Split Second Decisions

I just finished reading Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a fascinating book about rapid cognition. Our brain is a super computer and although you make thousands of decisions a day that you are aware of, you also make thousands of decisions everyday that you are not aware of. Within the blink of an eye, or about half a second, you might be able to decide if you like a new model motorcycle you see on the showroom floor. You don’t know why you like it or don’t like it. But your super computer has taken in the data, computed it and made a decision. Some people call that a gut feeling, instinct or prejudging.

Interestingly enough, the more you think about something like this motorcycle and try to think of what you like about it and what you don’t like, your mind can change. You can over think the situation as you take in more information. If you take that same person who on a half second impression likes a certain motorcycle but instead give him a whole bunch more information and more time and ask him what he likes about the motorcycle and why, he might decide to buy something else. But guess what? That first impression was correct and we dismiss it because we don’t trust our brain’s rapid cognition abilities! The psychologists and scientists that have studied this phenomenon have found that when it comes to minor decisions like buying a toaster, we get better results taking in all the data and making an educated decision. On the other hand, they find that when it comes to important decisions where the stakes are high, like buying a new Harley-Davidson, we make better snap decisions than if we over think it. That explains all the Honda sales! Too many people over thinking. Just kidding. Like I said, the book is fascinating!

Our brains rapid cognition isn’t always correct. In fact there are many instances where we can be led astray. I’m sure that many police officers see a leather clad biker and immediately think “this is a criminal”. This is a perfect example of where rapid cognition can be misleading. Understanding good rapid cognition and bad rapid cognition is the key to harnessing The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

We have the ability to read people’s faces. Since we are not trained in it we probably use this skill at a very limited level, but you could call this skill mind reading. There are experts in the field that study facial expressions that can pick up things and tell what peoples intentions are without hearing a thing about what is going on. Like the fictional character Gibbs on NCIS. He can pick up on things on a person’s face that tell him when someone is innocent, guilty, lying or being truthful. There are situations where people lose their mind reading ability. When we are in a state of arousal (not sexual arousal) our heart rates soar and our adrenaline flows. This is how humans deal with extreme stress, the kind you experience in life or death situations. In these cases our brains shut down a lot of unnecessary functions to increase performance in order to survive. Some situations get so extreme that the brain can shut down muscle control and you mess your pants!

Lets say you haven’t taken your meds today and you go crazy and lead some cops on a wild high speed chase. You’re doing 100mph on your Honda (because in this example you are a nice person) through a residential neighborhood and the cops are on your tail! All of of sudden you come to your senses and stop for the police. You put your hands up and surrender. Guess what might happen! Think of the Rodney King incident and others like it. Those police officers have entered into that state of high arousal. The excitement of a high speed chase has put them in a state where their mind reading ability doesn’t work anymore. They don’t recognize that your intentions are now peaceful. They very well might shoot you! So don’t ride a Honda, take your meds, and if you lead the police on a high speed chase… don’t get caught!

The optimal state of arousal is when our hearts are at 115 to 145 beats per minute. I can think of a few examples of when I have experienced this heightened state of awareness. When I was a teenager I raced in one motocross on my 1980 Yamaha YZ80. I was fourteen or fifteen. I remember entering the first turn after the holeshot. Everything was in slow motion like in a movie where the fireman enters a burning building to save a kid. There was dust everywhere, all the racers were jammed together elbow to elbow. It was bumper to bumper or tire to tire. Other kids were crashing and falling down all over the place. Some right in front of me! Somehow I was able to steer in and out of the chaos and I remember it all in slow motion although we are talking about a period of thirty seconds. Until reading about this state of arousal I didn’t understand that memory or how I was able to do that. Some star athletes are able to function in this state during the key moments in a sporting event. They see everything around them in vivid detail, their senses are keen and they see the action in slow motion. They score!!!

I have another memory like this involving my YZ80. A not so pleasant memory. It was shortly after the above mentioned race when my father told me that was the end of my racing career. He thought if he took me to one race I would get it out of my system. That was my dream! I wanted to be a motocross racer with every once of teenage angst in my fourteen year old body! I lost my mind and I actually did lead some police on a high speed chase through a residential neighborhood and into the local motocross park. No, I did not get shot, but I did get arrested and my parents wanted to shoot me.

From the time the police car turned on the lights and I made the stupid decision to hit the throttle adrenaline coursed through my veins and took over my body.  I got tunnel vision and even though I had crossed into the motocross park where a car could not follow me, I felt like a fox being chased by hunters with dogs. My brain and body reacted to the extreme stress of being chased by police.  I was running for my life! My field of vision narrowed to what was directly in front of me. I couldn’t slow down or stop even though there was no reason to. The police really weren’t going to chase me into the off road park. They couldn’t. I crossed an impossible creek crossing at high speed that involved going straight down five foot ditch into the muddy creek and immediately back up the opposite side. Then I raced through another residential area before coming to my senses and stopping. I started to walk my motorcycle home because if you didn’t know it, riding an unregistered motor vehicle that is meant for offroad use only is illegal on a residential street or any other kind of public road. Especially when you aren’t old enough to have a driver’s license! Of course the same police car that initiated a 5 second chase ten minutes earlier came cruising by, saw me walking and stopped to make the arrest of yours truly. Having racing numbers on my jersey, motorcycle, and helmet didn’t make it too hard to identify me. I didn’t understand from a scientific stand point what had happened until now!

After 145 heart beats per minute bad things happen! Motor skills breakdown and we can’t do simple things like dial 911 successfully. At 175 our ability to think breaks down. Our forebrain shuts down and our mid brain takes over. This is the same part of the brain that all mammals have. Basically we become the equivalent of a frightened animal like a dog. In the above story I didn’t lose my motor skills but I do feel like a primal part of my brain took over. I felt like an animal being chased and my only thought was to flee!

There was another time where I did experience a full breakdown momentarily. I thought it was shock. Maybe it was. I was at the crash scene of a motorcycle accident where my friend was killed by a driver under the influence of drugs. Two other friends were injured in the same horrific incident, one with a broken leg and the other with a broken foot. There were police cars, fire trucks and a medevac helicopter. Motorcycles, parts and luggage were scattered across the highway. Firemen were instructing me on what hospital to go to and all I could hear was “wa wa wa wa” like when the teacher speaks to Charlie Brown. My brain and my hearing could not function at that moment. Another friend was standing with me and remembers the same exact thing. We stared at each other blankly and asked each if the other got that. We both shook our heads “no” and walked away in opposite directions.

What I was really trying to blog about in regards to this book was how it relates to split second decisions on the road. Motorcyclists often encounter situations where a split second decision is the difference between going home or going to the Shock Trauma Center and having a leg amputated or taking a dirt nap at the local cemetery. All the training and practice you do on your motorcycle is data for your super computer. All the reading you do about motorcycle safety goes into your super computer. When your riding and all of a sudden a car illegally enters your path of travel cutting you off you are going to activate your powers of rapid cognition! Some rider’s brains will crunch the data, calculate their options and come up with “lay her down”. Others will subconsciously access the routine for a quick stop. Others might “instinctively” swerve. Worse yet, but not uncommon, are those who come up with nothing! They just freeze and ride straight into the oncoming vehicle because they never learned how to execute a quick stop. This is why it is so important to visualize what you would do ahead of time, to practice ahead of time and to get training and books on how to handle these situations. You’re brain will have a fraction of a second to rapidly access the information in your head and react. It will happen too fast for you to be cognizant of what is going down! In an emergency situation like this your super computer will take over and make a split second decision that will either save your butt or not. I think understanding and harnessing the powers of thinking without thinking are worth reading about.

Read Blink! It’s fascinating!

The Motorcycle Cannonball

You may be familiar with The Motorcycle Cannonball. I read about it in HOG Magazine. It is a cross country motorcycle run on antique motorcycles (pre 1916). I can’t even imagine riding cross state on one of these vintage machines that are little more than a motorized bicycle! Well maybe in Delaware or Rhode Island, but that’s it.

White Knuckle is a new documentary following the first Motorcycle Cannonball in honor of Bud Ekins. The film is produced by Brian Darwas of Atomic Hot Rods. Here is the first ten minutes of the film.

Click here for more information on my Amazon store.

Why Bother With Maintenance?

Once upon a time a well respected rider and reader of this blog purchased his dream motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic! The Caddy of touring motorcycles! He purchased it new with extended warranty and the whole bit! He was mechanically inclined and good with his hands. He was capable of doing the maintenance on his new motorcycle himself but he trusted his new love to the professionals. You would think this would keep the warranty intact and ensure all proper procedures would be followed. A smart move… you would think. I did the same thing for several years until…

One day he picked up his motorcycle from the service department and only made it a few miles before noticing bad noises coming from the transmission. Very bad noises! Noises you don’t want to hear coming from your new love, or your old one for that matter. Turns out the transmission fluid that the dealership put into the motorcycle disappeared! Just like that! No fluid!

So next time you bring your car, truck or motorcycle to a trusted professional, remember this story. Ask any employee at a quick lube joint and I’m sure they will tell you of at least one occurance they know of where a professional forgot to fill the oil after draining or they forgot to put the drain plug back in yielding the same result. I’m not saying this happens at Jiffy Lube, but I’m sure the kids who work there will know of someone somewhere who knows this happens… and they might remember the sound of an engine trying to turn over with no lube in it! Yikes!

So who can you trust? The low wage rookie who gets assigned to oil changes? I don’t think so. Even the most experienced professionals in any field make mistakes. Do you want them making that mistake on your prized motorcycle? The only person you can really trust is YOU! The only way you can know it was done, is to do it yourself. Right, wrong or otherwise you will at least know WHAT was done. Don’t be a fool and trust the professionals with easy stuff you can do at home. Save yourself some major cash too!

Remember the old adage: if you want something done right, do it yourself. If you don’t know how to do it right then immediately go to my online store and purchase the Fix My Hog training DVD right now! You can change your fluids, spark plugs and air filter easily and this video will show you clearly how to do these things and much more.

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Fix My Hog Banner 4

PS – I’m not saying to do your own wrenching on everything. I’m not saying to not trust trained professionals. I’m just saying to save them for the stuff you don’t know how to do, don’t have the right tools for or the knowledge. You can do basic fluid changes and know it was done exactly the way you want it done. Click here to purchase Fix My Hog DVD’s that will show you how!

PSS – It is unfortunate that anyone had to go through what my above mentioned friend went through. But at least we can all learn a lesson. If you can do it yourself and know it was done right, then investing a small amount in tools and the training available on the Fix My Hog DVD will be a small price to pay to know it was done right.

PSSS – all you new biker ladies out there should get these videos! Sick of mechanics talking down to you. Feel like you are in left field and have no idea what guys are talk’n bout! Want to at least understand how your motorcycle works and be able to have a two way conversation with your mechanic where you call the shots and know what needs to be done and what doesn’t? Get some education! Get Fix My Hog DVD’s! Click here!

Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay

crab decks too

Most Delmarva motorcyclists have a handful of favorite crab decks and biker friendly bars situated on the water in Maryland that they like to visit from time to time. Some well known ones that come to mind are Red Eye’s Dock Bar in Kent Narrows and Waterman’s Crab House in Rock Hall. One of my lesser known personal favorites is Harrison’s Chesapeake House on Tilghman Island. I’m sure there are visiting bikers from outside our area that would love to ride to a genuine Maryland crab deck to get the insider feel of the Chesapeake experience. Unfortunately our visiting friends may have no idea where to go to pick some jumbos at a fair price with a great view. And then there is the rider who is tired of going to the same places and needs some new places to partake of legendary crab and seafood dishes, specially recommended by Jimmy John’s Owner. After all, we know we ride to eat and eat to ride… or something like that!

Hush Puppies, Jumbo Crabs and Yuengling Beer

Susan Elnicki Wade and husband Bill Wade have published a book called Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay. I thought this book would make a great addition to my riding resources library and I was right! This book lists over 150 Maryland seafood eateries and bars on the waters of the Chesapeake and it’s tributaries. If you’re a seasoned rider with Old Bay in your blood and need some new destinations this book will serve you well. If you are visiting from out of state and want to get the full Maryland blue crab experience by eating at a remote crab deck on the bay at sunset then you too will love this book.

Diana doing what she does best

onlyhalf the roof is missing

bikers at harrisons chesapeake house
I semi randomly picked a ride destination from the book called Rolph’s Wharf Sandbar. It turned out to be a neat ride destination. We cruised down Rt 213 and then turned right on Rolphs Wharf Road just past Chestertown. We found this remote open air bar at a small marina on the beach. The bar itself was a grounded boat underneath a shelter. Boaters and bikers alike were enjoying the breezy beach and pulling up a bar stool to the rail of the boat for their favorite beverages. We had a great ride and look forward to our next semi random pick from one of the 150 locations in the Maryland edition.

The Sandbar Bar & Grill

The Sandbar on the beach in Chestertown

Diana at he sandbar

the bar is a boat!

If you hale from the lower portion of the Delmarva Peninsula then you will be happy to know Susan and Bill have just released the Virginia edition. I met with Susan and Bill at the Sunset Grill in Cape Charles, VA . I have passed the Sunset Resort many many times and had no idea there was a party on the beach behind the resort every Sunday. The Sunset Grill is a gem of a destination! It was hopping with live music, cold drinks, great seafood and lots of pretty young ladies prancing around in bikinis! If this place is an example of the other places in the Virginia edition than this book is worth its weight in crab seasoning! I know the Maryland book has already served my stomach well! Both are available at www.Amazon.com

Get Your Motorcycle Service Manual

service manual

The most important tool in your garage might not be in your garage. The official factory authorized year and model specific service manual will prove invaluable if you plan on doing your own maintenace. In my case this is Harley-Davidson part number 99481-07 for 2007 Dyna Models. The parts catalog and electronic diagnostic manual are sold separately. This manual is far easier to read than I anticipated. It is actually very easy reading. At this time I have completed the first chapter which outlines the routine maintenance and have been reading the second chapter on the chasis bit by bit. Last night I read how to disassemble the front wheel. When I say bit by bit, I mean five to ten minutes of reading at most. The service manual includes all important specifications and torque values. Torque values? Yes, that’s the proper amount of force to tighten a bolt or screw using a special tool called a torque wrench. There was at least one maintenance procedure in the manual that did not have a helpful diagram and I had no idea what they were describing. It was the procedure to check the front end for proper tightness/looseness at the steering head. After I saw the procedure performed on the Fix My HOG DVD (see previous post) I completely understand it. This manual combined with the Fix My HOG DVD can have even a tooltarded individual such as myself changing their own fluids, brake pads and making adjustments where needed. Get the proper service manual for your motorcycle no matter what!

Fix My Hog DVD

Fix My Hog DVD

Fix My Hog DVD’s bring clear detailed straight forward instructions on basic Harley-Davidson maintenance right into your living room. Fix My Hog© Inc. was founded by Dennis Santopietro after he was frustrated with the high cost of motorcycle upkeep as well as the lack of how to video’s on the market. Dennis’s lifelong friend Bob LaRosa is a graduate of MMI, a professional motorcycle technician and owner of a motorcycle shop in Connecticut. Dennis contacted Bob and together they produced these award winning training DVD’s. The DVD’s show you in detail how to perform basic maintenance on your Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The DVD’s come in Sportster, Touring and Softail/Dyna editions. There are also Bolt On Performance edition DVD’s available for Touring and Softail/Dyna.  The DVD’s are professionally produced and easy to follow. Unlike books, these DVD’s let you watch as master mechanics show you step by step what to do. You can fast forward, rewind and watch again and again at your leisure. These DVD’s have given me the confidence to do my own maintenace this spring! I’m so impressed with these easy to follow DVD’s I contacted Dennis and worked it out so that I can offer them at my online store: www.Shop.RoadCaptainUSA.com