How to Avoid a Spill

This past weekend I was working a private training session with a great group of guys from New Jersey. At one of our breaks we were discussing the value of keeping our eyes up while riding. In addition to improving a rider’s ability to see more of what might be developing up ahead, it is also one of the best tools to establish overall stability and smoothness. Ever see a rider wobbling about at low speed in a parking lot or struggling to turn smoothly from a stop? Chances are, he or she is looking just a few feet in front of the motorcycle and down toward the road surface. Probably due to fear of dumping the bike. The result is choppy and awkward riding and potentially a low speed spill … exactly what the rider was trying so hard to avoid. Conversely, when a rider gets his eyes up and looks to a distant point where he will ultimately place the motorcycle, the bike tracks smoothly and neatly with little drama. Not buying it? As Tom — one of the guys in the training session –suggested, it’s a lot like carrying a cup of coffee.

The Coffee Method: Look up to avoid spillage!

The Coffee Method: Look up to avoid spillage!

He’s absolutely right. Try filling a cup with coffee to just below the brim. Then attempt to walk across the floor without spilling any. Human nature makes you want to look down at the cup as you walk.  You know, to be absolutely certain you don’t spill any of the liquid onto the carpet. Unfortunately, when you do that and concentrate so hard on what is immediately in front of you, you’re likely to leave a nice long trail of java across the carpet. On the other hand, if you can force yourself to peer all the way across the room as you walk, with your eyes fixed on your destination, you will walk more smoothly, the cup will stay steady and, most likely, you won’t spill so much as a drop — even if you climb the stairs. The very same technique works for riding — especially at low speeds. So, next time you face a situation when you’re concerned about spilling your bike, consider having a cup of coffee before you pull away. Figuratively speaking of course.



One Response to “How to Avoid a Spill”

  1. Scoot Uhr Says:

    Love your posts and the concept of your Teaching Tours. I even agree that keeping your eyes up can be a tremendous aid in smooth riding. However, I’ve found keeping my eyes DOWN works better in certain low speed maneuvers.

    I can back up better by watching the GROUND around my feet.

    I can turn much tighter in a parking lot by looking at the point on the ground that I want to pivot AROUND.

    If I’m trying to turn on a small road with a big curb, I do better by looking at the curb–it just happens to be the curb well BEHIND me.

    Vision is a powerful tool and need not be applied the same way in every situation.

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