Monday, February 15, 2010

Eyes up!

The great news? I get to ride a lot. A down side? There are bogies everywhere. More than ever. Some of these are other roadway users. We talked about that earlier. Other bogies are built-in so to speak. They're not looking to run into us. The challenge is to avoid running into them. At the least, to avoid having issues because of them. Good ole' stationary hazards.

How soon do we need to get this critical information? Just as soon as humanly possible. I know I'm preaching to the choir in a lot of instances here. That is totally awesome and I tip my helmet to you all. What I would ask you to do is to share with other riders, as well. Heaven knows there's a lot of riders who need it.

Time and again we find that the area most riders fall short in is their visual lead. These riders look 3 or 4 seconds ahead of the bike, if that. I once went nearly insane trying to teach a class of so-called experienced riders. No matter what we did, neither of us two instructors could get the students to look up from their front wheels. I know I don't have Hollywood good looks, but for heaven's sake I'm not that ugly, either!

Riders worry about what's happening at the front tire, and rightly so. What sucks is that if something is that close to our tire we're already screwed. It's way too late. Riders need to be looking as far as they can see. Instead of 3 or 4 seconds they should be looking 20 seconds ahead. The higher our speeds, the farther that 20 seconds is. Not to mention that higher speeds mean worse consequences if we miss something critical. There's another advantage of looking farther ahead that I'll share in just a bit.

Here are some snapshots of things I've encountered in the past few months.

Fall leaves are slippery, wet or dry. They always seem to end up right where we need to do our braking. Look how late that SUV dove into the left turn lane. Maybe right in front of us? Oncoming traffic needs attention, too. There's a lot going on and falling down in front of everybody is embarrassing and dangerous. Wouldn't it be better to know about the dicey traction way ahead of time and adjust accordingly?

By the way, I had a police cruiser behind me running interference while I parked in the middle of the street to take a few photos. The officer pulled in behind me to check out what was up. Once I explained he was pretty cool and got into the spirit. Wonderful person with some humor and common sense.

Geez. Just when you think you have a dry day to go strafe some twisties! This mud was left on the road from farm equipment. I think the mud's going to mess up the corner a bit, don't you? How soon do we need to know about stuff like this?

These next snapshots aren't mine. A fellow instructor took them and graciously gave me permission to use them here.

Yikes! Makes you pucker to think of whipping around a corner and encountering this, doesn't it? Again, how soon do we need to see this stuff? It also brings up a timely reminder. When do we commit to the apex of a corner? When we can see the exit. If we can't see the exit, what do we do? Stay to the outside and expect the worse. Which means slow down in case we come out of the corner and see stuff like this. We need to keep our eyes intensely working to see hazards just as soon as they become visible.

I know most of you already practice good scanning habits. Help me spread the word, won't you? There's entirely too many motorcycle accidents happening.

Another benefit of looking farther ahead? It slows the world down a bit. Try it. Look right ahead of the front wheel for a bit. Carefully; don't put yourself in danger of missing something important. Don't look for very long, but give it a shot. Notice how fast everything seems to be coming at you.

Next, look as far ahead as you can see. Things slow down, don't they? Everything seems to be coming at you more slowly. Which means we have more time to see and react to things. Instead of feeling like everything is happening at the last minute with lightning speed, there's time to scan and plan. Time to act instead of react. Time to find trouble before it finds us. A much happier situation all around.

More miles are going to be put on more bikes as the winter slides away. I care about you all. There are other riders you care about. Spread the word, won't you?

Eyes up!

Miles and smiles,



Orin said...

Well, scooters have a floorboard and/or legshield in the way, so looking at the front wheel is simply not possible...

Scootin' Old Skool

Unknown said...


Oregon has the worst roads, Oregon has the worst roads . . . I'm trying to retrain my brain.

I find that aggressive drivers are good for scanning ahead. When you are weaving in and out of traffic you have to plan your zig zag route in advance. I think by nature, they are better drivers but too many of them "over" drive their abilities and don't plan for the reaction of others who don't know what they are doing.

There are also a lot of wannabe race drivers who pull out to pass the vehicle ahead, only to find a parked car along the curb which they didn't notice until the very last moment.

Oregon has the worst roads in the country . . . There, are you happy now ?

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Anonymous said...

Roads are often former byways for horse drawn wagons. Mind these days the roads are often paved yet they too are just as hazardous as before, inching their way along cliff faces or as illustrated, through sandy hills subject to the whims of Mother Nature and gravity.

Still no road however smooth can be smooth forever. Some loose stones or a large boulder as easily as sand in the same location wll quickly cause turbulence.
Always look ahead of the direction your steed is taking you, that goes for two three or four or more wheels I might add. Scan the vision field back and forth, don't freezeyour vision on one item, your brain will lock upon it and then...trouble, maybe?

irondad said...


Maybe you have hit upon the solution, after all. We'll just shroud everybody's front tire and they will have to look farther ahead!

Then some genius will figure out how to put a video screen in the legshields. Oh well.


For you, Oregon has good roads. For any potential lumbering rolling roadblocks, we have bad roads. Your training is going nicely. I've seen your affirmations on other blogs, now.

I agree with you about the "better" drivers. Based on physical skill levels, at least. Off the track, I would have to think that "better" includes defensive driving. Those are the skills most people overdrive, I think. As you described. So I actually don't know why I'm commenting on your comment!

I'm watching the Olympics. If you are watching, too, I'll wave at you through my television.

Take care,


Dave said...


I am and old farm boy and have to add .
One should all so keep and eye out for the equipment that left the mud on the road .

As its’ quite large and slow moving and for any spilled crops in the fall.

Then in the fall there are deer who are on the move do to the fact a lot of cover they were using is now gone and rutting season is starting.

Old F

Conchscooter said...

The other problem with being the only one looking far ahead is that the vehicle behind you gets confused when you start to react to something they haven't yet noticed.

Big Betty said...

Thanks for the tips. I've had my bike for 3 weeks now and I've already wobbled my way over potholes and bricks in the road. I think there is room for improvement with my scanning skills.

Canajun said...

Great post. As the snow and ice melts here in the north we have the road sand to contend with, which can be just as bad as wet leaves. And (it must be a law of physics or something) the accumulation always seems to be worse in the middle of a blind curve.
Heads up riding is the only way to stay safe in my opinion.

redlegsrides said...

Great reminder on keeping one's eyes up and scanning constantly....

I was reminded this past Sunday, why I prefer riding solo. Riding in a group, you can become fixated on the rider in front of you and not scan past him as far as you can....caught myself doing that a couple times (wouldn't do to plow into the guy after all) and then adjusted accordingly.

Scanning ahead, good safe following distances, and expecting the worst action from every vehicle around for me.

Bluekat said...

Great post! Eyes up - one thing I have to constantly tell myself. Not so bad on the straights, but those corners! Somehow they just drag the eyes down and away from the road ahead. But dang, when I do turn my head and look up, magically the bike handles better and usually goes faster (Woot - payoff). Too bad I have to start over at the next curve (look ahead, point the nose...)

Some things have become automatic; cornering has not. I can't get past thinking the rear tire is going to slide out at any moment.

That big rock in the road...oh my!!

Unknown said...


since your comments on Chris's site I was thinking more about your instructional videos. Imagine a camera strapped to your handlebars and you are rolling throught the twisties and encounter rocks on the road. We will be able to see your quick maneuver through the rock field, or pot holes missed. You don't have to stop in the left turn lane, just let the video roll and we will see what you are talking about with that car cutting in at the last minute, or the Prius who cut you off . . .

the possibilites are unlimited

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Young Dai said...

As an example of a trainer doing that on youtube is Nigel Bowers who is posting as Advancedbiker.

He is an ex Police motorcyclist and trainer, who has created a second life offering one on one, on the road training in Roadcraft techniques.

His videos include the commentary he is giving to his trainee via bike to bike comms.

The accent is from the North Midlands area of England known as the Black Country,

Unknown said...

Mr Irondad:

Oregon has the worst roads . . .

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Kelsey said...

Great post! I generally tell people to alternate between looking right in front of them, 10 yards ahead, and 50 yards ahead.

Also, I have a question for you since you’re a motorcycle instructor:

I have a full year’s experience riding motorcycles in Korea (where red lights are yield signs and stop signs don't even exist, etc), and riding a sidecar motorcycle is, from the limited experience I have driving it around this area, extremely different from riding a solo bike. Would it be at all beneficial for me to take the beginner’s riding class or should I just get a learner’s permit and use the time to work on improving my sidecar skills, since the only bike I have is a Ural?

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Excellent safety reminders. This is the material covered extremely well in _Riding in the Zone_. It's always good to have reinforcing information to bring home the important matters. Thanks.

irondad said...


Good advice on all counts!


Thanks for the reminder to look for the equipment itself. As to the deer, I've actually had bucks charge me during rutting season. As if I look like a doe in heat?


That's something to keep in mind. Often we have to react for ourselves and the oblivious person behind us. Who knew riding would be so much work?

Take care,


irondad said...

Big Betty,

I took a gander at your blog. It will be interesting to follow your progress. Thank you for commenting and I'm so pleased you found something useful here. It does get better!


I hate the sand in curves. When it gets icy here, tons of it are put down. Well, more like small gravel. It really puts a damper on corners. Thank you for dropping by. Hang in there, it will all clear up at some point!


Thank you for the timely reminder. Riding in a group still means that everyone is responsible for their own ride. It's too easy to fixate on the bike ahead and miss everything else.

Take care,


irondad said...


Like anything else, keep doing what you need to do. Eventually it becomes second nature and you wonder how you ever did without it!

Time and miles will make you trust the rear tire to stick. Then, watch out! Here comes Taz.


Sounds like a great idea. I only wonder if people will actually be interested?

Young Dai,

I will have to check that out. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

Take care,


irondad said...


You have the mechanics of riding down. So taking the beginner's class might be reinventing the wheel for you.

Is there a sidecar course? What would be the best is a course like this.

They teach sidecar skills as well as advanced mental strategies. The mental skills are the most important by far.


Being compared to Ken Condon isn't all bad! Sometimes it's the failure of the basics that get riders into trouble.

Take care,


dave said...

for those without enough training and or experience this could be a real problem. for those who think of themselves as having a justifiably high sense of their skills this could be much, much worse. No matter the skill level the street is not a controlled environment like a racetrack and to believe that one has the skills to ride otherwise is to put oneself and others at risk.