October 9 2012 by Jason Fogelson
Motorcycle rodeo competitors weave in and around a short course of cones in a parking lot, striving for the quickest laps with the fewest cones displaced. The courses emphasize maneuverability, cornering and changes of direction. In police competitions, the bikes are 1000 ccs or bigger, usually a Kawasaki, BMW or Harley-Davidson police model.
One of the coolest competitions is "Follow the Leader." Two motorcycles weave through a field of traffic cones with no determined route, one bike following the other. Whoever touches a foot to the pavement or knocks over a cone first is eliminated. Not only does each round test riding skills, it also tests alertness and cleverness. By varying speed and direction, a rider can block his opponent's path. It becomes like a game of chess, with each rider keeping the other at bay with clever application of technique.
If you ever get a chance to see a motorcycle rodeo in person, take it. Search the Internet for "Police Motorcycle Rodeo" and you'll be surprised to see that there's probably one within an hour's ride of your house some time this year. The drama and tension generated by the intense concentration required for a motorcycle rodeo is contagious, and the competitions are always very exciting, especially when the skill levels are high.
There are plenty of riding lessons to be learned from motorcycle rodeo. Diligent practice will lead to improved low-speed handling skills, obviously. Practice will also lead to sharper mental riding skills, as you'll be forced to observe, predict and react to situations in front of you.
You can gain the advantages of motorcycle rodeo by practicing on your own. Find an empty parking lot or flat area of pavement without poles or obstructions. Set up a course of cones. Start out with simple routes, like a straight line slalom and tight circles. As your skills build, tighten up the course, making the twists and turns closer together. Practice riding as slowly as you possibly can, relying on your sense of balance. You'll discover that the bike balances better when you apply at least a little bit of throttle playing against the clutch and even against the rear brake. You should be able to keep the bike almost entirely stationary for a few seconds without taking your feet off of the pegs with a little bit of practice.
Get those feet up on the pegs as soon as your bike is moving forward, and keep them up until you're at a complete stop. Look where you want your bike to go, not at what you want to avoid. Keep your body in line with your bike, centering your balance with the machine.
The more you practice, the more you'll be able to transfer some of your rodeo skills to the road.