Attention

It isn't easy to change attitudes. You can't stop fear by just saying "I wont be afraid". Yet people do change their attitudes. How?

Put something in its place

Suppose you want to ride, but have fear or arrogance or anxiety or panic or impulsiveness or any one of a number of negative states when on a motorcycle. What do you do about it? Common responses are:

  • Ignore it - just ride anyway.
  • Run away - stop riding entirely.
  • Try harder - do whatever you are doing more.
The way to deal with a negative state is to put something in its place

Mostly these methods dont work. The key to dealing with a negative state is to put something in its place. If you aim not to do something, it doesn't work well. People need positive goals not negative goals. And if you try to say deny fear, the opposite negative state can jump in, and you become foolhardy. This is called the "swing of the pendulum", and is very common in people. The pendulum swings you from fear to carelessness, and both are just as bad. The bottom line is that "Nature Abhors a Vacuum", so the best way to stop something is to put something in its place. In the case of riding, the best thing to put in is attention.

Inattention

Inattention is the main cause of accidents

Inattention is thinking about anything other than what you are doing right now. If you are thinking of how cool you look when you ride, that is inattention. If you are thinking of what you are going to do when you arrive, that is inattention. If you are thinking some driver was bad to you, that is inattention. Most of the time, our attention is not unified but dissipated all over the place. We are like a leaky sieve, rather than a barrel with one bung-hole. We usually only give half our brain or less to any particular thing. On a bike, you cannot afford to be like this. Inattention is the main cause of accidents. People talk about speed or drink, and these are all factors, but the real number one killer on the road is inattention.

Attention is being all there

The first rule of getting on a bike is to be all there

The positive antidote to both fear and carelessness is attention. Fear is a distraction. Worry is a distraction. Caution is a distraction. Attention is when you center yourself mentally. If you give attention, you can't be fearful. If you give attention, you can't be arrogant and careless. Hence the first rule of getting on a bike is to be all there. The enemy is inattention. The goal is full attention - or the best awareness you can muster.

Attention is respect

Giving attention takes effort

Worry disrespects yourself and your ability. Carelessness disrespects the world and what it can do. Attention respects both the world and yourself. It is not doing nothing, though it may seem that way to others. Giving attention takes effort. Every part of you is contributing to being there. When you give attention, you are unified as a person. This awareness makes you mentally ready to ride.

Creating attention

The hard part of attention is you can have it one moment and lose it the next

Think about a moment of great danger or excitement, when you really gave attention. That is the state you want when riding. Just as you center yourself physically to balance a bike, so you must center yourself mentally. The hard part of attention is you can have it one moment and lose it the next. It is an every moment thing, and for a rider, any moment could count.

Tick rate

There are many ways to get and maintain attention. One is to increase your mental "tick" rate, the rate you process input. When you watch a movie, the action looks continuous, but actually the movie is still pictures that flick by at 80+ frames per second. You think it is continuous because the tick rate of your eyes is less than 80 times per second. You don't see the gaps in the film because there are gaps in your vision.

Tick rate explains why some people can hit a fast ball

Tick rate explains why some people can hit a fast ball in cricket or baseball, and others cant. If you have a low tick rate, you may see the ball leave the hand and in the next visual "frame" it is upon you. With a higher tick rate, you may also see it on the way, and thus be able to hit it. When your attention goes up, so does the rate at which you process the world, your tick rate. Likewise if you increase your tick rate, it increases your attention. If you try to be more aware "from moment to moment", you increase your information processing cycle rate. This is the same as increasing your attention.

Maintaining attention

When riding, no-one hears you scream

To maintain attention you have to stay awake. Your arousal level comes from somewhere deep in your brain. One way to increase arousal is to drink coffee. Another is to do violent exercise. If you are riding a motorcycle, neither of these ways is convenient. However one way to increase arousal can be used on a bike - yelling. When riding, no-one hears you scream. It sounds stupid, but it works. When you yell loudly, your mind wakes up and you focus better. If I feel only half there when riding, I yell "Yeehah!" Note the pronunciation :
NOT : YEEHAH! - I am the greatest thing since sliced bread,
BUT : YEEHAH! - I am aware in a real world.

Try it. It's invigorating, and no-one will know.