Practice makes Permanent*
I've been discussing some riding techniques with a friend by e-mail,
and he wrote the following, whilst discussing using both sides of
the road for maximum view ahead:
"It helped me get over my reticence for going over the white line
onto the wrong side of the road approaching corners for more
visibility.... The thing I noticed in France was that I could easily
move to the left for a right hand corner, because then I was on the
'correct' side of the road for home, therefore it didn't feel as
awkward. I think it's just a mental barrier I have to overcome."
This got me thinking. I'd been riding for a number of years before I
really started to work at improving my riding and by the time I
started to put advanced riding skills into operation, I had already
had a lot of experience riding abroad. It took me a little time to
get the hang of using both sides of the road to maximise the view
ahead, but probably for me it was much less of a problem because
before I started using both lanes in the UK I was already used to
riding on the right of the white line.
The thing I noticed when riding abroad some years ago was that I had
a problem lining the bike up tight on the right for a left hander
(ie. on my own side of the road abroad). In England I can align the
bike a foot from the left hand edge of the road without any
problems. In France I was giving myself a good yard leeway.
When I realised this I worked on moving closer to the edge and found
I felt very uncomfortable pushing myself any closer, and began to
fixate on the edge of the road to the exclusion of taking advantage
of the view ahead - it was a definite mental thing and I had to work
very hard at overcoming it.
Positioning the bike is largely subconscious and clearly relies on
peripheral vision, as your attention is (or should be) some distance
ahead. I assume that because of constant practice, I had a good
mental map of how the situation should appear using peripheral
vision when tight on the left, which allowed me to get on with
looking ahead and not worrying about fine-tuning the position of the
bike. This mental map was clearly missing when I lined up tight on
the other side of the road...
If I ride abroad a lot, the problem goes away. After a week of
driving round Drome Provençal in France in August 98, the problem
had largely vanished and I felt confident positioning the bike tight
to the right, but on the way to and from the Le Mans 24 Hour race in
April the following year (280-odd miles each way of mostly D class
roads) it had reappeared!!
An excellent demonstration that you need to constantly work on
riding skills to keep them honed and in tip-top condition.
* When first written, this tip was titled 'practice makes
practice' but swapping ideas with other instructors (one was
actually a horse riding instructor who was one of our motorcycle
training students), we realised that repeating a skill actually
makes it permanent - which is why it's important to learn how to
carry out the skills first. Practice makes permanent - so
practice the perfect!