Handling situations is critical to riding safely

Situations are events that arise when others on the road do unexpected things. Handling situations is critical to riding safely. If it was just you on the road, riding would just be skill. But there are other people on the road, and they are the biggest threat any motorcycle faces. In fact, in general, the greatest danger to any human being comes from other human beings. People are far more dangerous to you than tigers, sharks or snakes.


Think before, not after, situations

Do your logical thinking before, not during, events

In motorcycle situations you dont usually have the leisure to make "rational" decisions. You are often lucky to make a decison at all. So use your big, slow, clever brain to figure out likely accident scenarios advance. Then plan your response beforehand. Do your logical thinking before, not during, events. Then when something happens, the instinctive part is prepared. This is the principle behind the sort of training they do in the army.

Tacit knowledge

After you figure something out, you then have to somehow convey these conclusions to the parts of your brain in charge when you actually ride the bike. This is the difference between intellectual and “tacit” knowledge. Tacit knowledge is stuff you know but dont know consciously, like how to not fall off a motorcycle. How do you "translate" intellectual knowledge into tacit knowledge? It isnt always easy, but it can be done, and people do it all the time.

Automating responses

On a motorcycle, only automated responses are fast enough

For a skill to be useful in riding, it must be fast. Riding responses are “real time”, so you don’t have time to think about them. When a skilled pianist’s fingers fly over a keyboard, he or she is not thinking “I will play A sharp”. Their fingers respond automatically to play the notes. Likewise on a motorcycle, the details of riding must be made automatic. The normal way things become automatic is habit and repetition. But what if you have bad habits? How can you change to better habits? First, define two things about your desired habit:

  • What starts it? Define the situation that initiates the habit
  • What is the response? You "design" how you want to act.
Practice when A happens, I will do B, but what if A is extreme and B is dangerous?

Get a clear idea in your head: When A happens, I will do B . Next, visualize the initiating condition and practice the response until it is automatic. I know this can be done, because I have done it. However what if A is extreme and B is dangerous? How can you practice then?

Look after your habits and they will look after you

Take a simple example. If something happens on the road ahead, dol you swing left or right? It makes a difference! One way takes you into oncoming traffic and likely death, the other into the hedge on the side of the road. How do you know you wont go the wrong way under pressure? The initiating situation is that a crash happens ahead. This is an extreme case. The desired response is to swerve away from oncoming traffic onto the road side - this is a dangerous response. How can one "practice" in this case? You practice going the right way in your mind. Visualize some situation, and "imagine" you will swerve to the road side, not the traffic side. Practise this in your mind, until it becomes a natural response. Then when something happens, that is the way you will go. In the same way, you can work on any good practices and turn them into habits. Look after your habits and they will look after you!