Of all the exercises at my Ride Like a Pro class, riders have the most problems with the brake and escape. This exercise has the rider braking from 20 mph while downshifting from 2nd to 1st gear and slowing to about 5 mph. The rider then has to make a quick swerve from right to left to right to avoid an obstacle.
It’s very rare that a rider hits the obstacle, but invariably, the riders will hit several cones while making the swerve. If this were actually out on the street, the cones would be the curb or the edge of the road. It usually takes the rider going through this exercise two or three times before they are able to brake, release the brake, then swerve, without hitting anything. By the fourth or fifth time through, they’ve got it down perfectly.
Of course, out in the real world you’ve got just one chance to get it right. Screw up, you’ve crashed.
The reason riders have a problem with this is simply because they rely on instinct rather than technique. Their instinct says to look at the cones (or the curb on the street). When the rider applies the head and eyes technique, i.e., look where you want to go, not at the thing you’re trying to avoid, the exercise becomes quite easy. Once the rider “gets it”, they usually say something like, “I can’t believe I was screwing that up”.
This is why in almost any rider course, the proper use of head and eyes is stressed so much. You most certainly go where you look. If you’re looking at the tree, the curb, or an oncoming vehicle, chances are very good you’re going to hit it. Since this technique is the opposite of your instinct, it must be practiced over and over again until it becomes your instinct.
This is why police motor officers’ training starts with low speed maneuvers. Learning this technique takes plenty of trial and error. If you make an error at low speeds under controlled conditions and hit some cones or tip the bike over, it’s no big deal. If you make the same error at 50 mph out on the street, serious injuries or even death will occur as well as a wrecked motorcycle.
Half of all motorcycle crashes involve just the rider. These generally happen when rounding a curve. Even here in Florida where we have very few curves, riders are still running off those few curves.
The mistake made in these incidents is instead of looking through the curve, the riders look at the yellow line, the edge of the road or the oncoming vehicle and since you go where you look, well, you know the rest of the story.
The bottom line, look where you want to go, well ahead of your path of travel. NEVER focus on anything you don’t want to hit.
2016 copyright – Jerry Motorman Palladino