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12 Second Rule

Many of you have heard of the five second rule and maybe have even used it on occasion. Few people would actually admit to practicing the five second rule, especially at home. The rule states that any food item dropped on the floor is OK to eat as long as it is picked up within five seconds. Some people extend the time limit to as much as thirty seconds. Presumably if the floor is clean, there is less time allowed to get it picked up before it dirties the floor. The five second rule is also used at some picnics.

The twelve second rule is not about food, but about riding a motorcycle. The only relevance it has to food is helping to ensure we are able to eat after the ride. The twelve second rule defines how far ahead we should be looking as we’re riding down the road. It identifies our visual lead as that point where we’ll be in twelve second as we’re searching for potential problems with traffic and the road itself.

So what does a twelve second visual lead really mean? How far in front of our bike should we really be scanning? At 30 mph, a relatively slow residential speed, we are moving at 44 feet per second. That means we should be looking 528 feet or about a block ahead of our front wheel.

If we can see a situation developing a block down the road, at 30 mph we should be able to make it a non-issue by the time we get there. At 45 mph, we’re traveling 66 fps so our scanning should be out 792 feet. On an expressway at 60 mph, our visual lead should extend to two-tenths of a mile.

There are those who get concerned that they won’t see tar snakes, pot holes, tire remnants, oil or gravel on the road if their eyes are focused that far ahead of their bike. They may be right. They might not recognize a pot hole or an oil spill a block away. However they will probably see a dark spot on the road at that distance. If not, their peripheral vision should pick up the color change as they approach it. A different colored area spotted on the road may not be immediately identifiable as anything other than a potential hazard. It can be clarified as it gets closer and normally things that small are easily avoided by simply riding around them.

In reality, these are smaller, albeit important, issues compared to the car getting ready to pull out of the driveway or the erratic driver that’s not connecting to their driving. That’s not to say we should ignore anything closer to us, but the point is that we need to keep our focus far enough out to see the potentially big problems developing. A quick scan can help us respond to the smaller surface issues we might encounter.

The five second rule can define what’s edible, but the twelve second rule might ensure we make it to the picnic without any major problems. Seeing a situation before it develops can make dealing with it a piece of cake.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!