The Four A’s of Safe & Successful Motorcycling – Part 2

We continue our series featuring the Four A’s as we enter the second week of May / Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Discover why we consider motorcycling to be more a skill of the eyes and mind rather than a skill of the hands and feet. Without proper awareness you may find yourself relying solely on swerving and emergency braking to avoid a potential accident.

The Second A – Awareness

Awareness is the ultimate key to increasing your safety and enjoyment while riding. Once you have developed the basic skills of riding contained within the first A - Ability (starting and stopping smoothly, shifting gears, navigating curves, swerving, emergency braking, etc …), you then need to successfully take those skills and apply them to riding on real roads. Here is where awareness is king. First key is to get your eyes up and looking well down the road to pick out conflicts well in advance. We know from the Hurt Study (link as in first blog) that intersections are the most likely place for an accident to occur. Paying attention to road signs warning of an approaching intersection, noticing a mailbox along the roadside (driveways also being considered an intersection) or perhaps seeing an angled stop sign off to your right are all clues that can help you avoid riding blindly into a situation you could have easily been prepared to handle. Being aware enables us to smoothly and efficiently ride without having to rely on superior reactions to stay safe.

The Dynamic Duo of Riding

Once we identify the potential problem (ie: car waiting to pull out, stopped or slowing traffic ahead, a sharp curve, roadway debris or an exit only lane), we can then make use of what I like to call the "batman and robin", aka - the "dynamic duo" of motorcycling. I'm referring to dynamic lane positioning and dynamic speed management. One of the greatest advantages we have as a motorcyclist is the full use of our lane and we can use that entire lane to “create space, just in case”. By creating a space cushion and/or by slowing down, we effectively buy ourselves space and time to effectively reduce that potential issue to a non-issue. However, if we ignore the signs that are readily available to us we increase the likelihood of then having to rely on those emergency skills mentioned earlier to remain safe.

Risk -vs- Skill

Having this ability to look ahead and recognize threats early is what leads us to better understand the relationship between risk and skill. We can endlessly work on developing superior physical riding skills. Ie: Stopping on a dime, making seemingly impossible tight circles, swerving around multiple objects in a parking lot. But having those skills means very little if we then ride with an increased level of risk. Increasing our skills while continuing to increase the risks we are willing to take (riding faster thru curves, approaching intersections at a faster speed, weaving in and out of traffic, etc …), only makes us better, and faster at getting into more trouble. Sooner or later risk catches up with everyone. Choose wisely. The best riders work to possess a high level of skill while decreasing their level of risk while on the road.

Look at Me!

By recognizing well in advance a vehicle that may be looking to pull out in front of us affords us an opportunity to make ourselves more visible by applying the "weave to be perceived". Knowing that many motorists fail to see an approaching motorcycle or misjudge it’s speed and distance, this “weave” can make you more likely to be noticed as you get closer to that waiting vehicle. Similar to swinging a lantern back and forth to better catch someone's attention, this "weave" can become a potentially life-saving technique. Check out this Snyder’s Riders video on intersections for a demonstration.

Ride Alert and Stay Aware

Things change rapidly while riding and new challenges present themselves constantly. By working to improve this second 'A' - Awareness, we can be better prepared to properly apply our riding skills and keep the sunny side up!

Check back next week as we look into the third 'A' - Attitude. Considered the "missing link" in motorcycle safety, learn how your attitude can make or break your riding experience.