Riding Tips - Looking Ahead


Do you have days when no matter what you do your riding isn't clicking? You're on your favourite stretch of road, you know it well but by the end of the ride you're frustrated rather than on a high. It happens to us all and I have been suffering from this feeling for the past couple of weeks.

To try and cure this I got a day down at the ultra fast, ultra bumpy Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire but an afternoon of riding only made my frustration worse. I was getting on the throttle early, I was turning the bike quickly but still my lines were inconstant and my lap times slow. The harder I tried the worse it got.

On the road a week later I was running wide on the exit of roundabouts and corners because I was stalled on the throttle mid turn. I knew all the things that were going wrong but I couldn't figure out why. Then, a few days ago on a Brands Hatch race practice day it came to me in a flash. Eyes. Or to be more precise, vision.
All the problems in my riding were because I wasn't getting the information I needed until it was too late. I needed to look further ahead.

It sounds so damned simple doesn't it? But it's so easy to forget. Your body is designed so you can run at a maximum of roughly 15 miles per hour. At this speed you can look in front of you and avoid just about any hazard without too many problems. Your brain and survival reactions are working in harmony. So what happens when you triple or quadruple the speed? Let's make it even more difficult and add some lean angle, and a throttle, and brakes. It's a modern miracle that we can get around a corner at all! When we get overwhelmed or frustrated with our riding our vision goes back to its 'safe' 15mph. This means we are looking about 20 feet in front of the bike and riding to reaction rather than planning ahead.

This creates even more problems and it's a vicious circle. The more we stall on the gas the worse the line gets, the more we run wide, the more tense we get, the more our vision pulls in, the more we stall on the gas etc… Try this little experiment if you don't 'see' what I mean. Run along a kerb. Run as fast as you can. Run looking ahead of you, as far as you can see. It's very, very easy isn't it? Repeat the drill. Now, at some point during your run, look two feet in front of you. What happens? Did running suddenly become harder? Did you feel like you had sped up? Did you feel a little sick and disorientated? Did you run off the kerb or find it harder to keep on the kerb. Now try that at 50mph. Get the idea?

Once I realised what I was, or rather wasn't doing my riding INSTANTLY took a turn (sic) for the better. Even on this horrible wet day at Brands my lines tightened up. My throttle control improved. I went faster although it felt a lot slower and the grin behind my crash helmet got bigger and bigger. It was wet and I was loving it. I would have stayed out all day if I had the chance because I was enjoying my riding all over again. It was like someone had waved a magic wand, the only thing was, I knew the trick already but had forgotten its wonder.

I have included a couple of pictures again this month. Take a good look at them.

Active ImageActive ImageThe left shot shows a rider looking well ahead of himself and as a result he will be fast and smooth. He can plan ahead. He knows exactly when he will be on the gas. He knows exactly where he will be on the track. He knows where to turn, brake and exit. Just for looking ahead.

The right shot shows three riders all at a different point in the same corner. The rider at the back is looking ahead of the furthest rider in front. The second rider is looking about 20 feet in front at the rider ahead of him, while the last rider is looking a little further down the track but still not as far as he could or should. Who will be the fastest on the exit?

Pick your head up, look further ahead and you will be amazed how this simple technique will improve your riding on the road and the track. Enjoy!

 Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Ibbot of the California Superbike School

Sponsored by Andy Anderson

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