Riding in the Zone - wBW
Riding in the Zone
Advanced Techniques for Skillful Motorcycling
by Ken Condon
Whitehorse Press 2009
143 pages, includes DVD
List Price: $29.95
Available at Amazon.com
webBikeWorld.com Book Review by Glenn W.
Like the rest of the webBikeWorld evaluators, I'm a
believer in continuously working to improve my
This means taking everything
from MSF courses to privately run advanced motorcycle
riding courses to track days. And, of course, lots
of practice, self-analysis and self-criticism.
In the winter, the training routine means reading and
re-reading books about motorcycle riding skills,
watching videos (although there are surprisingly few
good motorcycle riding skill teaching videos).
I even includes thinking about proper motorcycle lines through turns
when I'm driving my car.
There are always a few new nuggets that can be pulled
from each book and it's also good to reinforce forgotten
Some of the books have become classics and have
stayed on the motorcycle riding skills "best sellers"
lists for years, like
David Hough's "Proficient
Motorcycling" (review). I think we have another classic in
the making with Ken Condon's new book, "Riding in the
Zone". There are many things I like about this
book, not the least of which is the content, of course.
I'm sure many webBikeWorld readers are familiar with
Condon's writing. He took over the enormous task
of producing each month's "Proficient Motorcycling"
column from The Master, David Hough, in the Motorcycle
Consumer News print magazine.
In fact, Hough wrote a wonderful intro to Riding in
the Zone, which details the interesting story of how he
met Condon, mentored him and eventually turned over the
keys. I'll be honest; I didn't even realize Hough
was no longer writing the article until I read about it
in Condon's book -- the handoff was that seamless!
The format of this book and Condon's Zen-inspired
writing style really make a difference. He first
explains what you'll learn in each section, then he
teaches it in clear, easy-to-understand language that's
neither condescending or over-simplified, yet each word
and sentence has been chosen with obvious care.
The sentences are so tightly constructed that I
suggest reading very slowly to absorb all the
information that Condon is conveying in each paragraph.
It's not that the book is difficult to read, or too
technical. It's refreshing actually -- Condon left
out the fluff that many authors fall prey to, if only to
pump up the word count.
There's not a lot of fluff in this book, but it's
never boring. Because each sentence is loaded with
content and meaning, it's important to read it slowly,
understand and absorb the meaning. For me, this
style is perfect: clear, concise and right to the point.
The icing on the cake is the last paragraph of each
topic, which effectively summarizes what you've just
learned. This is also key, and it follows the
classic "introduce the topic, teach the topic and then
summarize what you just taught" strategy that works so
well to drive home the points.
Now this all may seem logical, easy and simple...but
it isn't. Most readers will probably not realize
that the information is being presented in this manner,
and that's the magic.
There are a few other things that make this book easy
to digest and understand. It's very nicely printed
on high-quality stock; it has lots of good color
illustrations; and -- thank you Whitehorse Press -- the
font is actually readable!
The book is divided into three sections: The
Confident Rider, which discusses behaviors and habits
that may be affecting your confidence; Mental Skill
Development, which describes the development of
strategies and skills; and Physical Skill Development,
which covers topics like braking, cornering and
Each of these sections have been carefully chosen to
address issues faced by a majority of motorcyclists.
I agree with the format and I can highly recommend this
book for new riders who have taken some basic training
and are just starting to get over the initial fear
factor to motorcyclists with maybe 2-3 years' experience
who may be starting to harden some of their bad habits
(and may not know it).
In fact, Condon recommends the book in the
introduction for the "early intermediate to early
advanced rider who has a desire to ride with
The "Riding in the Zone" title builds on the
confidence issue. The "zone" is achievable when
the rider feels "self-assured, confident and
comfortable" -- that is, when you are "one" with your
I think confidence -- but not over-confidence -- is a
very important factor in motorcycle riding.
Confidence comes from skill development and risk
management, and confidence helps make the sport fun.
I often wonder why there are so many low mileage, 1-2
year old bikes for sale in the used motorcycle ads in
the local newspapers. I wonder how many of these
owners had unrealistic fantasies about motorcycling,
never acquired the proper skill set and may have scared
themselves silly after a few rides and -- thankfully for
all of us -- decided that discretion is the better part
of valor and put their new rides up for sale.
I also wonder how many of them would have continued
on past the danger stage if only they had taken a
training course or two and perhaps read a book like
Riding in the Zone.
Review Date: March 2009. Buy "Riding in the Zone"
(or Proficient Motorcycling)
at approx. 30% off the list price
with this link to Amazon.com
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From "B.S." (3/09): "Bought the book and was so
disappointed. Just brief sections failing to go into any depth on
any one section. All basic knowledge as far as I was concerned.
The one shinning point was the video."
From "J.S." (3/09): "I may just buy Condon's book,
mainly because of your thoughtful review. Your concise and easily
read review shows you value the well-written -- whether doing it or
With the tsunami of biker- and bike-related writing on the market
I've become numb to the flotsam and jetsam and haven't really considered
anything since "Zen..." and the Roadcraft stuff from GB. That may
My occasional attempts at teaching were always based on the "Tell 'em
what you're gonna tell 'em...(etc.)" structure and it's good to see you
and Mr. Condon value that approach as well. It's simplified, but
it works providing you know your beans.
And your thoughts on why there are so many barely used mounts on the
market jibe with my own. While selling I found that if people had
been better counseled and hadn't gone for eye (and ear) candy they just
might still be enjoying the ride.
So, much obliged! (an aside: The cover implies the book has
something to do with a DVD. Did I miss something??)"
Editor's Reply: Our DVD does not play on our
computer for some reason, so I can't comment on it.