Shaving Seconds

When riding a motorcycle, every second counts.  Motorcycle safety courses and departments of motor vehicles tell riders to keep a minimum two-second following distance behind the vehicle in front of you.  But motorcyclists should constantly scan and anticipate what is coming at them much farther down the road.  Cagers often don’t see us, so we need to take the responsibility to see them…the sooner the better.

Besides being aware of approaching vehicles, intersections, obstacles in the roadway, and poor road conditions as you approach them, a good rider will also take actions so as to prepare for these things should they suddenly become hazards.  Cruising down the highway with your legs stretched out on the cruise pegs is a welcome relief for stiff or cramping legs, and it’s super cool…but needing to relocate your feet back to the controls to be able to break or shift in an emergency situation adds valuable seconds to your response time.

Whenever approaching an intersection, blind curve, or any other situation where there is an increased likelihood of encountering trouble, it is a good idea to take your feet back off those highway pegs and put them in position where they are ready to brake or shift.  Feet are not the only thing that needs to prepare.  Cover both brake and clutch levers with your hands so as to eliminate the time needed to reach and grab them, leaving only the time it takes for the actual squeeze. 

Besides preparing yourself physically, you can also shave seconds through mental preparation.  Having an “escape” pre-planned can cut down on your reaction time because there is no hesitation while you evaluate the situation and decide what to do…you already have!  Practice emergency braking and swerve techniques in an empty parking lot on a regular basis, or take rider safety course.  These skills keep you in tip-top shape for when you need to use them. 

Keeping your motorcycle in good shape will help too.  Properly inflated tires and maintained brakes allow your bike to come to a stop more quickly.  All of these little things add up.  Shaving a few tenths of a second by covering your brakes & clutch, a few more by having your feet in ready position, even more for proper brakes and tires, and more still for mental & skill preparation all combined together can literally shave up to three seconds off of your response time.

Three seconds?  Big deal, right?  Well actually, yeah it is a big deal!  Many of us tend to overlook the obvious.  Riding at 30 mph actually means that you are moving a distance of approximately 50 feet in a second.  A typical intersection is only 50 feet wide.  That means that if you even saved just one second off your response time, it could make the difference between your bike stopping before you reach that car suddenly pulling out in front of you or not stopping until you’ve actually slammed into, skidded under, or flown over it…and that’s only one second at 30 mph!  Just think of the distance you could save over 3 seconds at 60 mph!

Those 3 seconds very well might save you – and your Harley – from a bad scrape!

TruckChamp.com 2010 Motorcycle Sweepstakes

5 Responses to “Shaving Seconds”

  1. Oh yeah! 3 seconds have saved my life a countless number of times. Hell yeah it’s a big deal.

    You know what else helps reaction and threat assesment? Video games! I’m serious here. I notice that the guys and gals who play video games, ride better and see threats much sooner and respond to them quicker than people I know who don’t play.

    Good stuff.

  2. OMG Dave, you just gave me a great idea — Wii Motorcycle Simulator training!

  3. Sorry to be a party pooper. Just wanted to point out if drinking one beer slowed you down by one second, than that one beer could be the difference between reacting in time or not. To think… I used to have two! Now I have none til the rides over and bikes are put away for the day.

  4. Excellent point Jay!

  5. Great insight, Lady Di! We all need reminders to battle complacency.

    By the way, this kind of thing avoids scrapes on other bike brands, too! 🙂

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