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Discussion Starter #1
At work last week a few of us riders were talking about experience, and ability to ride. It's seemed that most of the cruiser crowd and the young sport bike crowd thought that years riding meant more than miles, while the others thought miles ridden were a better indicator of ability. After a little more discussion it seems that the cruiser, and young sport bike crowd was putting under 1,500 miles a year on their bikes. While the rest of us put more miles per year.

What about the guy who is just a weekend rider vs the guy who rides every day? This question set off a very lively debate. I think the guy or girl that rides everyday will be more experienced.

How do you define experience? By years of riding, or by miles ridden? Most of the people that I know define it by years riding. I don't think this the best approach. I think that miles ridden have more importance then years ridding. Nothing beats seat time, and firsthand experience. I have read the books Proficient Motorcycling and More Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough. I learned and tried many of the techniques he explains in his books, but without actually doing them I would have learned nothing. Riding and learning new techniques takes practice before they become second nature. I know it’s more than just miles, it’s miles in all types of conditions and the willing to learn from the experience. You don’t want to be the rider that is riding the same 1000 miles and never learning anything

When I was a younger Air Force pilot, nothing was more important than stick time. The more stick time the better you became. At the same time each and every flight was a learning experience. At the end of every mission we did a debrief of everything, talked about the good, bad, and ugly so all could learn from it.

I'd say the occasional rider is in greater danger, without hesitation. Those of us who use the bike as a primary vehicle tend to have highly developed Spidey-Sense that keeps us alive and kicking through all the miles. I frequently freak out people I ride in cars with by casually predicting cager futures (That Jeep Will Cut You Off Soon.) Doesn't mean I let my guard down for an instant, but it gives me a wide margin to avoid most crap before it actually occurs.

Mile by mile, a relatively small percentage of the dangerous situations occurring are likely to get close enough to threaten me. An occasional rider isn't likely to have developed that sense through practice (none I know have it.)
 

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Call me Gig.
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Define it by skill. I know riders that have been riding for many years but have been doing things the wrong way. On the other side I know riders that have only been riding a year or two but have practiced skills and are much better riders.
 

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I agree with you it takes alot more miles than 1500 to become an experience rider. You also need to ride at different times of the day and night ... and locations. Also need to practice your slow skills at different times of the day night and in inclimte weather!!!!!

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Village Idiot
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Good subject for debate.

Let's start with the Webster's definition of "experience": (note I only used two of them, but the point is made)
"the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things generally as they occur in the course of time: to learn from experience; the range of human experience.

knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered, or undergone: a man of experience."

The way I view experience is not time, nor is it miles, rather the number of situations one is exposed to (whether personally or by it being shared by someone else). For example, a military surgeon will typically gain more experience deployed for a year in a Combat Area Hospital than many civilian surgeons will gain in a decade of working in a local hospital.

While riding, we hopefully try to capitalize on what was shared by our fellow forum members , or we will share what happened to us. The guy that rode the same lonely stretch of country road for 20 years, but never road in the big city doesn't have the same type of experience in avoiding getting cut off by a cage as the guy who regularly rides in the morning rush hour to go back and forth to work. Conversely the guy riding in the city doesn't have the same type of experience in avoiding Bambi as the guy who rode for 20 years in the country.

Point being, typically, the more stick time you get, the greater the chances are of your being exposed to potential situations that you can learn from, but experience is a (to me) bit to nebulous of a term to say one has more than another. You made a good point about learning new techniques and then practicing them. That, to me, prepares one come out of a harrowing experience in as close to one piece as is possible, as opposed to the guy who simply bought a bike and just started riding.
 

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Experience absolutely comes from seat time and not simply years. The value to experience is familiarity. 1,000 hrs of seat time in a year make things far more familiar than a 1,000 over 10 years.

There are tasks at work that I do "regularly" but infrequently. For example, certain processes that have to executed once each fiscal period or even each fiscal quarter or year. While I have been doing some of those for years, they are more mentally clunky than things I have been doing daily for perhaps only a few weeks or months. It's human nature.

Another consideration is that the more regular riders gain a wider RANGE of experience. If you are an infrequent rider, for the most part, you allow almost any circumstance to dissuade you from the saddle. Cold, rain, traffic, wind or whatever. Those guys tend to like to ride with the conditions are perfect. While the commuters and other folks who bike as a form of transportation don't have that luxury. So, those things are less traumatic than they would be to a fair-weather guy who accidentally found himself in that situation despite trying to avoid it.

And, experience is only one factor. Some people adapt more quickly than others. Some are just more "talented." They are going to progress further with less experience than others will. It's just that way. My sister has been driving a car for 40 years, and I would trust my 15-year-old son with his permit over her any day.
 

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Mississippi Cajun
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Experience, simply put, is what you have done. How you have done it, and to what degree of proficiency, is another subject altogether. Adding to the argument is the time factor...years of gaining aforementioned experience is not nearly as important unless the time between riding sessions is large, then it becomes a detriment. Some things automatically get better such as ability to shift and manipulate controls, ability to corner, etc., but the real test of experience is how well it prepares you to deal with the unexpected things that happen with each ride in conditions that are never the same as the last time you saw something. Miles ridden vs years in the saddle are both inaccurate predictors of skill, and skill and proficiency, ability to recognize situations and automatically adapt your riding to accomodate those sudden changes at the present moment are probably the best indicators of experience.
 

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Addicted Since 2010
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Experience absolutely comes from seat time and not simply years. The value to experience is familiarity. 1,000 hrs of seat time in a year make things far more familiar than a 1,000 over 10 years.

There are tasks at work that I do "regularly" but infrequently. For example, certain processes that have to executed once each fiscal period or even each fiscal quarter or year. While I have been doing some of those for years, they are more mentally clunky than things I have been doing daily for perhaps only a few weeks or months. It's human nature.

Another consideration is that the more regular riders gain a wider RANGE of experience. If you are an infrequent rider, for the most part, you allow almost any circumstance to dissuade you from the saddle. Cold, rain, traffic, wind or whatever. Those guys tend to like to ride with the conditions are perfect. While the commuters and other folks who bike as a form of transportation don't have that luxury. So, those things are less traumatic than they would be to a fair-weather guy who accidentally found himself in that situation despite trying to avoid it.

And, although experience is only one factor of it. Some people adapt more quickly than others. Some are just more "talented." They are going to progress further with less experience than others will. It's just that way. My sister has been driving a car for 40 years, and I would trust my 15-year-old son with his permit over her any day.
What he said..!!!



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Hit it she goes boom
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Now thats a good topic. I define experience by skill, having the knowledge to know how to stay out of situations, yet having the skill to get out of them.. Can I stop the bike on a dime, without incident. for the most part yes.. but I'd rather exercise the knowledge to keep from having to do that in the first place... I hope this makes sense.. having a day today.
 

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Senile Member
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What are years? Weekend riders may ride 20 weekends a year that could total 1 to 5 thousand miles per year. Some riders put on more, I average 12 thousand miles a year. I’ve been ridding motorcycles since I was 8, competitively raced dirt, street and track and ridden trials. I’ve been ridding on public streets (legally) since I was 17 (I couldn’t afford a car) and still kick ass on the dirt now and I’m 50. Some guys have done much more much longer. I never taken a motorcycle safety class but many have.

To me, it’s miles, how many miles has a person ridden, not how many years, but sometimes the two are the same. In my case, I ride with constant awareness and fear. 2 or 3 greatest fears are animal strike, tree strike, vehicle strike. Then, tire blow out, belt break and seize, oil/radiator fluid, ice. Also a load of 30 2x4’s dumped in a hwy lane like pixie sticks, a piece of railroad track 5 feet long laying diagonally in a lane and a truck retread exploding off at chest high on the freeway.
Man, I’ve seen and done a lot of things and still see and find new things everyday.
 

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Asylum Inmate
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Mileage ridden, how often and under what conditions.

In the younger days I counted all miles. Now I think highway super slab miles are mostly bulllshittt.

Then I counted it as accident missed by knowing what to do

Then as I got older I started counting it as accidents missed where I knew it was possible and did not even sweat it because it was not a close call.

Lately I count it by how many of the :asshat s trying to kill me everyday I can see long before they pull the boneheaded move!

Just two days ago blonde in a drop top vet u-turned right in front of me, I was at a stop and feet down when she looked and saw me in T-bone position. To her credit she did say she was sorry and really looked upset at what could have happened. Saw it way before panic mode, no evasive action required, just stop watch the mirrors making sure other traffic stopped, said "you bet" and went on..
 

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I might be the exception to the rule but I put on relatively few miles. I probably ride 4000-8000 per year. I have completed 7 or 8 riding courses, including instructors courses. I don't have a commute to work so I don't rack up miles that way. I do however practice, a lot. I would argue that my time practicing slow speed maneuvers and evasives is better experience than driving a 100 mile commute everyday. I do think real world experience is important. I also value practice. When was the last time you took some cones to a parking lot and set up some skill tests for yourself? Most people I talk to never do.

Just my two cents.


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Discussion Starter #12
Just two days ago blonde in a drop top vet u-turned right in front of me, I was at a stop and feet down when she looked and saw me in T-bone position. To her credit she did say she was sorry and really looked upset at what could have happened. Saw it way before panic mode, no evasive action required, just stop watch the mirrors making sure other traffic stopped, said "you bet" and went on..
That is it right there!

I was told a long time ago that experience is, when you see the situation and react before it becomes an incident or accident.
 

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Try'n to behave
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Good subject for debate.

Let's start with the Webster's definition of "experience": (note I only used two of them, but the point is made)
"the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things generally as they occur in the course of time: to learn from experience; the range of human experience.

knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered, or undergone: a man of experience."

The way I view experience is not time, nor is it miles, rather the number of situations one is exposed to (whether personally or by it being shared by someone else). For example, a military surgeon will typically gain more experience deployed for a year in a Combat Area Hospital than many civilian surgeons will gain in a decade of working in a local hospital.

While riding, we hopefully try to capitalize on what was shared by our fellow forum members , or we will share what happened to us. The guy that rode the same lonely stretch of country road for 20 years, but never road in the big city doesn't have the same type of experience in avoiding getting cut off by a cage as the guy who regularly rides in the morning rush hour to go back and forth to work. Conversely the guy riding in the city doesn't have the same type of experience in avoiding Bambi as the guy who rode for 20 years in the country.

Point being, typically, the more stick time you get, the greater the chances are of your being exposed to potential situations that you can learn from, but experience is a (to me) bit to nebulous of a term to say one has more than another. You made a good point about learning new techniques and then practicing them. That, to me, prepares one come out of a harrowing experience in as close to one piece as is possible, as opposed to the guy who simply bought a bike and just started riding.
Very well said Sir!

It is hard to make comparisons between two different types of riders. Hell, I think it would be hard to compare experience level between riders of two different types of bikes. A sport bike rider is going to have vastly different types of experience than a Geezer Glide rider. Both may have the technical knowledge to ride the others bike, but neither will have the experience (in general) to ride the others bike to the fullest.

I believe that experience comes from doing. It's more about time behind the bars choppersmiley.gif than time at the bars :drunk The more time you spend riding different types of area's and situations, the more experienced you will be.
 

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THE Yuppie Outlaw
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I agree with everything that has been said so far, and would like to add a couple things.

Location.

1,500 miles in the Chicagoland area are completely different than 1,500 miles in southern Indiana.

My office is less than a mile from the busiest intersection in the state of Illinois. just over 100,000 cars per day go through it. To get anywhere around the city I use the interstate toll system which sees 200,000 cars per day.

As part of my career, I travel to job sites, when I have them:bluduh, and sometimes drive 100 miles a day in these conditions. During the summer months, I ride.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to any member of this forum or fellow rider, but I would bet money that my situational awareness was better after 2 years of riding than someone in the "country" after 10 years of riding. I would apply that skill set to any of us from a large metropolitan area.

Desire to improve

This was touched on earlier, but the desire to better yourself is also important.

Some guys, My dad is one of them, have been riding for decades and are very small mided whenit comes to getting any advice from a young whippersnapper. My dad has some of the worst habits I have seen. Yet, he is the first one to come down on me for something when we ride.

Other guys, are always learning, improving and advancing. How many of you practice slow speed maneuvers? How many have taken the MSF course? the advanced course? How many of you would actually be open to someone else giving you advice?
 

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Señor Member
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Experience and skill are two separate attributes, IMO. As others have said you can have a ton of experience doing it the wrong way and therefore poor skills.

Skills are what we value, not experience. However, experience can certainly be a means to that end.
 

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Its all already been said. All I would add is with more seat and practice time one's abilility to not only recognize but avoid an accident becomes second nature because we all know if you've got to think it's likely to be too late to avoid the accident.

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EVO RULER
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I do a lot of low speed stuff just to stay sharp. Ride in high speed formation several times a month just so we look good doing it. We ride close enough to shake hands just for fun. This is all done on a lowered custom FLSTF. My point is yes I have some bad habits but I know how to ride with them,a lowered bike doesn't mean that it handles poorly just not like yours. Don't judge other riders just because they don't do what you were taught in some MSF course. There are a lot of riders out here on long choppers an lowered customs that can do things with them that the MSF course didn't teach you and might scare you if that's all you know. Don't judge another riders action based on your inability to do it or your fear that it's unsafe.
 

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Pork Jockey
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Experienced rider? What's the point in debating it?? I mean, REALLY!

As has been said, there are folks who've put thousands and thousands of miles on a bike and don't know WTF they're really doing. Are they not "experienced??" Hell yeah they are. Alternatively, there are many new riders who possess greater riding savvy than that 150,000+ mile rider. But they aren't as experienced simply because they've not spent much time in the saddle. Does that matter? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! There are levels of skill, savvy, etc no matter how many miles or years or whatever measure you consider applicable that span the entire spectrum. So, while seat time MAY make you a more "experienced" rider, it just has very little bearing on much of anything.

Rather than experience, shouldn't the topic of debate be, "What makes a better rider than the next?" To say "seat time" or "miles ridden" suddenly sounds ridiculous.

Personally, I think the best riders possess one main tool in their approach to riding. I call it WISDOM. I don't care how many miles you've ridden, without wisdom, you've ridden on a lot of luck. And luck tends to run out on us all at one time or another. Proper speed, traffic positioning, consideration of one's physiological and psychological well-being while riding (or NOT riding, depending on how you feel), braking technique, level of awareness, patience, practice, not abusing one's level of skill or misinterpreting the design of a certain bike, weather conditions, road conditions, just to name a few, are all part of the equation that a wise rider considers at all times. Time in the saddle means little if you're a blue-ribbon idiot. Same thing with miles and all that other stuff.

If you're a dumb person, stay off of a motorcycle. And if you are a dumb person and want to ride like an idiot, at least take it to a track...
 

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In the wind
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It seems on some forums post count is experience. :asshat

Experience starts from a dirtbike and progresses.
So you know what a motorcycle can do, not just a Harley.
I must admit, a H-D (or at least my sporty) is an odd ball compared to the handling of other bikes.
Smart rules of the road apply to any bike.

Mid lifers who can afford any bike (their first), take a MSF course and have good literary (internet) skills does not make for a good motorcyclist ...my pet peeve.

Its a good honest question though, and some good answers here.
Experience can be measured in a number of ways.
 
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