By September 8, 2010

Random Motorcycling Tip #19: Sightseeing

The human body reacts to where we look, and to what we see. If you play a lot of sports or video games, shoot firearms, or motorcycle, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Certain activities promote hand-eye coordination, some activities promote hand-body coordination.

A lot of motorcycle control happens during fine manipulations at the speed extremes. This could be at slow speed: making a tight U-turn on a narrow street demands that you look sharply over your shoulder. This could be at high speed: properly and safely navigating a tight curve means looking exactly where you want to go. Hand-body coordination is so important to motorcycling that one of the first things I was taught at my Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginning Rider Course was to not fixate on obstacles in the road. If you look at things, you’ll go towards them.

All of that being said, it’s important to avoid sightseeing while on a motorcycle. Yes, you could look at all the beautiful trees in the fall, or gaze through the windows of automobiles as you cruise by. But it isn’t the safest way to motorcycle, for quite a few reasons:

  1. You steer where you look. Sometimes I catch myself watching the tires of an automobile next to me on the freeway. I’m doing so to make sure they don’t creep into my lane. Sometimes I subconsciously move the bike closer to the car, as if I am drawn in by a two ton metal hypnotoad.
  2. You aren’t watching where you’re going. If you’re looking at the stuff on the side of the road, you aren’t looking in front of you — and that’s where a lot of the crazy stuff happens.
  3. You’re spending mental energy on something that probably isn’t dangerous. That new Camaro with the red racing stripes and aftermarket exhaust package looks really cool, but it’s three lanes over and about to exit the highway. Who cares? Focus spent reading bumper stickers or figuring out personalized plates should be spent detecting potential danger instead.

Reducing or eliminating sightseeing may seem like a killjoy. For those motorcyclists who are strictly pleasure riders, I can certainly understand this perspective. However, my objective is to get from Point A to Point B as safely as possible, and I derive enjoyment from succeeding.

I have a saying: “if it isn’t going to hit you or write you a ticket, ignore it.”

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