The Four A’s of Safe & Successful Motorcycling – Part 4

In our last installment of the Four A’s, we discuss ‘A’ – Action. Understanding the unique advantages of riding a motorcycle in today’s traffic mix is the final piece of the motorcycle safety matrix.

The Dynamic Duo

Still from Batman (1966)

We’ve already discussed the “Dynamic Duo” of motorcycling in part 2 of this blog series, but it’s importance cannot be overstated. One of the distinct advantages we have while riding is the ability to move throughout our lane, aka – Dynamic Lane Positioning. By strategically moving to the left, right or middle of the lane, we are able to create space from other vehicles, and/or create an expanded view of the road ahead. In addition, we are better able to avoid potholes and roadway debris that others in 4-wheeled vehicles are forced to sustain. Combining this with Dynamic Speed Management completes this duo of motorcycling magic. With proper training, our first ‘A’ – Ability, motorcyclists are able to stop quicker than most other vehicles, and, with a strong power to weight ratio, are able to quickly accelerate out of potentially dangerous conflicts. Used properly, this “Dynamic Duo” is the key ingredient in staying sunny side up.

Buying Space & Time

“Riding with purpose” is a principle highlighted in the Stayin’Safe/Advanced Rider Training program, a Safety Partner of Snyder’s Riders. Moving within your lane, combined with adjusting your speed, is best applied when there is a reason behind your actions. Ideally, a good reason. Skilled riders are always looking to buy space and time with their actions. By creating a space (dynamic lane positioning), they purchase additional distance from other vehicles or conflicts. By slowing down (dynamic speed management), they buy time to better react if a situation suddenly escalates. “Riding with Purpose” should be your goal when taking to the open road. In this way, we can take more control over potential conflicts and be better prepared to act if he need arises.

Proactive -vs- Reactive

Still from The Matrix (1999)

In the hit movie Matrix, Keanu Reeves character, Neo, asks his mentor if mastering the matrix will give him the ability to dodge bullets. Morpheus, played by Lawrence Fishburne, responds, “When you’re ready, you won’t have to”.

In much the same manner, as motorcyclists, our goal in mastering the “Four A’s” isn’t in applying superior riding skills to constantly brake, swerve or accelerate our way out of trouble. True mastery is in NOT needing to rely solely on those skills to keep us safe. When we make use of our second ‘A’ – Awareness , combined with a healthy dose of a safety orientated third ‘A’ – Attitude, we arrive at the crossroads of PROACTIVLEY applying our last ‘A’ – Action.

Ask yourself, would you rather be experiencing one close call after another as you ride … or … calmly recognizing potential conflicts well in advance, smoothly creating space and time and routinely turning what could have been issues into non-issues? Ride like Neo and you won’t have to constantly dodge those motorcycling bullets.

Group Riding and the Danger of Staggered Formations

Group riding presents a unique opportunity to bond with other riders and often is done for a great cause. Charity rides are sprinkled throughout the riding season offering riders the chance to support various charities through their passion of motorcycling. However, a danger lurks when riding with a group of unknown motorcyclists (unknown skills, attitudes, riding styles), and specifically when riding with those individuals in a regimented, staggered formation.

Staggered Positions in Group Driving

While much safer than riding side-by-side, strictly adhering to a staggered riding formation will take away many of the benefits found within the ‘dynamic duo’ we discussed earlier. Oftentimes riders will lock themselves into a specific lane position thereby losing that ability to freely move throughout their lane to create space or an enhanced view of the road ahead (especially around curves). In addition, riders will also be lured into following the pack at a set speed, reducing their chance to create extra time when responding to an unexpected conflict.

Even worse, we frequently hear of riders silently suffering in these group environments when that set speed is above their riding comfort zone. Rather than speaking up and risking the ire of their peers, they ride along with a white-knuckle grip on the handlebars playing a dangerous game of riding roulette. Not much fun and obviously not very safe. If you ever feel pressured in just such a situation, simply excuse yourself and meet the group at their destination. Afterall, better safe than sorry.

Riding in a staggered formation is great as long as everyone understands it allows each rider the freedom to move left or right without causing a conflict with another. Everyone should also be given the freedom to ride their own ride with respect to speed and comfort levels.

Riding should be fun. Make it so whether riding alone or in a group.

Ride Safe and ENJOY!

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