Friday, September 4, 2009

Problem placement

March 23, 2009 - Monday

I spent the weekend on the road. The Beastie and I covered 800 km, and though I can hardly say they were my best drives, they weren't wasted time because every kilometer is practice.
On Saturday I hit the Black Forest with Fabian and Roger, driving, among others, the curves where last September that blue Peugeot ran me off the road. I don't know if driving that stretch made me nervous or just unconcentrated, but I really didn't drive well. The roads were fine. It was dry, fairly warm, and there was almost no traffic. Conditions were pretty much ideal, except for the occasional pile of rocks in the road after a curve. Still, as I said, I drove like a bloody n00b. Something about left curves still scares me, and after I reach a certain angle of leaning in, I cannot get myself to lay the bike any lower. It's ridiculous.
When we stopped in Todtmoos for a drink, Roger, after I brought the subject up, told me I was coming into the curves wrong; that I had nice wide approaches and I should make use of that. In theory I knew it; it helped to hear someone actually say it though because that pinpointed the problem.
The guys from United never critique or give advice, though I could use some at this point. Still, I consider it a great privilege that I get to tag along with them at all. They've got decades of driving and hundreds of thousands of kilometers under their belts; these guys drive the way I hope I will someday. By watching them and learning from their style, I'll get it in time. (The best thing to do would be to stick behind Fabian and do exactly what he does for a stretch of the Forest, but he's still way too fast for me.) Most people take their bikes out in nice weather on stretches they've driven many times before. Remo, Fabian, Roger and Octavian drive year around, over all the mountains within 2000 km or farther, and always know how far to bend the laws of physics and police. Driving with them is like gymkhana with Ken Block or hunting with Hathcock. I get to learn from the experts.
I went home and thought of nothing but badly-driven curves until the next day. I'd planned to go into the office on Sunday to catch up on the work I didn't get done while I was sick. But Sunday ended up being sunnier and warmer than Saturday, and I was so bugged by how badly I drove the day before that I determined to hit the Black Forest again and try it at my own speed.
Florian called up Selim and asked him if he wanted to go with me. (It's more fun to take on long tours with someone else along. Also safer.)
So we drove the boring highway out to Frick, a town in Aargau, and crossed the border into Germany at Stein am Rhein.
I planned to drive Saturday's route backwards, which we did for a while, until I took a wrong turn and ended up staying pretty much in the lower regions of the forest. Except for our run over Feldberg, heading back to Basel, which was stupid too because to get to Basel from Feldberg you drive the Autobahn again for far to long.
This is why I prefer not to lead a tour.
Anyway, Selim rather enjoyed the roads. They're good for racing machines with the long, broad turns. We basically drove the sissy stretch of the Black Forest, where every nice-weather driver goes on a sunny day. There was rather more traffic than on Saturday, but the roads were fine. So there was no excuse for the fact that I didn't drive any better on Sunday than I did on Saturday.
We'd left Germany and were heading home over the Benken, a small, somewhat steep Argovian pass, when a little something finally clicked. I realized where the problem started.
I thought I was following the bend of the curve with my eye. (You have to. Wherever you're looking, that's where you're gonna drive.)What I was actually doing was glancing at the curve and then getting destracted by traffic, imaginings of cars rounding the corner in my lane, the road in front of my wheel, the scenery... You name it. Anything but the outer edge of the bend.
Then it's no wonder I always end up at the middle line (we're talking left curves here, remember) and have to correct and slow down and basically do everything wrong.
In other words, I need to retrain myself to stay focussed on the outer edge and forget any distractions, physical and mental.
Fabian told me at the first dinner after the crash that "you gotta think it could happen any time. Just drive."
It actually didn't make much sense to me at the time. Constantly having the possibility of another crash hanging over my head wasn't what I wanted. But now I get it. If you worry about it, it's that much more likely to happen. I worry about getting shot down in every left curve, and I end up that much closer to the middle line and interefering with a car in the opposite lane. Drive the curve right; if it happens, it happens, but if you driving properly you'll usually have a chance to get away. Cuss and drive on, as Roger said.

Typical female. Go and write a dozen paragraphs on a problem that shouldn't be one and hope that by formulating it out in words I'll get closer to the solution. I'm gonna drive home over the Albis in a couple hours; I hope I see results.
Four weeks left till Corsica and I have so much left to improve.

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