If you read motorcycle magazines with any regularity, especially articles on riding safety, you might begin to feel as though you know it all when it comes to getting around safely on the street. I read a lot and I see that there is a lot of information flowing out there, and some of it is bad. I really feel that some writers tend to baffle us and I believe sometimes it’s from lack of experience.
I have been teaching riders for many. many years, and with that experience comes a lot of knowledge on some of the main things for which riders tend to be unprepared. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I do know that most riders haven’t brushed up on “panic”. I think it’s because riders aren’t realistic enough to think it could happen to “them”, or “I’ll deal with it if it comes”. Not a good decision. Being prepared and practicing panic and the “what ifs” are the secrets to survival.
My 25 years as a road racer taught me to stay one jump ahead of the panic game. Things happen quickly on the race track and you better be ready for whatever the race throws at you, or you won’t make it as a racer.
My sincere message to all who ride is to learn the meaning of control and finesse. This is what I teach at CLASS, and though it’s not rocket science, a large percentage of my students come back to me saying that no matter how long they have been riding, learning the secrets to control and finesse, and practicing it on the race track, has opened a new world of riding to them.
But new recruits sometimes arrive with ham fisted techniques that get them into trouble quickly on the racetrack, and most certainly at some time on the street. I call them “point and shoot artists” that know how to twist a throttle, but they aren’t in touch with their emotions and soon they are led down the road to Panic. It gets expensive and it can also get deadly. But even if you’re not the type to point and shoot, riders must stop and think seriously about what it is they are doing, and what the real consequences could be of doing it wrong or of underestimating what’s around the next bend. It’s not a game, it’s survival. Planning ahead, staying in tune with what’s happening every second, that’s preparation for the unknown.
You can practice by imagining the “what ifs”. It takes hard work on your part to keep these things in mind, especially when your favorite Sunday ride is a never ending ribbon of smooth twisty roads through some beautiful countryside. The last thing you want to interrupt this paradise with is the thought of something bad happening to you.
I try to practice these bad situations on some of my neighboring twisty roads, oftentimes two up, where it’s more than just my life involved. I imagine that around the next curve is ______. You fill in the blank. Are you ready for it?
I want to be prepared. I want to be ready for that SUV sitting at the intersection with his left hand flasher ticking away, ready to go ahead and turn left in front of me. I want to be ready for that vision impaired driver at the T junction who must see my highbeam coming up the road, and pulls out in front of me just before I get there. Or the gravel laying on the line of the familiar turn in my favorite twisty road, or for that 18 wheeler to decide he likes my lane better than his own!
If you can be a step ahead of the game, plan ahead, control your emotions as well as your motorcycle, practice getting ready for the unknown, that’s what helps keep panic from rearing it’s ugly head. Believe me, it can happen at any time.
Oh and remember, don’t believe everything you read. Test it with common sense and keep your survival, not just your corner speed, in mind.
Ride Safe and hope to see you at the track!