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Old 01-27-2002, 11:14 PM   #1
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The Pace (Part II)

Nick Ienatsch's Pace Philosophy

Reprinted w/o permission from 06/93 Sport Rider


The street is not the track - It's a place to Pace

Two weeks go a rider died when he and his bike tumbled off a cliff paralleling our favorite road. No gravel in the lane, no oncoming car pushing him wide, no ice. The guy screwed up. Rider error. Too much enthusiasm with too little skill, and this fatality wasn't the first on this road this year. As with most single-bike accidents, the rider entered the corner at a speed his brain told him was too fast, stood the bike up and nailed the rear brake. Goodbye.

On the racetrack the rider would have tumbled into the hay bales, visited the ambulance for a strip of gauze and headed back to the pits to straighten his handlebars and think about his mistake. But let's get one thing perfectly clear: the street is not the racetrack. Using it as such will shorten your riding career and keep you from discovering the Pace. The Pace is far from street racing - and a lot more fun.

The Pace places the motorcycle in its proper role as the controlled vehicle, not the controlling vehicle. Too many riders of sport bikes become baggage when the throttle gets twisted - the ensuing speed is so overwhelming they are carried along in the rush. The Pace ignores outright speed and can be as much fun on a Ninja 250 as on a ZX-11, emphasizing rider skill over right-wrist bravado. A fool can twist the grip, but a fool has no idea how to stop or turn. Learning to stop will save your life; learning to turn will enrich it. What feels better than banking a motorcycle over into a corner?

The mechanics of turning a motorcycle involve pushing and/or pulling on the handlebars; while this isn't new information for most sport riders, realize that the force at the handlebar affects the motorcycle's rate of turn-in. Shove hard on the bars, and the bike snaps over; gently push the bars, and the bike lazily banks in. Different corners require different techniques, but as you begin to think about lines, late entrances and late apexes, turning your bike at the exact moment and reaching he precise lean angle will require firm, forceful inputs ant the handlebars. If you take less time to turn your motorcycle, you can use that time to brake more effectively or run deeper into the corner, affording yourself more time to judge the corner and a better look at any hidden surprises. It's important to look as far into the corner as possible and remember the adage, "You go where you look."


The number-one survival skill, after mastering emergency braking, is setting your corner-entrance speed early, or as Kenny Roberts says, "Slow in, fast out." Street riders may get away with rushing into 99 out of 100 corners, but that last one will have gravel, mud or a trespassing car. Setting entrance speed early will allow you to adjust your speed and cornering line, giving you every opportunity to handle the surprise.

We've all rushed into a corner too fast and experienced not just the terror but the lack of control when trying to herd the bike into the bend. If you're fighting the brakes and trying to turn the bike, any surprise will be impossible to deal with. Setting your entrance speed early and looking into the corner allows you to determine what type of corner you're facing. Does the radius decrease? Is the turn off-camber? Is there an embankment that may have contributed some dirt to the corner?

Racers talk constantly about late braking, yet that technique is used only to pass for position during a race, not to turn a quicker lap time. Hard braking blurs the ability to judge cornering speed accurately, and most racers who rely too heavily on the brakes find themselves passed at the corner exits because they scrubbed off too much cornering speed. Additionally, braking late often forces you to trail the brakes or turn the motorcycle while still braking. While light trail braking is an excellent and useful technique to master, understand that your front tire has only a certain amount of traction to give.

If you use a majority of the front tire's traction for braking and then ask it to provide maximum cornering traction as well, a typical low-side crash will result. Also consider that your motorcycle won't steer as well with the fork fully compressed under braking. If you're constantly fighting the motorcycle while turning, it may be because you're braking too far into the corner. All these problems can be eliminated by setting your entrance speed early, an important component of running the Pace.

Since you aren't hammering the brakes at every corner entrance, your enjoyment of pure cornering will increase tremendously. You'll relish the feeling of snapping your bike into the corner and opening the throttle as early as possible. Racers talk about getting the drive started, and that's just as important on the street. Notice how the motorcycle settles down and simply works better when the throttle is open? Use a smooth, light touch on the throttle and try to get the bike driving as soon as possible in the corner, even before the apex, the tightest point of the corner. If you find yourself on the throttle ridiculously early, it's an indication you can increase your entrance speed slightly be releasing the brakes earlier.

As you sweep past the apex, you can begin to stand the bike up out of the corner. This is best done by smoothly accelerating, which will help stand the bike up. As the rear tire comes off full lean, it puts more rubber on the road, and the forces previously used for cornering traction can be converted to acceleration traction. The throttle can be rolled open as the bike stands up.

This magazine won't tell you how fast is safe; we will tell you how to go fast safely. How fast you go is your decision, but it's one that requires reflection and commitment. High speed on an empty four-lane freeway is against the law, but it's fairly safe. Fifty-five miles per hour in a canyon may be legal, but it may also be dangerous. Get together with your friends and talk about speed. Set a reasonable maximum and stick to it. Done right, the Pace is addicting without high straightaway speeds.

The group I ride with couldn't care less about outright speed between corners; any gomer can twist a throttle. If you routinely go 100 mph, we hope you routinely practice emergency stops from that speed. Keep in mind outright speed will earn a ticket that is tough to fight and painful to pay; cruising the easy straight stuff doesn't attract as much attention from the authorities and sets your speed perfectly for the next sweeper.


Straights are the time to reset the ranks. The leader needs to set a pace that won't bunch up the followers, especially while leaving a stop sign or passing a car on a two-lane road. The leader must use the throttle hard to get around the car and give the rest of the group room to make the pass, yet he or she can't speed blindly along and earn a ticket for the whole group. With sane speeds on the straights, the gaps can be adjusted easily; the bikes should be spaced about two seconds apart for maximum visibility of surface hazards.

It's the group aspect of the Pace I enjoy most, watching the bikes in front of me click into a corner like a row of dominoes, or looking in my mirror as my friends slip through the same set of corners I just emerged from.

Because there's a leader and a set of rules to follow, the competitive aspect of sport riding is eliminated and that removes a tremendous amount of pressure from a young rider's ego - or even an old rider's ego. We've all felt the tug of racing while riding with friends or strangers, but the Pace takes that away and saves it for where it belongs: the racetrack. The racetrack is where you prove your speed and take chances to best your friends and rivals.

I've spend a considerable amount of time writing about the Pace (see Motorcyclist, Nov. '91) for several reasons, not the least of which being the fun I've had researching it (continuous and ongoing). But I have motivations that aren't so fun. I got scared a few years ago when Senator Danforth decided to save us from ourselves by trying to ban superbikes, soon followed by insurance companies blacklisting a variety of sport bikes. I've seen Mulholland Highway shut down because riders insisted on racing (and crashing) over a short section of it. I've seen heavy police patrols on roads that riders insist on throwing themselves off of. I've heard the term "murder-cycles" a dozen times too many. When we consider the abilities of a modern sport bike, it becomes clear that rider techniques is sorely lacking.

The Pace emphasizes intelligent, rational riding techniques that ignore racetrack heroics without sacrificing fun. The skills needed to excel on the racetrack make up the basic precepts of the Pace, excluding the mind-numbing speeds and leaving the substantially larger margin for error needed to allow for unknowns and immovable objects. Our sport faces unwanted legislation from outsiders, but a bit of throttle management from within will guarantee our future.


Set cornering speed early. Blow the entrance and you'll never recover.

Look down the road Maintaining a high visual horizon will reduce perceived speed and help you avoid panic situations.

Steer the bike quickly. There's a reason Wayne Rainey works out - turning a fast-moving motorcycle takes muscle.

Use your brakes smoothly but firmly Get on and then off the brakes; don't drag 'em.

Get the throttle on early Starting the drive settles the chassis, especially through a bumpy corner.

Never cross the centerline except to pass Crossing the centerline in a corner is an instant ticket and an admittance that you can't really steer your bike. In racing terms, your lane is your course; staying right of the line adds a significant challenge to most roads and is mandatory for sport riding's future.

Don't crowd the centerline Always expect an oncoming car with two wheels in your lane.

Don't hang off in the corners or tuck in on the straights Sitting sedately on the bike looks safer and reduces unwanted attention. It also provides a built-in safety margin.

When leading, ride for the group Good verbal communication is augmented with hand signals and turn signals; change direction and speed smoothly.

When following, ride with the group If you can't follow a leader, don't expect anyone to follow you when you're setting the pace.

Nick Ienatsch Sport Rider Magazine June 1993
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Old 06-25-2002, 11:17 PM   #2
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Very good read, thank you!
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Old 07-09-2002, 07:28 PM   #3
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yes very good read. thanks
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Old 10-05-2002, 12:07 AM   #4
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Old 10-05-2002, 12:52 PM   #5
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Good stuff Steve..Nick knows what he is talking er..writing about..
A must read for the young and new to our sport!..

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Old 10-09-2002, 11:41 AM   #6
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Definitely a must read for newbies. Speaking from recent personal experience, newbies should read this before they do too many street rides. I did exactly what Nick says are the follies of street riding (opening the throttle on the straight, braking too late before a turn, ALMOST going over the guardrail on Hwy 9 ) and laid the bike down.

I would suggest placing this article in the newbies forum and state that it's a MUST READ. Had I read it prior to learning how to hang off the bike in the turns (and making it through 99 out of 100 turns), I likely wouldn't have gone down, and had to deal with a broken thumb and repairs to the bike.

I know there's others out there with a love for speed, but without the skills/knowledge/experience to handle the speed that a sportbike provides.
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Old 11-11-2002, 10:04 PM   #7
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Steve you're awesome for taking the time to put these posts up. I know this is already old but I'm just starting and 'catching up' on all the good reads and this stuff is definitely good for the young and inexperienced, even though we think we know how to ride simply because we learned how twist the throttle on the straights only to park it going into the corners. Keep up the awesome job and I look forward to seeing you out on the road, slow but alive :-D
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Old 11-12-2002, 12:21 AM   #8
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Thanks for the props, Hyperlite - I have some cool stuff planned for these and other gems that have been posted. Watch for them in the next few weeks!
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Old 01-26-2003, 01:21 PM   #9
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Steve, that's excellent advise and should be read by all riders/Barfers!

I found myself leading my first Barf ride yesterday and I can't tell you how much it is was appreciated by the riders behind when I set a good pace, setup comfortable corner entry speeds, maintained consistent lines, and regrouped with full stops or just slowed down the pace at regular intervals so no one was left behind or felt pressured to ride beyond their limits.

Let's focus on keeping future Barf rides safe and fun for all!
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Old 07-06-2003, 07:21 PM   #10
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Can you also include the weather conditions?

hwy 35, 9 and some of the local hwys gets very foggy in some spots and even tough we know the route, it is very dangerous to ride under the fogs.what to do? dont ride?

Also, on hwy 35, 9 and hwy 1 early mornings and after 3pm in the afternoons have some traffic of dear and bambis crossing the hwys looking for food, when I least expected...... what to do? go over them ? ..just kidding.....anyways, I almost crashed the other day due to damn animal jumping in front of me.......

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Old 08-12-2003, 07:03 PM   #11
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This was very good info. I have been riding my whole life (I'm #* now) I have recently gotten back into sportbike riden (Mostly Been on the dirt with my 4 boys and my Harley. Yes I go both ways...Motorcycley speaking) This article brought back a lot of things that I haven't thought of in a couple of years. I grew up riding Skyline, 9 & 84 and drove a tow truck when I was younger up there and have seen some pretty bad things. This is the kind of stuff I like to see on the forums.
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Old 11-18-2003, 01:50 PM   #12
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good stuff, i have much to learn
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Old 01-20-2004, 01:39 AM   #13
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A different perspective and 'way'

I whole-heartedly agree with 95 percent of The Pace. Especially the emphasis on getting the competition (and ego discovery) done on the track.

Over the last 15 years, I've done my share of crashing and have seen my share of unnecessary tragedies and near misses due to riders getting 'sucked in' or overzealous. So much so that I am writing a book called, The Sport Rider's Guide to Living and Survival. So I too have spent a fair number of years pondering the deeper lessons and developing a 'way'.

From the perspective of those I ride with (mostly AFM racers and track junkies like myself), there are a few problems with The Pace.

Firstly, the assignment of a designated leader comes to mind. On street rides, there are myriad factors that can limit the leader's ability to set a good pace. You wouldn't want a leader to go too slowly through the corners for obvious reasons. The riders behind would quickly bunch up, and they would have to take the corners much more slowly in order to keep a safe buffer. This could kill a ride--or worse yet lead to frustration or unconscious reactions from the thwarted riders behind. The leader's chosen pace and consistency could become questionable due to: poor self-evaluation of their own skills; not knowing the relative skill of other riders present; fatigue; relative road conditions/familiarity; their bike's capabilities; tires; and a host of other variables.

I'm sure a Pace enthusiast would point out that a hand signal could be given to call for a change of leadership--either by the current leader or by someone behind who is bored to tears with the current Pace. But I submit that the same bruised or swollen egos could surface in this instance as surely as in non-Pace settings. Any change in leadership will require each rider involved in the change to master their ego and be attentive to the other rider's reaction. That being so, the alternative 'way' the group I ride with tends to choose is to let the fastest cornering rider *at the time* spontaneously lead and set the pace. The slow-it-in-the-straights re-grouping strategy still applies, and passing etiquette becomes paramount. But it makes for a much less tedious 'way' to ride. The possible risks of ruffled feathers still need to be addressed, but there are ways to deal with this that don't include the designated leader approach. Of course, knowing which riders are familiar with the route (and more importantly, which aren't) is crucial here as always.

The underlying issue that the Pace doesn't directly address is that one rider's six-tenths may be another's ten-tenths. Knowing and responding to this disparity is a shared responsibility... but is ultimately up to each and every rider to face on a personal level. There are many tell-tale signs when riders approach their ten-tenths--but not always! Really the best thing that each and every rider can do is to know their own limitations and try to surmise the other riders' limitations and attitude so they can back off, etc. when warranted.

Secondly, the Pace discourages good performance riding form. It is understandable that hanging-off and tucking-in *could* mean a rider is 'pushing too hard', but this is not always so. It is also equally understandable that hanging-off could look too aggressive to the general public. But consider this. Learning and *maintaining* superb cornering skill requires constant practice. Even a Pace rider will readily admit that having the ability to hang-off and corner more aggressively could save their arse on the street. No matter how well versed you are at reading corners, there will always be one that catches you off guard. When that happens, your best bet (more often than not) is to lean it over a bit more and make the corner. Having the skills and confidence (on your street machine) to do this are your only weapons against panic or poor judgment once you are in this situation. Of course, having the good judgment to keep you out of this scenario in the first place is a better way to avoid this--but the same could be said of emergency-braking scenarios. So extreme cornering can thought of like emergency braking. I'm sure any Pace rider will agree that emergency braking skill requires constant practice.

Furthermore, even riders and racers who have decided to take their eight, nine and ten-tenths to the track can't get out on the track every week. So they need to practice and keep their form even when riding at six-tenths on the street. Even when the street lines and strategies don't always help him on the track, a racer worth his salt knows that using the same muscles regularly and ingraining balance and timing (and ultimately smoothness) can be gained by riding at six-tenths on the street. Though the track is the best place to learn, explore and expand the limits of your cornering skill, any performance ride is an opportunity to make such form sink in.

Of course this isn't applicable if your track bike(s) are gixxers or race-prepped SV650s but your only street bike is a KLR. Here I would argue that such a racer would benefit from regular street riding on a sport bike--again to keep the form, smoothness and muscles in shape. Cornering skill is a use-it-or-lose-it ability. So hanging-off and tucking-in don't *always* betray a rider who is at ten-tenths. A savvy rider can practice good performance riding form on the street without scaring the public... and they are likely to be better at emergency cornering when need be. Plus, it can be fun to grind your pucks with friends in the very rare instances where it is ok to do this on your favorite backroads (ie. Skaggs and a warm, dry day after the all-clear lap is completed).

So I find the Pace to be a bit limited from the perspective of the alternative 'way' I advocate. Even for those who don't race or frequently hit the track. But again, it's a scant 5 percent I take issue with--the other 95 percent is spot-on!

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Old 02-12-2004, 07:55 PM   #14
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Thumbs up very impressed!!!!!

I actually got sum chips and sum drinks and sat down and been reading this post for the last our or so, going over certain things that i made sure i didnt forget!!! I have to say, i have learnd soooo much jus by reading the post on here, i honestly feel like it will better my riding skills, and keep me much more aware of things going on around me... Want to say thanks to the peeps who posted, as long as you keep posting ill keep reading!!
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Old 06-08-2004, 03:41 PM   #15
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Hey 04giXX3RluvR...

That gif you have under your ID. I know it. That's Michael Bolton from Office Space punching the FAX machine...that is totally funny. One of my fav movies.

And most definitely great reading on the post. Wow. It's great to see you all so passionate about the sport and concerned for others. Very nice. Glad to be here.

Alright you primitive screw-heads, listen up. See this? This is my boomstick! It's a 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan; retails for about one hundred nine, ninety-five. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That's right, shop smart, shop S-Mart!
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