WRR58: CrossFit to Ride!

For those of you who have been around our channel for a while (or have watched old episodes), you may remember WRR6: Mental Health, Physical Fitness, and Motorcycles.  In this episode we talked about what motorcycling can do for your psyche, but also the advantages of being in good shape as a motorcyclist.  It’s easy to see the need for a pro level racer to stay in shape, but what about the rest of us?  Does losing weight and being in good shape make much of a difference to the every day rider?image

Having “been there, done that” over the past year, I can say without a doubt, it makes all the difference in the world.  And not just to your riding, you’ll feel better about life in general if you take care of your body.  For some of you reading this, I’m preaching to the choir – you are the guys (and gals) who understand the importance of fitness, it’s an every day part of your life already.  To others, these words might be hitting a little close to home.  Well sit tight, I was in your shoes not very long ago…
Growing up I was like any other kid – I loved riding my bicycle, playing soccer, and being active in the great outdoors.  When you’re a kid you tend to burn a ton of calories because you are free to just run around all day.  What I lacked in my schooling though, was a good sports program.  Sure I played for fun, but I never got that fitness of foundation.  I went to a high school called Sci-Tech, we didn’t have a football team – we had a wind tunnel.  That was awesome and cool in it’s own way, but once I got out into the “real world,” got married, got a job, the weight started creeping on.  I was moderately overweight throughout my 20’s, and by the time I hit my 30’s it was really getting out of control.  I did what many people do when they try to lose weight:  super diets and intense training for a short period of time (think, P90x).  Now, diet and exercise are the keys to a healthy lifestyle, but what so many miss is the key word: lifestyle.  In other words, the diet and exercise have to become a permanent part of your every day life.  This isn’t something you can just do for 90 days, and then boom you’re in great shape for the rest of your life.  Taking that approach leads to the inevitable yo-yo cycle, and I’m speaking from experience.  I’d lose 30lbs, then gain 35, then lose 35, and gain 40!  By around this time last year, I hit my all time high of 243lbs (and no, I’m not big boned).  243 does NOT look good on me.
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 I realized I had to do something.  It was actually this YouTube comment that really spurred me on to get off my butt and figure this thing called fitness out.  So Chris, whoever you are – thank you.  Obviously I knew what state I was in, but this comment unlocked something inside of me – it was time to get to work.  Plus, my motorcycle leathers were getting way too tight and my bike wasn’t as fast!

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I started by eating healthier.  No crazy super diet – I simply signed up at www.myfitnesspal.com and started tracking my caloric intake on my phone.  Out of curiosity, I plugged in my meals from the day before I signed up and discovered I had eaten a whopping 4600 calories!  And that was just cereal for breakfast, fast food for lunch, and mexican for dinner – nothing crazy – except it was!  Totally crazy!  That’s more than double what I should have been taking in just to maintain my weight.  No wonder I was fat…
A few months later I starting looking into working out.  Remember I was a total fitness noob.  I did a free trial at a local gym chain, and realized quickly that just wasn’t going to cut it.  I’ve had those before – I always just find some excuse and eventually quit going.  Some people can pop in headphones and tear it up at the local gym, more power to you – that just wasn’t me.  Then I tried a smaller operation called Fitness Together.  These were either one on one training with a personal trainer or a very small group class of 3-4 people and a coach.  This was more like it – I paid for 1 month and started seeing some results, but it was crazy expensive – I just couldn’t afford to keep going there.  Then I discovered CrossFit.

You may have seen CrossFit on TV recently, as they just had the CrossFit games again.  They call it the sport of fitness – basically adding a competitive element to exercise.  So I went and checked out CrossFit gym (called a Box in CrossFit speak), and after that very first intro class I was hooked – I knew I had found my home.  Now before you get all amped up – CrossFit isn’t for everyone.  For some reason, it actually has a lot of negative press regarding injuries, being a cult, having stupid exercises – you name it.  All I can tell you is my own personal experiences over the past year, and what it has done for my life and my riding.  unnamed (1)Not just motorcycles, either.  I’m back out hitting the trails on my mountain bike feeling stronger than ever – plus this is just a great way to train similar muscles and riding techniques used for motorcycling.

CrossFit has completely transformed my life, and continues to challenge me every single day.  Our box has excellent coaching staff that emphasizes proper form, as you’ll see in the video below.  Not only that, the excercises are always varied and intense.  Some days it’s high cardio, some days it’s focused more on strength training, usually, it’s a pretty good mix of the two.  I’m stronger and faster than I’ve ever been – and I still have a long, long way to go.  After one year I still consider myself somewhat of a CrossFit beginner, but I continue making progress and setting new personal records regularly.
Maybe if I hadn’t been so fat I wouldn’t have sunk so deep?
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Getting in shape has done wonders for me both physically and mentally.  And riding is quite honestly better.  Setting up proper body positioning for corners is easier, riding off road is significantly better, and I’m just not as worn out after a long day on the bike.  CrossFit requires a strong core, and on a sportbike, a strong core means less weight on your wrists – which means you can comfortably ride longer distances.  My motorcycle gear fits better, in fact some of my motorcycle jackets probably need to be replaced because XL is just too big for me now.  Even my cheeks are less squished in my motorcycle helmet.  It’s a big difference, and I encourage you to make a commitment to change your lifestyle if this is hitting home.  Little bits over time add up to a big achievement.  I still have a long way to go physically – but the real transformation has been in my mind.  i actually look forward to going in and working out every day.  I am a lot more conscious of what food I put in my body.  And the rewards are great – both on and off the bike.

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Remember Weekly Rides with Reuben are uploaded every Wednesday!

Shift Like the Pros

Generalized layout of motorcycle control inputs
Generalized layout of motorcycle control inputs
Riding a motorcycle well takes practice, hours upon hours of seat time, and a dedication to learning how to do it right. Bereft of either of those, no rider can operate a bike optimally, or smoothly. If you are truly interested in honing your skills at shifting gears, you will follow the steps below and do so repeatedly until you can change gears so smoothly a passenger may think you are using an automatic transmission.

Look closely at Jorge Lorenzo's clutch hand here at Assen 2010
Look closely at Jorge Lorenzo's clutch hand here at Assen 2010
The procedure outlined here applies to a standard five or six-speed transmission in the common street shift pattern – first is down from neutral and second through fifth or sixth is up in successive order – and can be applied on any motorcycle using such. Though, if you reverse the ups and downs in the text, much of it does apply to the GP (or reversed) shift pattern – in fact, it is a little easier once you adjust to it.

  • Step 1 – Assuming the motorcycle is in neutral and the engine is started, squeeze the clutch and press the shift lever down into first gear. Roll on the throttle, slowly release the clutch until first gear is engaged and you begin to ride.
  • Step 2 – Pre-load the shift pedal by applying slight upward pressure with your left foot.
  • Step 3.1 – Squeeze the clutch lever, but not to the bar. All you need here is about one-third to half-way in to allow for a proper gear change. (This is why you often see racers only use two fingers on their clutch lever as the ring and pinky fingers act as a stop.)
  • Step 3.2 – Quickly close the throttle while simultaneously…
  • Step 3.3 – …adding progressively more pressure to the shift lever and you will feel the gear dogs engage…
  • Step 3.4 – and after this happens, let out the clutch…
  • Step 3.5 – as you open the throttle and try to match engine RPM to your speed.
  • Step 4 – Ride on in the new gear, repeat steps 2 and 3 as necessary or until in top gear.

Again, Rossi's clutch hand, if you can see it here, at Laguna Seca 2008
Again, Rossi's clutch hand, if you can see it here, at Laguna Seca 2008
This will be rough at first but, as you practice the procedure over and over, you will improve significantly with time. The smoothness will come as you gain more experience.

If you decide to forgo the clutch when moving from second on up the gear stack, take care to get the throttle to match speed as closely as possible. Always use the clutch when downshifting so as to avoid serious transmission damage.

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com