this Sunday, but I just got the email about it and it seems like it’s going to be a big shin-dig that’s kinda appropriate for folks that have been around for a while… not exactly the place for a n00b to show up to. I could, but I think I’ll wait a month and go when things are more subdued.

Instead, I’m going to try for a nice long motorcycle ride on Sunday morning.

It’s the perfect weekend for it.

Beautiful day for a ride

That rain that came through the area yesterday was brought by a strong cold front. This morning the temperatures were in the low 60’s and maybe even slightly lower out in the country. The skies were mostly cloudy, which helped to keep the early morning sun out of my eyes. Made for a cool but wonderful morning motorcycle ride.

The Texas Hill Country is gorgeous this time of year. Things are still green (not yet scorched by the summer heat and drought), seas of wildflowers in bloom. Rolling hills covered in lush foliage. Sure I could go 70 MPH but why? I’d miss all the beauty out there.

Bike was humming along pretty well. I noticed I was getting about 40 MPG which I am happy with, but I think the bike can do a little better. When I got home I leaned out the pilot mixture screws on both carburetors a quarter turn. We’ll see how that fares. Hopefully I can just tweak it there and don’t need to tear into the carbs to adjust things like the needle shims… much of my throttle is spent in the pilot circuit and I don’t want to lose much power in the needle circuit, so we’ll see what this tweak does. Such is the fun of a carb’ed bike. 🙂

Bottom line: I was just happy to ride. After not being able to ride to/from Houston yesterday, just being able to ride about 100 miles this morning was a welcome thing.

Another round of testing

Went to Houston today for another round of testing towards my 2nd degree black belt.

Today was not my day.

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Sunday ride

Early Sunday mornings are my favorite time for motorcycle riding. The roads are about as dead as you’ll see during the week, so there’s little pressure and little noise. It’s a great time to ride.

This morning the weather was great. Cool, breezy, fairly cloudy. Just had some rain so the roads are fairly clean. And with the rain we’ve been getting lately, everything is green. Wildflowers in bloom up and down the roadsides, lush green grass. It’s just a great time to cruise and enjoy what’s around you; be thankful for it too.

I prefer to ride alone as riding is my therapy, my escape, my time to decompress and unclutter my head. On Sunday mornings, it’s my personal time for commune with the greater thing(s) out there. When you roll through and experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of the world around you, you get reflective… you get thankful… you count your blessings and perhaps discover a few you didn’t realize you had. I haven’t been able to ride much latey and it reflects in the level of stress I’ve been feeling. While today’s ride was short, it was better than nothing and certainly welcome.

To boot, I stopped by Cabelas, picked up a couple things including .22 LR ammo (finally, someone has it back in stock!). I picked up 5 bricks — that’s over 2500 rounds, and I guess means I have an instant arsenal now, right? For anyone who wonders why someone would need that much ammo, well… come shooting with me sometime, you can use the Buck Mark, and you’ll see how quickly one runs through it. You might even have fun too, but don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. 🙂

Windy day

I wanted to go for a nice long motorcycle ride this morning. But again, we’re having heavy sustained winds and some wicked gusts. Just doesn’t make for the most enjoyable riding, so I’m opting to skip it.

In the spirit of making lemonade, I’ll see about going and flying a kite with the kids. I’m curious how the kite we bought at the Kite Festival can fly at higher altitudes… just couldn’t fly too much at the festival since it was so crowded.

In related windy day news, that momma duck and her ducklings are still coming around, however the day after my blog entry there were only 4 ducklings. 😩  Who knows. Hit by a car, taken by one of the many neighborhood cats, I’ve seen turtles in the pond take a duckling under. Such is life.

Motorcycle maintenance

Just motorcycle maintenance… no Zen. 🙂  Still, there’s something peaceful and relaxing about wrenching on your bike.

I gave my motorcycle its annual maintenance: oil change, oil filter change, gear oil change, lube cables, lube other moving parts, check and adjust valve clearance, clean and reoil the air filters, sync the carbs, adjust the idle, etc. etc. etc..

It’s a wonderful thing about living in Texas… there is no off-season for riding, but still, gotta take care of her. Didn’t get to ride as much the past year as I wanted to, but I’ll do my best to make up for it in the coming months.

Still got a few details to tend to, like figuring out what’s up with the passing lamps, and I’ll probably have them take care of repacking the steering bearings since I just don’t feel like dealing with it.

Hopefully I can go for a nice long ride on Sunday morning.

Keeping your eyes involved and on the level

I was at the dojang today and because we only had a few people and thus space to do so, we spent time working with staff. One thing I did was work on a staff form, Joong Bong Il Hyung (middle staff, 1st form). You can see a portion of the form here:

Notice at the beginning of that clip how the gentleman is doing 360Âș turns? I spent a lot of time on that today because I always have problems with that movement. I know the theory of what to do, like a figure skater that you need to turn your head all the way and focus your eyes on some point, keeping your head level, and so on, yet still it gives me trouble. However something hit me today that worked like a dream.

I took a cue from my motorcycle riding. On a motorcycle you look where you want to go. Where you look, that’s where you will go. So if you look down, you will go down. If you look through the turn, you’ll glide gracefully through the turn. Looking is very important to motorcycle riding. I noticed when I was turning that while I looked, I was only looking at the end points… that I start facing north (if you will) and look north, then I perform the 360Âș pivot and work to lock my eyes 360Âș around at the end point. But what am I doing with my eyes during the turn? Well, I wasn’t looking at much of anything… my eyes just went, wherever, I couldn’t tell you.

What I did was ensured that as I turned, my eyes stayed involved. No I didn’t still focus on any points during the turn, but your eyes still have to do something… they will still be looking, they will still be taking in whatever whirrs past them. So what I did was kept my eyes level the whole time. My eyes were semi-actively scanning and taking in everything on a plane parallel to the ground… kept it all level, kept my eyes involved. And lo… I was steady. I could pivot and rotate without any problem.

This has other implications too. Not just for empty hand martial arts skills (e.g. helping with 360Âș spin kicks, turning back kicks, etc.), but even for other tactical matters. I did notice while I was turning, while I wasn’t actively looking at anything, I was certain that I was taking in a great deal of visual information… I was far more aware of what was going on around me (duh!). Just goes to show that we’re not always aware of what we’re doing, and these little things can matter.

Apparently I’m doing ok

Was out all day today, thus the lack of blog entries.

One thing I did today was “beta test” some handgun drills/tests. For an idea of what I’m talking about, check here (and the PDF files linked to on that page); those aren’t what I shot today, but it gives you an idea. It’s handgun shooting drills, timed, to assess knowledge and skills.

I have to admit, when I was told I was going to be beta testing the drills I got nervous. I was going to be watched, judged, my performance evaluated. *gulp*  Furthermore, I would be shooting with two other gentlemen whose experience and skills are far more vast than mine, so I was just hit with this feeling of pressure and nerves. But a few seconds after that all washed over me I said to myself: “Don’t worry about it. This isn’t a contest. This isn’t to compare you against them or anyone but yourself. Just shoot the best that you can shoot. Take your time and get hits. Be accurate. Don’t rush and try to shoot fast, even if the other guys can and do shoot faster than you, else you will mess up and shoot poorly. So, just stop being anxious and just shoot your best.”  Just had to let the wave of nerves and apprehension wash over me, then be washed off me. 🙂

We went out to shoot. I kept my mind calm and didn’t worry about anything. I’d shoot however I’d shoot, and as long as I didn’t work myself up I’d shoot fine. Just focus on that front sight, good trigger press, and that’s all you can do.

We shot the tests. If I remember correctly, I scored a 97%. Was I surprised? A little. I didn’t think I’d shoot that well. What surprised me was that I held my own with the other guys. Not that this was a competition or a need of an ego stroke, but that I’m my own worst critic. I will be hard on myself in assessing my skills, abilities, and knowledge in anything. These guys have always told me I shoot well, and while I never thought they were blowing smoke up my skirt, I didn’t think I was good enough. They might say “You shot that well”, but I knew what mistakes I made, I knew I could do better. But now to see me shoot and hold my own with these guys, it did show me my skills aren’t as bad as I think they are. These guys gave me a neutral measuring stick, so to speak, that I could measure myself against instead of just always telling myself “no not good enough”.  Note: I do believe these gentlemen could still outshoot me in competition, don’t get me wrong. 

I also know that I did shoot well on my own accord. I just kept to the fundamentals, e.g. “cleardistinctfrontsight-press-cleardistinctfrontsight”. I did NOT look at the target at all while shooting (it’s a habit I’m working to break); I kept my eyes focused on that front sight. Good trigger presses. Stayed relaxed and calm, focused on nothing but myself and my shooting. I was aware of all of this as I was going through the drills, and that made me most pleased. I was especially pleased in that I did not care about how I was performing. All too often I get caught up in how I’m performing and that causes me to screw up the performance. I just shot and didn’t care what happened, at least until well after the shot was over. So that’s what surprised and pleased me most. It was me performing as I should perform, and it paid off. So I was happy. It wasn’t an ego stroke, but it was certainly a good gain of confidence.

In the end, I realized I’m not as bad as I thought I was. Sure I’m still going to be hard on myself, sure I’m still going to work to improve myself. But it was nice to have something that gave me a bit of a reality check, to put things in some sort of perspective.


In related news, I am very pleased with the modifications done by Springer Precision. The improved trigger certainly helped, but what helped most were the sights. There’s no question in my mind regarding today’s drills/tests that I would not have shot as well as I did if I still had those XS Sights on (that may be (part of) my problem… having those XS sights on as long as I did and my shooting sucking as much as it did, that may have brought my confidence and “belief in myself/skills” down). The bright red fiber optic just draws my eye to the front sight. The rear sight is clear and unobtrusive. The sight picture is just great. I do believe having better tools helped me. 

I’ve also been working on my grip, especially my left hand. I’m placing my left palm heel a bit higher on the grip/frame, which gets more of my left palm in contact with the frame and allows my left hand to have as far forward a cant as possible. I’m finding a “sweet spot” for where to place my left hand in terms of how it wraps around my right. And I am working with the Todd Jarrett “grip 20% harder” rule. I believe it’s making a difference in recoil management and thus ability to reacquire my sight picture. Heck, I shot some quasi-Bill drills (6 shot rapid fire strings) today and had no loss of left grip, no need to reset my grip, and good sight picture reacquisition and control. 

Bottom line for the day: I got a nice idea where my skills are, and that my practice and work is paying off. So with that, off to practice more.

And the sun was shining. The weather was great. I got about 120 miles of motorcycle riding in. A good day.