THINKING WHILE RIDING COULD KILL YOU
In The Right Stuff, Chuck Yeager says, "Let us go see where that old demon is today". In the movie he is talking about the sound barrier, Or is he? He is also talking about limitations and conquering the fear that occurs when we reach those limitations whether real or imagined.
On a motorcycle it is easy to find your demons. A little slip on a bit of oil, misreading the intentions of another driver or entering a corner at a speed that your mind says is "too fast, too fast". Each of these situations gives you a little scare or a least they should.
They signal that you are an imperfect rider. I am not suggesting we should all be perfect. What I am suggesting is we are all imperfect. It .is part of being human. Let .us acknowledge we are all continuously making mistakes, some inconsequential and some that are possibly life threatening. It .is those mistakes we make when we are riding that we should be concerned with. In fact it is not really the mistakes that I am concerned with it .is the responses you have to the mistakes. For example, running into a corner at a speed at which your mind perceives is too fast.
The important word here is perceives. Unless you are Freddie Spencer I .would be willing to bet that you are not riding your bike at 100% of its capabilities. Besides, if you are riding at 100% on the street you probably deserve what is about to happen to you. Save the real limit testing for the racetrack. Then you can practice in a controlled environment free from cars, gravel and other uncontrollable conditions. If you are not at 100% the motorcycle is probably capable of going through the corner. If, as you enter the corner your mind says, "oh shit," you have found the demon. What happens next will determine the outcome of your situation. I have a mantra that kicks in at this point. It goes something like this, "GET OFF THE BRAKES AND TURN TURN TURN TURN TURN! This is my reaction to the demon in the entrance to the corner.
The panic part is easy. It is the response to the panic that we have to work on. In these situations you must have a preprogrammed and practiced response. It is at the point where your panic button gets pressed that timing is critical. If you don't have an automatic response you are going to have to think about what to do next. The thought process is far too slow and can get you hurt or killed. Instinct on the other hand requires no time for thought. You simply do the right thing and the event is past.
Some situations are easy to practice. Fast stops are a good example. Find a large, clear and clean parking lot and practice quick stops from various speeds to get used to how the motorcycle will respond. While practicing fast stops you may invoke a skid if you aren't careful. A word about skids; rear-wheel skids are taught at training and are relatively easy to overcome. Front wheel skids most often end with you on your head, so always approach your limits very carefully. Be sure to wear full protective gear and if possible take a friend along in case you have an anxious moment or two. If you frequently ride with a passenger it's a good idea to practice this two-up. Have them practice with you after you perfect it solo.
Other predicaments, such as entering a corner too fast, you might not want to put yourself into unless forced. For these situations I recommend that you use visualization exercises. These can be done while sitting at home on your sofa or preferably sitting on your motorcycle on the center-stand in the garage. To visualize, mentally ride yourself through each situation you wish to practice again and again, each time practicing the perfect procedures in your head. If you are sitting on your bike, mimic the correct control responses at the proper times. Ever notice race drivers on race day? Most of the racers have a far away look in their eyes. They are visualizing a perfect lap of the course and practicing the timings over and over until they are completely memorized and automatic.
For the corner you have entered too fast it might go like this:
Approaching the corner on the brakes you grab a downshift while matching revs. Reaction: I'm too fast! Half the battle here is getting your mind around that corner. Once you have your mind where you want it then work on your eyes. Where the eyes go the motorcycle will follow. Continue to brake as long as the bike is upright, releasing the brakes smoothly, look through the corner to your exit point. Pick up enough throttle to balance the chassis then pushing on the inside bar, or inside foot peg, lead the bike with your eyes, head, mind, and body. Roll on the throttle smoothly and exit the corner. Beat the demon!
The best thing of course is actual practice. There are many good track schools where you can spend some time getting to know your own limits as well as you bikes. Practice your learned mental procedures over and over again. Then when you encounter a situation that presses your panic button the next sequence of thoughts is as automatic as zipping up your jacket or covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze. So, you're driving down the highway and a car starts to turn across your path. I know exactly what I'm about to do & What about you?