Having assessed the riding skills of more than a few bikers in the past few years the single most critical aspect which presents itself is the importance of planning and anticipation. Anticipation and visible evidence of planning are hallmarks of advanced riding. Anticipation is fueled by obtaining information as early as possible to inform the decision-making process.
Observation is the overriding and most important aspect of systematic riding. In terms of hazards* what we need is time; time to react. When riding or driving we process complex information in a loop comprised of Input, Decision-making, Output (response) and Feedback (what's next?). We should always be asking ourselves these questions: What can we see? What can't we see? What can we reasonably expect to happen?
Reaction time is Decision-making and Output combined. Most riders have a similar response time but vary greatly in the amount of time it takes to make a decision. Our brains can't always deal with the information received. In demanding or complex situations key information may be forgotten or discarded before it can be stored in short-term memory. This is why riders and drivers often 'freeze' and crash when presented with something unexpected.
If we tend to concentrate our vision on a small area - whether it's a car, bike or the road immediately in front - we are less aware of the whole picture. The time we need to plan, anticipate and react, i.e. decision-making and response, may not be available.
We need to move our head and use our eyes in a scanning motion which sweeps the whole environment to build up and maintain a picture of what's happening around us, as far as we can see, in every direction. This includes the far distance, middle distance, foreground, sides and rear. In bends we need to keep our heads up and noses pointed towards the limit or vanishing point. For pilots, military personnel and others this is part of Situation Awareness.
A few years ago I jokingly asked a British SAS soldier if he would take a bullet for the Cabinet Minister he was escorting. His answer was simple and illustrative, "We'd never let it get that far." In an advanced rider's vocabulary the word suddenly does not appear. By learning to correctly Observe, Plan and Anticipate we will already have the answer to 'What's Next?'
* A hazard being defined as any real or potential danger and/or anything which will cause you to change speed or position.
* Some of the text above is from Motorcycle Roadcraft, The Police Rider's Handbook - ISBN 978 0 11 708188 8
Mike Moloney © 2015
Mike Moloney © 2015