Before You Ride: Mental Preparedness
The mental aspect of riding a motorcycle safely is of paramount importance, regardless of whether you’re riding to the neighborhood Starbucks or going cross-country. Here are some things to think about before you ride:
Am I fit, relaxed and calm? As noted above, riding a motorcycle proficiently and safely on the street requires a high degree of mental focus. That focus will be impaired if a rider is tired, emotionally upset or mentally distracted with other pressing matters. Make sure you’re rested and able to concentrate on the mental demands of motorcycling.
Have I considered the weather, road and other riding challenges I’m likely to encounter on today’s ride? Mentally project the riding conditions you are likely to encounter during the upcoming day’s ride so you will be mentally (and physically) prepared to deal with them; this also will reduce the likelihood of you encountering unanticipated problems. This is somewhat like an athlete envisioning a winning performance.
Was the last bike I rode different than the one I’m on now? Each motorcycle has its own unique handling and riding characteristics. Once your subconscious mind has been programmed on one bike, it usually stays programmed for that bike, at least for a period of time. Consequently, it’s usually wise not to ride your current mount aggressively, until the reprogramming has taken hold.
Am I preoccupied with thoughts other than those about today’s ride? If your conscious mind becomes focused on something other than the ride, the important external sensory information needed for safe riding is probably being compromised. Your subconscious mind may well know how to operate the motorcycle, but it may not be perceiving and processing possible threats, such as a stray dog running loose, debris in the road, a car entering from a driveway or a hundred other potential risks. Sometimes, distracted riders will automatically slow down, miss a turn, blow a curve or exhibit some other warning signal that lets them know their mental focus is compromised. If this happens to you, or you observe it in a fellow rider, it’s time to take a break and get refocused.
Are riding conditions distracting my concentration? Much of our passion for riding emanates from our experiencing the surrounding environment with all five senses. Those sensory experiences, though, can become mentally distracting if they’re too intense, usually in the form of heat or cold.
Riders also can become distracted from physical discomfort, like a full bladder, a headache or some other malady. Riders should identify and eliminate the distraction at the earliest opportunity. Whether it’s stopping to cool down with a cold drink, adjusting layers of clothing, using the restroom or something else, it’s important to alleviate the cause of the mental distraction .
Next time you get on your bike to ride, use this blog as a mental checklist and remember that operating a motorcycle is 90% mental and only 10% physical.