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Visual Skills

Posted on March 17, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Visual Skills are probably the most important part of motorcycling.

Hazard perception, corner path, throttle control and braking distances (among other things) all rely on where you’re looking and what you’re seeing.

The old adage, “look where you want to go” is still as true as it ever was but there’s a lot more to visual skills than just that.

Hazard Perception is exactly what it says on the tin. Looking as far up the road ahead as you can to spot potential hazards as early as possible and deal with them as smoothly and simply as possible. Keep your eyes on the move (scanning) to see the entire riding environment and try not to fix your gaze on any one thing (target fixation). Every 5 seconds or so scan the road surface, your speedo/instruments and your mirrors, then lift your eyes back up the road ahead. Sounds simple enough but many riders are guilty of not looking far enough ahead and this often means having to react suddenly when something takes them by surprise.

Smooth, safe Cornering always depends on good visual skills. On approach to any corner your eyes should be gathering information for your brain to process. The recommended speed for that particular corner will give you 5 seconds of forward vision. The warning sign will tell you which way the corner goes. Scan the road surface and adjust your entry line if necessary. Look as far through the corner as you can, at the vision limit point, which will tell you if the corner is tightening up or opening out. Keep scanning as you go through the corner to check the road surface and your lane position. Use your peripheral vision (the stuff you can see without looking at it) to warn you of any other dangers, like wildlife or driveways.

Throttle control and Braking Distances both rely on the information gathered by our eyes and processed by our brain. If you’re not seeing the whole picture you won’t know when to speed up or when to slow down. When riding in town traffic it’s very easy to be fooled into only looking at the back of the vehicle ahead of you and to have a “blinkered” view. This often results in following too close and being taken by surprise when something happens. Back off a bit and lift your eyes, increase your all-round vision, remember to check your mirrors and improve your overall awareness of your surroundings. This will reduce the chance of a rear-end crash (or near miss) and reduce the likelihood of a “panic-braking” situation. The “eyes up” increased awareness will also allow smooth throttle control, easy overtaking and safe lane changes.

 

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