RIDING TIP: Number Four Mistake Experienced Riders Make
The content of this particular blog post has become more and more meaningful to me as I proceed through my riding career. I think the fifteen (15) year old me would be snickering at the forty-two (42) year old me for writing this story, but such is life. In a 10th grade Adventure Literature course I wrote about my dream of riding the TT course on the Isle of Man. By the time I was 30, I sold a house to make the dream come true. I made it another goal to return to the Isle of Man for my 40th Birthday. I accomplished that goal and that is when I realized most the effects of aging had caught up to me and my motorcycling ability.
While you can perform preventative maintenance on your bike to keep it running for practically forever, the same can’t be said for the human body. As we age, our senses go downhill, and we can’t just insert a new set of spark plugs to fix the issue. In fact, we may not be able to pull off the same maneuvers we used to – leading to some experienced rider mistakes that no one likes to encounter.
What Happened To My Eyesight?
Memories aren’t the greatest record keepers. They can fool us into thinking things we never did or…did that well. I am 100% certain my riding ability has improved in the last ten years. Yet, my ability to ride fast around the Isle was better during the first visit versus the second visit. What changed? My eyesight. The misty mornings on the Isle weren’t much of a problem for me when I first visited, but the second time…. Sheesh, I felt like I was riding half as fast and felt twice as anxious. And riding at night on the Isle? For sure my night vision has diminished. At night headlights seem to blur more. Plus, there isn’t much road side lighting to help a rider out and the foliage and cloud cover does a great job at blocking the moon. I was riding half as fast at night and missed one turn on at least four different occasions. What’s a guy to do?
Faltering eyesight begins to happen to the best of us as early as age 40 – at the time when we’re all still otherwise primed and ready to ride. The change is slow, which is why it’s hard to notice right away. Well, right up until you try to tackle a route you handled with ease around a decade ago. This is one of life’s most common aging symptoms, and it’s completely natural, but for motorcyclists, it can mean that some spaces and times are off-limits for adventure, which is never a fun concept.
Compensating for Decreasing Physical Abilities
Why are we even discussing the issue of the effects of aging on motorcyclists? Well, it turns out that riders between the age of 40-59 are over-represented in motorcycle crashes. Research shows that one primary reason for these crashes are that motorcyclists overestimate their abilities. Could it be that our egos get in the way and cause us to deny the physical changes taking place? I know I personally had to grapple with that reality. Seems like time is winning that battle.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is so concerned with improving the crash statistics in this area that they’ve released, for FREE, a Seasoned Rider eCourse. It has some great material including PDFs (see below) and some videos. Maybe most importantly, it has some self-assessment tools to help you determine where you’re abilities REALLY are positioned. We particularly liked these documents:
- How Aging Affects Motorcycle Riding
- Ride Preparation for Aging Motorcyclists – Before You Ride
- Compensating for the Effects of Aging on a Motorcycle
- Riding Tips During Your Ride
You might not want to accept that your riding abilities are fading as you age – none of us do. However, decreasing eyesight is responsible for some of the biggest mistakes motorcycle riders make, so knowing your limitations is critical to staying safe and living to ride another day. Be sure to make use of these free resources to assess your abilities on the road.
Besides, diminished eyesight isn’t the end of the world for riders. While it might mean restricting oneself to daytime trips for some, others may just need a pair of road-safe glasses or contact lenses to get on the move again. In fact, there is a wide range of solutions that seasoned riders have to choose from, including:
- Contact lenses
- Corrective eye surgery
Each of these options has its pros and cons, especially when it comes to riding. Discuss the options that may be right for you with your eye doctor and no one else.
Being adaptable on the road is a must for riders who want to make the most of every ride to stay safe while they’re on the move. This adaptability should include your own health. Noticed a dip in your eyesight while you’re on your bike? It’s time to make some changes. Set the pride aside and see an eye doctor or use the other free resources at your disposal to get your vision back on track. After all, what good is going for a ride if you can’t even enjoy the sights to the fullest?
We know talking about aging isn’t the most fun thing we could be doing on our blog. The reality is that we need to put this topic on the table to open it up, examine it, and see how we can adjust. Our experience shows good riders are humble and will adapt to their ever-changing environment and physical ability. Will you join us in trying to be one of those good riders?
Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011. He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee. Have questions or comments about the article? Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com
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