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Think When You Ride

"Think when you drink," proclaims the Miller Brewing sign. And obviously that's good advice. We need to drink responsibly and to think about our riding. Which leads me to believe we need to piggyback on Miller's slogan.

"If we keep thinking about what might happen if this or that occurs, we won't be surprised if it does."

"Think when you ride," seems to be a good line for us, too. We need to be thinking all the time while we’re riding. Mental lapses can lure us into some uncomfortable and dangerous situations. We need to keep our head in the game as we ride. If we keep thinking about what might happen if this or that occurs, we won't be surprised if it does.

"Think when you ride" actually starts before we start the engine of our bike. It begins with thinking through our route. What risks will we likely encounter along the way? Can we avoid any of them by choosing a different route? How will we handle those we may not be able to avoid?

Intersections are the most dangerous place for motorcyclists. Obviously we can't avoid them unless our route keeps us in our driveway. Which ones are the most difficult for us? How will we handle the car waiting to turn left? What about the van pulling out of the fast food place?

We need to think about where we are on the road. Is that van blocking someone's view of us? Can we see around that SUV to know what's happening ahead? Do we have space around us to move or stop quickly if someone else does something stupid?

We have to keep thinking about what everyone else on the road is doing or might do. Are we watching 5-10 cars ahead in heavy traffic, looking for brake lights? Or will we have to make a sudden stop because the first indication we have is the lights on the vehicle directly in front of us?

We've got to be thinking as we see the traffic in the lane next to ours slow down. When will someone in that lane suddenly move over into our faster lane? Will they see us, or even look for us, before they do it? How can we prepare and position ourselves in case that happens?

We must also be thinking about others as we ride. What are risky situations for them? For example, railroad crossings, especially at an angle, are dangerous for bicycles. How can we avoid being there at the same time they are most likely to catch their front wheel and fall down? Can we cross the tacks before them or should we wait for them to safely cross? Can we avoid being on that narrow bridge with that truck by timing our approach to match a hole in traffic?

"Think when you ride" is good advice for us. The better prepared we are for any given situation, the better able we are to handle it. Thinking about and making the unexpected the expected doesn't mean everything we think about will happen, but at least our surprise will be that it didn't happen, not that it did. That's a surprise we can live with. And that's worth thinking about.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!