Start your journey into better biking here!
Practice doesn't just makes PERMANENT... it keeps POLISHED too
The very first version of this article, written over fifteen years ago fell into a common trap. I talked about how practice makes perfect. But I quickly learned - thanks to a horse riding instructor who was took training courses with both Survival Skills Advanced Rider Training and another former trainer who remains a buddy of mine - that's not actually how it works. Repeating a skill actually fixes it in place - it makes it PERMANENT. For that reason it's vital to learn the RIGHT techniques before we start practicing. We need to practice the perfect! But even after that my ideas developed. It's perfectly possible to LOSE skills if we don't keep them POLISHED.
It all started when I was watching an online debate about the technique of 'offsiding', which is where riders cross the centre line onto the other lane to get a better 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."
I'm not going into the offsiding technique here - that's another debate altogether - but it got me thinking.
I'd noticed that when I was abroad, although I was comfortable sitting near the centre line on a right-hander (ie, the reverse of what we'd do in the UK), I really wasn't nearly so happy lining the bike up with the righthand edge of the lane near the grass for a left-hander. In the UK, I can place the bike precisely along the grass verge, but in France I was giving myself a good metre of leeway. I felt very uncomfortable pushing myself any closer, and if I tried I began to fixate on the edge of the road to the exclusion of taking advantage of the view ahead - it was definitely a mental thing.
Holding our position accurately within the lane is largely subconscious and relies on peripheral vision - or it should, if our our attention is up away and some distance ahead. But to achieve that precise positioning, we need a 'mental map' of the lane so our peripheral vision has something to refer to.
Riding all the time in the UK, constant practice generates a clear mental map of how my position should appear in peripheral vision. So when positioning left-of-centre to see around a right-hand bend, I 'knew' where I was in the lane, which allowed me to get on with looking further ahead.
But once I switched sides of the road in France, the mental map was clearly missing. As soon as I lined up right-of-centre near the verge, I began worrying subconsciously about the position of the bike.
As soon as I realised this, I began working on moving position bit-by-bit, rather than trying to take up the mirror image position. It took a bit of effort, but I was soon overcoming this mental block.
Now, here's the reference to 'practice keeps polished'. If I don't ride abroad for a while, the problem comes back. But if I ride abroad regularly, it goes away quickly. If I take a break from riding abroad - as I did some years back - then it takes much longer for the issue to vanish again.
An excellent demonstration that we need to constantly work on riding skills to keep them polished and in tip-top condition. So...
...when was the last time you performed an emergency stop?
Survival Skills Rider Training
...because it's a jungle out there
IMPORTANT: The information on the Survival Skills website is for your general information and personal use and should be taken as a guide only. Survival Skills Rider Training provides no warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness, clarity, fitness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements and you acknowledge use of any information and materials is entirely at your own risk, and that neither Kevin Williams nor Survival Skills can accept responsibility for your interpretation or use of this information or materials. The content of these pages is subject to change without notice.
Copyright © 1999 - 2019 Kevin Williams and Survival Skills Rider Training