Read what people are saying about their experiences with the Riding in the Zone Personal Training Program.
A testimonial from Vic B.
“Be the boss of your bike”. I heard these words in my helmet over and over again during my extraordinary 2 day Personal Training Course with Ken Condon. My 2 day course with Ken was a very real revelation as to how much I still had to learn regarding riding well and in full control. At 69 years old, I have been enjoying riding for 13 years and I plan to be riding my FJR for at least another 13 years !!! After having read both of Ken’s books & then attending a Non-Sportbike Track Day last year, I decided that now was time to ensure I had the proper foundation & skills for my long term riding plans .. so I signed up for Ken’s 2 Day Personal Training Course.
A testimonial from Craig Ripley.
A testimonial from Peter F.
Just wanted to send you a quick note of thanks for the excellent advanced rider training program you presented this past weekend. Your thoughtful and focused approach to enhancing rider safety was fabulous. I greatly appreciated your time spent coaching me via radio on several occasions as we traversed some technically complicated roads which I had never been on before. My ride home gave me numerous opportunities to practice what you taught, and as a result, I felt far more comfortable and in control of my motorcycle. Thank you!
I’m writing as requested to provide feedback on the safety course I did with the help of the Paul B. memorial scholarship fund. As a reminder, it was the Riding in the Zone 2-day advanced rider training course in western Massachusetts taught by Ken Condon (http://www.ridinginthezone.com/tour-program/).
As it happens, I’m struggling to figure out how to word my feedback without it turning into the kind of “glowing praise that might be mistaken for a commercial endorsement” that you cautioned against! I really can’t say enough good things about the training.
Ken sent each student a survey beforehand to assess our riding skills and find out what we wanted to get out of the training. When we met for breakfast the first day, he acknowledged each of our goals and explained when and how we would address them. I appreciated this attention to detail, as I learn best when I know in advance what the goal of the exercise is.
Going into the course, my goals were to connect with like-minded riders, improve my slow-speed maneuvering, and get used to my new bike in a safe environment. In retrospect, I expected far too little. Sure, I made new friends and improved my bike handling skills, but I also completely changed my approach to riding, both how I interact with my motorcycle and how I read the road.
This training was completely different than the MSF basic rider course I took a couple years ago. Ken coached us (via Bluetooth communicators) in real-time as we rode down the road at speed. He also gave us a stream-of-consciousness monologue of what he is thinking as he rides, which was helpful because it made me realize how much I don’t usually notice but should be paying attention to, like road surface conditions, cars in driveways, street signs, and other clues to help guide a rider such as the direction the power-lines point as they disappear over a rise.
As an Olympic athlete, I’ve had thousands of hours of coaching from some of the most respected coaches in the world, and I have to say Ken is among the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. He is able to explain concepts in ways that are both easy to understand and memorable–so much so that as I rode the 300 miles home the next day, I could still hear his voice in my ear reminding me of everything I learned. But what I appreciated most was Ken’s positivity and sensitivity. He has a way of pointing out what a pupil is doing wrong and correcting it without the person ever feeling frustrated or discouraged, and he is able to intuit when his pupils have reached information saturation and either need time to process and practice, or need to just go have some fun riding the road.
I honestly can’t think of anything I would change about the course; I think it’s worth every penny of the $975.
The only thing that might be an issue is how much time you end up spending in the small group of three riders plus a coach: two full days including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It worked great for me, as I really liked the other two women who took the course (as well as Ken’s wife, who rode with us the second day) and enjoyed spending time with them, but if for some reason a student ended up in a group with someone he or she didn’t get along with, it might ruin the experience.
I am back in Philly after a delightful ride back.
I wanted to thank you again for a wonderful day of riding. I learned a great deal, had a lot of fun and experienced magnificent scenery, backroads and people. Most importantly, you truly do incorporate mindfulness into riding. You don’t just help to ride better, but empower to find that place where we, the road and the machine become one!
I look forward to becoming your repeat customer. The lessons I’ve learned are invaluable and are worth every penny that I spent.
H.Y. – August, 2015
I had an excellent coaching ride with Ken recently. We rode through NW MA and SE VT, on some fine twisty country roads. Just what I like. I started riding motorcycles about 40 years ago, and now at 68, I am still going strong. Every year I try to find a new learning experience to extend my skills and stay sharp.
Ken uses a bluetooth communicator to coach you as he rides behind – observing what you’re doing – and not doing. He really helped me improve my slow speed tight maneuvering. He took videos as we rode and when I watched them at lunch, his feedback that my medium and high-speed turns could be smoother made a lot of sense. During the afternoon, I could really feel the improvement. I would recommend Ken to anyone looking for a good way to advance their skills.
T.Z. – August, 2015
“A day of training with Ken has elevated my riding to a level I wasn’t aware of and further bolstered my confidence and enjoyment on the bike, too.” – Greg T.
This was a great experience from pre-ride to post-ride. I very seldom get to meet and/or work with accomplished professionals who operate outside a conference room (let alone at slow, medium and high speeds under continuously varying conditions.) Some forms of mastery are more impacting than others, and it really was a privilege to meet you this way and for you to make yourself available for an entire day (even for a fee, which I contend is modest compared to how you prepare, execute and follow-up.) I will do my best to make this the first of many training experiences!
G.T. – July, 2015
A testimonial from Jim C.
Our training day started at Elmer’s Store in Ashfield where Joe, the other rider, and I filled out an evaluation that did a good job of helping me determine where my weaknesses were and where to focus. We then talked with Ken about our responses which help Ken set the tone for the day in terms of exercises and the route itself. For me that turned out to be an important process as the route was changed based on that conversation. A route that seemed to be tailor made for the very things I needed to work on.
The first stop was the Ashfield highway department parking lot where we practiced low speed tight turns and emergency braking. I ride a Yamaha Warrior which is not known for its nimbleness but I was able to get the bike to comply pretty well when I followed his instruction to fully twist my head around and up. Almost an epiphany moment.
The next exercise was harder for me. We did emergency braking with a fixed point and also with Ken choosing our moment of reaction. He was very patient and I lost count on how many times I went around to try it again but I did get to a point where my head understood what to do but my reacting muscles were not able to cease from going into a harder lock down than was needed on the back brake. The important lesson from this exercise was the importance of practicing these on a regular basis. Ken did a good job of hammering that home.
After this phase of parking lot work was finished we headed out for the open road part. Some very interesting things came out of this part of the program. Ken noticed very quickly that I was sitting crooked on the saddle. This was subconscious on my part but it was so pronounced he asked me if I had a spinal injury. After assuring him I did not we went about trying to figure out what it was happening. It turned out that the ol’ wallet in the back pocket routine was to blame so I removed the wallet and began the process of making myself sit straight even though it felt odd. Another eureka moment.
As we rode Ken spent more time leading and demonstrating positioning and braking into corners. This allowed me to first try and emulate his moves as I listened to him describe them on the radio. During this time Ken would also talk about what was happening on the sides of the road to expand our sense of awareness about what might happen ON the road as a result of what was going on off the road. Then, taking turns Ken would have Joe or myself take the lead where he would continue the commentary and also capture our activity on the ProCam. The terrain, road conditions, traffic and distractions were all there to provide a good variety of situations that kept us focused.
At that point we broke for lunch and enjoyed superb food and great conversation which included many topics and not just riding which helped us relax and enjoy the break. Back on the road now Ken took us back to a particularly track like set of curves on a recently paved section of a ridge road running along side an industrial wind farm. Nice backdrop! Here we took turns going through these curves with Ken on our heels and with his usual excellent commentary all the while filming our every move.
After that it was a leisurely ride home with little to no comments about what we were doing leaving us free to practice what we had learned without too much distraction. At the end of the ride I was treated to an incredibly in-depth review of the video taken of me during the ride. This was the first time I had an opportunity to see myself on a bike and to do so with Kens experienced insight was an extremely useful and rewarding session. It was indeed the highlight of the day.
I was very impressed with the whole program. Ken is an outstanding instructor and a pleasure to ride with. As an intermittent rider who took motorcycle training when I got back on the bike this experience was way beyond what I received from my prior training and was really necessary to discover and mitigate some of the many bad habits I had acquired over the years. Something that every rider should consider.
J.C. – June, 2014
A testimonial from Kathy L.
My husband, Tom, and I started riding in 2011. We bought our WeeStroms and then took the MSF training down here in Connecticut. Pretty cocky, eh? We were both in our late 50s then and I knew I would be bored silly riding on the back so I insisted on my own bike from the start. I had never ridden a motorcycle before.
We’ve done over 22,000 miles so far (Nova Scotia, across country, West Virginia, and lots of local riding) but a few particular situations on the road continued to really cause me great anxiety — particularly hairpin turns that are ascending to the right. Argh! I would always end up in the on coming lane, stopped, or worse. So this spring when I saw Ken’s note about day long training, Tom and I decided to sign up. That’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
After our initial talk over breakfast at Elmer’s General Store in beautiful downtown Ashfield, we hit the DPW parking lot. No messing around. Right into those turns. Oy! Ken has so much insight and an amazing range of ways to explain how to do something. I was turning, making the largest S Boxes in history. So, at one point, he said in his gentle but commanding way, “Okay, scoot back and I’ll drive.”
What! He wasted no time as the terror struck. I scooted back, he got on, we rode the smallest, tightest turns I had ever experienced. I was sure we were going to die! But he just kept going around in these beautifully controlled smooth turns with me on the back. I probably didn’t breathe even once. Well, he stopped, got off, and gave me back the controls. I was in shock. I had no idea my motorcycle could turn like that. What an experience!
I can’t say that I immediately could maneuver like a master, but the sensation of moving confidently through a small turn, feeling the energy of the motorcycle, the physics of motion, was a real eye opener. Wow.
We’ve gone back to our own parking lot a couple of times since and I am so improved — more to the left than the right but both are so much better. The day after our lesson, we rode up the north entrance to Mount Greylock and down the south, with the nice little hairpins, and I handled them better than I ever have. Tom made us turn around and do the south road a couple more times. And each time, I felt more control.
During the day long training with Ken, we rode up to Vermont and, through our helmet communicators, he worked with both of us on our technique in many different riding situations. We’ll never ride curves the way we used to. Even though we had the general outside inside outside concept, Ken had a way of giving us an even deeper understanding how to read the road and place ourselves in the best possible position for safety and visibility. Wow.
We’re off to Oregon for a three week gallivant this summer on our bikes. Seeing all the hairpin turns on the maps I feel much more prepared to meet them with safety and confidence thanks to your Dad. Thank you, Ken.
Spending a day (or half a day even) with Ken for a rider at any level will be so valuable. If it’s crossed your mind, do it. You’ll be so glad you did.
Kathy L. – June, 2014
More from Kathy after she and Tom returned from their epic trip to Oregon:
A big shout out to Ken Condon for his amazing teaching. We took his day long personal training to prepare for our 3 week trip to Oregon. We rode 2200 miles over some of the twistiest, snarly roads through the mountains and had a blast. I took those hairpins in both directions, rode the seemingly endless curves maintaining sight lines and feeling so much more in control. Here’s one of our favorites – McKenzie Highway (OR 242). Thank you, Ken, for giving me the skills that made this ride so much fun.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a “Personal Training Tour” with Ken Condon, author of “Riding in the Zone.” I had recently taken the MSF’s ER course, and was a bit disappointed in the curriculum- it seemed to be nothing more than the Basic Course, minus the classroom work. In addition, the restrictions put on me during the class (no covering brakes, no feathering the rear brake during slow-speed manuevers) seemed like a step backwards to me after a few years of riding in the real world.
At a subsequent meeting of the Yankee Beemers, I met a rider who turned me on to Ken’s program. He also mentioned the Paul B. Memorial Scholarship, and suggested that I apply. I went online and filled out an application, and within a few days I had a check for $250. I sent Ken an email, and we scheduled a date. He suggested I get his book, and familiarize myself with its concepts and practice exercises. A self-assessment survey was also completed in preparation for the day.
We started out with some parking lot practice- slow, tight turns and full-lock turns from a stop. The latter was probably the maneuver where I felt weakest, but a couple of hints from Ken on the proper technique and I was on the right track. I still feel a bit awkward with this move, but under Ken’s guidance I was able to nail it a couple of times, so I know what doing it right feels like, and this is what I now aim for in my daily practice. Keep that right hand off the brake!
After about 30 minutes of that, my clutch hand needed a break, so we stripped off the rain gear under clearing skies and headed up Vermont way.
We took back roads through some beautiful fall foliage, the leaves scattering behind Ken’s bike as he led the way. He kept up a constant stream of narration, giving a useful insight into his thought process as he reads the road, anticipates hazards, and lines up for turns. After a while I got to lead, (at which point Ken turned on his camera) and after one particular series of curves, we got down to business- he taught me how to trail brake and use the “delayed apex- quick turn” methods of cornering. He cleared up a misconception I’d had on delayed apexes, and my cornering improved immediately.
At our lunch break in Wilmington, VT, Ken pulled out his laptop and uploaded the camera footage so we could go over a few things that he had mentioned on the road. Because his camera is mounted over the front wheel, it was easy to see when I took a less-than-optimal line in front of him. We also spent some time talking about our respective paths to the motorcycle world, the benefits of track days, and how we both need to meditate more.
After lunch we headed out again for some more cornering work, this time including some ascending and descending hairpins. We were able to do several runs on each corner (necessitating numerous slow-speed U-turns), and I improved every time thanks to his coaching.
We made another stop at the east end of the historic Hoosac Tunnel for a much-needed afternoon break. The short walk brought home how much effort it takes to ride safely: it’s not necessarily difficult, but it does demand constant attention and evaluation- especially when putting newly-refined learning into practice.
Refreshed, we got back on our bikes and continued the trip back down to Ashfield. On the way, Ken showed me some of his “secret roads” that featured beautiful scenery and great riding.
We ended the day back at the parking lot, where we now worked on quick stops and emergency swerving maneuvers. Under Ken’s coaching, I was able to gradually reduce my stopping distance to the point where I started to feel my eyes bugging out of my head. “That means you’re doing it right now,” was the reply.
After the afternoon parking lot session, we went over what I had learned, and discussed how I can continue to integrate the new knowledge into my riding skill set. I had already picked out some local roads in my area where I can practice the new cornering techniques, and I resolved to add at least a few minutes at the beginning and ending of each day with some parking lot practice. Finally, Ken uploaded the video footage from the day, and I came home with a record of my performance that shows a distinctive improvement over the course of the day. And on those corners where I didn’t do so well, I have Ken’s line to see how it should be done.
This master class has had a profound effect on my riding since that day. I always try, as Ken put it, “to look for opportunities to interact with your motorcycle,” and not be a passive driver. It’s even changed the way I drive my car- hazards are hazards, after all, and being able to recognize clues about the lay of the road and intentions of other drivers is a valuable skill.
Perhaps the most telling evidence of my change in attitude, however, came in the office a few days later. A co-worker had recently changed the wallpaper on his computer desktop to a scene of a New England country road in all its autumn glory. But the first thing I noticed was the convergence of the yellow line and fog line as the road disappeared around to the right- A Decreasing Radius Turn!
Let’s be honest- this type of training is sorely lacking in the U.S. We have the MSF classes of course, but the curriculum is constrained by the need to teach a relatively large class a standardized protocol designed to efficiently get people riding as quickly as possible. Under such conditions, there’s not a lot of room for detailed, customized instruction on the finer points of riding well, and the result is that many riders leave that class thinking they are fully qualified to get out on the road and ride safely. Further, many may not realize that several of the techniques taught in that class are there to ensure the safety of those on the range, and may not be the best way of riding in the real world.
In an ideal world, individual motorcycle instruction in the U.S. would be mandatory before getting one’s full license. This intensive training is not inexpensive, but it’s worth much more than what it costs: a well-trained, confident rider is a safer rider. Thanks to the BMWMOA’s Paul B. Memorial Scholarship, many more riders can now have the opportunity to make this investment in their motorcycling future.
-Steve- October, 2014