Saturday, May 7, 2016

Don't Get This Wrong

The most important skill for motorcycle safety is not threshold braking. It is not the ability to make a U-Turn in less than 24 feet. It is not even the ability to swerve-brake-swerve (although, that's a good one). No. According to a new study, the most important motorcycle safety skill, by far, is the ability to get your eyes up and see what's coming.

"Rider Training and Collision Avoidance in Thailand and Los Angeles Motorcycle Crashes," by James Ouellet and Vira Kasantikul, MD (find it here) summarizes it like this:

Both the Thailand and Hurt studies concur that the time from precipitating event that begins the collision sequence to the impact itself is so short--less than three seconds in the great majority of cases--that even a well-chosen, well executed evasive action is unlikely to be effective. This suggest that rider training should emphasize teaching riders the knowledge and skills needed to prevent precipitating even from occurring, rather than how to react after it has already occurred.

That's why vision is the central focus of my Fearless Riding system. Of course, being a Recreation Leadership major in college, I like to make everything into a game. So, I invented a game to make if easy and fun to practice this most vital motorcycle skill. The game is called Time Travel and it may be the most important game you ever play. Here is how to do it.

As you are riding, move your eyes up. Look down the road as far as you can see. The point where the road disappears, around a corner, over a hill, or way off into the distance, is called the Vanishing Point. In the picture below, the Vanishing Point is past the oncoming rider, almost around the corner, before you get to the tunnel.

Photo of motorcycle rider in Switzerland.
When you find the Vanishing Point, pick out a landmark next to the road at that point. Maybe it's a rock, a sign, a tree or a tuft of grass, but find something as a visual reference point. As soon as you find your reference point, start counting up from zero. See how long it takes you, in seconds, to get to that point. That's the whole game.

When I started playing this game, I could barely look ahead 30 or 40 seconds. My current personal best is 2:10 on a highway coming home from South Carolina. Beautiful day. As I was riding, I kept one eye on my reference point, and the other eye on a huge storm cloud off to my right.

For some of you, watching the Vanishing Point is old hat. When I started playing Time Travel, it was a bit disconcerting. At first, I felt like I had no control. I was no longer looking at the road right in front of my front tire. What if there was sand? What about gravel or oil? It got so bad, I had to back off and practice the technique in my car for awhile. When I realized I felt more relaxed and more in control by looking well ahead, I started to really enjoy the game.

On one ride, I saw a near accident developing 4 cars in front of me. I was already on my brakes and slowing down before the car at the front of the line realized the idiot in the parking lot was about to pull in front of him.

Now, there is a problem with playing the Time Travel Game. You can begin to feel so confident about what is happening around you that you stop worrying so much about cars you've already seen and discounted. So, I invented another road game called Dodge Ball. More on that later. For now, just remember the goad isn't just to get your eyes up to the Vanishing Point. The goal is to see well ahead of the motorcycle and take appropriate action.

So, get out there and ride. Start in your car, if you need to, but learn to get your eyes up. That way you will automatically and effortlessly avoid problems that might catch other riders off guard. It is the very essence of Fearless Riding.

What? Lost an Entire Chapter!

So, I've been trying to simplify my writing by using Google Documents. When I started to have problems switching back and forth between chapters (different files in Google Docs), I decided to put everything in the FREE OpenOffice Writer. When I went to get chapter two from Google Docs to put it into one big Writer file, the whole chapter was gone. Gone. Lost. Deleted. Must of been me, but I sure didn't do it on purpose. Anyway, I remember what I wrote, so I'll just re-write it. Hopefully the new chapter two will be even better than the old chapter two. Oh, well!

Google Docs is free and it works, but so is OpenOffice Writer. 

The Best Place to Practice

Some people love parking lot practice or track days. I believe the best place to practice is on the road and in the parking lot where you park. The idea is to actually and consciously apply all those things you already know about Fearless Riding. As you ride, look up and find the vanishing point. Relax your grip before you make your turns. Look past 90-degrees, then let out the clutch and ease around and head home. Nothing  against practicing but honestly, the idea is to use those Fearless Riding techniques every time you ride. So, get out there and practice, er, I mean enjoy the ride.
I practiced finding the vanishing point on my way to lunch at Waffle House.