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The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:37 pm
by Roady
Worth reading again ... and again ...

The Pace
Separating street from track, riding from racing

By Nick Ienatsch

Racing involves speed, concentration and commitment; the results of a mistake are usually catastrophic because there's little room for error riding at 100 percent. Performance street riding is less intense and further from the absolute limit, but because circumstances are less controlled, mistakes and over aggressiveness can be equally catastrophic. Plenty of roadracers have sworn off street riding. "Too dangerous, too many variables and too easy to get carried away with too much speed," track specialists claim. Adrenaline-addled racers find themselves treating the street like the track, and not surprisingly, they get burned by the Police, the laws of physics and the cold, harsh realities of an environment not groomed for ten-tenths riding. But as many of us know, a swift ride down a favorite road may be the finest way to spend a few free hours with a bike we love. And these few hours are best enjoyed riding at The Pace.

A year after I joined Motorcyclist staff in 1984, Mitch Boehm was hired. Six months later, The Pace came into being, and we perfected it during the next few months of road testing and weekend fun rides. Now The Pace is part of my life - and a part of the Sunday morning riding group I frequent. The Pace is a street riding technique that not only keeps street riders alive, but thoroughly entertained as well.


The Pace focuses on bike control and de-emphasizes outright speed. Full-throttle acceleration and last minute braking aren't part of the program, effectively eliminating the two most common single-bike accident scenarios in sport riding. Cornering momentum is the name of the game, stressing strong, forceful inputs at the handlebar to place the bike correctly at the entrance of the turn and get it flicked in with little wasted time and distance. Since the throttle wasn't slammed open at the exit of the last corner, the next corner doesn't require much, if any, braking. It isn't uncommon to ride with our group and not see a brake light flash all morning.

If the brakes are required, the front lever gets squeezed smoothly, quickly and with a good deal of force to set entrance speed in minimum time. Running in on the brakes is tantamount to running off the road, a confession that you're pushing too hard and not getting your entrance speed set early enough because you stayed on the gas too long. Running The Pace decreases your reliance on the throttle and brakes, the two easiest controls to abuse, and hones your ability to judge cornering speed, which is the most thrilling aspect of performance street riding.


Crossing the centerline at any time except during a passing maneuver is intolerable, another sign that you're pushing too hard to keep up. Even when you have a clean line of sight through a left-hand kink, stay to the right of the centerline. Staying on the right side of the centerline is much more challenging than simply straightening every slight corner, and when the whole group is committed to this intelligent practice, the temptation to cheat is eliminated through peer pressure and logic. Though street riding shouldn't be described in racing terms, you can think of your lane as the race track. Leaving your lane is tantamount to a crash.

Exact bike control has you using every inch of your lane if the circumstances permit it. In corners with a clear line of sight and no oncoming traffic, enter at the far outside of the corner, turn the bike relatively late in the corner to get a late apex at the far inside of your lane and accelerate out, just brushing the far outside of your lane as your bike stands up. Steer your bike forcefully but smoothly to minimize the transition time. Don't hammer it down because the chassis will bobble slightly as it settles, possibly carrying you off line. Since you haven't charged in on the brakes, you can get the throttle on early, before the apex, which balances and settles your bike for the drive out.

More often than not, circumstances do not permit the full use of your lane from yellow line to white line and back again. Blind corners, oncoming traffic and gravel on the road are a few criteria that dictate a more conservative approach, so leave yourself a three or four foot margin for error, especially at the left side of the lane where errant oncoming traffic could prove fatal. Simply narrow your entrance on a blind right-hander and move your apex into your lane three feet on blind left turns in order to stay free of unseen oncoming traffic hogging the centerline. Because you're running at The Pace and not flat out, your controlled entrances offer additional time to deal with unexpected gravel or other debris in your lane; the outside wheel track is usually the cleanest through a dirty corner since a car weights its outside tires most, scrubbing more dirt off the pavement in the process, so aim for that line.


The street is not a racing environment, and it takes humility, self assurance and self control to keep it that way. The leader sets the pace and monitors his mirrors for signs of raggedness in the ranks that follow, such as tucking in on straights, crossing over the yellow line and hanging off the motorcycle in the corners. If the leader pulls away, he simply slows his straightaway speed slightly but continues to enjoy the corners, thus closing the ranks but missing none of the fun. The small group of three or four riders I ride with is so harmonious that the pace is identical no matter who's leading. The lead shifts occasionally with a quick hand sign, but there's never a pass for the lead with an ego on the sleeve. Make no mistake, the riding is spirited and quick in the corners. Anyone with a right arm can hammer down the straights; it's proficiency in the corners that makes The Pace come alive.

Following distances are relatively lengthy, with the straightaways taken at more moderate speeds, providing the perfect opportunity to adjust the gaps. Keeping a good distance serves several purposes, besides being safer. Rock chips are minimized, and the Police or highway patrol won't suspect a race is in progress. The Pace's style of not hanging off in corners also reduces the appearance of pushing too hard and adds a degree of maturity and sensibility in the eyes of the public and the law. There's a definite challenge to cornering quickly while sitting sedately on your bike.

New rider indoctrination takes some time because The Pace develops very high cornering speeds and newcomers want to hammer the throttle on the exits to make up for what they lose at the entrances. Our group slows drastically when a new rider joins the ranks because our technique of moderate straightaway speed and no brakes can suck the unaware into a corner too fast, creating the most common single bike accident. With a new rider learning The Pace behind you, tap your brake lightly well before the turn to alert him and make sure he understands there's no pressure to stay with the group.

There's plenty of ongoing communication during The Pace. A foot off the peg indicates debris in the road, and all slowing or turning intentions are signaled in advance with the left hand and arm. Turn signals are used for direction changes and passing, with a wave of the left hand to thank the cars that move right and make it easy for motorcyclists to get past. Since you don't have a death grip on the handlebar, your left hand is also free to wave to oncoming riders, a fading courtesy that we'd like to see return. If you're getting the idea The Pace is a relaxing, noncompetitive way to ride with a group, you are right.


I'd rather spend a Sunday in the mountains riding at The Pace than a Sunday at the racetrack, it's that enjoyable. Countersteering is the name of the game; smooth, forceful steering input at the handlebar relayed to the tires' contact patches through a rigid sport bike frame. Riding at The Pace is certainly what bike manufacturers had in mind when sport bikes evolved to the street.

But the machine isn't the most important aspect of running The Pace because you can do it on anything capable of getting through a corner. Attitude is The Pace's most important aspect: realizing the friend ahead of you isn't a competitor, respecting his right to lead the group occasionally and giving him credit for his riding skills. You must have the maturity to limit your straightaway speeds to allow the group to stay in touch and the sense to realize that racetrack tactics such as late braking and full throttle runs to redline will alienate the public and Police and possibly introduce you to the unforgiving laws of gravity. When the group arrives at the destination after running The Pace, no one feels outgunned or is left with the feeling he must prove himself on the return run. If you've got something to prove, get on a racetrack.

The racetrack measures your speed with a stop watch and direct competition, welcoming your aggression and gritty resolve to be the best. Performance street riding's only yardstick is the amount of enjoyment gained, not lap times, finishing position or competitors beaten. The differences are huge but not always remembered by riders who haven't discovered The Pace's cornering pureness and group involvement. Hammer on the racetrack. Pace yourself on the street. -MC


Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:49 am
by Roady
This one deserves a float to the top.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:51 am
by Placerville
Very 'to the point' and well written. (Nice 'bumpy' thing.)

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:15 am
by sunnbobb
Ahhh, Pace, one of my favorite terms...

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:48 am
by Oldewing
Printed this one off back then, and keep it at my desk.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:07 pm
by duke182
nice read.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:22 pm
by Fred Camper
Great article, just like it was written by one of our Moderators.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 12:32 am
by shezonit
A longtime rider friend sent this to me when I first got my GL500, in 2004. I wanted to live up to it. Now, about 100,000 miles later.....on seven different bikes, the PACE just seems natural. When I learned to ride, I was told how to stop and start and brake and steer. But no one tells you the metaphysics of riding, do they?

What about the ZONE? When I am riding a great road (with good surface, lots of curves and sweepers, and little traffic) I find myself not only on the Pace, but in the ZONE. I feel one with the bike- not even with the bike-- more like I am "OF the bike". My eyes take in the road and my body leans the bike- no pressure, just guidance and the bike is in the curve and then out of the curve.......
it all becomes a natural flow. I can ride like this for an hour and it seems like no time at all has passed. People ask me "Why do you like riding" and I say something about it being meditative, blah blah. For me, the zone is the Absolute Focus needed to really be there in the machine.

The ride that changed me from being on the bike to being of the bike was a Sierras trip on my ST1100--down through Idaho, Oregon and over to Hwys 89 and 49 in California. Hour after hour of twisties-- when I started I didn't even know how to lean the bike- I was pushing the bars down to get around the curves. By the end of the first day, I had aching hands and by the end of the second day I had open blisters on the insides of my thumbs, even with elkskin gloves. The next day I met up with a great rider-- following him, I watched how he seemed to dive the bike into each curve.... it looked scary, but I tried it and...... wow. I learned to use the bike's weight to steer, not the bars. And that was the first time I got in the Zone.
I hope this wasn't boring or worse.....

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:28 pm
by Roady
The ZONE is definitely not boring and goes right along with the Pace. Thank you for sharing it.

I think my first encounter with the zone was when I read about a racer (?) who steers the bike with his feet and knees. Press down with the right foot and in with the left knee ... go right. I tried it and it was so much easier than using my hands. Soon, I wasn't even thinking about turning, I was just doing it. It's very much like riding a horse.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:33 pm
by Oldewing
This here is great stuff it is anim-cheers1

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:47 am
by Hal
I dunno...all this about feet and knees...I find conscious countersteering is the easiest way to get any bike round the twisties.

Want to go left? Push the left bar.

Wanna go right? Push right bar. Much less effort required and the bike responds quicker than any other method i've come across.

Not on a sidecar rig, of course! :mrgreen:

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:38 pm
by salukispeed
Great article and I cant wait to share it with my oldest kids. We all ride and a great reminder like this as a reminder. MSF classes and reminders are priceless.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:58 pm
by Fred Camper
Both push left, go left and the peg loading, knee out and head over the hand that pushes all work for me. It is not about fighting the bike, and the Zone is a great description.

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:20 am
by Mr G
Great article. action1

Re: The Pace by Nick Ienatsch

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:35 am
by Gowing
I don't read a lot of mc articles

Don't subscribe,

First time I've heard PACE. Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to ride.

Darn snow.