A Skill of the Eyes and Mind  

By Brian P.
May 8, 2004


I don't think anyone will argue that riding a motorcycle takes a certain amount of balance, coordination and physical skill. The more you ride, the better you will get. However, does physical skill alone make for a good motorcyclist? There is a saying I like to relate to my beginning riding students A superior motorcyclist uses a superior mental strategy so that he rarely needs to use his/her superior riding skill. But what does this mean?

As we ride in traffic, we should continuously evaluate our margin for error. What is our current skill level? How will our current physical condition and mental state impair our ability to process information and react? What are the current road and traffic conditions? What is the mechanical condition of our motorcycle? All of these factors must be considered when determining our margin for error. When we need to adjust our margin, we achieve this by adjusting the cushion of time and space between our motorcycle and other traffic. This is our safety cushion.

In my Basic Rider Classes (BRC's) I discuss in detail a powerful and dynamic mental strategy to reduce our risks while riding. We use this mental strategy as our tool to make necessary adjustments to our safety cushion. We refer to this strategy as SEE. Search, Evaluate and Execute. Now, let's discuss the components of SEE.

To Search is to scan aggressively 360 around us, for hazards that could turn into conflicts, requiring an immediate response. Our three search categories are: 1) other traffic; 2) traffic control marking, signs and signals and; 3) road and highway surface conditions. If our searching skills are lacking and our response is inadequate, then a traffic conflict could result in a crash.

To Evaluate is to play a continual game of what if, based upon what we see happening around us. It is to predict the worst case outcome, in order to get the best case result.

To Execute is to respond in a manner that provides enough safety cushion for our required margin of error. The three action steps we have available for execution are: 1) adjust speed; 2) adjust position and; 3) communicate our intentions.

It's one thing to ride with superior technical skill, but with reckless abandon. It's another thing to ride responsibly. Some of the qualities of a good motorcyclist are superior physical skills, a positive attitude and the desire to reduce the risks of riding. A responsible motorcyclist will think about the consequences of their actions while riding in traffic. They will Search, Evaluate and Execute to achieve that cushion of time and space between themselves and other traffic.

Riding a motorcycle and reducing our risks to a personally acceptable level (while still experiencing that thrill which makes this all so much fun!) is really 90% mental and 10% physical. It's clearly more a skill of the eyes and mind, rather than the hands and feet.


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