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Seeing to Stop

We all know how important it is to see where we are going when we’re astride our motorcycle. There are so many things happening on the road as we ride that can be troublesome for us. Sometimes the road we’re riding on contains impediments interfering with the smooth and safe operation of our motorcycle. Gravel, debris, dead animals and potholes are all things we would rather not see lying in our path of travel as they could take the fun out of our ride.

"There is little we can do to change the three factors that govern how far we travel before stopping."

Other vehicles sharing the road with us, or not, are more often the bigger challenge we face while riding. We can’t always count on them staying in their lane nor can we expect them to follow all the rules of the road. Even while cruising by ourselves through the countryside, we might be faced with trucks and farm equipment slowly pulling out of fields or almost stopped to turn into them.

We’ve learned the skills necessary to maneuver around these obstacles left on the road and to stop quickly when swerving is not an option. But how long does it take us to stop our motorcycle? It’s more than just the distance we travel while our brakes are applied restricting the rear wheel. First we have to recognize the need to stop. Then we have to move our right hand and foot to begin squeezing the front brake lever and pressing the rear brake pedal. These three distances – recognition, reaction and restriction – determine our total stopping distance.

There is little we can do to change these three factors that govern how far we travel before stopping. It is critically important that we are able to see at least this far ahead of our bike as we power down the road. We must have the time to see the need to stop, to reach for the brakes and to bring our iron steed to a halt before making contact with whatever is in our way.

We all know that at night we have to avoid overrunning our headlight. We need to limit our nighttime speed to the point that allows us to bring our bike to a complete stop within the distance we can see with our headlight. Going any faster at night is simply riding on blind luck that there will be nothing ahead that requires us to stop quickly.

We can still experience the same problem during the daytime hours, when the skies are clear and visibility seems to be unlimited. Even in daylight our total stopping distance consists of all three components and we need to be able to see at least that far ahead of us as we ride.

Gliding through blind curves and corners and cresting hills are some circumstances where it could be easy to “overrun our headlight” during bright light conditions. Because we can’t predict what will be waiting for us beyond our field of view, we must be able to stop in the distance we can see. We must be able to see to stop so we can avoid an early and unwelcome end to our ride.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!