A Twist of the Wrist

A Twist of the Wrist

A Twist of the Wrist: The Video

A Twist of the Wrist II

The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles

By Keith Code
Ask your average squid about what it takes to ride smoothly and swiftly through the canyons, and I'm willing to bet you won't hear a well-reasoned, articulate explanation. That's because most riders lack fluency in the language of riding. Sure, you'll hear lots of generalized buzz-words like "smoothness," as well as more specific stabs at the vocabulary such as "throttle control" and "gear ratios." At times the speaker may fall back upon playground machismo and boast that his bike "will kick your bike's ass." Press farther, as I have, and sometimes you will receive a condescending look that says, quite clearly, "Well, I guess I'm just more gifted than you." John Kocinski is more gifted than you. So are Doug Chandler and Anthony Gobert. But squid-boy in his shiny new Vanson Leathers atop a GSX-R750 probably isn't.     

What makes squid-boy seem faster may indeed be a better bike, more saddle-time, and, perhaps, huge cajones.    

But, more likely, what makes squid-boy ride faster and smoother is the fact that squid-boy has, over a period of time, developed a fast-loading processing system of inputs and responses that allows quick decisions, the result of which lets him pull away in the corners. And the reason he can't explain his decisions is that he lacks the requisite vocabuarly.   Keith Code knows that motorcycle riding is an art, but also understands that it is a craft with certain, universal fundamentals that can be learned. What initially began as a couple of written ideas tested one-on-one with local racers at the Keith Code Rider Improvement Program along with an idea for an article in Motorcyclist has grown into the California Superbike School and what is perhaps the definitive series of books on cornering and road racing: A Twist of the Wrist Vol. I and II, the video to Twist I and The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles

Riding motorcycles is not that different from hitting a golf ball. Both require thought, drills, practice and physical memory. A golfer knows when when he has hit the ball well, even before he completes his follow-through. A road racer knows when he handles a corner well far before before exit. And both feel sweet.

But how do you explain that sweet feeling? First, you need a language that can effectively translate actions into words. That is precisely what Keith Code accomplished in writing A Twist of the Wrist and the Soft Science books, creating and developing the language of cornering and road racing. Twist I is important, but Twist II is essential. A Twist of the Wrist, Code's first book, is perhaps the most important of the three books, but it is also the most frustrating. Here Code first experiments with the vocabulary of riding, creating terms like "products" and "sub-products," which are defined more or less as "the final result" but the use of which is confusing, and terms like "reference points," which Code did not invent but most certainly helped define with such absolute clarity that he is entitled to credit.

While Code succeeds in Twist I in laying the foundation for the language of cornering and road racing, some of his teaching methods are frustrating. As a whole, Twist I does and excellent job in teaching the reader to think about riding; however, some stylistic flourishes distract. Often, Code finishes paragraphs with a rhetorical question in small font, such as "Will it work?" or "Any thoughts?". Code wants you to think through the corners, but, unfortunately, these questions also take away from the flow of the particular lesson. Still, Twist I is a vital guide into Code's techniques and theories of cornering and road racing, particularly the basic lesson that riding takes thought, and a reader will get much more out of Soft Science and Twist II by reading Twist I.

If in Twist I Code was just getting seat time, so to speak, Soft Science and Twist II show Code's increasing confidence in his work by doing away with distractions and focusing more on the red meat of cornering and road racing. In Soft Science, chapters are finished with Re-caps, Questions and Drills. In Twist II, a list of definitions is also included. And, as Code points out in his Author's Note, Twist II offers more realistic terminology and addresses the sources of classic rider problems. Even better, Twist II dispenses with much of strained analogies (such as the $10.00 worth of attention/memory analogy he uses liberally in Twist I) and the Star Wars "may-the-force-be-with-you" touchy-feelyism that, though essential to get the most out of Code's techniques, can also leave the reader impatiently drumming his fingers, wondering when he's going to get to the point. Twist II goes straight to the heart of the matter, beginning with six chapters on throttle control alone and finishing, 26 chapters later, with a small primer on racing. Twist I is important, but Twist II is essential.

Motorcycle Online Ratings:

A Twist of the Wrist: ***1/2
A Twist of the Wrist Video: ****
The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles: ****
A Twist of the Wrist II: *****

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