Low-Speed Control: A Highly Overrated Measure of Your Riding Skills

written by David Mixson

Saying you’re a great rider because you’re good at low-speed control is like saying you’re a great basketball player because you can dribble.

It doesn’t work that way.

When I was in the 7th grade, I tried out for the basketball team. When I compared myself to the other boys there, I felt confident I would make the team because I was the best at shooting free throws. 

I was devastated when the coaches told me I didn’t make the team.  

A Complete Package

The players who made the team were good at shooting, dribbling, rebounding, and playing defense. I was good at shooting.

It took me years to gain the wisdom that being good at shooting didn’t mean I was good at playing basketball.

It’s the same with motorcycles. Being good at low-speed control isn’t good enough. Understanding the importance of using your front brake and that locking up your rear tire is what triggers most lowside and highside crashes is just as critical.

The Right Metrics

Riding to Alaska without crashing doesn’t mean you’re a good rider, nor does completing an Iron Butt (or two), wearing a full face helmet, or riding a bike with loud pipes.

There’s more to it than that.

Being a good rider starts with the mindset of becoming an even better rider, builds with head knowledge, and finishes with solid execution. This journey almost always encompasses a willingness to be different from your buddies and to never stop learning.

I’m not saying being good at low-speed control is a waste of time. I’m simply making the point that becoming a great rider takes a suite of tools. In the 7th grade, I was good at shooting free throws, which didn’t mean I was an all-around good player.

Harry Hurt Flashback

I’m reminded of what Harry Hurt said in an interview years after the Hurt Report was first published—that even the most highly trained police motorcycle officers (no doubt great at low-speed control) often made the same mistakes as novices—including overusing (locking up) their rear tire in emergency stops.1

Sometimes, I think we’re missing the boat when it comes to rider education. It’s far more critical to understand how to tighten a turn using countersteering than it is to be able to maneuver your bike around tiny orange cones.

* A portion of this article is an excerpt from my book Motorcycle Hacks.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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