TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: Number Two Mistake Experienced Riders Make

April 6, 2016 Tags: , ,


Have you ever driven or ridden in an unfamiliar place?  It feels like your brain is on high alert.  Why?

The human brain loves certainty.  It makes its job of self-preservation much easier.  With chaos it has to work overtime.  I remember my first time in Spain on a motorcycle in 2003.  Everything was unfamiliar and my mind was doing its best to make sense of it all.  The road signs were in Spanish…unless they were in Catalan, or French, or a Euskara (Basque language).  The motorists seemed quite disorganized (to me at least) and every green light was like the start to a MotoGP race.  Plus, I was quite ill and feeling overwhelmed by it all.  However, in two short weeks I was ripping around Barcelona like it was where I grew up.  What changed?  Over time, the environment became familiar, I was seeing situations repeatedly, and I had a better grasp of the risk certain situations presented.

Our brains are constantly analyzing trends in an effort to predict danger and maximize our self preservation.  Predicting danger within our environment means we need to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to survive our ride.


Within the acronym S-E-E we find the first element for helping us predict danger.  The first letter, “S”, stands for SEARCH.  We are unable to predict danger if we cannot locate and identify it.  That process starts with our vision.  In particular, it starts with HOW we use our vision.

It is helpful to know, before we start road riding, what kind of dangers we’re trying to predict.  Having a method for searching can help reduce chaos.  We generally look at three key areas when riding:

  • ROADWAY:  We look at the road to determine any dangers it may present and ask ourselves pertinent questions.  What is the condition of the road?  Is the road crowned?  What is the radius, type, and grade of the upcoming curve?  What can harm us on the edge of the roadway- any barriers?
  • MARKINGS:  Road signs provide us with valuable warnings that, if unheeded, can harm us.  Being vigilant even on roads often traveled can be a key to our success.  What is the suggested road speed?  Is there construction ahead?  A deer warning?
  • MOTORISTS:  Those large masses of steel being driven by inattentive motorists are not going away and are always changing position.  Consider mixing it up with motorists to be the most important game of chess you’ll ever play.  Making the right moves depends upon your ability to see surrounding motorists and predict their behavior.  What potential risks do oncoming motorists create?  Motorists from behind?  In other lanes?


When searching, what risks did you identify?  You’ve now entered the evaluation phase.  As we identify risks we’ll want to play a “what-if?” game.  What if that motorist moves into my lane?  What if that dog jumps the fence?  What if the kids in the park launch a ball onto the roadway?  These kinds of questions plan for the worst in order for the outcome to be the best.


Once we’ve determined a best result from playing our “what-if?” game, we move to the execution phase.  We can execute in three primary ways:

  • Adjust our speed
  • Adjust our position on the road
  • Communicate our intentions

These are the three primary tools in our execution toolbox.  They can be used independently or simultaneously.  What you choose is situation dependent.



Complacency.  It is dangerous because it creeps in and infiltrates our riding.  Long after the anxiety of first riding on the roadway and the excitement of initially mixing it up with the cagers subsides, we gain a quiet confidence that, when unchecked, can develop into complacency.  And statements like this:

  • I’ve ridden that road a thousand times and I didn’t notice the….
  • Where did that car come from?  I didn’t even….
  • I’ve taken that corner 10mph faster than the entry speed sign suggested countless times….
  • It’s just a few beers; nothing is gonna happen to….
  • And our final favorite:  I HAD TO LAY IT DOWN.


There are several ways in which we can intervene to prevent complacency from creeping into our riding.

  • PREPARATION:  Before heading out on your ride, even if it is a commute you do daily, pretend you’ll be seeing the route for the very first time.  By being mindful and present we can operate at maximum vigilance.
  • PRACTICE:  Every time we mount a motorcycle it is an opportunity to practice our skills and an opportunity to learn something about your relationship with your motorcycle.  If you haven’t taken a training course to improve your skills recently (last two years) may we recommend a course HERE?
  • PERSPECTIVE:  Can we know EVERYTHING about riding a motorcycle?  Absolutely not.    If we have the perspective that we never have enough miles under our belt to know everything and that every ride is an opportunity for self improvement and maximum situational awareness, then we can reduce our risk of a crash.

Are you ready to get out and ride?  Will you decide to implement the S-E-E strategy?  Tell me what you think works best for you to avoid complacency:

For the Entire TEAM Arizona Newsletter Content, CLICK HERE

Bill Seltzer RiderCoachBill 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:

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