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  #1  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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The psychology of motorcycling - getting the brain in gear!

Hey guys,

So after getting my now-beloved Suzuki Marauder just over a week ago, I've been getting out on my local suburban roads as much as I can, to build up my riding skills and confidence. It's been going really well - yesterday I even braved a 30-minute ride in late-afternoon traffic, which did wonders for my confidence: I've been really feeling like I'm getting the hang of this!

BUT! Today, with the sun shining and a great afternoon for riding, I got out on the road on my bike and my brain just turned to mush! Everything was clunky and I was suddenly really conscious of everything I was doing. I was more hesitant at junctions and stuck to going round the block, as opposed to the bigger circuit of the suburbs I've been doing. Basically my brain was just completely not in gear (let alone the bike!). In the end, I just rode the bike back into the garage, dispirited that after progressing so well I was suddenly really crap again.

Is this normal?? Are there some days when it just doesn't come together in the brain department? Is this a newbie thing? Or do all motorcyclists have "off days" (I don't mean falling off the bike, psychologically "off"!). And is there anything you can do to overcome this mental block - or did I do the right thing by just giving up and coming home?

I'm quickly realising that motorcycling is 10 per cent operating the bike and 90 per cent a state of mind!! (feel free to dispute those figures, it's just a newbie's perspective...)

Jeanie
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  #2  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Riding a bike in my view is 90% mental thought process and 10% actually riding the thing. Your brain takes 75% of the oxygen that you intake and your mental ability overides everything but you don't have to think about breathing which is essential to our lives. It's a natural process and doesn't require much micro thought as what will happen when your experience and confidence blooms on the bike.

If your having an 'off' day then don't worry about it. Don't push yourself to be the best rider in a matter of a few weeks, it takes time and patience to develop the ability to push aside the 'micro' thoughts and get muscle memory to do a lot of the jobs for you, gearchanges for instance. There's a lot to take on board when on a bike that we tend to forget as experience grows. I don't recommend forcing yourself onto the bike but do it your own time and if possible, go with other riders so you can share your experiences, listen to theirs and watch their ridng styles and positioning.

or did I do the right thing by just giving up and coming home?

Nah.. it's not about giving up, it just wasn't today, there's always tomorrow! It'll come and you'll be all the better for it!
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  #3  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Sometimes when you sit on a motorcycle the little voice in your head says "this is not a good idea today".

After 39 years of riding I've learned to listen to that voice.
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  #4  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Just ride more !! Simples !

Like anything, the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature..

I ride my bike everyday and have done for over 10 years. I don't even consider or think about it anymore. I just do it..

Just like when you pick up a knife and fork to eat your dinner, you dont think about it.... Quite a difference to slopping mush over your face as a baby though isnt it lol.

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE... Ditch those car cars, forget that bus pass... Just ride wherever you can, when you can.

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  #5  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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I have off-days, by that I mean my road riding isn't up to my usual standard, by 'my' I mean what I expect myself to ride like.

At your atage of riding you should be thinking about nothing but the road ahead, I mean nothing. look at the junction, side road, driveway, parked cars, kids playing, dogs, old people, yuppies on thier iPhones, anything that has the potential to become a hazard.

Think about your road position, are you in the right possition for the next turn, bend, hazard etc

Can you stop in the distance you can see to be clear ?

Here in the UK we are lucky to have further training available to further your riding skills on the road, BikeSafe is run by the local Police Motorcyclists, and then there are the Advanced Motorcycle Organisations to help you further. There is a book called Motorcycle Roadcraft, available here in the UK that will show you the do's and don't, how to address risks and hazards.

As you concentrate on your riding, it will just fall into place, bad days will become the days when your riding is average, the rest of your time you are aware of everything and your riding (the technical part of making the bike go) will just happen, all by itself.

Use a system of Motorcycle control to get you thinking, throughout your next ride subject everything you do to a riding plan, plan for the next junction, plan for the next parked car, for the next traffic light, the next chils, the next dog, cat, elephant, muddy puddle, turn, twist etc etc

1) Position, are you in the right position? can you see what's happening?
2) Speed, is yuor speed right for the hazard ?
3) Gear, are you in the right gear to deal with the manouvre?
4) Acceleration, use the throttle to accelerate from the hazard.

Throughout the whole system, use information around you to adjust your riding plan.

Information - TUG. Take Use Give.

Take in all the information around you, start to look for places you can see a little better, under the lorry to see whats ahead, views to the inside, the out side, look through corners, look for clues (for instance mud on the road could indicate a tractor, or road maintenance vehicle ahead).

Use. All the information to build a picture of what is around the next corner. Most of the time the information is there, you just need to look, and learn. Use the information and adjust your riding plan.

Give. Giving information is as important as taking it, let other road users know what you are doing, lifesavers indicate to many drivers (who might also be a biker?) that you are about to do something. Hand and arm signals to backup an indicator (blinker/flasher) can help if the driver hasn't noticed your flasher in the sun. pulsing the brake light when you are stopped to get the attention of the approching vehicle (behind)

I could go on all day!

The point is, when you think ahead it gives you more time to plan, so you end up riding to a plan rather than a reaction - makes you nice and smoth on the road.


Last edited by GasUp; 30 Jul 2010 at 12:00.
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  #6  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormboy View Post
Sometimes when you sit on a motorcycle the little voice in your head says "this is not a good idea today".

After 39 years of riding I've learned to listen to that voice.
Excellent advice,sometimes it just does not gel,the bike & you.
Everyone has off days & sometimes you are in the "zone" & it all seems as natural as breathing,as with all things practice is the key,the more experience you gain the fewer "off days" you will get,as you gain experience the more relaxed you are & therefore the quicker your reactions will be.
If you have an off day dont let it get you down,its all part of the learning curve,just try to enjoy your riding,for most of us its one of the best things we ever did.
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  #7  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeanied1 View Post

Everything was clunky and I was suddenly really conscious of everything I was doing. Basically my brain was just completely not in gear (let alone the bike!). In the end, I just rode the bike back into the garage, dispirited that after progressing so well I was suddenly really crap again.

Is this normal?? Are there some days when it just doesn't come together in the brain department? Is this a newbie thing? Or do all motorcyclists have "off days" (I don't mean falling off the bike, psychologically "off"!).

Jeanie

I have the same problem with running. I'll go out one day and it'll all come together and I'll have a great hour or so. The next time I'll be leaden footed, slow and just not enjoying it. I've learnt just to live with it and accept that some days are better than others.

It's the same with biking (and driving). Why it happens is something I've thought about many times and I've concluded that the down days are mainly when what I'm doing is nothing special - just a routine day when my mind is on other things. Perhaps you're starting to relax a bit about biking and progressing a little beyond the "this is new and exciting" phase. The fact you've noticed it is a good thing though.
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  #8  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GasUp View Post
At your atage of riding you should be thinking about nothing but the road ahead, I mean nothing. look at the junction, side road, driveway, parked cars, kids playing, dogs, old people, yuppies on thier iPhones, anything that has the potential to become a hazard.

Think about your road position, are you in the right possition for the next turn, bend, hazard etc


I think this should apply to every rider, not just a newbie...
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  #9  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Learning

I think when learning anything new you hit plateaus when no progress seems to be happening, but I think during these times you're developing "muscle memory", being able to carry out actions without concious thought, freeing up brain space for all the other things you need to be considering. If it's not happening, leave it and come back later.
Three deep breaths can sometimes help!
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  #10  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pumbaa View Post
I think this should apply to every rider, not just a newbie...


Of course it should say 'stage' not 'atage'.... bl00dy keyboard!
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  #11  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Everyone has off days - just look at any sport and players/athletes hit a good run of form then have a bad one once in a while. It happens because we are human. Dont stress over it.

Just take it on the chin and if you're having an off day ride well within your limits and dont push it. A few people have mentioned that voice inside your head... listen to it, it is your friend!
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  #12  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeanied1 View Post
I'm quickly realising that motorcycling is 10 per cent operating the bike and 90 per cent a state of mind!! (feel free to dispute those figures, it's just a newbie's perspective...)
I definitely dispute those figures: Riding is 1% operating the bike and 99% a state of mind. Even that may be understating the importance of the mental side to riding safely.

Everyone has "off days", especially early on. My own policy on them:

An "off day" means I am not aware of the road conditions and traffic around me, so I do NOT ride the bike. It simply becomes far too dangerous (to me) to ride if I'm not paying attention.

Time does, of course, balance this out. Off days will occur less often. Your skills will improve significantly (over the course of years) making riding on one less dangerous. The severity of some types of off days will also decrease (for me at least they did).

Now to throw out all the above .... sometimes the best medicine to counteract an off day is to just get out and ride. Not many motorcycles in front of the psychiatrist's office.

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  #13  
Old 30 Jul 2010
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Yep! Been there.

For me its been when I haven't eaten and my blood sugar is off and/or I haven't been drinking enough fluids.

I hit the road at 0230 in the morning, when deer, drunks and cops are the most active. I have to be mentally alert at this time. Sometimes I use these. They perk me up and help me stay focused.

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Last edited by dlh62c; 30 Jul 2010 at 20:50.
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  #14  
Old 31 Jul 2010
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What a difference a day makes...

Wise words, all - thank you!

I got right back in the saddle again this morning - early-morning, not much traffic about to start with, etc etc - and my brain seemed to be back in the zone again!

Rode for a couple of hours and got my confidence back up again, thank goodness. Rain started coming down, so headed back inside - not ready for wet-weather riding just yet!

I think maybe the "off days" thing is actually a tiredness thing - first thing in the morning, I'm alert and ready for anything, whereas late afternoon, everything takes much more effort! Motorcycling's certainly not "coming naturally" yet - so maybe it's also "brain ache" through having to concentrate so much, hahaha!!

Jeanie
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  #15  
Old 31 Jul 2010
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The Pace

I'd highly recommend reading "The Pace" by a friend of mine, Nick Ienatsch.
I had the chance to ride with Nick and company back in the 90's when this style of group riding was being formed. Motorcyclist magazine frequently test new bikes in the Santa Monica mountains, my former back yard.

The Pace works, and you will be a better rider if you learn the basic tenants and put them to use ... daily. Not strictly for beginners but all the basic principles apply.
Check it out.

.: Nick Ientash's The Pace | Canyon Chasers Motorcycle Sport Touring :.
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