Riding can be great fun on one end of an emotional spectrum and perhaps too relaxing on the other end of the same spectrum. And in between, a whole lot of different emotions can be experienced, as well. Regardless of whether we are riding in the city, or on a deserted country road, constant alertness should be our ongoing riding partner.
The concept of “Riding Alertly” seems too obvious to bear mentioning. And yet, I find myself occasionally getting lulled into a sense of such contentment on some rides, whereby I recognize that I’m not as vigilant as I could be. At the same time I recognize that it’s not an optimum motorcycle-safety state of mind.
Interestingly enough, I sometimes wonder if that’s a negative factor gained through experience. Whether my recollection is correct or not, I like to think of my early years of riding as filled with such excitement and enthusiasm that I’m not sure I could have been eased into a state of such complacency that it would be a safety concern.
That’s not to say that, a few decades later, I never get excited or enthusiastic about riding. But nevertheless, I have caught myself in a routine of riding that sometimes seems a bit too relaxed to such a degree that my reflexes would seem less responsive.
And yet it is best to ride in a relaxed frame of mind. We’re talking about some relative level of confident alertness balanced with a generally relaxed yet heightened sense of present-time awareness. Such that one can be relaxed and still mindful of approaching traffic, and ready to instantly respond if such traffic strays out of its lane.
Such relaxed-alertness includes being keenly sensitive to animals off to the side of the road, since at any instant one or more might dart across right in front of us, at the last possible instant.
Such relaxed-but-confident alertness also includes being able to continuously survey the approaching roadway for any challenges or obstructions, such as potholes, road debris, oil slicks, sandy spots, gravel in the road, etc.
Of course the biggest threat to motorcycle safety is other vehicles. Over the years I’ve seen furniture fall off the back of pickup trucks; food fly out of open car windows; lots of fruit bounce off the back of large, over-filled trucks; and I’ve encountered a stray car tire in the middle of a highway that wasn’t visible until the vehicle in front of me swerved out of the way at the last second, which gave me an instant to swerve around it as well.
Much more commonly is the routine traffic challenges of vehicles turning in front of us in a way that seems calculated to ensure the most direct collision possible, unless we ultimately save the day by engaging in an immediate, impact-avoidance maneuver that even Superman would find daunting.
Fortunately, the vast majority of the time such roadway drama is absent. But on the few days such does demand instantaneous response, personally, I want to be riding at optimum alertness.
What words would you use to describe that riding balance of environmental and survival awareness vs. simply experiencing and enjoying time on a bike?
Enjoy safe riding.