Most riders get into trouble because they fail to foresee the unfolding of a bad situation until it’s too late. The result is a lot of close calls and crashes. In contrast, the best riders have a knack for recognizing often-subtle indicators of developing trouble by continually scanning the visual “screen” for hazards and then acting as necessary to stay ahead of the danger. One way these riders accomplish this feat is to think about their ride as a sort of game where they score points when they predict hazardous situations before they actually develop.
To illustrate how this might look, imagine yourself stuck in traffic on your way out of town to enjoy some twisty roads. As you move from one traffic light to another, you see a white minivan up ahead whose driver is drifting and then abruptly correcting to stay in his lane. You figure he or she is probably texting or messing with the SatNav. Just ahead of the van is a fellow rider who seems oblivious to the bogie on his six because he is too busy checking out the hottie in the car to his right.
The situation is about to get more precarious when the traffic light ahead changes from green to yellow. The biker comes to a smooth stop, but the distracted minivan driver continues to speed toward the intersection. Having not checked his mirror, the stopped rider has no clue that a minivan is closing fast from behind.
To avoid getting caught up in the impending calamity, you immediately check your mirrors before slowing and moving to the far side of your lane. Luckily, the driver slams on his brakes and swerves just in time to avoid creaming the oblivious rider. Give yourself 100 points for noticing the “body language” of the distracted driver and another 100 points for creating a safety cushion between you and the danger. As for the other rider, you can deduct 200 points from his score for not recognizing the potential trouble.
With the traffic chaos far behind, you can now concentrate on enjoying the curvy rural roads. You’ve only been on this route a few times before, so you approach each corner with thoughtful consideration, consciously looking for specific clues that help you predict the direction and radius of approaching corners. This is challenging because the tarmac tunnels through a thick coverage of leafy green and dense undergrowth that obscures the character of each curve.
Approaching one particular blind corner, you notice the pavement appearing to drop away around the bend. For whatever reason there is no highway sign warning of a sharp curve, but the solid curtain of foliage dead ahead and the tree line cutting hard to the right strongly indicate a tight downhill hairpin. These visual clues tell you to slow down, so you decelerate and squeeze the brakes early, maintaining light brake pressure as you round the curve in case you need to slow more. As predicted, the road spirals down into a decreasing radius deathtrap for the unaware. Score 100 points for reading the road correctly.
But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet because there is a patch of sand and gravel strewn across your lane! This development certainly gets your attention, but because you are trailbraking into the curve, you simply apply a little bit more brake force before getting off the brakes and standing the bike upright as you pass over the debris. Once clear, you countersteer the bike back into a lean to stay in your lane and continue on your way. Reward yourself with another 100 points. But stay alert because the ride isn’t over yet!
These are examples of how you can avoid close calls by being aware of the subtle clues that help you predict hazardous situations. This ability is critical if you ever hope to win at motorcycling.