If you're going to shoot, shoot........
Talking about things can serve a certain purpose. Eventually, though, the real answer is to just go out and do something. One of our mantras in motorcycle training is that students learn by doing. They will learn more from the wind passing by their ears than from the wind passing by our lips. I might also add that they'll learn more from actually doing something than by talking about it amongst themselves.
One of my all time favorite movie lines comes from the Clint Eastwood film "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".
Very briefly, the setting is around the time of America's civil war but in the West. One of the characters is the one called The Ugly. Played by Eli Wallach. He's a bandit named Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez. Call him Tuco for short. Tuco is trapped by three bounty hunters. He escapes by shooting all three. Two are killed and one survives.
In a town that is being rapidly evacuated due to heavy artillery fire, Tuco finds a bombed out hotel and takes a bath in a claw footed tub. Sitting in the sudsy water Tuco is surprised by this third bounty hunter. The bounty hunter pauses in the doorway and tells Tuco how much he's been looking forward to catching him and turning him in. Dead or alive. While the bounty hunter pontificates Tuco pulls a gun up from the side of the bathtub and shoots him. With a shrug Tuco utters this line:
"If you're going to shoot, shoot. Don't stand around and talk about it!"
Wise words, actually. If you're going to do something you've eventually got to quit talking about it and go do it. It applies to a lot of areas of life. The two I care about here are photography and motorcycling.
As to photography I've been reading about how to successfully take photos of moving subjects while panning. I've heard people talk about panning technique, shutter speeds, aperature settings, where to focus, and so on. Good panning photos are much harder than they seem to get right. I'm not saying mine are anywhere near perfect but they are getting better. The real secret isn't that secret. You want to know what it is?
Repetitions. Do it. Do it again. Do it again. Here's a couple of photos from a class I was watching. Probably need a few more repetitions but progress is definitely being made.
Motorcycling is no different. Except for the fact that a bad photo can be deleted. Get it wrong on a bike and, well.....Let me share an example with you. This stresses the importance of actual physical practice when it comes to acquiring good accident avoidance skills.
The example is from Jay Green's blog Road Captain USA. There was a post wherein the discussion was held on the two finger braking versus four finger braking thing. Jay didn't really start it but the commenters sort of took off with it. I'll share the link to the post in a bit so hang with me.
Since the initial thrust was a sort of rebellion against convential motorcycle training that advocates four finger braking I put in a comment. You'll see it but the gist of it was that a rider was free to do what they wanted. The main concern, however, is what the rider would do in a high adrenaline situation. If a rider preferred to use two fingers in everyday riding, fine. Just guarantee me that in an emergency the rider would also use two fingers. My experience has been that a rider will often give in to our natural human reflexes in an emergency and grasp the brake lever with all four fingers. That's a variable the rider just doesn't need right then. Always using four fingers eliminates that variable.
Coincidentally, Jay had an experience with emergency braking during this time that he shared in a comment. Jay and his wife Diana were riding together. Jay in front with Diana following on her own bike. A very large dog ran out in front of them and Jay made the decision to brake rather than swerve. He was concerned that, while he might escape the dog, Diana might get bitten.
I asked Jay in a comment how many fingers he used on the front brake. His reply is the gist of this post. Jay had a moment of self discovery that is of benefit to all of us.
Before I share the link I want to set a tone. You see, I asked Jay if I could use his experience in a blog post. Jay graciously granted me permission. A person could look at the situation one of two ways. Here's the one I want everyone to use.
Jay is worthy of much respect. I've known him through blogging since he started his own blog. Jay and Diana are members of a local HOG chapter. Not only that, but Jay worked hard to become a Road Captain. I believe he also served as Chapter Director. Diana has worked to become a Road Captain in her own right. Both of these people have made a huge investment in helping other riders enjoy motorcycling and in promoting safe riding.
It's hard enough to face our own shortcomings when somebody else points them out. It's another matter entirely to be the one pointing a finger at ourselves. The very fact that Jay shared his experience on his blog speaks volumes about his character and integrity. Add to that Jay's allowing me to share his experience here and you get an idea of how much regard I hold Jay in.
I really want everyone reading this to come at it from that same level of respect.
So, here's the short story. Jay found that he didn't reach for the front brake at all during his experience. He's not alone by any means. Think about the reasons manufacturers came up with linked braking. The reason we teach braking in our training classes is that a huge number of riders were using too much rear brake and not enough front brake. Or any.
We can discuss proper technique ad nauseam. Seems like every rider has their own strong views on several subjects. I guess that's one of the things that make us so interesting, eh? However, when the fecal matter hits the fan and we don't use the front brake, or stare at the side of the road when we are a little hotter than we intended to be in a corner, or any number of things, the discussion is pretty much moot, isn't it?
I've written about the value of constant practice and developing muscle memories before so I won't go into it again here. Just take away the idea that the only way we can be sure we'll do the right thing is to do it. Over and over again. Embed it deeply into our responses. Remember that amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong. You don't have to be a professional rider to train like a professional.
Now, in the words of one of my favorite newscasters, the late Paul Harvey, if you click here you can read the "rest of the news".
Remember, if you're going to shoot, shoot!
Miles and smiles,