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Video Review: 'Ride like a Pro V' DVD, by Jerry "Motorman" Palladino
Reviewed by ET, September 24th, 2009.
We reviewed Jerry Palladino's book, and this video is intended as a companion piece. Jerry Palladino is a police-trained long-time biker, who has created a network of franchised motorcycle training sites in seven states. The training is based on police rodeo type techniques, with the box sizes and other measurements relaxed for civilian riders.
The benefits of the Palladino training, in our opinion, is that it provides a framework for vital skills training. Most training experts seem to agree that repeated skills practice, in cornering, quick stops and swerving are vital survival skills, and these exercises have a lot in common with other intermediate rider courses. Approaching the process from the police training angle provides an interesting way to keep skills practice fresh. Using the video and/or the book makes the skills practice available to anyone with access to a parking lot and a few cones, as we discuss in our 'skills practice' page. The video costs $34.95 from the site. The DVD costs less than attending the Ride like a Pro, or the similar MSF 'Experienced Rider Course' training.
The video is the fifth in a series from Palladino and is intended to include all the previous material. It is professionally produced. The video is nicely made and includes scenes shot from a high angle, like a cherry picker, helmet-cam shots, bike-mounted shots and close-ups. Sound is also excellent, and Palladino wears a boom mike on occasion. The DVD presents as slick and professional.
The general format of the video includes a general introduction, which we will describe in detail. Then we have a series of chapters focusing on individual exercises. The final section includes video of the 'Pro' team demonstrating police rodeo set-pieces.
The chapters have a general format. Jerry starts with an introduction, facing the camera with a boom mike. He describes the exercise, walks the course, explains the objective and the technique to be learned. Then one of his team demonstrates the exercise, with Palladino on foot talking us through. We have a couple of demonstrations, then usually some footage from 'Pro' students, making various common errors. Jerry analyses the student mistakes and suggests remedies. Usually, the segment finishes with four or five of the 'Pro' team showing off by doing the exercise close together. Sometimes Jerry introduces related topics by reading letters from bikers and replying to the points raised, often with subsidiary video footage geared to real-life situations.
The technique is real. Palladino's direct, focused style is engaging, the explanations are straightforward, the camera captures the action nicely, and the overall presentation is perhaps better than being there. Rather than seeing the demonstration 120 feet away on a range, you are right there. It might not be so easy to refer to it while actually on a range, but you can take notes, use the book, or download the handy practice guide from Jerry's site. It is not impossible to envision a laptop beside the practice area with the DVD loaded up.
The video starts out with Jerry, standing in the range, wearing his boom mile. The crew is introduced, which includes his wife Donna, Marianne and Tim Hamilton, Rick Rutel and Joey Aleman. The bike is adjusted to fit the rider, with notes on handlebar height and angle, seat height, floorboards and controls, and techniques for lowering the bike. All these details are accompanied by close-up camera angles.
Riding posture, once the bike is adjusted right, protecting the bike against dropping during the exercises, and how to pick up a dropped ride is next.
The three essential skills are the Friction Zone, rear brake controlling and where to look. Correct pointing of the head and eyes is emphasized. The difference between handlebar steering at low speeds, and countersteering at higher speeds is important. These skills are perishable, without frequent practice they go away.
Most of the exercise layouts are in the Ride like a Pro skills practice guide, with drawings, which we link when available.
Exercise 1, the slow race and cone weave.
This is a friction zone exercise. Palladino explains the technique and the use of the rear brake to keep the bike straight up, demonstrated by Donna Palladino. The exercise continues with a slow cone weave. There are six cones, 12 feet apart. The use of peripheral vision is explained, and the 'dip'. This dip is an approach to a turn, where the rider momentarily steers away from a turn before flopping into it. It help sets the bike up for the maneuver. The 'Dip' turns up constantly in the following exercises. The section finished with five crew members showing off with 14-feet cones and a figure-8.
Exercise 2, the circle.
Palladino walks the 24-foot circle, explaining the factors of fear, the bike's lean limits, head and eyes, the friction zone and the initial 'dip' into the circle. Keeping the body angle straight, and counterbalancing, increases the bike's lean and minimizes its turning circle at this slow speed. Student riders are critiqued, and the team shows off with four bikes in 28, 24 and finally 20 foot circles.
Exercise 3, offset cone weave.
The point of the offset cone weave is to practice quick left to right transitions and s-curves, which is an essential swerving survival skill. The course is set up with two rows of six cones. The rows are 24 feet apart, and the cones in the row are 12 feet apart, with a six foot stagger. It is run at 7-12 MPH. Marianne demos, lots of floorboard scraping in making the big, lazy s-curves. Students are shown with troubleshooting, and the team demonstrates a 'barrel race'.
This chapter comes with some bonus material. Jerry demonstrates turning into a road after a stop, in a street situation. Hill starts are also demonstrated, with use of rear brake, front brake and/or friction zone as options.
Exercise 4, the U-turn box.
The box is a 24 by 30 foot area. The box is entered at 90 degrees, with a dip. Head and eye placement is emphasized during Jerry's walk-through, as is the full-handlebar turn. The U-turn is more like a teardrop when you take the dips into account. Student riders are evaluated.
The real world bonus here is u-turning in a street, and also on a hill.
Exercise 5, the intersection.
This exercise has four, 24 foot U-turn boxes at right angles, like a four-leaf clover. The U-turns are joined by 90-degree turns. This is shown with helmet cam and a high-mounted camera, very effectively. There is lots of dips, handlebar turns and use of head and eyes. It is demonstrated by all five team riders, and student riders are evaluated.
Passenger technique is introduced here, and the exercise done with a passenger. Jerry demonstrates a figure-8 in a box, with very tight turns as there is only a 6-foor-wide area to ride in all round. Putting a foot down is shown, with a quick dab and back up again when absolutely needed.
Exercise 6 - figure 8.
This is done in a pair of 24-foot circles. It's a control exercise, combining exercise 2 with a crossover/flop point, emphasis on the head and eyes. Donna demonstrates, with following helmet cam. There are student examples, with the students doing better than before. The stunt conclusion uses five bikes, with precision crossovers.
Exercise 7 - countersteering.
This is the first exercise done at countersteering speed, 15 to 20 MPH. it is a straight cone weave with 15-foot separation. The usual head and eye discipline, a brief explanation of the instinctive countersteering, a demonstration with helmet cam concludes. Jerry avoids the trap of going into laborious technical detail about countersteering and instead opts to demystify it by concentrating on how natural it is.
Exercise 8 - Braking.
Jerry introduces with an explanation of braking, including how to counter a front or back wheel lock. The exercise has three cones, with braking at the end after straightening the bike. This alternates with a brake and swerve demonstration. Jerry talks about various types of brake designs, including linked brakes and ABS. He demonstrates braking in a curve, and issues relating to wheel locking. He talks about practicing with quick stops, when it is safe, on the highway, and using manhole covers for swerving exercise. He shows how to practice on a regular unpowered bicycle, demonstrating with cones, a slow ride and a dip. The techniques are demonstrated with two up on a Gold Wing and a Moto Guzzi with offset cone weaves. All essential, life-saving emergency skills.
Police Rodeo Demos
The final section of the 2-hour video is a essentially the same exercises, done on tighter police training courses, demonstrated by team members and police experts. They ride cone weaves, offset cone weaves, figure 8, quick lane changes, counter-steering practice, the keyhole, which is an 18-foot circle with a 5-foot entrance lane, the 180 Decel, which includes s-turns, a slowdown, several 90-degree turns and ends with a 17-foot u-turn. The intersection is 18 feet wide with 22 foot legs, and there is a 40-MPH brake-and-escape and 90 and 140 degree pull-outs.
These final demos are provided with the intent of showing how the initial exercises can be scaled up in difficulty by the very keen.
We took MSF to task about their policy of preaching the use of protective riding gear while not using proper protection while demonstrating exercises during their Basic Rider Course, so, to be consistent, we should comment on 'Ride like a Pro' gear policies.
When Gerry Palladino is riding, he usually wears a mesh jacket with armor, police-style riding trousers, high, trooper-style riding boots, a police-style half-helmet and sunglasses, which we assume are impact resistant polycarbonate. Given that the videos seem to be shot in South Florida, and assuming that the police trousers are abrasion-resistant, this seems like a fair attempt at protective gear. It is certainly superior to the MSF rider coach gear requirement.
We note that this standard of attire is not followed by all his instructors. The women, especially, seem to wear regular, long-sleeved white shirts with logo, which is inadequate protection even in a parking-lot environment.
Although 'Ride like a Pro' does not seem to take a position on protective gear, one way or the other, we repeat our comment that the occasion of presenting a rider course is the essence of a teachable moment, and that the crew could do better by setting a clear and consistent example in this regard.
At Bikesafer.com, we are in favor of anything that promotes rider training, and the 'Ride like a Pro' video emphasizes the essential rider skill of turning, which helps avoid the majority of single bike crashes, and the vital crash-avoidance skills of the quick stop and swerve. The other skills taught are useful bike-control skills which build confidence on the bike and help with a visceral understanding of bike controls and dynamics.
We often point out that civilian bikers have a lot to learn from the professional biker groups, which are law enforcement, track competition riders and motorcycle messengers. As people who ride every day, these groups have a head-start on the development of motorcycle safety cultures. This video focuses on riding skills, I would love to see a companion piece on street strategies from Palladino and company. I have spoken with many motorcycle officers and retirees, and they all have a lot of experiences and strategies from which we all could learn.
This video should appeal to the individual biker or riding group looking for an economical alternative to similar riding courses. Competitive training might include the MSF's 'Experienced Rider Course' and the 'Ride like a Pro' range courses. A couple of hours with the video and an afternoon on the range, with a dozen cones, a measuring tape and some chalk would be a great safety exercise for a riding club chapter or a group of riding buddies. Taking some video of the riders would allow for subsequent discussion and analysis. This is a good opportunity to have fun and get creative with motorcycle safety.
That said, my helmet is off to Jerry and his crew. Those who labor in the field of motorcycle safety generally do it as a labor of love, sweat and freeze in all weathers, give generously of their time and energy, and I have never seen anyone get rich as a result. We need many more like them.
'Ride like a Pro' provided a free copy of the video for review. 'Ride like a Pro' has no relationship of any sort with Bikesafer.com or it's associates. All images on this page are courtesy of the 'Ride like a Pro' site.
Videos from the Palladino site.