Monday, August 13, 2012

Touring Tip: Exercising Good Riding Judgement

Written by: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel



Becoming a proficient, safe rider involves the accomplishment of many skills and a reservoir of experience in applying them. But even expert riders can be involved in serious accidents. In my experience, the primary preventable reason these accidents occur is because there was a lapse in the rider’s judgement. Here’s an example of one such incident with fatal consequences:

A young man on a sportbike was following a heavily laden dump truck on a four-lane city street in front of my place of employment. The rider apparently became frustrated with the truck’s slow rate of progress in the left lane and, in a split second, swerved into the right lane to pass. What the rider didn’t realize was that the truck was slowing to make a wide cross-lane turn into a construction site on the right. It took first responders quite a while to dislodge the motorcycle and its rider from beneath the truck’s rear wheels.

There are several factors, all of them mental, which can compromise a rider’s otherwise good judgement:

·         Being in A Hurry: Busy urban streets are a high-risk environment for motorcyclists, because there are so many potential risks that must be identified and mitigated. Trying to do this at warp speed is dangerous. The laws of probability suggest that sooner or later an imprudent rider will miss identifying a risk and fall victim to it. The same, also, is true on country roads.
·         Rationalizing Known Risks: Experienced motorcyclists usually are well aware of the risks posed to them in various riding situations. But how many times have you done something and later said to yourself, “I knew better than to do that!” I know I’ve done it – like the time I thought I needed to outrun an approaching thunderstorm, but didn’t. I well knew that driving rain and lightening posed a dangerous riding environment, but chanced it anyway because I didn’t want to take time out of my trip schedule to immediately find shelter. I knew better than that.
·         Over Confidence: In my estimation this is a major source of accidents for the most proficient motorcyclists. It’s a wonderful feeling when a rider gets to a point where he or she feels in complete command of their mount in virtually any situation. They often ride on the ragged edge of traction and safety. By leaving no margin of safety for a misjudged corner or an unexpected hazard suddenly appearing over the next hilltop, these riders are playing their own version of motorcycle roulette. Sooner or later they will need to rely on a margin for riding error that won’t be there when they need it.
·         Peer Pressure: How many times have you heard a highly proficient ride leader say, “Don’t try to keep up with me, ride your own ride”? The problem that often develops, though, is that less adept riders, especially if they’re on a powerful motorcycle that well exceeds their skill level (but not their ego), feel that they do have to keep up. Riding over your head is asking for trouble. And if you’re the cocky ride leader, be aware of the potential peer pressure you may be placing on the less capable riders in your jet stream.

Here are my five recommendations for exercising good riding judgement:
1. Take Your Time: If you’re late for a meeting or some other important appointment across town, it would be better to park your bike and take a cab, rather than pushing your limits through traffic. Whether you’re riding in the country or in an urban environment, motorcycling is supposed to be fun. Always ride at a safe speed.
2. Look Before You Leap: Don’t rationalize known riding risks and always be observant and thoughtful about identifying those that aren’t immediately obvious. I think there is a little voice in the back of our minds that tells us when we’re doing this—listen to it and ride accordingly!
3. Leave Your Ego in the Garage: Just like in a lot of other life situations, if you have an overly active ego, you can find yourself in a predicament. Because a motorcycle provides little, if any, crash protection, a rider has to be on top of his or her safe riding game at all times. Don’t take your ego along on a ride, it really is excess baggage that can cloud your riding judgment.
4. Stay Within Your Comfort Zone: If you’re ever feeling a little unsafe on a ride, that’s because you are unsafe. Exercise an “iron will” by always staying within your riding comfort zone. Your subconscious mind let’s you know when you’re outside your own personal safe riding envelope. Don’t ignore it! Really do “ride your own ride!”
5. Learn from Your Mistakes and those of Others: It’s important during and after a ride to reflect on any errors in judgement that you might have made and resolve not to repeat them. There is also much to be gained by learning from the mistakes of others so you can avoid those also.

Of course, not every random act of nature or acts of other humans can be anticipated and avoided, but riding with good judgment can go a long way in reducing your risk of an accident.


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