Fast Riding the Roberts Way
While this video is subtitled, "King Kenny shares his secrets of success", that shouldn't be taken to mean that you are purchasing a "How to" style video.
Let me start by saying that fans of "King" Kenny Roberts tend to lean towards the, well, fanatical end of the spectrum. When I informed my fellow MORons, that I was mildly disappointed by the video, this was their response:
"Did you just diss The King? Don't do that! The King might find out and break you down like he did to Freddie Spencer -- whom Roberts beat down mentally. You'd be most impressed at his brutal mental tactics!
"You don't have the proper respect for King Kenny! He duct-taped beer can bottoms to his leathers and was the first ever to drag knee! Kenny could beat God! He is God! Take it back lest your karma goes to zero!
"If you give Roberts a bad review we're going to have to humiliate you at the racetrack and drag strip for all eternity! For shame, ebass! Kenny doth speak, it is therefore good!"
While I am pretty well accustomed to receiving threats of various sizes, shapes, and colors on a daily basis around here, I had never before heard the gauntet thrown down so forcefully. I was captivated by the ferocity of MORonic respect for KR and horrified by the knowledge that I'm the slowest trackbound staff -- webmistress Ashley included. Well, actually I do have a plan in place that involves the well-timed use of a tail-mounted Sneaky-Leaker to capitalize on my body's natural response as she comes up to lap me, but if that fails I would surely be toast. So whence this fealty to the man who would be King?
Roberts became a legend when he leapt onto the Grand Prix scene in 1978, winning the World Championship at the age of 27 in his first attempt. He rode with an unorthodox dirt-track-influenced style that brought derision and laughter at the time (kinda like MO) but changed the racing -- and sportbikes -- worlds forever (kinda not like MO), as he added two more world titles before retiring from racing to become an accomplished team manager and start a racing school in Barcelona, Spain. As Ms. Hamilton points out, Roberts was the first GP rider to hang off the bike around turns, dragging his knee and intentionally inducing a power slide to bring the rear wheel around prior to exiting a turn. While extremely radical at the time, mastering these techniques has become a pre-requisite for competing with the fastest of the fast in contemporary racing.
Roberts became a legend when he leapt onto the Grand Prix scene in 1978, winning the World Championship at the age of 27 in his first attempt.
The majority of the session occurs on Honda XR-100 dirt bikes. Initially, the riders start out on a short oval loop, graduating to a longer, winding, dirt track, and eventually get to do some tight-radius turning exercises on a 250cc mini-road racer. The progress in the riders' skills is quite evident, as their first tentative circuits evolve into aggressive scrimages with Roberts and Mamola on the dirt track.
King Kenny shares some of his thoughts on the guiding principles of becoming a competitive racer, and emphasizes that while natural talent is a gift that can't be taught, it remains only part of the equation that determines who crosses the finish line first. While it would seem counter-intuitive to train for 500cc road racing on a 100cc dirt bike, Roberts asserts that the fundamental principles of going fast are identical, no matter what size or style bike you are riding, and that training in an environment that allows you to experiment and make mistakes with relatively minimal risk to life and limb will make his trainees faster, and safer on a street course with a heavier, more powerful bike. Skills such as choosing the fastest line, passing, and blocking are the same on any level. Most importantly, according to KR, racing and winning boils down to the oxymoron of being able to ride with control on a bike that is being pushed past the point of being out of control. So for those King Kenny Krazys in the audience, I'm quite sure you will enjoy "Fast Riding the Roberts Way". And for those who refuse to bow down to the man, the myth, the legend, I'll leave you to reckon with the wrath of Ms. Hamilton and her like-minded minions. You're a braver man than I!
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