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Riding in Circles


In his book, DW, former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip talks about racing at the Bristol Motor Speedway. On this half-mile track with 36 banking, the drivers are making eight turns a mile and heading towards those corners at 190 miles per hour. With 43 competitors trying to win the event, they often get three abreast; a mere 2 inches separating the speeding racers as their spotters yell, "Three wide. You're in the middle." In this situation, Waltrip says, "To be able to process all of that at one time and not lose your focus, that is the key."

Piloting a 3,400 pound, 750 horsepower vehicle in this environment requires a single-mindedness of the task at hand. When a driver becomes distracted, even for a split second, while hurtling around the concrete track at more than 278 feet per second, major problems usually develop. Any loss of focus or break in a driver's concentration under these race conditions is likely to result in one or more very expensive crumpled piles of steel after the smoke clears. Anyone can mash the accelerator to the floor and drive fast, but being able to receive and process the constant barrage of information to keep the car in one piece is what separates the champions from the rest.

"Do we have any less information to manage than a NASCAR driver?"

Is our job while riding any easier? Do we have any less information to manage as we cruise though town on our beloved two-wheeler? We have other vehicles all around us. Not only are they traveling with us at various speeds, but they are also coming at us from all directions; something racers rarely face. We also have parked cars, pedestrians and animals as well as potholes, cracks and debris; any one of which could put a real ride-ending damper on our day.

Besides the road, we are trying to watch traffic lights, highway signs and roadway markings while keeping an occasional eye on our own controls and gauges. Add to that the sights and sounds engulfing us as we propel our ride and our bodies through the exquisite scenery known as our home town. We, too, could experience information overload and are challenged to remain focused so that we can process everything thrown our way.

So if our attention is diverted from our riding task as we maneuver through the jungle of traffic, we could as easily end up in a crash as Darrell's running mates. Unlike the Nextel Cup drivers, we don't have a five point safety harness strapping us into a custom made cocoon and we're not protected by a reinforced steel roll cage. Thus the result could well be more than just the end of our ride for the day. However the key to ensuring our ride is free of unexpected events is the same. We need to be able to process all of the information flying at us quickly and not lose our focus.

This means we must be clear headed, free of distractions and motivated to center our attention on our riding. We can't afford to have our mind going around in circles while we're playing in traffic. The dedicated effort we put towards staying on task as we ride will pay big dividends in terms of helping our ride be truly enjoyable and uneventful. 

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!