The zen of the zoom

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It’s a beautiful, calm clear, sunny day. The air is crisp and clean. Your bike is purring like a kitten or roaring like a lion but either way, you’re happy about the sound it makes. Added bonus: Last year’s riding gear still fits. You hit the road. It’s dry and smooth. Definitely a good day.

Perhaps you are off to Aunt May’s for brunch, a tour around the lake, or just going nowhere up Island for that perfect cup of coffee. And before you know it, you have arrived. You suddenly realize two things: “I am here” and, “I have no idea of how I got here.”

Sound familiar? It’s happened to each and every one of us.

There are two states of mind in which that can happen.

In the first, you are distracted and functioning entirely on autopilot. In your mind, you are rehashing a conversation, or something you “should have” said, or reviewing your vacation budget. Or perhaps on the lighter side you’re reliving a raise or some praise. But wherever you are, you are not “here.”

This first state, also known as driver inattention, is to be avoided at all costs. In fact, it is the leading cause of all motorcycle accidents.

In the second, you are here. You are so absolute in each moment that once it’s behind you, it’s out of scope. You are on your machine, feeling the engine, smelling the fresh ocean air and negotiating traffic with intention, foresight and preparedness. Your four limbs intuitively operate five motorcycle controls, and your continual awareness navigates through each moment.

The second state, also known as “the zone,” is optimal. It is where you want to be when you ride. In the moment. Present. Reactive.

This second state is typically achieved by the experienced rider who retains awareness of the present by engaging in the following practices. The fine art of arriving alive is, after all, constant and conscious engagement.

Keep your eyes shielded and your eyes moving. BC’s authoritative manual for bikers, ICBC’s RoadSense for Riders, estimates that 80 per cent of the information received is acquired through sight. Eighty per cent is enough reason to protect the eyes. The safest thing is to wear a full-face helmet, with the visor over your eyes. If you opt for a three-quarter, half, shorty or beanie, for goodness sakes wear goggles or at the very least sunglasses. Also, train your eyes to be in constant motion. Never fixate on an object for more than one or two seconds. And while this should go without saying, don’t drink any alcohol while riding. Ever. Alcohol reduces your visual flexibility, causes a tendency to stare, and reduces both your depth perception and your peripheral vision.

Constantly stay in communication with the other vehicles that surround you. Sitting on the arrow of the left-hand turn lane is meaningless to oncoming traffic — your immediate hazards — if you don’t turn on your signal light. Sure, you may know where you’re headed. Good for you. But really it’s the oncoming vehicle that needs to know. Likewise, remember to manually cancel your signal lights. auto cancel is only good if there is no other intersection (including driveways) up ahead.

Contain your road-rage to cages. If you must suffer from this affliction, then keep it in your car. When you’re on the bike you have no use for this beast. It will only be to your detriment. Stuck behind a Winnebago travelling up a hill? Riding behind a distracted mother navigating traffic while putting on a Raffi CD, drinking her coffee and telling her child to quit kicking her seat? Is your view blocked by a WIDE LOAD truck moving a pre-fab house on your favourite stretch of road? Take a deep breath. Drop back to at least three seconds. And say, “It is what it is,” over and over to yourself until you really get it. Until you really, really get it.

In the ICBC manual, RoadSense for Riders, it’s worth noting that the last section in Chapter 8 (Personal Strategies) is dedicated to making the rider aware of the Organ Donor Registry. This should speak volumes to the importance of being conscious in the moment when you ride a motorcycle.

Choose Oooom instead of zoom. And live to see another ride.

Britt Santowski is a former chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she trained instructors and taught riders for almost a decade. Britt is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, speaker, consultant and author.

britt[at]imallowed[dot]com

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One Response to “The zen of the zoom”

  1. on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:23 pmCharlie

    Hello Britt. I’m a long time bike rider and want to let you know that I enjoy and look forward to your new series on road safety. I’ve readily adopted your (3) sec. rule as I was running at (2) sec. or less and I have had problems and near misses in the past but had not made corrections until I read your first article. I immediately concentrated on (3) to (4) seconds of safety margin and am already experiencing a more comfortable, relaxing ride. I’m happy to report to you that I think I’m in the zone when riding as after all these years, I still find motor cycling so thrilling and demanding.The “cage is another story for me though as I never remember the trip. Could you please put me on a workshop list if ever you have another. Thanks and looking forward to next weeks article………..Charlie in “Sunny Sidney by the Sea”.

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