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 might 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 spent 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 sportbikes. 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 sportbike, it becomes clear that rider technique 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.
The Pace Principles
1. Set cornering speed early.
Blow the entrance and you'll never recover.
Maintaining a high visual horizon will reduce perceived speed and help you avoid panic situations.
3. Steer the bike quickly.
There's a reason Valentino Rossi works out — turning a fast-moving motorcycle takes muscle.
4. Use your brakes smoothly but firmly.
Get on and then off the brakes; don't drag 'em.
5. Get the throttle on early.
Starting the drive settles the chassis, especially though a bumpy corner.
6. 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 the course; staying right of the line adds a significant challenge to most roads and is mandatory for sport riding's future.
7. Don't crowd the centerline.
Always expect an oncoming car with two wheels in your lane.
8. 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.
9. When leading, ride for the group.
Good verbal communication is augmented with hand signals and turn signals; change direction and speed smoothly.
10. 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.