One of the skills we riders must consciously and constantly hone to stay sharp on our bikes is our situational awareness. Keeping focused while riding through ever-changing scenarios, constantly scanning our surroundings for potential threats, maintaining a “360 degree” awareness, are all vital street skills (see “Air Combat & Street Riding“). Yet there are moments while riding that we can still experience a brief lapse in attention, or lose focus and perspective for a moment in the saddle.

Nick Ianatsch of the Yamaha Champions Riding School trains hundreds of racers and street riders every year, and teaches an additional skill that I’ve added to my own survival arsenal. Ianatsch calls it “looking sooner, scanning back if necessary”. This entails periodically searching far forward while riding, casting your vision out as far down the road as possible, then drawing your gaze back to your immediate situation. This practice reorients the mind, resets focus, and broadens perspective while at speed.

Kyle Wyman, MotoAmerica Superbike racer and YCRS guest instructor, describes the practice as “looking two steps forward, one step back…two ahead, one back.” Ianatsch further illustrates, “On the street, you look all the way through the freeway onramp to the traffic flowing or not flowing. You look not just around the canyon corner but skip your eyes to the road unwinding below you and see the radar trap on the next straight. You look past the green light and see the car leaving the gas pump and heading into your lane. Big picture. And then you bring your eyes back to the nearest probable issue.”

Big picture. An apt descriptor. Every motorcycle riding instructor guides students to “get your eyes up”, “look farther”, and “go where you look”. All sound advice and good practice. But I’ve improved my “big picture” while riding by incorporating Ianatsch’s “look sooner” skill, which I’ve come to call, “taking the long view”. When I’m riding, I’ll force my eyes occasionally to look as “deep field” as I can, taking in every movement, every potential hazard and obstacle, every possible escape route, far out ahead of me. I certainly acquire a bigger picture this way. I find myself with a wider awareness, a calm centering, and a renewed concentration, as I ease my gaze back to the immediate. I often draw a deep breath and blow it out slowly in the brief process as well, adding to the reinforced control I experience.

Taking the long view certainly applies to life as well as riding. We can feel so overwhelmed in the course of our days, with events in the world as well as our own lives. Not only that, we often live soaking up a constant bombardment of information and stimuli, from which it is difficult to extract ourselves. Periodically “unplugging from the Matrix” as my wife calls it, and pushing our vision beyond our immediate to the distant, to those things most important in the long run, can help us restore perspective. 

Personally, as a Christ-follower, I’m reminded of this frequently as I read the Bible. An example is found in Colossians 3:2- “Set your mind on things above (long view), not on things of this world (immediate view).” This helps center me in trying times, as I seek to navigate an increasingly complex and confusing world.

So in riding and life, may we broaden our “big picture” and endeavor to “take the long view”. May you ride, and live, better for it.

Rob Brooks

*First penned for my friends at Born to Ride.

*photos courtesy of the AMA.

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