Better riding: Look where you want to go

Shubhabrata Marmar  | Updated: May 30, 2013, 04:11 PM IST

Yamaha Ray

If you ask any motorcycle trainer to give you only one tip to improve your riding, it is invariably this: look where you want to go. It changes your riding so dramatically that it is a little hard to believe how something so simple can be so important.

Riding two-wheelers, motorcycles or scooters is all about your mind. And most of that comes from what your eyes see. When your eyes see danger, you tend to slow down.

And when your eyes tell your brain it is safe, you tend to speed up to the point where your eyes tell your brain that speed itself is now a hazard. The difference is that for Valentino Rossi this limit may be 340kmph and for a new rider, it might be just 35kmph.

But as you know, the eyes are in your control. And you can use them to your advantage. By design, eyes have restrictions. They are not designed to make sense of a world moving faster than running speed but on the other hand, they are designed to look for danger. As in by nature, their favourite subjects are both things that will tend to slow you down. Going slower may appear to be safer than going faster to new riders, but this is not always the case. And your perception of danger when there is none can actually be a bigger hazard than you think.

So what do you do with your eyes?

Most of us look ahead. The first change is to consider how far ahead you look. On bad roads, most of us will look only a couple of feet ahead to avoid really bad patches. On great roads where only a few objects block your vision, you might look 10-15 feet ahead. But in the case of most street riders, they do not look far enough ahead.

What that does is simple. Move your palm side to side in front of your face at a fixed frequency. You will notice that when the palm is closer to your face, it seems to move faster and when you take it farther, it slows down. This is called parallax.

And on a motorcycle, the same phenomenon makes the world appear to come at you faster when your eyes are looking down and close at the road. In effect, 35kmph can feel like 55kmph, which makes your brain very busy and causes you to, eventually, feel unsafe. And a lack of confidence never leads to good riding.

The solution is simply to look up and farther ahead. Focus on where you would like the motorcycle or scooter to go and you will find that almost magically, the motorcycle will go where you are looking, the world will appear to slow down around you and your confidence and smoothness will go up immediately. And trust me, it is far harder to do this and make a habit of it than you think. So practice.

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