Motorcycling - Knowledge

Riding Basics - Reference Points and Motorcycle Safety

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Has it ever occurred to you, where your motorcycling skills, spot-on judgments, and flawless reflexes come from? Have you ever wondered what mechanism must be in the process while you’re enjoying your motorcycle rides and ensuring utmost safety at the same time?

Simple – it’s from WHAT and WHERE you look, that matters while riding. Your reflexes depend on the visual information that you get from what you’re looking at.

Your visual attention is critical for you to ride your properly. When it comes to riding basics and safety, you must establish certain Reference Points on the road, this helps to achieve an overall better riding experience. Before you follow your urge to polish your riding skills, let’s go over some of the core basics which involve where and what to look at when riding.

Ride through the complete guide below that discusses the Riding Basics of reference points and what they are.

Look Where you want to Go

The reason you need ‘Reference Points’ while riding is that they provide information regarding where you are and where you are going. Using this information, you can plot your way to where you want to be because ultimately, you go where you look!

riding basics
Look where you want to go. Source

You ought to decide what’s important to look at and what isn’t. In order to have a smooth and safe ride, it’s crucial for you to pay attention to the road, see correctly, and learn to utilize what you see.

What if I say, you’ve been doing it ever since you first took off with your motorcycle, without even realizing that such a mechanism exists – which guided you to your destinations. But, learning more about it would just make your motorcycle rides even more safe and swift.

So what are these Reference Points and where exactly is it that you must look at while riding?

What are Reference Points?

These are nothing but spots and objects that help us know our exact position while riding. Though we are always aware of these points, knowingly or unknowingly, it’s quite essential to use these objects as information. These could be anything from road signs, big building at the corner, a lamp post, anything which is in your line of sight and easily identifiable.

 motorcycle safety
Use reference points like building . Source

More the reference points, better is your control over the motorcycle. For instance, one reference point will tell you where the next turn is, two reference points can give you a slight idea about your position and how far you are from the turn but three reference points can give you your exact position and how fast you are approaching that turn.

You must decide what will be the reference points and what you’ll do once you reach them. Using that information you’ll know where you are to know what to do next.

Knowing your reference points is not difficult. Keeping in mind some basics and safety, once you learn to correctly identify of marking your reference points, your ride will be nothing less than a walk in the park!

What can be your Reference Points?

Perfect reference points are those that are in the line of your vision and on your path or very close to it. You could use the big identifiable objects around the road as your reference point. A good example could be a lamp post on the left and a yellow car opposite to it. These could be the 2 reference points while you are approaching them. With these 2 objects identified, you’ll immediately realize your whereabouts on the road while you are approaching them.

reference points
Lamp post as a reference point. Source

Although something that is just easily visible shouldn’t necessarily be your reference point, as it can be too far from your line of travel or it can be unsuitable to the speed you’re traveling at. Also, to make sure that you have wide enough view of your track, you should avoid narrowing your view too much so that you get a good enough view of the busy city road you’re riding on. Rather, you should maintain a moderate view to establish synchronization between your position and the width of the road.

Once you get hold of your points, you must look forward to utilizing these points to ensure a smooth ride.

How to use Reference Points?

Reference points should be like reminders. Every time you get near one, it should tell you, or rather remind you, of what to do next. For instance, a road sign just before a turn shall tell you to take a turn ahead, as it is your reference point.

Having more number of Reference Points is recommended, as it broadens the road and makes it appear larger. Also, you must look down the road, that is, in front of you, while riding. Looking near your motorcycle won’t help, as that will narrow the scope of your vision and limit it to your current position.

The selected reference points also help you identify how fast/slow you are going. So if you pass a reference point quickly, then you need to look ahead and find a next reference point for the road ahead.

Read: Riding Basics: When & how to fall off your bike for good reasons

Concentration & Memory Lap

Reference points are basic elements of your concentration, so you have to make sure that you don’t break the link between the Reference Points. If your concentration is more, you will hardly realize it, but if you lack concentration, your attention will be more towards points or objects that you want to avoid riding over. If you’re really focused, that would seem as if you aren’t looking at anything in particular but the reference points are just automatically prevailing.

To test your concentration, you should try the Memory Lap Technique. Close your eyes and visualize your last motorcycle ride point to point. If it’s extremely short or takes longer than your actual ride-duration, it means you’re falling short on the number of Reference Points. Remembering your entire ride accurately would suggest that you’ve marked enough number of reference points that made it possible for you to track yourself effortlessly. The reference points also help you remember the route of a particular ride.

reference points
Road signs for reference points. Source

Professional riders memorize the race tracks by remembering the Reference Points during their practice. Memory lap technique is an important aspect of professional racing and these reference points help them visualize the track in detail.

That’s the reason why reference points are so important while riding a motorcycle. They provide you with a clear picture of what will be your exact position on the track or road and where will you be afterward.

Trying too hard to find RPs? That could lead to Target Fixation.

Finding reference points (RPs) should be easy. The objective is that rider doesn’t have to focus or look too hard to establish a reference point while riding, it cannot be distracting you from the road. If you have look around randomly or focus too much on one object to establish it as an RP then you’re doing it wrong. And this one could be a costly mistake.

Target Fixation is one of those problems that you will have to face if you decide to continue with an insufficient number of reference points. What will happen is, you’ll end up narrowing your attention to a particular point or object and thus, you’ll find it difficult to smoothly move forward once you have passed this point. Remember, you go where you look. So if your vision is fixated on one object, you might not be able to steer away from it and actually just ride into it.

reference point
Target fixation. Source

More reference points will make it quite easy for you to depict your absolute as well as a relative position with respect to all the reference points and hence allow you to plot your way to where you want to go.

Also read: Riding Basics: What makes your Bike Lose Traction?

Last but not the least…

Where should you look?

All reference points are stepping stones – you need to keep looking in front of you, towards your road, while adjusting to them. Having more than one provides you with a wider and a smoother view of where you’re headed.

At high speeds, you must look far enough to avoid accelerating through your Reference Point(s). Not so far and not so close is literally the way to go! You need to keep planning more and more reference points as they keep coming and you keep passing through them. This way, a hassle-free ride is what you end up with.

Hence, you must consider picking up Reference Points at regular intervals until they begin to come naturally while you indulge in a smooth motorcycle ride.

Do share your feedback and queries here!

Reference Source: Keith Code’s – Twist of the Wrist I

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