How to Use Your Vision to Improve Your Riding
The best motorcycle riders in the world all have a few things in common. For one, they’ve spent hours upon hours honing their skills and working with motorcycle riding coaches to get more comfortable with their machines. They also have phenomenal reflexes and excellent motor control for the throttle, clutch, and brakes. Perhaps the biggest thing that makes some riders so much better than others, though, is their use of vision.
Some of the best motorcycle riders in the world rely on a combination of great eyes and plenty of experience to pick up on visual information that some of us might miss altogether. Vision is always essential when you’re riding a motorcycle, and especially at two different high risk areas throughout your rides; when cornering and when approaching intersections.
1 – Vision and Cornering
We’ve published a lot of information in the past about the importance of vision when cornering, and it’s also one of the most important things we talk about in our motorcycle riding lessons. We teach our riders how to think of vision as their superpower. Seeing like a superhero can help with the search-setup-smooth process and help people avoid possible obstacles in the road and to prevent going wide on corners.
Vision on corners is critical because cornering is one of the most challenging and dangerous things riders have to do. Roughly 37% of all single-vehicle crash fatalities occur during cornering. These dangerous situations typically come about because of how the driver or rider is using their vision.
Since vision is so critical when we corner, learning how to think about it is one of our most crucial motorcycle riding tips. Here are some questions you should think about before and during cornering on a motorcycle:
- Where is my turn point?
- Where is my apex?
- Where is my exit?
If you can think about all those things before starting your turn (and stay focused until you’re through the corner), you’re much less likely to put yourself in danger. Frankly, if we aren’t identifying these points when we’re cornering, we’re increasing our risk for crashing. Using our vision to target these points is important, and we’ll also need to open up our vision beyond these points to ensure we see a wider picture. Essentially, we are quickly moving between pinpoint vision and wide open vision.
2 – Vision and Intersections
Along with corners, more than half of motorcycle fatalities happen at intersections. Cautiously approaching every intersection is critical for motorcyclists. You should be focused on using your vision as much as possible while approaching an intersection to look for hazards in three different categories:
- Roadway: What is the condition of the roadway? Do I have escape routes available? Will I have traction for these chosen escape routes?
- Markings: Is there construction ahead? What do I need to know about the intersection from the road signs?
- Motorists: What are the two-ton plus beasts around me doing? Am I giving myself sufficient time and space to be able to operate successfully?
It is the use of our vision that helps us answer the questions above. Using our vision to quickly scan to identify hazards gives us an overall awareness of the situation. Awareness of the situation makes you less likely to be surprised by anything, making you less likely to get into a dangerous situation or be involved in an accident.
Target Fixation and Obstacle Avoidance
One thing to think about as you work on your vision is target fixation. Holding our vision for too long on a certain point can prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. Fixating on a particular object for longer than necessary can mean we put ourselves on an undesirable trajectory. For example, if we look at a guard rail on the outside of the turn when moving at 60mph for one (1) second, we can travel 90 feet. That ninety feet could cause us to go wide towards the guard rail we want to avoid.
The answer to avoid target fixation is to pick better reference points as you ride instead of riding aimlessly and without purpose. Focus your vision on reference points (like corner turn points, apexes, corner exit points, and braking points). At the same time, use your broader peripheral vision to pick up any obstacles that may be on the road. We essentially need to train our eyes (brains) to pick key points on the road so we can obtain the appropriate trajectory without lingering on them too long. This is where skill improvement courses come in handy. They can help you refine and improve your existing visual skills.
What If I Don’t Have Great Vision Naturally?
Some of the world’s best motorcycle riders have eyesight that surpasses 20/20 vision. That’s a wonderful gift, but you don’t need exceptional vision to become a skilled motorcyclist. If your vision isn’t what it used to be, though, we recommend visiting your eye doctor. The right pair of glasses or contacts can make a world of difference when improving your vision and keeping you safer on the motorcycle.
Protecting Your Vision on a Motorcycle
The next thing to consider as you ride the motorcycle is what you can do to ensure your vision doesn’t become compromised. To that end, a full-face helmet will do the best job of shielding your eyes and protecting your vision while you’re on the road. Good motorcycle helmets offer great optics and scratch-resistant eye protection, so you won’t feel like your vision is compromised. Your eyes will also be protected from bugs, debris, and wind. You may even be able to find a motorcycle helmet with a tint to give you some UV protection and prevent you from getting blinded by the bright Arizona sun.
Keeping your eye protection clean is essential. As you ride around on your motorcycle, your shield will eventually become dirty with bugs and other grime. It’s better on your helmet than on your face and in your eyes, but you’ll still want to get it off to restore your vision. Keep a soft cloth with you so you can clean your eye protection on the go. We usually recommend against using paper towels or similar materials because those can scratch your eye protection.
Many riders also prefer to ride motorcycles with low windshields or no windshields at all. This helps ensure that the edge of the windshield won’t block your vision, and the difference is especially noticeable when it’s rainy out. That isn’t a problem we often have in some parts of Arizona, but trying to see around a wet windshield is something you should always try to avoid.
Motorcycle Lessons in Arizona
The best way to quickly pick up a lot of motorcycle riding tips is by taking lessons with an experienced motorcycle riding coach. Here at TEAM Arizona, we’ve provided motorcycle training for residents of Phoenix, Maricopa County, The Valley, and all over the state of Arizona. Our knowledgeable coaches can teach you how to improve your motorcycle riding by working on your vision. Check out our Skill Improvement Courses page for the different types of motorcycle riding classes in Arizona.
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