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PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:41 am 
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Ninja Guru
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Overcoming panic while out riding your motorcycle

Panic is one of the main reasons why you freeze up, tis one of the things that I spend a lot of time teaching peeps to overcome in my self defense classes.
It’s all a question of never letting yourself feel out of control of the situation.


One dictionary defines panic as "a sudden, overpowering, often contagious terror." That's a remarkably accurate description of panic as it applies to motorcyclists, I can tell you that panic is by far the greatest cause of crashes. Ironically, it's an instinct programmed into our minds back when we were defending ourselves against saber-toothed tigers that's the culprit, not panic brought on by the more commonly feared left-turning vehicles, lack of traction, etc., that are usually listed as the greatest dangers to our motorcycling well-being.

Controlling panic is best approached on two fronts. The first is understanding what triggers panic and (obviously) avoiding the situations that create it. Any number of things can trigger panic, and they vary from person to person, but most are linked to time, speed or some state of surprise. These, not surprisingly, are interrelated as well.

Of course, avoiding these triggers is best accomplished by expanding your visual awareness by looking farther ahead and using your peripheral vision to become aware of things before they become a hazard. Linked to visual awareness is speed; the higher your speed, the farther your field of awareness needs to extend and the better your bike control skills need to be. You need to be confident in the actual action of steering and braking at the highest speed you choose to travel, not just confident about it in theory. You must be able to do it on demand at a moment's notice, in the most unexpected and inconvenient circumstances.

The second way to deal with panic is gaining knowledge of its responses and training yourself how best to counteract or overcome them. If you learn one lesson from all this, make sure it's this: Look where you want to go. It sounds ridiculously basic, but believe me, in a panic situation this action becomes perhaps the single most difficult-and yet most critical-thing to do. This is because in nearly every panic situation, the primary response is to target-fixate on the immediate hazard.

Target fixation is dangerous for a number of reasons, but most critical is the fact that panic usually causes us to fixate on the bad (the brake lights of the car skidding in front of us, the ditch to the outside of the oncoming right turn or the gravel trap at the racetrack) and ignore the good (blocking out any available escape routes, or the turn you're attempting to make). For better or for worse (usually the latter), you and your motorcycle will go exactly where you're looking. Narrowing a rider's field of vision is just one of the negative effects of visual fixation. Fixation also impairs our natural perception of speed because peripheral vision tends to blur in a fast-forward-type effect not unlike that of hitting the fast-forward button on a DVD player.

It's important to realize how little additional speed it takes to trigger panic entering a turn. Did you know that we all have a natural perception of speed based on visual information and other senses? How precise is this awareness of speed? Most experienced riders can feel a difference of 1 or 2 mph in turns. Advanced riders and racers' sense of speed is often calibrated in tenths of a mile per hour. Don't believe me? Next time you're at an Superbike event, put a stopwatch on any of the front-runners and see how little their lap times vary (barring outside influences like lapped traffic and tire wear, obviously). You'll most likely see lap times differ no more than tenths of a second from one lap to the next. On a 2.5-mile track with lap times in the 1:30 range, a change of one second per lap is a 1.1-mph difference in average speed. That means that the racer's average corner speed, and resulting speed on the straights, is varying by no more than 1.1 mph from one lap to the next. A full-second change in lap time is considered a huge difference by racers.

Let's say you're leading a group of friends down a favorite road on Sunday morning and approaching a challenging decreasing-radius right-hander that you've entered at 58-62 mph on various weekends, depending on the amount of coffee you had at breakfast and how confident you were feeling on a particular morning. How much additional speed would be necessary to trigger panic? Would you believe less than 2 mph? Just that extra 2 mph faster than your maximum comfort speed will make your eyes enlarge to the size of saucers; an additional 4 mph will feel like 100 and send you into cardiac arrest. The important point to remember, however, is that what feels like 40 mph too fast is most likely only 5 mph or less. And it doesn't take much additional braking to scrub off even 5 mph.

The final important aspect of panic is that it typically doesn't dissipate until you've slowed to a running pace (say, 10-15 mph) or below; again, probably due to the fact that our panic instincts were programmed into our minds long before Suzuki came along with the Busa. The typical panicked, target-fixated rider usually runs straight off the track, remains hard on the brakes and either tips over at a crawl or comes to a terrified stop in the dirt; in a 60-mph corner at a track I'm familiar with, it's usually within an average of about 10 feet off the edge of the track. I ask peeps, "If you're able to come to a stop 10 feet off the track, how fast were you going at the time?" The answer is, Not very fast.

Panic so impairs our perception and judgment that it often causes us to go straight off the road or track when we could have easily negotiated the corner under different circumstances. The same can apply for a car turning in front of you or encountering an unforeseen hazard in the road. Panic induced by these situations can be overcome by resisting the temptation to fixate on the hazard; you must force yourself to continue thinking about your riding, scrub off the necessary speed and stay focused on where you want to go, not what you're trying to avoid. For instance, the aforementioned Sunday morning situation can be handled by looking far into the corner, dragging the brakes a little longer to bring the speed back into the comfort zone, and simply applying a smooth steering input to bend into the corner.

We may never be able to totally eliminate panic from our riding experiences, but hopefully you'll have the basic knowledge and skills to realize that when you feel the panic start to come on, you have the power to reach over and flick the panic switch off just as quickly as it switched on.
The proof that you can control your actions is the ‘Tennis Ball’ test… I use this fer Self defense classes. If I were to throw a tennis ball at you at some force.. your brain would look at it, as it whizzed towards ya head at 60mph or so and decide whether you need to duck or catch it. Your brain would, in a nanosecond, calculate speed, direction, rate of fall and how fast you need to move. Then direct your body to take the appropriate action.
It does this because you are used to catching tennis balls and consider them not to be a threat.

What you need to do now is to look at corners and other panic inducing situations and condition your mind and body to react logically with out the panic inducing ‘OH MY GOD I’M GONNA DIE’ type of thoughts.
Simples yes!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:27 am 
interesting .... classic fight or flight theory really =D> =D>


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:01 pm 
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Mechanic
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Location: pegswood,uk.. B1
GOOD READ. JUST NEED TO REMEMBER IT WHEN IT COUNTS.. :shock:
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:49 am 
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WSB Rider
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Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:59 pm
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Location: Oldham,Lancashire, England
Good artical, I got into this situation a few weeks ago and got completely fixed on what I wanted to avoid and forgot all about the the corner. =D>


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 4:51 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:13 am
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Location: killin
Owen wrote:
Good artical, I got into this situation a few weeks ago and got completely fixed on what I wanted to avoid and forgot all about the the corner. =D>


And the end result was.............

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 10:28 am 
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WSB Rider
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Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:25 pm
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Location: Surrey, UK ZX6R J2 & ZX9R C2
I occasionally screw around when I am out riding, and it is safe to do so, and it drives my gf nuts...

The odd front wheel lift... sliding the rear/front on corners, usually by just pushing a little too hard... getting the back wheel in the air a little on the brakes...

What this does do though is when things go wrong or something unexpected happens it doesn't shock me into freezing.

I have gone into a full, both wheel slide with mates behind who have watched and instead of chucking it I have got out of it with the application of a little more throttle and no real panicking.

A lot of riding, for me, is how something feels and how familiar the feeling... the more familiar the less scary sort of thing.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:37 pm 
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WSB Rider
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Location: Oldham,Lancashire, England
Exursion around a farmers field. #-o


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:49 pm 
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Ninja Guru
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Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2009 3:09 am
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Location: Blackfoot, ID: ZX-9R sE1* & F1, both California EVAP models. * Supercruise capable
I can count three times since my crash at the end of 2011 where I came in too hot on a corner and should have crashed; twice in the same corner over time, and one unfamiliar turn, all downhill corners. I can't say whether I target fixate anymore, not since I'm so accustomed to riding from the sides of the bike. Head down, knee down tri-podding is my safety zone. My first resort goto comfort zone.

One was an incorrectly labeled unfamiliar 15 MPH 180* left hand turn marked as a 25 that I took going in at about 55 MPH. I ended up overshooting the corner, going off slightly into the dirt. Instinct took over midway through the turn when I knew I wasn't going to make it. I was on the front brakes as hard as I dared until my knee hit pretty hard, doing about a 6" drop to the road surface and the bike went a little out of control as it was sliding just off the pavement. But it didn't depart and I was able to ride out of it. That got my heart to pumping, but knee down saved me. Without it I would have low-sided for sure. The rider behind me lost me as I went around, so he didn't even know. Only later when I asked him if he saw a dust plume did he put two and two together.

The other two were in the same downhill right hand turn. You come into it banked over on the left, brake as you straighten up for the 180* right that immediately follows. First time was more innocent. I was about 3/4 the way around the right hand corner tripodding on my knee, saw a moderate patch of sand and gravel covering the entire road, the wheels both slide out slightly, upsetting the bike and momentarily putting more pressure on my slider. Instinct raised the bike to more vertical, gravel bouncing off my thigh and chest, but knee down saved me again. I could see losing the front end if I had been in the saddle.

Same corner last year, came in too hot, couldn't get enough stopping power at the front while braking coming out of the left hand turn leading into the right hander, tapped the back brake causing it slide momentarily, but scrubbed off a little bit more speed, released the slide immediately, said fuck-it and threw bike into the right with as much finesse as possible. If I had bailed on making the turn, I would have overshot and gone off-roading in a rock garden. I knew no braking would be possible, as that would just cause me to low-side. I had to depend on all of the available grip for turning. Banked over, my right foot boot slider got a good grinding down getting through the corner, but it worked. Knee down saved me again.

Oh and one other time, sorry. A right hander that dipped down at its center, high coming in and going out. There was a huge exposed expansion join in the road mid-corner and there was oncoming traffic. I was riding too fast, which I acknowledge, but normally isn't a problem on deserted roads. Hitting the expansion joint sent the bike about a foot off of its line and I was riding the outside tire groove to begin with. That was with the harder PR2s I use in the summer. Knew that if I got onto the painted centerline things could go bad. I just hauled the bike over more and it did it. Had I been on my regular PPs, it wouldn't have even been close.

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