Monday, 23 June 2008

Where You Look

The phrase "Where You Go is Where You Look - So Look Where You Want To Go" is fairly well known in rider training.

But however well-known it is, the problems come from the belief in it - or lack of belief - and the way it's interpreted and used.

Belief? How can it be necessary to 'believe' in a phrase? Often, riding a motorcycle is a life-threatening occupation - and the transition from 'safe' to 'scary' can happen in moments.

A sadly too common motorcycle crash involves rider encountering a tightening bend. However much the problems could have been eliminated or reduced by better foraward observation and planning prior to the corner, if the situation occurs then the rider has to take immediate action.

Sadly, 'fight or flight' type reactions come in to play - and the rider is likely to tense up and stare at the opposite side of the road - which until very recently was their expected 'way out' of the corner.

Instead, the rider needs to turn their head and look as far around the - now tighter - corner as possible.

A couple of points about this action:
1. Having the 'escape' action pre-planned means reaction time, and likelyhood of panic, is reduced
2. The rider needs to turn their entire head - not just their eyes - and point their chin where they want to go to

During a recent training session, I had a rider travelling in an oval, short straights with 45ft semi-circles at each end. The exercise was to develop some aspects of cornering. When he stopped so we could chat, I asked how he'd been steering the bike? With a bemused look, he admitted he didn't know! What he'd been doing was keeping relaxed, keeping the bike gently under power, and 'steering' by pointing his head where he wanted to go to.

Why 'point' your head? Because if you just turn your eyes, you'll revert to looking at the things that worry you.

Why have an 'escape' pre-planned? Because for every moment you spend not looking where you want - or need - to go, you'll be heading towards a crash. One second reaction time at 30mph is 44ft travelled without turning tighter . . .

So the 'belief' is knowing that a good head turn really does 'control' the bike (and during training sessions I can get a rider turning tighter just by moving where I stand and shout from!), and trusting in its use.

And the interpretation? You mustn't just 'look' - that's passive. Instead, look and choose! Choose where you want the bike to go, choose the bit of surface you want to go over - don't look at the poor road surface, look ar the good surface.

What set me thinking about it all this? Ever watched a horse-drawn ploughing competition? Me neither, but I've seen them on TV! The winners - marked on the straightness of the furrows they plow - walk along, looking relaxed, gently guiding the plough - but looking well ahead, as far as possible.

This is what my US colleagues in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation called 'Visual Directional Control'. And why did that occur to me? Because I was trying to keep my lawn mower in a straight line . . .

More training info to be added here

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