Look Where You Want The Bike To Be

This past weekend, Spouse and I attended a police motorcycle riding competition. I served as a judge. More on that in future blog posts. Today, I wanted to reaffirm solid riding advice I have learned and seen applied by the pros.

Motorcycle riding instructors give lots of advice for safe and precision riding. Back in the day, I did that as well (taught motorcycle riding courses and also applied those skills to my own riding.)

Once you get past the safety advice, one of the best tips has been…

Look where you want the bike to be, not where the bike is pointed. Not turning your eyes in the direction of travel — but pointing your nose in the direction you want the motorcycle to go.

The best-trained riders I know (motorcycle police officers) do this… for a reason. They roll on the throttle and roll through turns smoothly.

Here is an example I saw this past weekend:This type of skill takes a lot of practice. It goes against one’s general nature to look where you’re going instead of look away — really look away by pointing your head sideways.

Some cops call this “swiveling your head.”

Back before July 19, 1985, I could do this. I had a smaller motorcycle, but it was rather easy to turn my head 90 degrees toward turns and keep on the inside of tight turns.

However, July 20, 1985, is a date I will not forget. It was a lovely, lovely day. Brilliantly sunny and warm from the ground to 35,000 feet. Seldom does the weather cooperate so well for skydiving. Usually at that altitude, it is well below freezing. But not that day. With some mild convection, the warmer surface temperatures were mixing well into the higher levels of the atmosphere. That seldom happens.

Four buddies and I set out to do what we did most every weekend in those days — we went skydiving. Not just parachuting, but climbing into high altitudes and jumping out, diving through the sky to about 3,000 feet when we would deploy our parachutes.

That day, on my fourth and final jump late in the afternoon, the surface winds were picking up. After I deployed my ‘chute, I struggled to control it so I could land at the drop zone (or anywhere close to it.) We were near the Chesapeake Bay, and already that day, one of our crew landed in the water (near shore, but he and his ‘chute got very wet!)

I managed to sail toward the DZ when at the last second, a surface wind kinda flipped me up and over, then down. I landed hard. So hard, I felt something in my neck crack. I even heard it.

Afraid that I may have broken my neck, I lay still and reluctantly called my friends over (after they had landed) and asked them to call for help. Long story short — I did not break my neck, but I damaged a vertebra in it. Since then, I never have been able to turn my head to the right more than about 10 degrees, or to the left more than 30.

So this is why, to this day, I cannot ride a motorcycle nearly as well as others, particularly motorcycle cops. I am well known in my (former) motorcycle club to take very wide and slow turns because of this. I compensate well, but I know my deficiencies from which I have never and will never fully recover.

That doesn’t mean that I have given up skydiving (thought I don’t do it nearly as often as I once did), or have given up riding my Harley. I am just a hell of a lot more careful.

One more photo of what this should look like is here:Life is short: look where you want the bike to be (if you can!)