Motorcycling - Knowledge

Overcoming Your Survival Reactions to Improve Your Riding

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Keith Code, arguably the best known and most successful on-track motorcycle instructor in the world, had shared the concept of ‘Survival Reactions’ in his book Twist of the Wrist 2. These SRs (Survival Reactions) ruin the rider’s confidence and control while on the road and can very well turn out to be fatal for the rider. In this article, we’ve outlined these 7 SRs and mastering these will “up” your riding skills drastically.

Mastering the 7 Survival Reactions

1. Chopping the Throttle Mid-turn

While taking turns, you must have perfect control on the throttle. Imagine you’re leaning to an upcoming corner and you lose the throttle mid-turn. The moment you lose throttle, you invoke sudden engine braking, which results in a nose dive and your bike will stand up. When your bike stands up you will end up going straight forward and not ‘in’ the turn which you wanted. When at the corner, the consequences are worse, which could lead you to go into opposite lane into oncoming traffic or even off the road. Maintain your throttle throughout the turn and lean in harder if needed.

2. Counter-Leaning Against Bike angle

It’s a lot of fun to ride in ghats and leaning in to cover those curves smoothly at 70 or 80 kmph. A lot easier said than done, it takes lots of practice to reach at a level where you ride those curves smoothly in full confidence. When it comes to such corners, another common mistake that we make is counter leaning against bike angle. For e.g. if the upcoming turn is towards your right, your bike will lean in right i.e. towards the turn. But our SR makes our body lean towards left. This increases your bike lean angle (body is upright or in opposite side i.e. counter-leaning) and it doesn’t tighten the turn as you’d have hoped. Resulting in under or overshooting the turn. Always try to lean “in” towards the turn.

Motorcycle leaning and counter leaning survival reactions
Counter-Leaning Against Bike angle( Image Source )

3. Tightening your Grip on Handle Bars

This is one of the most common SR. When you sense you are getting into an accident, panic sets in and you end up holding your handle bars tightly. In this situation, you will fail to maneuver your bike and avoid/reduce the damage. It is ALWAYS recommended to let go of your bike in case an accident is imminent, you will be a lot safer that way. As far as the gripping is concerned, it should neither be too tight or too lose, it should be enough to help you control the bike.

handle grip motorcycling survival reaction
Tightening your Grip on Handle Bars ( Source )

4. Looking Frantically Everywhere

In the moment of trouble, another type of panic that sets in is Visual Panic. This is the moment when you are frantically looking everywhere all around you and not able to focus where you are headed. When you are getting into such situations your focus should be fluid and you need to be in control of self so you can take a quick decision on how to be safe and avoid getting in an accident.

5. Vision Fixated on a Thing

This is another form of Visual Panic where you end up just looking at a single thing and not looking around you. When in panic, you will end up looking at exact the thing which you don’t want to hit. Learn to keep your vision fluid and look where you want to go. It’s a scientifically proven fact that when in panic, you hit where your vision is locked at. Stay attentive and be vigilant of your surroundings, that way you can focus on safe spots and try to steer yourself off trouble.

6. In-efficient Braking (over / under-braking)

Your brakes are your best saviours during a ride, but at times they could work the other way too. Hence, it’s essential you know your bike and its brakes well. Brake at the corner and it’s going to end up making your bike stand up or skid, see SR#1 for consequences of this. Braking must happen before you lean-in for the corner. Braking will stop or slow your bike depending on the road condition and type of tyres. So, do some research on the surface you are riding and what tyres you should be using.

Efficient braking survival reactions
Know your bike and its brakes well ( Source )

7. Freezing up on the Handle Bars

While riding your bike, you encounter a hazard. You freeze up and do nothing to protect yourself. In less than a split-second time, you will find yourself crashed into something. To keep yourself safe from such mishaps, you must relax and maintain a uniform steer. With a skillful attitude and practice, you can overcome this SR. Always doing your best to stay focused and keeping control on self will keep you safe on the ride. Panic, and you will worsen the situation.

The survival reactions mentioned above are most obvious to the bikers who are just starting to ride, with experience you realize that skills for overcoming these survival reactions vary from person to person. We are all humans and panic sets in at certain moments, it is only with practicing in a safe environment that we can learn to overcome these Survival Reactions. Ride safe and make each road trip or a leisure ride a memorable one. No one likes to recall a trip for a mishap that was tackled with. You don’t too!

You can look for Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist 2 movie on youtube or book on amazon.

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