By May 5, 2010

Random Motorcycling Tip #14: Be Like Admiral Ackbar

Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar had one important talent: he knew when something was a trap. You should be like him, too. Always be on the look out for typical spots when people are acting stupid on the road. For example, if someone is talking on their mobile phone with their left hand, don’t expect them to look to their left properly when making a lane change (for more examples, see my Random Motorcycling Tip #10: How to Avoid a Lane Incursion).

Okay, so you’ve acted like the Admiral and spotted the trap. Now what? Let’s examine our Mon Calamari friend for what to do next.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/8924-2/its_a_trap.jpg

Yep, those are some big eyes. In addition, they are on opposite sides of his head, like most good prey animals. You may feel like a bad ass on a motorcycle, but in reality you’re potential prey to anything with four wheels and a metal body.

If you have to come to a sudden stop on the street, you have multiple things to worry about. The first thing is avoid hitting whatever is in front of you (like a car that is rapidly decelerating). The second thing you need to avoid is being hit from any cars that are behind you that may not be paying attention. Lastly, you have to avoid crashing due to imbalance or improper braking.

What would Admiral Ackbar do?

First off, turn your head so that your dominant eye (mine’s my left) is looking forward, near the center of your bike. Your weak eye should now be somewhere near your weak-side mirror. In my case, that’s my right mirror. You are now acting like Ackbar and looking at two ways at the same time.

Do not try to focus on anything. This may affect your balance and you will have to concentrate on one eye or the other, which means you are not focusing on the other threat.

The reason I do this is that it allows me to see what I am approaching, and what is approaching me, with just enough detail. If I am getting too close to the object in front of me, I switch my full attention forward. If something is getting bigger REALLY FAST in my side mirror then I can concentrate on what’s behind me, and/or move away from the source of danger.

It’s a weird thing to do, and I recommend that you practice it when you are stopped at street lights before trying it in an emergency. Turn your head slightly so that the bridge of your nose is at a 45° angle to the front of your bike. Look at the car in front of you with your dominant eye, and your mirror with your weak eye.

It will be hard not to focus on something, but practice makes perfect.

The world of a motorcyclist is full of traps, and if it worked for a human-sized octopus this may work for you, too.

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