Bournemouth & Wessex Advanced Motorcyclists

Concentration

Introduction

We can define concentration as - "The act of focusing ones attention or mental ability on one particular undertaking with the exclusion of other matters not connected with that undertaking". In this case we are talking about motorcycling and concentration is something I'm sure we can all improve on. Whilst riding a motorcycle any deviation from the matter in hand must be considered a loss of concentration. So how can we improve it?

Scanning

We can start by improving our observation. The high sitting position of a motorcycle gives us observational advantages over most cars. By utilising this advantage and scanning from the distance to the foreground, as well as the sides and using the mirrors for the rear, we can start to build up the whole picture rather than just concentrating on one part of it. Scanning the environment rather than concentrating on one area reduces the risk of an accident. How many motorcycle accidents have you heard about where there was no other vehicle involved? Poor forward observation and not seeing that severe bend, diesel on the road or junction approaching are many of the hazards that can account for many of these accidents. Concentrating on the conditions and environment around you gives you more time to react to any hazards that can be seen or anticipated.

Information

Now that we have improved our observation we are now concentrating more on the matter in hand, motorcycling. We are now taking in more information and we now need to develop our riding plan and know how to act on the information we are receiving. This is what distinguishes the advanced rider from the novice. We have to ask ourselves:

  1. What can be seen?
  2. What cannot be seen?
  3. What may be expected to happen?
What can be seen and what cannot be seen are the easy ones, but what can be expected to happen. Looking for the stops when following the bus, seeing the person at the pelican crossing before the lights go red, seeing the hedge cuttings on the B road are all things we can use and then start thinking what may happen. Start improving the observation links. Another thing we can try is commentary riding which the IAM has always recommended for car drivers. Start to describe out loud what you are seeing and the action you are taking. Ask yourself what is happening ahead in the far distance and close distance to the side and to the rear. This is useful for the repetitive journey that we always take to work each day. Now we are starting to concentrate.

Fatigue

So now that we are starting to concentrate what can affect it. The more we ride the more tired we get. On long rides ask yourself regularly are you feeling tired. If the answer is yes then look for a safe place to stop and take a walk around to get the circulation going, or a rest place to take some refreshments. Remember what goes in must come out, that extra top up of coffee may require you stop later and affect your concentration looking for the next comfort break. Noise is just one of the causes of fatigue so consider wearing earplugs especially on long journeys.

The weather can also affect concentration. As the body gets cold we start thinking about the pain and discomfort we feel. Good clothing is essential and this will be covered in another article. Most heat loss is through the head so consider some extra thermal clothing. Keep the hands warm with thicker gloves and consider an extra pair of thermal socks for the feet. If you are doing a lot of winter riding consider fitting heated grips or a purchasing a heated waistcoat. Remember though, the clothing must be comfortable otherwise we will have another distraction to contend with.

Fog at night is the most tiring I have ever personally encountered. It was on the National Rally and the leg was only about 20 miles, but at the end of it I was exhausted. If you can stay behind a vehicle then let that vehicle do the leading. You may think you can travel faster than him but you will think differently as soon as you have overtaken him.

State of Mind

Many things can affect the state of mind. The problems we have just left behind at work can effect the journey home. The row with a family member before we start our journey can play on our mind thus effecting our motorcycling concentration. We may not be feeling too well physically. We must not allow other drivers to get us annoyed and let the red mist appear. Do these sound familiar? All these things and many others can affect our state of mind.

Monotonous Journey

Motorways are the most boring roads I have ever encountered and I always try to avoid them. So no motorways on the Nationally Rally this year. If you do use them, then you need to keep your mind interested. Look ahead more and start selecting your course to anticipate the traffic ahead and behind. Watch for merging vehicles at the junctions and services. Vary your speed so as to change the noise and the vibration.

Conclusions

Concentration is a large subject and is related to anticipation and planning. Roadcraft covers this in 'Becoming a better rider' so if that is what you want to do, start reading. We can all improve our concentration, by starting to think about those areas that distract us from our motorcycling. Keep away from the beaches now that the warmer weather is approaching.

Alan Brown
BWAM Member

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